I love the book of Proverbs. One reason is because Solomon filled it with so many one-liners. (I read a post once on Jon Acuff’s Stuff Christians Like blog how he describes Proverbs as the original Twitter. That’s pretty cool.) Most of the one-liners are fairly easy to digest and interpret…pretty straightforward. But once in a while, you are not exactly sure what he is trying to say. Or maybe he is trying to say multiple things in one tweet. I think that may have been the case in Proverbs 19:6 when he says,
“Many entreat the favor of the nobility, and every man is a friend to one who gives gifts.”
At first read, the message of this proverb seems clear, that giving naturally brings friendship. Having friends becomes a natural byproduct of those who possess a giving nature. It is not something they necessarily seek through giving of their time, money or talents. It just happens. Think about it for a moment. Don’t we just love hanging with people we know are natural givers? Their personalities are usually so attractive that we can’t help but be drawn to them. We are amazed how they routinely think of others before themselves and often set their own interests aside for the benefit of the group. And if by chance we are the ones fortunate enough to have been blessed by their giving, then we appreciate, admire and respect them all the more.
I think you could, however, easily read this proverb as a warning. There is great power in giving and sometimes that power can be abused. Giving can also be used to persuade, manipulate, control, and deceive. It can be used to fake relationships, seek return favors, and maintain positions of power. For example…
1. Some people seek out those with power or wealth and pretend to be their friend only so they can receive things in return. They ingratiate themselves to the giver, hoping and praying they can get something out of them. I think this may have been what Solomon was saying when he said, “…Many entreat the favor of the nobility…” He had probably seen many people show up in his court with this thought in mind.
2. Others give out of selfish motivation just to get friends. Ever hear a child say, “I won’t be your friend anymore if you don’t play with me.” In other words, give me your time and I’ll be your friend. Sadly, too many adults think this way too. (This type of attitude may be rooted in the giver’s low self-esteem. They don’t value who they are and think giving is the only avenue to get people to like them.)
3. Similarly to the last point is how people use giving as a way to receive a payback from their friends. This is the classic “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.” I’ll only give you my money if I know I will get something in return. (I would question whether this scenario would even be classified as a friendship. Seems more like a business transaction.)
4. Probably the most egregious use of giving comes from those who give to manipulate or control their relationships. These people know others depend on their generosity and they use that reliance to get what they want. In this way they treat people more like pawns, not friends. And this happens in all areas of life …in businesses…families…friendships…and yes, even in churches.
As you dwell on this proverb, take some time to evaluate your own motivations for why you give. Are the motivations that drive you to give genuine and God-honoring? Are your friendships based solely on what you give or on what you receive?
Do you have an example of a friendship that began because someone showed a giving spirit?
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