08 Nov 2018
Don’t Forget Who Your Friends Are
Proverbs 27:10 says:
“Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity; better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.”
What is the difference between a neighbour and a brother in this verse? Since the word “brother” in the Old Testament was often used to refer to all Israelites, the word “neighbour” could perhaps refer to a non-Christian. That would make sense, since asking your non-Christian neighbour for help is a great way to build a relationship, though it is much easier to ask a brother who lives further away!
As with all scripture, we need to ask ourselves how the proverb would have been understood at the time it was uttered. Solomon seems to be suggesting that we should build good relationships with more than just our blood relatives. We must not limit our friendship groups to being only Christians. For all of us there will come times of disaster when we need more support.
God envisions a local community of support. Could this be all that the proverb intends to communicate? It’s better to understand it in its original setting and then apply the principle. Besides, to restrict the meaning of “neighbour” to a fellow believer seems to be without warrant. Since when are our neighbours only people of faith? Was it ever really this way in the Old Testament?
Once we have worked out what the proverb originally meant we can be confident that it means the same thing today. We must always resist the temptation to over-spiritualise the text or to search for hidden meanings.
Pause and reflect: Do you know your neighbour well enough to either offer to help when they need it, or to ask them for help when you do?