1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but whoever hates correction is stupid.
2 Good people obtain favor from the Lord,
but he condemns those who devise wicked schemes.
3 No one can be established through wickedness,
but the righteous cannot be uprooted.
4 A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown,
but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.
5 The plans of the righteous are just,
but the advice of the wicked is deceitful.
6 The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,
but the speech of the upright rescues them.
7 The wicked are overthrown and are no more,
but the house of the righteous stands firm.
8 A person is praised according to their prudence,
and one with a warped mind is despised.
9 Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant
than pretend to be somebody and have no food.
10 The righteous care for the needs of their animals,
but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.
11 Those who work their land will have abundant food,
but those who chase fantasies have no sense.
12 The wicked desire the stronghold of evildoers,
but the root of the righteous endures.
13 Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk,
and so the innocent escape trouble.
14 From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things,
and the work of their hands brings them reward.
15 The way of fools seems right to them,
but the wise listen to advice.
16 Fools show their annoyance at once,
but the prudent overlook an insult.
17 An honest witness tells the truth,
but a false witness tells lies.
18 The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
19 Truthful lips endure forever,
but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.
20 Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil,
but those who promote peace have joy.
21 No harm overtakes the righteous,
but the wicked have their fill of trouble.
22 The Lord detests lying lips,
but he delights in people who are trustworthy.
23 The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves,
but a fool’s heart blurts out folly.
24 Diligent hands will rule,
but laziness ends in forced labor.
25 Anxiety weighs down the heart,
but a kind word cheers it up.
26 The righteous choose their friends carefully,
but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
27 The lazy do not roast[a] any game,
but the diligent feed on the riches of the hunt.
28 In the way of righteousness there is life;
along that path is immortality.
In 1990, the Survey Center on American Life asked over two thousand men to report their number of close friends, not counting relatives. In that study, 40% answered that they had ten or more. Fast forward to 2021, and the percentage of men answering the same question with the same answer is down to 15%. The number responding that they had five close friends is down from 68% to 40%, and the group answering that they have no close friends has increased from 3% to 15%.
By and large, the number of lonely men in the world today is increasing, and here’s the danger in that: living a life pleasing to God and abiding by His wisdom is not a solo venture.
Proverbs 12 pays special attention to the qualities of a man, which result in the favor of the Lord and a prudent life. For 11 Proverbs, we’ve turned these qualities inwards, a mirror against which we can view our own lives to measure them truly. And yet…
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
As men dedicated to living a life that not only starts well but finishes well, longevity can be a daunting or impossible task. Who could stand the test of time? How many men who stood for Godliness eventually succumb to the ways of living that Proverbs describes as clearly leading to demise? Research enough of these tragedies, or experience them yourself, and here is what you will find: lonely men, lacking Christ-centered community, are likely targets for deceit.
The truth is this, friendships can be challenging to establish and hard to maintain. They require vulnerability and a willingness to be honest about your needs, desires, and worries. The level of intimacy necessary to spur one another on in faithful pursuit of a wisdom-filled life is even more so. Perhaps that’s why Solomon warns us to choose our friends carefully at the end of Proverbs 12.
What would your response to that survey mentioned earlier be? If you answered ten or more, can you use Proverbs 12 as a checklist and know that the men you surround yourself with are leading you towards a God-honoring life? Are there relationships you need to adjust? This can be a difficult task, but remember that those men will play a massive part in shaping the direction of your days.
If your answer is less than five, or even zero, take heart. Knowing the importance of this kind of community can be the first step towards forming it. Who in your world can you begin to cultivate a Jesus-centered friendship with? Who are you reaching out to weekly? Who are you praying for daily? This is the heartbeat of what we call Fight Clubs at Passion City Church. It’s where a small group of men walk alongside each other and help each other live lives after God’s own heart. Ask God to lead you to this kind of community, and be open to the men He wants to bring into your life. The friendships we need most aren’t always the ones we see coming.
Father, lead me toward lasting, sharpening friendships. Surround me with men who love You so that I might be a godly influence to those who don’t. Use the men in my life to keep me on Your path. Amen.