Friend or enemy?

Posted on May 18, 2016 · Posted in Proverbs and the Gospel, Wisdom

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A loving friend is one who cares about you enough to say what is true. This truth may be about dangers you face and even character issues that you need to examine. But failing to be truthful may also have an aggressive, nasty, secretive component of which to be aware.

God has provided a way for you to be able to recognize enemies disguised as friends. Proverbs provides the insight you need to protect yourself and your children.

Proverbs 27:5-6 combines two real life examples to help you discern between friends and those who would hurt you.

Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

In verse 5, the first example teaches genuine friendship is about honesty and truthfulness. A true friend will be open even to the point speaking honestly when you wander off course. This requires courage but it is the mark of a friend you can trust. However, if one hides what is true, or conceals it to gain some advantage over you, friendship is not his goal. One commentary suggests the motives behind this hidden love are cowardly and even timid at its core. In contrast, open, loving rebuke is potent; hidden love is impotent. Wise words, indeed.

The example in verse 6 is even more explicit and practical. Following the lead of verse 5, faithfulness in friendships is demonstrated by speaking the truth even when it hurts, i.e. the wounds of a friend. This is a good thing. A friendship that lacks loving, honest rebuke is no friendship at all.

It is the second line of verse 6 that gives valuable insight into identifying those who masquerade as friends. If someone lavishes inordinate praise or excessive, inappropriate affection towards you, be on your guard!

Praise and affection are hard to turn down. Most of us tend to like it when someone says good things about us. But never forget the state of your heart. You know that you are far from perfect. Someone who professes to care for you but covers you with praise to the exclusion of acknowledging your weakness is not your friend, but someone who wants something from you.

The metaphor of profuse kisses is instructive! The road to sexual sin is paved with undue flattery and obsessive physical attention. Typically, a person who is interested in using you to gratify his or her sexual desires is not going to spend much time rebuking you and but will spend a lot of time kissing you!

The makes the danger clear and explicit. People who want to take something from you will hide their true desires by attempting to make you feel good. Such a person is not your friend, but your enemy.

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Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.