The following comments are based on what the Biblical book of Proverbs says about money and friends. Proverbs give many observations about daily life that are generally and most often true. However, there are cases where they do not apply. In addition to observations about life, proverbs also give instructions on how to live, providing us with wisdom so we know what to do in particular situations.
Let’s think about reasons people have money or are wealthy. Some are born into a wealthy family, or they inherit wealth; others work to earn it and they manage it well. Sadly, some are good at scheming, and others cheat, steal, and deploy various evil plans to get it. There are also reasons for being poor. Some are born into poverty, some may come upon hard times, and others may gamble their money away, or have other costly addictions that lead to poverty. In addition, there are those who are lazy and will not work. How people acquire wealth can generally, but not always, give a clue as to what kind of people they are. Being poor also gives clues as to people’s character.
Because of so many varied situations in a person’s life, it is wise not to base friendships on whether a person has money, or not.
Because of so many varied situations in a person’s life, it is wise not to base friendships on whether a person has money, or not. We would not want to misjudge people because of their financial status. We need to judge a person’s trustworthiness, loyalty, and personality by getting to know them. When time is taken to get to know one another, and to be open and honest with each other, we can develop good friendships with the wealthy, or the poor.
Proverbs gives us some cautions and warnings about money and friendships. Proverbs 19:4 says, “Wealth adds many friends, but a poor man is separated from his friend.” Proverbs 19:6 says, “Many will seek the favor of a generous man, and every man is a friend to him who gives gifts.” People are likely to befriend those who have money, but are they really friends? If you seek to gain friends by having money, beware. Friends often come to you for self-benefit and are not true friends. Perhaps this is why some who are wealthy do not let on as to their status.
On the other hand, the poor do not attract friends. In fact, they usually are looking for help, so friends depart. Proverbs 19:7 says, “All the brothers of a poor man hate him; how much more do his friends abandon him! He pursues them with words, but they are gone.” The poor are often too much trouble, and although they plead for help, none comes. One must beware of friendships with the poor when they only want you as a friend to use you to help supply their needs. Understand, also, that if you are irresponsible and become habitually poor, you can bet that you won’t attract friends.
With God, it doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor. God does not judge the value of a person by his or her financial status. To him it matters how you got that way and what you do in that condition. For instance, he does not want the poor to be poor because they are lazy. That is not the way to honor God. And God does not want the rich to neglect helping the poor; that is also not the way to honor God. (see Proverbs 19:15 and 17)
Here is one other caution concerning friends and money. It is not always a good idea to help friends, or others needing help, by offering to share the responsibility for their debts, or by guaranteeing to pay them off if worse comes to worse. Proverbs 22:26-27 reminds us, “Do not be among those who give pledges, among those who become guarantors for debts. If you have nothing with which to pay, why should he take your bed from under you?”
Interestingly, a contributor to the Bible’s wise sayings adds another caution through a prayer which says, “Two things I ask of God… give me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:7-9). This proverb reminds us of how money, or lack thereof, can affect our friendship with God.
It is helpful to be aware of how riches and poverty can affect friendships. The observations and warnings found in Proverbs are wise to heed if it means not losing friends, or not having friends. We all have many troubles in life, and whether we are rich, poor, or otherwise, we need to build good friendships. I repeat what was said earlier, that when time is taken to get to know one another and to be open and honest with each other, we can develop good friendships. Better to be surrounded with trusted friends than to gain riches, or fall into poverty, and be lacking in needed supporters.