Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Friend in Need ...

A friend in need is a friend in deed
A version of this proverb was known by the 3rd century BC. Quintus Ennius wrote: 'Amicu certus in re incerta cernitur'. This translates from the Latin as 'a sure friend is known when in difficulty'.

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations lists the earliest version from Caxton's Sonnes of Aymon, 1489:

"It is sayd, that at the nede the frende is knowen."

The morality play Everyman from the 15th century also contains similar lines.


Fellowship: 'Sir, I say as I will do in deed.'

Everyman: 'Then be you a good friend at need;...'


By the 16th century, the proverb was recorded in John Heywood's A Dialogue Conteynyng Prouerbes and Epigrammes, 1562:


Prove [i.e. test] thy friend ere [before] thou have need; but, in-deed

A friend is never known till a man have need.
Before I had need, my most present foes
Seemed my most friends; but thus the world goes

Job 6:14, "To him who is afflicted, kindness should be shown by his friend, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty."


Job had expectations of his friends. He expected sympathy and received censure, he expected comfort and received condemnation, he expected loyalty and received betrayal, he expected remembrance and received reproach. He expected compassion grounded upon common principles of humanity.

"Compassion is a debt owing to those that are in affliction. The least which those that are at ease can do for those that are pained and in anguish is to pity them,—to manifest the sincerity of a tender concern for them, and to sympathize with them,—to take cognizance of their case, enquire into their grievances, hear their complaints, and mingle their tears with theirs,—to comfort them, and to do all they can to help and relieve them: this well becomes the members of the same body, who should feel for the grievances of their fellow-members, not knowing how soon the same may be their own."

Job was defrauded and deceived by his friends. Expectations are valueless and anticipation is met with disappointment when wisdom and compassion fall to the negatives of judgement and rhetoric.

They chose to hedge their opinions of Job's plight and align themselves with a theology based on their observations of Job's condition and their personal evaluation of what they deemed to be true. It is in this context that they failed to be a friend. They chose .... They decided ... and they prejudiced themselves without considering Job's integrity, history or feelings. They chose the 'safe' viewpoint and deemed Job expendable to their own false assumptions and errant theology.

Friends are be more than just people who you encounter fairly frequently that are similar to yourself in a demographic, or an attitude, or involved in a specific activity. There is to be a depth and a meaning to friendships. As a Church culture we have fallen into the same relationship pit. Friends are those with whom we associate, our demographic is our Church, our attitude is 'we are saved' and our activities are Church related.


There is an increasing brevity and facetiousness to friendships. It is a result of concern over obligation.


Friendship is meant to be a relationship grounded upon the concept of a mutually shared concern for each other's welfare and well-being. A friendship is without an agenda, at least in terms of any self-serving behaviour. It should contain elements of intimacy and trust where actions are without ulterior motive. In both word and deed we are simultaneously vulnerable and acknowledging of the goodwill each has for the other.


Aristotle wrote, "The excellent person is related to his friend in the same way as he is related to himself, since a friend is another self; and therefore, just as his own being is choice worthy him, the friend's being is choice-worthy for him in the same or a similar way. "

In Islamic culture, friendship, is taken seriously. Important attributes of a worthwhile friend is;
the notion of a righteous person, who can appropriately delineate between that which is "good" and that which is "evil"; and 
forgiveness regarding mistakes and loyalty between friends is emphasized; and,
a "love for the sake of Allah" is considered to be a relationship of the highest significance between two men.

I do not necessarily agree with the term 'righteous' but it is not without merit in this conversation. There must be a consideration of the principle 'do unto ... as you would have'. An attitude which looks to the 'good' for the friend even in the toughest of circumstances. An attitude of acceptance, not tolerance, with a view to what best serves and is applicable to the situation at hand. A friend is expected to be aloof, at least to the degree to which he is able to be on the outside looking in and yet have the emotional ties to be worthwhile in providing sympathy, compassion and edification. A friend is to be the one to correct the possible self-deception which can occur when a man is left entirely to his own thoughts and interpretations.

Proverbs 27: 17, "As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
Proverbs 13:20, "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed."

C.S. Lewis, for example, in his The Four Loves, writes:

"To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it. We admit of course that besides a wife and family a man needs a few 'friends'. But the very tone of the admission, and the sort of acquaintanceships which those who make it would describe as 'friendships', show clearly that what they are talking about has very little to do with that PhilĂ­a which Aristotle classified among the virtues or that Amicitia on which Cicero wrote a book."

There are many variables affecting the ability of men to have meaningful relationships with other men.
It is a shame ...
most men cannot affirm that an emotional affective relationship with another man is a centrally important relationship in their lives.

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