We are continuing the third question in today's lesson. The more information we give on this subject of friendship, the more I find this subject is wrapped in confusion as to the Biblical instructions. It also seems to be a very troubling area in several lives. If the truth were known, this is a trouble spot for most Believers.

If I were to deal with this subject in a complete enough manner to incorporate all the uncertainty that seems to surround the subject, we could spend the entire year on nothing else. Much of the confusion comes from the fact that most of the religious teaching on the subject is little more than warmed-over psychological teaching. That would not be bad teaching, if we were only a psychological being. However, if you are a new creation in Christ, then only knowing the facts of the temporal, and trying to operate only in that realm will bring disappointment and frustration, to say the least. The Believer, placed in Christ, is a very complicated person with very different needs. The supply of a Believer's needs are as different as night and day from those of simply a temporal person.

As a Believer, if you have been taught only the temporal aspects of friendship and not the spiritual aspects, there is no way you can find the fulfillment, contentment and joy inexpressible promised by God.

I want to pause and say thanks for the many expressions of appreciation and the kind words concerning this teaching. As a minister of the Word of God, who teaches about sin and the changes that must take place to live a holy life in an unholy world, I usually hear the comments and expressions that are most anything but appreciation.

That's all right, I expect that when I take the Sword of the Spirit and swing its cutting edge into the lifestyle, habits and attitudes that are contrary to Biblical teaching. However, it is a breath of fresh air to hear, "I appreciated that! Thank you." Even greater than the thank you, is seeing the spiritual change that comes in the lives of those who listen and respond to the Word of God.

Chosing Friends

Proverbs 12:26 The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.

Let's take just a bit of review and some clarification. We can't take time for much of either, if we are to complete this short study of friendship even within the extended time frame. To have a Biblical friendship, the Bible in Proverbs 12:26 presupposes that you, personally, have a life of righteous living. These instructions are not directed to the unrighteous, but this passage says the righteous should choose... Even while in the state of righteous living, we are still to choose our friends carefully.

The Bible speaks about two areas of friendship for the Believer. Really there is another, but we will limit our thinking to two areas of human friendship, for now. There are friendships with non-believers, and friendships with Believers. Within those two areas of friendship, there are many different shades and categories that could be looked at.

It is difficult, even near impossible to properly teach such an extensive subject in a few short lessons. Part of the problem is semantics. The English language was never intended as an exacting language, and we Americans have not contributed to it exactness by our reckless speaking style. In this class, we have established a difference between simply being friendly, and that of having a close friendship.

Even though the dictionary definition will not show a great deal of difference between these words, the act or action of these words as depicted in the Scriptures is vastly different. For this study, remember there is a difference between being friendly to, and having a friendship with. These are not Biblical categories, or dictionary definitions. None the less, we are making these distinctions, as a study tool for these lessons. It will help with your understanding of the Biblical subject and it will certainly make my job easier, if we can keep those facts in mind.

Avoid Hypocrisy

Job 15:34-35 For the company (friendship) of hypocrites will be barren, and fire will consume the tents of bribery. 35 They conceive trouble and bring forth futility; their womb prepares deceit."

We are to choose our friends based on some very clear Biblical principles. We've only looked at a couple of those principles for the sake of brevity. Hypocrites, whether Believers or non-believers, should be avoided like the plague, as far as our choice of friends. This area of hypocrisy includes both Biblical and temporal phoniness.

In the subject of avoiding hypocrisy, especially when it comes to believers who do not have the knowledge of the deep things of God, I created or left some questions and confusion in the last lesson that needs to be clarified.

1 Corinthians 15:32-36 If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." 33 Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits." 34 Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. 35 But someone will say, "How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?" 36 Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies.

I attempted to point out from this passage, the fact that the evil company, referred to here, is believers who do not know the deeper things of God, because they were not willing to, or failed to learn those things. I can't go back through the process of the explanation, but you can refer back to the previous lessons for that.

The context points out that Paul was talking to Believers before and after the comment of evil company corrupts good habits. The evil company here is not talking about those who spent their weekend on 6th street, or are sleeping off a beer party.

The evil company is talking about those who take lightly the truths of the Word of God. In this passage those truths deal with the resurrection. In effect, these evil ones had said, "So what?! Let's go ahead with life as usual!" They gave no serious thought to the deeper things of God. That type of believer, will corrupt your good habits as much or even more than those in the world who are living in open sin.

We continued that theme by looking at an example and a teaching from the life of Christ, along with further information on that subject by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians.

Matthew 11:19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, "Look, a gluttonous man and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!" But wisdom is justified by her children.
1 Corinthians 5:9-11 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, not even to eat with such a person.

The principle here is that if our preparation, motive, etc., are right, the association with the people of the world will not degrade our spiritual qualities. However, we are to be very careful. As a matter of fact, we are to avoid believers who are living in the same manner as the general run-of-the-mill non-believer.

Fellowship with a believer who is not living by the principles of the Word of God will bring spiritual damage. Paul also brings out that fact in the commands concerning the restoration of a sinning believer. We did not look at this passage last week. I trust it will help with the understanding of this teaching. Even in this type of an association with an erring believer, we must be careful or we will be drawn into the very sin from which we are attempting to rescue our fellow Believer.

Galatians 5:25-6:1 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.


We are also to be very careful with our friendship with the worldly system. We must not even want to be friendly with the worldly system.

James 4:4-6 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"? 6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

Dealing with Our Sin

The Word of God gives us clear instructions concerning certain types of people whom we should avoid as friends. We didn't and can't look at all the many warnings concerning this matter. A couple of the most prominent characteristics we are to avoid are perverseness and anger.

Proverbs 16:28 A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends.
perverse (Hebrew)
to turn away from what is right and good; to be a fraud or hypocrite.

Proverbs 16:28 not only gives us a warning to avoid the perverse person, the fraud or the hypocrite, it also gives us a good, maybe even the best definition of a true friend.

best of friends (Hebrew)
has reference to an object which is familiar, gentle or tame (as an ox tamed and accustom to the yoke); Chieftains who are like neat cattle

A real Biblical friendship will consist of at least two people who are gentle and tame especially in their relationship, but the strength of that friendship will be strong like an ox.

Proverbs 22:24 Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, 25 lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul.
Proverbs 29:22 An angry man stirs up strife, and a furious man abounds in transgression.
anger (Hebrew)
the expression of the emotion of anger and wrath by increased breathing and the flaring of the nostrils.
furious (Hebrew)
to heat; anger; wrath; rage; indignation; poison.
If an angry person want to have a friendship with you, Just say, No!

You can be friendly with such a person from a distance. But the Word of God is quite clear on the fact that you should not establish a close relationship with a person who has those characteristics. Someone said last week that if that were the case, then they should not have a friendship with anyone. That's right! I don't think we, believers, are aware of the importance of being the proper type of person in our actions, attitudes and speech.

As believers, we have reveled - maybe a better term would be - we have wallowed in our liberty in Christ, without seeing the responsibility that goes with that liberty. The liberty in Christ is not freedom to do as we please, but we have liberty to do that which is right as a Child of the King of kings. We have been given liberty from the power of sin and slavery to Satan! This position of being a Child of the King of kings carries with it certain responsibilities of attitudes and actions.

If you are an angry or furious person, you ned to take care of that problem with God, before you attempt to make any type of human relationship that might lead to friendship - including marriage. We will see later that as a believer, we are to bring something of benefit to the friendship, not just take something from it.

Unwise Promises

I want to look at another aspect of importance to a proper friendship, an aspect that has brought as much or more heartache than any other one factor of friendship. I wasn't going to look at this area because of the time factor, But it is so vital, and by what some have said this area of friendship has literally enslaved them, and is bringing defeat on a daily basis to their spiritual walk. Most are not conscious that they have become enslaved by this type of so called friendship, but nonetheless, it is true.

I'm going to walk through this a little slower than we have been traveling through some other areas. Therefore, this will add another lesson to these questions. This aspect of our lives has much to do with our walk in holiness, also.

Proverbs 6:1-5 My son, if you become surety for your friend, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, 2 you are snared by the words of your own mouth; you are taken by the words of your mouth. 3 So do this, my son, and deliver yourself; for you have come into the hand of your friend: go and humble yourself; plead with your friend. 4 Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids. 5 Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, and like a bird from the hand of the fowler.
Proverbs 11:15 He who is surety for a stranger will suffer for it, but one who hates being surety is secure.

First, I want us to see several facts in this portion. If your are surety for a friend or a stranger:

Notice the importance and urgency placed on this situation, whatever it is.

This passage is often used as a proof text to demonstrate the dangers of co-signing a loan. Co-signing certainly has its dangers, and the Word of God does warn against such action. But this passages is not referring to co-signing. What we see here is far more important than simply co-signing a note.

surety (Hebrew)
comes from the root to braid; to intermix; to interweave; to pledge; also used to give security; to be the guarantor for the life, word and reputation of another person.

This Hebrew word has been translated by many English words, some of which are: sweet, pledges, mingled, meddle, became, surety, mortgaged, intermeddle, becoming, sureties, undertake, engaged, pleasure, occupy, occupiers, pleasing, pleasant, etc.

This word is used in the Old Testament far more often for some other act than co-signing a loan. As a matter of fact, it is used very seldom for co-signing. When it is used for the purpose of co-signing, the passage makes that fact quite clear, such as in:

Proverbs 22:26-27 Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge, one of those who is surety for debts; 27 If you have nothing with which to pay, why should he take away your bed from under you?

That's pretty clear. In this passage, the use of surety was a co-signer of a loan. This was for a financial debt. v.27 further indicates that fact when it states that if you can't pay, they will take away your bed, or your possessions.

Let's look at some other ways this Hebrew word, translated here surety, is used. Now, don't going wandering off to La-la land or somewhere else. This is real Bible study. It is necessary for us to understand what Proverbs 6:1-5 is saying.

Far too often we really don't care what the Bible is saying.   
We only want a verse that seems to back-up what we've already said.

As a result, we often know a great deal about what some person has said, and very little about what the Bible says.

Ezra 9:1-2 When these things were done, the leaders came to me, saying, "The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 2 For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is intermingled with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass."

Intermingled is the English word that the translators chose for the same Hebrew word for surety in Proverbs 6:1. Obviously, it is not talking about their daughters, sons and wives being put up for security of a loan. Nor is the holy seed co-signing with the people of those lands.

Psalms 104:34 May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the Lord.

Sweet is the English word that the translators chose for the same Hebrew word for surety in Proverbs 6:1. That certainly does not have anything whatsoever to do with co-signing a loan.

Psalms 106:35 But they mingled with the Gentiles and learned their works;

Mingled is the English word that the translators chose for the same Hebrew word for surety in Proverbs 6:1.

Proverbs 14:10 The heart knows its own bitterness, and a stranger does not share its joy.
Proverbs 20:19 He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips.
Isaiah 38:14 Like a crane or a swallow, so I chattered; I mourned like a dove; my eyes fail from looking upward. O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me!

The highlighted words in each of those verses are the English words that the translators chose for the same Hebrew word for surety in Proverbs 6:1. We could take many more. There are 28 verses where this word is used.

Out of those 28 verses only one, and possibly two are direct references to co-signing a loan. One of those 28 has to do with people who mortgaged their own land. If my math is correct there are 25 of these passages that are not talking about loans, mortgages or co-signing.

Proverbs 6:1 is not one of those verses talking about co-signing a note.

I know, I know! There are some great books, speakers, etc. that use this verse to tell Christians not to co-sign a note for someone else. These people would be far better off to use Proverbs 22:26 for that purpose, because that is what Proverbs 22:26 is talking about. Don't get so upset with this fact that you cease to follow the lesson. We will carefully see the why of this conclusion, if you will stay right with me.

When we use Proverbs 6:1-5 for the purpose of warning about co-signing, we are not teaching what the Bible says in this passage. Even though the Bible does warn not to co-sign, when we use Proverbs 6:1-5 to prove it, we are teaching false doctrine. When we come to Proverbs 6:1-5 with the mind-set that it is talking about co-signing, we never take time to find out what it's really saying.

It is important that we teach what the Bible says. 
It is equally important that we do not use the Bible to document what we have already said.

So, lets go back to Proverbs 6:1 and first see that it is not talking about co-signing a loan. Then, let's see what it is saying, and apply it to our lives and to our friendships, which is what the passageis talking about!

Proverbs 6:1-5 My son, if you become surety for your friend, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, 2 you are snared by the words of your own mouth; you are taken by the words of your mouth. 3 So do this, my son, and deliver yourself; for you have come into the hand of your friend: go and humble yourself; plead with your friend. 4 Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids. 5 Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, and like a bird from the hand of the fowler.

Notice, there is no reference to a debt in Proverbs 6:1-5, as there is in...

Proverbs 22:26 Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge, one of those who is surety for debts

In Proverbs 22:26 it says "surety for debts" that makes the fact of co-signing quite clear. In Proverbs 6:1-5 is says "surety for your friend". Some will say, "You're nit-picking! It's just a small thing." Yes, it is a small thing. But it is a big small thing, and a very big small thing, at that. Then when we put this big small thing in combination with the next really big thing, the two will leave no question to those who are looking to see what the Bible says...

Think with me, you go down to the bank and co-sign a note with someone. At that point you, as the co-signer, are in debt, and you have made yourself co-responsible for the debt, right?

Who are you in debt to?
Your friend with whom you co-signed or are you in debt to the banker who holds the note? That's easy! This doesn't even take a call to your stock broker. Realizing and using that fact will help in understanding this passage. You are not in debt to your friend. You are in debt with your friend and both of your are in debt to the banker. Did someone say, "That it's your friend who is debt, but not you?" After all, you say, that you're just a co-signer. Well, suppose your friends defaults on the loan. Who is the banker going to go after to get the loan repaid? Enough said. When you co-sign, you are in debt to the one who holds the note of loan.

One more thing. Let's say that after you co-signed that note, you decided that you want out of that responsibility. So you go to your friend and you say, "Friend, I've decided that I don't want to be co-responsible for that loan any more. Please, release me!" Let's say, your friend said that he didn't want to release you, but you beg, plead and threaten and finally your friend said, "Ok! Just to get you off my back, I'll release your from your obligation to that debt!"

Would you now be free from that obligation? Could your friend release you from that obligation, even if he wanted to? No, only the banker to whom you owe that debt has the power to release you from the obligation. With those things in mind, let's read the passage again.

Proverbs 6:1-5 My son, if you become surety for your friend, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, 2 you are snared by the words of your own mouth; you are taken by the words of your mouth. 3 So do this, my son, and deliver yourself; for you have come into the hand of your friend: go and humble yourself; plead with your friend. 4 Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids. 5 Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, and like a bird from the hand of the fowler.

As we have seen, if you are guaranteeing a loan for a friend, your friend cannot free you from that obligation, no matter how hard you plead. Therefore, this passage would not instruct you to do something you cannot do. You know what? I believe the Holy Spirit knew that fact when He inspired the writing of this Proverb. Now granted, the Holy Spirit doesn't have an account with E-trade or whatever, but I believe He has a pretty good handle on the workings of the financial world.

If we were always careful to contextually, and comparatively study each passage, we too would have known these facts. If we look at the definition, it certainly allows for the use of the word in many areas, other than co-signing. Out of the 28 times this Hebrew word is used in the Bible, at least 25 of those were for something other than co-signing.

Those facts should alert inquiring minds to be very careful as we work through this passage, and not just assume that it was placed there by the Holy Spirit so we would have proof for our personal theory. Any serious student would have to conclude that this passage is talking about something other than financial debt and the obligation that comes by co-signing.

surety (Hebrew)
comes from the root to braid; to intermix; to interweave; to pledge; It is also used -- to give security; to be the guarantor for the life, word and reputation of a person.
Notice the last part of the definition, guarantor for the life, word and reputation of a person. 

Promise You Won't Tell

One of the greatest dangers of any friendship is when your friend comes to you and says something like: "I'm going to confide in you. But I want you to promise that you will never tell anyone!" Sounds a little like some third grader saying, "I'll tell you a secret if you'll cross you heart and hope to die if you ever tell."

Once you say that you will never tell, no matter what, you have entered a snare created by your own words, and you have delivered yourself into the hands of your friend as a slave, just as surely and more binding than co-signing a note (Proverbs 6:2-3). At that point you are under the control of the one to whom you promised or pledged not to tell.

Suppose that what person told you was something that was of a criminal nature, or that would bring great harm to someone else? You would be in a trap or snare of either losing your reputation with your friend, or not doing that which is right and proper for the good of others. If (v.1) you find yourself in that snare, you need to go to your friend and plead, beg, humble yourself and get yourself out of that situation, by saying, "Look I was just plain stupid when I made that promise". Ask for release, and get out of that mess.

When a person comes to me for counsel, and they ask if they can tell me something in confidence, I quite often look around the room, and say, "Well, I don't see anyone else here and" then I ask, "Why? What value is there in this secret act? How will it assist in bring about the help you are seeking by coming to me?"

They came to me for help, not as a confidant! 
Holding something in secret is not always the best way to give help.

I will try to protect their integrity, but to make a promise that I will not tell under any circumstance, I cannot. If what they are going to tell is about a crime, it will be reported. They came for help. Hiding a crime does not help them or anyone else. Even if they have committed a crime, I will try in every way I can to help them. However, the best help is not to keep them from the consequences of their actions. Usually, the best help is to help them through the consequences of their action, and help strengthen them so they will not fall into such a thing again.

Child Training and Consequences

Parents, you would be of much greater help to your kids, if you would allow them to learn the value of consequences, rather that shielding your children from responsibility and accountability. That type of shielding is not good parenting. That type of shielding is not even good living. If your children are allowed to face the consequences of their actions along with the under-girding of proper love, the finished product of your parenting work will be far better, and there will be far less heartache for both you and your children along the way.

When someone tells me something that will bring damage to someone else or to the church as a whole, believe you me, I'm not going to sit on it! That would be stupid, and a dereliction of my duty as the pastor of the church.

Paul in a similar situation, said, "It has been declared... by those of Chloe's household, that..." (1 Corinthians 1:11). Then he states the problem, and outlines the solution. One reason we are reluctant to state the problem is that we do not know the solution. Knowing or stating the problem is only of value so that a solution can be effected.

There is another aspect to this subject that needs to be seen in this situation, and is found in 1 Corinthians 13 and elsewhere. Just because you know that someone has done something wrong, does not mean that you should shout it from the house top. Often the safeguarding of things that are not criminal or hurtful to others is the best way to bring help to the person and others involved.

The safeguarding of facts that will be of no benefit revealed, is called love.  
Obligating someone not to tell because of friendship, is called slavery.

I don't know how many times during our ministry, some person has started through the church membership telling something what was almost true, but not quite. They would tell it to someone in this manner, "I have something I really need to share with you for prayer, but you will have to promise not to tell a living soul."

Then this person would go to the next willing victim on the church roll with the same lie, cloaked as a prayer need. Of course, many of the ones to whom this person gave this prayer request, also felt obligated to share, this false need with their best friends. Of course, that sharing was given with the same stipulation of silence.

What happens in these cases is that this prayer request was shared with just about everyone but the only one that really needed to hear it, so it could be cared for or a solution effected. By the time I find out about this prayer request, it has been passed along and changed many times. As a result, the work of Christ is hindered, and many people are hurt.

If you are in a so called friendship situation, in which the other person has you enslaved by the code of silence, then you need to follow the instruction given here in Proverbs 6:1-5, and get out of the friendship and break free from that bondage! You need to deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, as stated in Proverbs 6:5.

If you are the one who has sworn someone else to silence, you need to confess that sin to God. Then you need to go to the one you called a friend, who you turned into a slave, and confess your wrong, release that person from your slavery, and accept the consequences. We want clear Biblical teaching, but too often we do not want to follow those clear Biblical instructions, unless they agree with our present frame of thinking.

In the next lesson we will, that's getting a bit like saying, "Tomorrow we will do..", but tomorrow never comes, because when we arrive at tomorrow it is already today. But in the next lesson, we will finish this study of friendship.

© Clyde White, Austin TX, 2000