The Rich Hath Many Friends
1. Don’t misunderstand Solomon’s point in this verse.
a. He is not saying that this is the way it ought to be. Rather, he is saying that this is the way it IS.
b. He is not endorsing this kind of behavior; he is simply making an observation of life… in affairs of men.
c. This is the way of the world. It should NOT be the way of the believer.
d. This verse is NOT an exhortation; it is a proverb. It is a little nugget of truth. As Solomon observed human nature, he noticed that this was usually the way it is: the poor man is hated… and the rich man has many friends.
e. This is certainly not an exhortation for us to emulate. Rather, this is a proverb that serves as a warning about the ruthless and cruel side of human nature.
2. Countless examples of this truth could be cited.
a. When poor immigrants come to this country, they are looked down upon… for a time… because they are poor. (Italians, Irish, Hispanics, Vietnamese, etc…)
b. They have a hard time getting jobs; they have a hard time getting ahead; they have a hard time even getting any attention… their plight seems to go ignored…
c. But let a poor man win the megabucks and his friends will come out of the woodwork like cockroaches.
3. This is one of the reasons that Jesus was not well received.
a. He did not come as a wealthy, powerful king. He came as a humble man… an ordinary man.
b. And He was hated: despised and rejected.
c. Mark 6:1-4 – Jesus was not well received because He was considered to be a nobody… He grew up on the wrong side of the tracks… He was just a carpenter.
4. Poor people not only suffer economically, but they suffer socially as well.
a. It is human nature to not want to associate with someone who is poor… and as a result, is uneducated, dresses in old clothes, and lives in a bad neighborhood.
b. But people DO want to be seen with the “in” crowd… those in high places… important people… wealthy people… they have many friends.
c. Prov.19:7 – the neighbors of the poor flee from them.
• Just fall on hard times economically and see how the rich socialites will abandon your company!
• Martha Stewart is probably not invited to as many social gatherings now a days.
• Matthew Henry calls these swallow friends. They are gone in the winter. We would call them fair weather friends.
d. Jas. 2:4 – In fact, even Christians are tainted with this spirit from time to time. James warns us NOT to be a respecter of persons because it is our NATURE to be so.
• There is a tendency to treat the wealthy with respect and folks flock to them… they desire to be with them…
• And there is a tendency to want to stay away from the poor… push them off in a corner and pretend you don’t see them.
5. The poor are not hated by God!
a. Jas. 2:5 – God has chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith!
b. But men look at the outward appearance. Men judge from a worldly perspective.
c. As a result, the poor are usually hated.
20b The rich hath many friends
1. It is human nature to be attracted to that which is successful, good looking, well dressed, expensive cars and homes, etc…
2. Rich people have a whole host of people around them buttering them at all times.
3. Of course, the QUALITY of the friendship is suspect. It does not mean that they are REAL friends… just lots of people pretending to be their friend… hoping to GET something from their rich “friend.”
4. Solomon observes here that too often in the world, friendship is based on self-interest.
a. When a man becomes poor and loses his friends, it is because they feel they can no longer advantage themselves from that relationship.
b. When a man has money, he has many friends, because these people feel they CAN be advantaged by a relationship to a wealthy man.
c. There is none of true friendship in any of this of course.
d. Rather, it is an insightful look at human relationships by Solomon.
e. He observed it in his day—and human nature has not changed one bit today.
f. It is true in every social class, every ethnic group, every nationality… relationships are often based upon self interest.
g. Just look at our national policies… all is based on self interest.
5. Prov. 19:4 – wealth makes many “friends.”
a. Win megabucks and watch how many of these so-called “friends” suddenly appear at your doorstep.
b. 19:6 – those who give gifts have many friends.
c. But there is a note of sarcasm in all of this.
d. The so-called “friends” Solomon describes here are phony friends.
e. These friends are “bought”… purchased… and as long as the money is flowing, these friends, like leeches will be around. But let the money stop flowing… and those friends are gone.
f. They are friends of the gifts… not the giver.
g. Don’t be fooled. And don’t waste your money trying to BUY friends. Any friend you have to “buy” is no real friend.
6. Luke 15:11-14 – the prodigal son spent his inheritance on riotous living.
a. He had many “so called friends” as long as his money bag lasted.
b. He bought all the beer… all the food… financed all the parties—and as long as he did, he had a million friends.
c. He was Mr. Popular, and everyone wanted to be with him.
d. But when he was in want (when his money was gone)—so were his friends.
e. He ended up eating pig slop with the pigs. His friends wanted nothing to do with him any more.
7. Again, Solomon is not saying that this is how it OUGHT to be. Rather, he is just observing that this is how it IS.
1. Verse 21 is almost like a commentary on vs. 20.
a. Vs. 20 simply states a fact. It makes no comment about it whatsoever. It simply states: this is the way it is.
b. Vs. 21 DOES make a comment on that fact.
c. The poor is hated of his neighbor, and those who do hate or despise their neighbors are SINNING against God!
d. There is the editorial statement: it’s sin!
2. He that despiseth his neighbor…
a. Solomon is not talking about any person who hates his neighbor for ANY reason.
b. Taken with the previous verse (which I think it should be taken)—we might add, “he that despiseth his neighbor BECAUSE he is poor, or lowly, or because of his social class…
c. He looks down upon him because of his poor clothing, poor grammar, broken English, beat up old car, his lowly occupation, his rough exterior, poor education, etc…
d. This is the man who despises his neighbor… he thinks that he is superior to his neighbor… he looks down his nose on him in a condescending manner…
e. Or as James warned, a group of believers that hides the poor in a corner of the church where they are not seen…
3. It is sin…
a. This is not simply rude behavior; or snobbishness; or the way the upper crust is expected to treat the little people…
b. It is SIN… rebellion against God…
c. It is PRIDE… arrogance…
d. Prov. 14:31 – It is despising those made in the image of God… he is reproaching His Maker—GOD! Dangerous ground upon which to tread.
e. His behavior is sinful, and the way of the transgressor is HARD… it’s hard to sleep at night; it’s hard to look at yourself in the mirror; it’s hard to live with a guilty conscience.
f. This person will not be happy. He will be quite unhappy.
g. He will feel guilty for hardening his heart against the poor. People with hard hearts are not happy people.
1. Deut. 15:7-11 – Jewish law REQUIRED showing mercy to the poor.
2. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if we had another war on poverty in this country?
a. Only this time, let’s have a war on poverty that is not based on handouts but on giving people in the ghettos a chance to start their own businesses… to go to college… to start out life on a more equal playing field?
b. Not a redistribution of the wealth, but a redistribution of opportunity.
c. Wouldn’t it be great if we could put our voyage to Mars on hold for 5 years and spend those many billions improving the quality of life for those STUCK in poverty?
d. A lot of people are poor because they are lazy and won’t work. The Bible says if a man won’t work, neither should he eat.
e. But most people in our country who are poor are so because they are TRAPPED in poverty with no hope of getting out.
f. This principle applies to nations as well. Happy is that nation that shows mercy to the poor.
g. Our nation would be much happier if we showed more mercy to the poor… the poor right under our noses.
3. The sinner who despises the poor is miserable in his sin, but the godly man who shows mercy to the poor is HAPPY.
a. There is a sense of satisfaction and contentment that comes with showing mercy.
b. Acts 20:35 – It really IS better to give than to receive. (blessed = makarios = happy)
c. Those who give are happy people. Those who hoard are not.
d. The only way money buys happiness is when you generously give it away… to help another in need. That’s true contentment.
e. II Cor. 8:1-2 – the poor Macedonians gave out of their deep poverty… and did so with genuine JOY.
• They gave to saints in Jerusalem who were even poorer than they were…
• And it brought them delight to be able to do so!
• Happy is he who shows mercy to the poor.
4. Prov. 19:17 – he that shows mercy to the poor is actually LENDING to the Lord.
a. Having “pity” on the poor here implies more than FEELING pity. It implies action; deeds of compassion; showing mercy.
b. It is like “lending”—like making an investment.
c. God always rewards such behavior.
d. For the Christian, it may not be in THIS life that we are rewarded, but certainly in the life to come.
e. God WILL reward those who have pity on the poor.