A Friend in Need
On a rainy Sunday morning in January, I had just turned into the parking lot where our church gathers when my car engine had an anomaly, and two warning lights appeared on my dash. I parked and went inside having arrived just in time for the worship service. I was troubled by the problem and what could have caused it, and I might have used my phone to check a few forums for answers during the service (this is not recommended). Following the services, a fellow member helped me think through the issue. The engine would not start, and the opinion of a mechanic there was that it was the timing belt (bum bum bum). I got a ride home that day with another member we live beside, and planned to have it towed. With work that week and a doctor’s appointment scheduled, I was in an inconvenient and unenviable position.
Better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away. Proverbs 27:10
This verse proved true for me in this situation. During the ordeal, another member was nearby and took interest in what was going wrong with my car. He had only recently started gathering with our church over that past several months, but he gave me his number and said to call if I needed anything. I know he meant it because he was genuinely happy to help the next day when I called and borrowed his car to get to an appointment. Now, I come from a large family with 6 brothers and sisters, and you know that not a single one of them helped me at all in my time of car trouble? I mean the nearest one lives 750 miles away, but still. Family is great, and I know that any of them would have helped had it been in their power, but the truth is I needed help that was close by. The full text of Proverbs 27:10 reads,
“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.”
Admittedly my siblings and I blatantly misinterpreted this passage along with Prov. 17:17 as proof that we should go to our friends’ houses more often. See, brothers are natural adversaries. While my goals may have been self-serving, I’ve come to realize as an adult that God does not intend for us to live in isolation. This means that at a distance from our relations, we need to learn to rely on and be available to our friends.
I believe further that we ought to seek to make our neighbors into our friends since redemptive relationships ought to be our goal. We should not be afraid or hesitant to be dependent on others nor to be there reliably when they have need. We need to actively be looking for ways to serve and bless our neighbors and communities. To focus on family relationships to the exclusion of cultivating connections in our immediate communities goes against the tone of the Scriptures. When we seek friendships and relationships with our neighbors we are not merely doing so for social reasons. We have an important message, yet it’s one that is increasingly unknown to the world around us. While people are seeking the institution of the church less and less in their times of crisis, the interpersonal relationships that we build with them will become more and more the avenues for proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ into every area where brokenness is found. Discipleship has even been summed up by the phrase “truth through relationships.” So as we are going, seeking to multiply disciples, one of the resources we have in advancing the gospel is our sincere and authentic relationship to our neighbors and those in our community. Should our friends decide to follow Jesus, then our relationship will continue to develop into an environment in which we experience God’s grace together as God’s family.
And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. Luke 16:9
This verse has puzzled me for a long time. And not just this verse, but the story where its found also. Here’s a summary. A master thinks his estate manager has unreliably handled his money, so he’s going to fire him. The manager has an anxiety attack about what he will do; he can’t do manual labor, and he’s too embarrassed to beg. So he gets an idea. He goes to those who have outstanding debts for the master and gives them each a discount should they pay right then. He thinks he will garner favor with them after he is fired because of the debt relief. When the master finds out, he commends the manager for his smart decision. Then he says this:
For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.
And Jesus comments:
And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.
So honestly, that story puzzled me for a while. But I think it actually connects to relationships and faithfulness so well. We are being compared and contrasted to the shrewd manager. I don’t believe he’s saying be just like this guy, but more so if that guy was commended how much more should we use our master’s resources to make a difference that will last into eternity? The manager made a place for himself among the people whom he relieved through misuse of his master’s finances. In this life we are given resources to manage for God’s glory. What we should take from this story is there are temporary things of life that are passing away, that’s the unrighteous mammon. But as followers of Christ and servants of God we need to take a different perspective on this wealth. A little later in the story Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and mammon.” However, we can use earthly wealth and resources to serve God while in this life, and in so doing we can hopefully impact people in such a way that could make a difference for their lives and eternities too.