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Question 1: Are You a Fake Friend?

There is one defining characteristic of the phony friend in Proverbs: he uses people. The fake friend makes friends with people who can give him things. He establishes relationships solely for personal gain. In Proverbs this means money.

  • “Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend” (19:4).
  • “The poor is disliked by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends” (14:20).
  • “Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts. All a poor man's brothers hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him! He pursues them with words, but does not have them” (19:6-7).

It's hard to tell if Proverbs is making a moral judgment on those who cozy up to the rich. Certainly, part of the point is simply to show the privilege of the rich versus the poor. But I think we are meant to see the recognize the fickleness of these friends. Faithful friends are hard to find (Prov. 20:6). Fake friends come in abundance, and they come for your stuff.

Fake friends use people. Money is the example in Proverbs, but there are other ways to use people. Some people get close to pastors or politicians or athletes because they want access, power, or popularity. Others may be so accustomed to soliciting favors for business or school or church affairs that they can no longer tell when their personal charm is genuine and when it's an act. None of us are immune to the dangers of friendship fakery. It's possible to plug a book, or speak at a conference, or rave about a blog, or feign chumminess with a Christian mover-and-shaker and all the while wonder if you are doing this to receive the same treatment.

A few years ago I read a book about Billy Graham and the presidents. What struck me most was how these powerful men welcomed Graham into their lives because he seemed like the only person who didn't want anything from them. History shows they often wanted something from Graham, but he gave them the gift of friendship without manipulation. He was no fake friend.

If I ever get into the business of writing fortune cookies, this will be one of my first ones: “Beware the friend who passes out back-scratchers. He does not have your best interest at heart.”

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11 thoughts on “The Gift of Friendship and the Godliness of Good Friends (Part 2)”

  1. Jeff Baxter says:

    Great article and thoughts on friendship.

  2. Chap says:

    “Friendship” imo is also being corrupted by all of the “pyramid scheme” phony business opportunites perpetuated by many Christians. The first thing that goes through my head when an “old friend” calls or a person from church wants to get together for breakfast isn’t–wow it would be great to get to know them better, its, I wonder what they are selling…uggh!

  3. Aimee Byrd says:

    I always feel this way when you see someone’s “friend” empire they’ve built on Facebook. This networking has redefined the word friend. Perhaps the word friend has been abused as much as the word love…

  4. KC Stewart says:

    This gets close to the reason I don’t do Facebook. In real life, we have friends and acquaintances at all sorts of levels, from those we know a little to those who are our closest intimates. Facebook does not–and probably should not–distinguish any such levels. It telescopes all of our relationships into one category: “friend.” And thereby, it completely renders the word devoid of any meaning.
    For those who are interested, Paul Wadell has written a very good book on the subject of Christian friendship. It’s called Becoming Friends.

  5. Mitchell Hammonds says:

    I figure we all qualify as a “fake friend” at some point… at least I do I think. Sometimes I’m only a friend out of duty. Sometimes I’m not a friend at all if you catch me on a wrong day. On my ‘good days’ I can always find room for a lot of improvement. Yup… I’m sure I’m guilty of being a fake friend at some point or another.

  6. Matt says:

    I think it should be said that sometimes – within the context of a healthy friendship – we can go to our friends precisely BECAUSE we need something from them. During particularly rough seasons of life I’ve owed my sanity to the friends I have that have kept me afloat. But you’re absolutely right that there are those who use relationships solely for personal gain, never pouring out and always wanting to be poured into.

  7. KC Stewart says:

    You probably already know this, but true friendship is not defined by our good days alone. In fact, it is usually the bad times that show true or false friendship for what they are.

  8. Mitchell Hammonds says:

    Yeah I hear you KC. I guess I’m trying to interject an idea that doesn’t take the article so serious. I’m simply a friend without analyzing the “hows and why’s” of it all.

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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