Make Friends for Yourselves
“Also, I say to you, Make friends for yourselves by means of the unrighteous riches, so that, when such fail, they may receive you into the everlasting dwelling places.”—LUKE 16:9.
1. Where may one find the reliable advice on making friends, and with what result?
THE Holy Bible is the only Book that tells people how to make the right kind of friends and how to keep them. Worldly books in considerable numbers have proffered advice on how to make friends; but the friend-winning advice of these books has not helped people win the happiness they seek. Only by going to the Book that is the Authority on making friends can we find genuine happiness that comes from having the right kind of friends.
2. What did Jesus say about friendship, and what benefits result from the example he set?
2 Since it was none other than Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who said: “Make friends for yourselves,” we can be certain that this is a vital matter. Appropriately it was Jesus himself who set the example as to friendship: “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:13) Having laid down his perfect human life as a ransom sacrifice for the benefit of all men who obey him, Jesus made it possible for such persons to come into a friendly state with his Father in heaven, whose name alone is Jehovah. Jesus proved his loyal friendship to Jehovah God by thus laying down his life and he also proved his friendship toward all those who have the same loyal devotion to his heavenly Father.
3, 4. (a) What qualities are needed in a true friend, and wherein did Judas fail? (b) What example shows there exists a friend “sticking closer than a brother”? How so?
3 What is a real friend? From Jesus’ example we see that a friend must be loyal, that he must never allow selfishness and covetousness to undermine that loyalty. Judas Iscariot is one who allowed covetousness to undermine his loyalty. When faced with the opportunity of making money, he turned against his best friend, the Lord Jesus, betraying him into the hands of Jesus’ enemies for thirty pieces of silver, doing this by a hypocritical act of friendliness: “Going straight up to Jesus he said: ‘Good day, Rabbi!’ and kissed him very tenderly. . . . Then they came forward and laid hands on Jesus and took him into custody.” (Matt. 26:49, 50) What a false friend! His love of money separated him from his best friend and placed Jesus in the hands of those who wanted to bring about his death. It is as the Bible declares: “There exist companions disposed to break one another to pieces, but there exists a friend sticking closer than a brother.”—Prov. 18:24.
4 A real friend, then, sticks closer than a brother and is constant in his loyalty and friendliness. He is not warm and friendly one day and cold and aloof the next; as Proverbs 17:17 says: “A true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress.” A real friend comes to the aid of his companion that is in distress. In this regard we can learn much about friendship from the example of Jonathan and David. Those qualities of love, loyalty and unselfishness and others that make up true friendship are all found in this outstanding example: “Jonathan’s very soul became bound up with the soul of David, and Jonathan began to love him as his own soul. And Jonathan and David proceeded to conclude a covenant, because of his loving him as his own soul. Further, Jonathan stripped himself of the sleeveless coat that was on him and gave it to David, and also his garments, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.” (1 Sam. 18:1, 3, 4) Later, after Jonathan’s death at the battle of Mount Gilboa, David deeply lamented the loss of his friend and said: “I am distressed over you, my brother Jonathan, very pleasant you were to me. More wonderful was your love to me than the love from women.” (2 Sam. 1:26) From this example it is clear that “there exists a friend sticking closer than a brother.”
5, 6. What must be the underlying foundation for every reliable friendship, and what examples show this?
5 But, now, what made such an outstanding friendship possible? Mutual love for and devotion and loyalty to Jehovah God! Hence it has been said: “No friendship on pagan soil can rival the qualities displayed by Jonathan and David: ‘the best that Greece and Rome have to show of friendships looks pale beside this.’”a The unselfishness and loyalty shown by Jonathan arose out of his putting Jehovah God and His will first. Being Saul’s son, Jonathan was in line for the kingship. Yet when Jehovah removed his favor from King Saul and placed it upon David, bypassing Jonathan, the natural heir to the throne, Jonathan did not hate David, viewing him as a rival to be eliminated, as did Saul. But, recognizing that Jehovah’s favor was on David, Jonathan theocratically submitted to the divine arrangement. Only by both David’s and Jonathan’s putting loyalty to Jehovah God first was their marvelous friendship possible. It is true, then: Without that primary love for and loyalty to Jehovah God, the foundation for any human friendship lies on sandy ground.
6 David also had experience with false friends. Ahithophel, David’s astute counselor, was among those “companions disposed to break one another to pieces.” (2 Sam. 15:12; Ps. 41:9; 55:12-14) Those friends of David who turned disloyal lost their love and exclusive devotion to Jehovah, the real King of Israel. On the other hand, because of having these very qualities, Ruth, the Moabitess, displayed loyal friendship for Naomi. “As for Ruth, she stuck with her.” (Ruth 1:14) Unswerving devotion to Jehovah God must be the underlying foundation for every lasting and reliable friendship.
SELECTING THE RIGHT FRIENDS FOR OURSELVES
7. (a) What should the right kind of friend be able to do? (b) What mistake regarding friendship did King Jehoshaphat make, and with what consequences?
7 The right kind of friend, then, should be one that encourages the Christian in being loyal to the Most High God. Only lovers of Jehovah can do this. Let us learn a lesson from the mistake made by King Jehoshaphat of Judah. This king, upon whom Jehovah had bestowed his friendship, made the mistake of associating with one who was no friend of God, King Ahab of Israel. This wicked king asked Jehoshaphat to join him in an expedition for the recovery of Ramoth-gilead. Jehoshaphat agreed. Though the prophets of Baal predicted success for the expedition, Micaiah, the only prophet of Jehovah obtainable, foretold the death of Ahab. Going into battle, Ahab disguised himself; but he had proposed that the king of Judah should put on his royal robes, thus becoming a mark for every missile. In the thick of the battle royally attired Jehoshaphat found every warrior of Syria turned against him, thinking him to be the king of Israel. “Jehoshaphat began to cry for aid, and Jehovah himself helped him, and God at once allured them away from him.” (2 Chron. 18:31) True to the words of Jehovah’s prophet, Ahab met his doom, a certain man bending his bow in his innocence and shooting an arrow into the king of Israel, so that he died. When the king of Judah returned to Jerusalem, Jehu the son of Hanani the visionary said to King Jehoshaphat: “Is it to the wicked that help is to be given, and is it for those hating Jehovah that you should have love? And for this there is indignation against you from the person of Jehovah.”—2 Chron. 19:2.
8, 9. How can the Christian benefit from Jehoshaphat’s mistake, and why should God’s disfavor toward a person arise out of wrong friendships?
8 Jehoshaphat made a bad mistake, cultivating a friendship with and giving aid to one who hated Jehovah God. In selecting friends, the Christian does well to keep those words of the prophet in mind: “Is it for those hating Jehovah that you should have love?” How the servant of God must guard against improper friendships! Whether we will receive God’s favor or his indignation against us depends to a large extent on the kind of friendships we form. It should not surprise us that the Most High God views any of his servants as guilty who associate with persons of whom he does not approve. We cannot associate with those whom God does not approve and gain his friendship.
9 The corrupting influence of bad friends is something that removes one from the realm of dependability, for it is something that will inevitably produce adverse results: “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” (Prov. 13:20) Had it not been for God’s intervention, Jehoshaphat’s dealings with stupid Ahab probably would have cost him his life.
10. What example did David set for the servant of God?
10 Besides benefiting from the mistake Jehoshaphat made, we can also learn from the good example set by David, who could say: “I have not sat with men of untruth; and with those who hide what they are I do not come in. I have hated the congregation of evildoers, and with the wicked ones I do not sit. I shall wash my hands in innocency itself, and I will march around your altar, O Jehovah.” (Ps. 26:4-6) David speaks as if he were on the witness stand, giving testimony as to his private life to show his innocence in regard to friendships. He declares his innocency as to associating with those who have no love for God and his righteous commandments. May every true worshiper of Almighty God Jehovah be able to affirm similar innocency as to his friendships!
SELECTING THE RIGHT SLAVE-MASTER AS FRIEND
11. (a) Besides persons, what other improper friendships must we guard against? How did Jesus set the right example? (b) Why is it folly for a Christian to make the world his friend?
11 We must be careful not only in selecting individual persons as friends, but we must also guard against improper friendships with groups, clubs and organizations that do not encourage us in the worship of Jehovah but rather foster slavery to the god of this world, Satan the Devil. (2 Cor. 4:4) Jesus Christ therefore turned down a democratic draft to become a local political ruler. (John 6:15) Indeed, Jesus not only turned down local kingship but world kingship of Satan’s organization! The Devil “showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, and he said to him: ‘All these things I will give you if you fall down and do an act of worship to me.’” (Matt. 4:8, 9) Jesus rejected all such worldly offers, for he prized God’s friendship above all things. To have accepted the Devil’s offer would have made Jesus God’s enemy. It is asking for Jehovah’s enmity if we cultivate friendship with the world. The divine rule is inflexible: “Do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” (Jas. 4:4) This wicked world is doomed to destruction at God’s war of Armageddon, and the friends of this world will pass away with it. (1 John 2:15-17) As the prophetic victory song of Barak and Deborah foretold: “Let all your enemies perish, O Jehovah, and let your lovers be as when the sun goes forth in its mightiness.”—Judg. 5:31.
12, 13. (a) Why are riches not the kind of friend Christians are to make? (b) What choice is there between slave masters, and why can no Christian be a slave to two masters?
12 Nor are riches the kind of friend Christians should make for themselves. When discussing this matter of making the right kind of friends, Jesus said: “Make friends for yourselves by means of the unrighteous riches.” Though riches can be used to help make friends, riches in themselves are not to be viewed as though they were man’s only friend, for, explained Jesus: “No house servant can be a slave to two masters; for, either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves to God and to riches.”—Luke 16:9, 13.
13 Jesus thus stated a fundamental rule: No one can be a slave to two masters. The two masters, it is understood here, are in opposition to each other, one being good and the other bad. Jesus showed that if a person holds to one of these, he will despise the other, loving one and hating the other. The contrast between the rulers is so great that one cannot be for both. Jehovah God is the prime Slave-master; he is the prime Owner of all creatures by right of his creatorship. And if we wish to be friends of his, we must loyally serve him, giving him our exclusive devotion, dedicating our lives to him and giving our all in his service, becoming followers of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Further, Jehovah does not allow his servants to serve him part of the time and his hated enemy the other part of the time. Jesus expressed it this way, to the congregation in Laodicea: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or else hot. So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:15, 16) Those who are neither hot nor cold are vomited out, rejected with disgust. Thus the Christian, in seeking the friendship of God and his Son, cannot be divided in his heart between Jehovah and the opposite master, Satan the Devil, “the god of this system of things.”
14. (a) As to friendship, wherein did the rich young ruler fail? (b) Why is the proper use of riches so important?
14 Jesus made it clear that the one desiring friendship with God cannot be a slave to worldly riches and thus a slave to the wrong slave-master. We must not be like the rich young ruler who, though he wanted to be a friend of God, would not relinquish slavelike ties with this world. Jesus told him to sell what he had and give to Jehovah God’s poor, and “you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.” (Matt. 19:21) In saying this to the young ruler, Jesus was applying the rule: No one can be a slave to two masters. Exclusive devotion to Jehovah God was the thing. Would the rich ruler give Jehovah what belonged to him, or would he prefer slavery to riches? He made the wrong decision and lost out on gaining the treasure of being a friend of God. Riches are useful, and the proper use of them, Jesus shows, is in making friends with God and his Son. Knowing this, the servant of God will never let riches become master over him, but will master them and use them in the ministry of Jehovah God. Otherwise, if riches become master over us by reason of our having made them our friends, we enter into a state of enmity with Jehovah God, for we have become a friend of this world and a slave to his hated enemy, the god of this world.
15. (a) Who are the proper friends for us to make, and why is there no odium connected with being their slaves? (b) How did Jesus prove his friendship for those who obey him, and what is thereby not canceled?
15 The proper friends for those truly seeking everlasting life are the prime Slave-master, Jehovah God, and his Son “whom he appointed heir of all things.” (Heb. 1:2) In becoming a slave of God and of Jesus Christ one does not come into a hated position, one in which he is oppressed and trampled underfoot and kept in ignorance as to his master’s purposes. No, but by becoming loyally obedient slaves of God and of his Son, one becomes their friend. It is uplifting to reflect upon Jesus’ words to his loyal followers: “You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master does. But I have called you friends, because all the things I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:14, 15) Unlike the usual cold and formal master-slave relationship, those who follow Jesus, while slaves, are also his friends. Jesus Christ proved his friendship by surrendering his soul “in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:13) The price Jesus paid was his own precious blood; thus this friendship does not nullify the fact that Christians are slaves of God and of Jesus Christ. If they wish to maintain their friendly slave-and-master relationship, Christians must guard against making friendly ties with this world and its satanic slave master, the Devil. No one can be a slave to two masters.
16. What parable did Jesus relate about a house steward, and what point did Jesus make?
16 How can we make friends with Jehovah and his Son, and why is it urgent to do so now? In the book of Luke, the sixteenth chapter, Jesus spoke a parable about a house servant, a steward who was about to lose his job and who showed practical wisdom in making friends with riches. The steward in Jesus’ parable did not receive a salary, as is the custom today. When dismissed from his job, he would have to beg or do menial work such as digging. Not being strong enough to dig and not wishing to beg, the steward reduced various debts that men owed his master. When he lost his stewardship, he thus had people who would welcome him into their homes; for he had made friends with them by means of riches. Now he would not have to earn a living in the hated way by digging or in a humiliating way by begging. He had a good eye to the future, and he acted with practical wisdom in using wealth or material goods for making friends. So Jesus Christ says that Christians should act with similar practical wisdom: “Also, I say to you, Make friends for yourselves by means of the unrighteous riches, so that, when such fail, they may receive you into the everlasting dwelling places.”—Luke 16:9.
17. (a) Of what are Jehovah and Jesus Christ possessors, and to what do many people fail to give thought? (b) In contrast with the uncertainty of riches and life in this world, what knowledge concerning God’s promises should prompt us to take the course of practical wisdom?
17 Jehovah God and Jesus Christ are the only possessors of “everlasting dwelling places.” They will receive into these “everlasting dwelling places” only their friends. In this day and age when many persons are deeply concerned and disturbed over housing shortages, the high cost of housing and high taxes on homes, they are likely to give little thought to the matter of securing for themselves everlasting dwelling places in God’s new world of righteousness. Not only is it a new world in which “righteousness is to dwell,” but it will be a world of which God assures us: “Death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be any more. The former things have passed away.” (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:4) This is what God has promised in his Word. Do you believe it? Jehovah’s words never fail, as Joshua told the Israelites: “You well know with all your hearts and with all your souls that not one word out of all the good words that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true for you. Not one word of them has failed.” (Josh. 23:14) Having God’s unfailing promise of a righteous new world, why, then, seek permanent dwelling places in this world? It would be futile even if we should try, for not only may riches vanish overnight, but one’s life is just as uncertain. So the course of practical wisdom is to use our material possessions in such a way as to make friends with the Builder of all things and Jesus Christ his Son, who said to his followers: “In the house of my Father there are many abodes. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going my way to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2) Then when riches fail us, we can be assured of a loving welcome into the “everlasting dwelling places” of the new world.
18. Why does money not buy God’s gifts, and who can be God’s friends?
18 Does this mean that God accepts bribes or that we can buy off God’s wrath? No, not at all. Ananias and Sapphira thought that they could buy God’s favor to the extent of having a big reputation. They failed to understand that handing over money to buy something for a selfish purpose could not be a friendly act toward God. Further, Simon, the one-time practitioner of magical arts, thought that he could buy the favors of God by the exchange of money. He found out otherwise, as Peter told him: “May your silver perish with you, because you thought through money to get possession of the free gift of God.” (Acts 8:20) No, money cannot buy God’s gifts; if that were so, then the rich would be at an advantage and could buy up reservations in God’s new world. But God is not mercenary; he is not partial. Anyone can make friends with God and His Son, even though his material possessions be small and insignificant.
19. (a) How can money or material goods be used, then, in winning God’s friendship? (b) What is the proper use of one’s resources?
19 How, then, do we use riches or material goods to make friends with God? Not to bribe God but to glorify God! God owns the whole world, and “the silver is mine, and the gold is mine,” says Jehovah. “To me belongs every wild animal of the forest, the beasts upon a thousand mountains.” (Hag. 2:8; Ps. 50:10) So we could not enrich God materially, but we can use our resources to glorify God, by telling others of his purposes, by giving him exclusive devotion and loyal love. When we encourage other persons to study the Bible, when we bring to them Bible-study aids, when we talk with them and help them understand God’s purposes and promise of a righteous new world—we are using our resources to glorify God.
20. Why is it urgent to make friends with God now, and with whom should we associate?
20 By using our resources to glorify God, we are laying up heavenly treasure and making friends with those who will never forsake us, never abandon us and who can give us the gift of everlasting life under the kingdom of heaven. This matter of making friends with God and his Son is urgent because this world is now in its “time of the end,” and will soon pass away at God’s war of Armageddon. Now is the time to show that we are friendly toward God. Now is the time to get all the help we can in winning God’s friendship. That is why we need to associate regularly with those who love and obey God, those whom Jesus Christ called “my friends.” (Luke 12:4) By associating with the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses, thousands of persons are learning the course to take to make friends for themselves ‘by means of the unrighteous riches, so that, when such fail, they may receive them into the everlasting dwelling places.’—Luke 16:9.
a Hastings, Encyclopœdia of Religion und Ethics, Vol. VI p. 132.