There are many things you can read in the Bible that sound like they are not Christian. Some of this has to do with our misunderstanding of Scripture. One such idea is that you might have too many friends. This seems like it would go against the Christian ethic. Shouldn’t someone following Jesus be friendly to everyone? Aren’t we supposed to love even strangers?
Proverbs 18:24a addresses the subject: “a man of many companions may come to ruin.” First we need to understand that what we are reading is a proverb. For a better understanding read this blog post about how to understand Proverbs. Simply, a proverb is general wisdom. Proverbs are not true 100 percent of the time, or a list of do’s and don’ts, but are ideas that are generally true. So it takes patience, thought, prayer, and understanding to apply any verse in the book of Proverbs.
Why would God tell us that too many companions is a bad thing? Proverbs is not black-and-white, but I will give you some of my theories. Because wisdom is deep, and we have different ways to apply it, you may disagree with some of these. Or you may have other thoughts to add to it. Any kind of proverb, which it is not a concrete command, can be a challenge. Here are some of my thoughts on the subject.
First, let’s consider the consequences of having too many friends. “Ruined” is used here as the end result. Unless we are self-destructive human beings, I doubt any of us would like this outcome. How will having too many friends ruin us? It could ruin our time, marriage, job, or there could be a plethora of things that could be hampered by having too many friends. We only have so much time, emotions, and energy to invest in people. If we spread ourselves too thin, we don’t do ourselves or others any justice.
Secondly, we live in a society where success or popularity can be based on the number of your friends. If you’re on Facebook take a look at your friends list. If you’re anything like me, many of these “friends” you haven’t seen in 10-15 years. You may have “friends” you may never see again. Many people who you wouldn’t go out of your way to see again. It is not that you dislike them, but you would have no reason to reconnect with them. We probably even have “friends” who we don’t know or recall . Yet some people spend too much time trying to keep up with all these friends.
Thirdly, having a lot of friends isn’t all bad. For some of us maybe it shows that we enjoyed connecting with other people. For others it may show how much we care about people. However, we need to be careful not to live only for an alternate universe of online friends. While I do actually have friends I have never met, and converse often with, this should not be the staple of our friendships. We need people who are physically present for us in life.
Finally, how do we handle someone who wants to be a new friend when we have too many? Or another way of asking it is, how do we avoid looking like a snob? Many people who would label you as being “cliquish” just by not allowing them into your inner circle of close friends.
Not only is having close friends not a sin, it’s a pattern we see throughout Scripture. While Jesus ministered to many, He spent His time specifically with 12, and even then, He had an inner circle of three. Consider the relationship of the apostle Paul and Timothy, or David and Jonathan in the Bible. Close relationships are healthy for all of us. Again, wisdom is needed to decide how many close friendships are right for you.Think, pray, and meditate on your life and ask God to help you in this area.
Sometimes we just need to be honest with people. If we have someone we regularly meet with whether to play pool, watch movies, play board games, go shopping or whatever it may be we need to be honest about our time. Maybe we can include another person, but maybe we honestly cannot. I think sometimes we should just tell people we simply don’t have time to hang out. Is everyone going to believe you or accept this? Probably not. But you can’t control how everyone reacts or thinks about you. In the end your good friends will vouch for your character, and you have to protect those relationships you are given.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, Pa 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.