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(May 3) The "Manger" of Friendship

"Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox."

Read Part 1 -- The "Manger" of Marriage (click here)

Read Part 2 -- The "Manger" of Parenthood (click here)

Read Part 3 -- The "Manger" of Ministry (read here)

We continue our look at how to apply this unusual, but helpful proverb. Let's take a moment to consider what we have already covered. This simple yet profound statement refers to a man who worked his fields. He has grown weary of the mess that comes with having oxen. The work, the responsibility, and the smell have become a burden. The landowner can get rid of the oxen. If he does, the manger will be much cleaner. He will gain some free time and his place will look and smell much better. Getting rid of the oxen isn't a bad idea until he needs to do the work that leads to abundant crops.

So, the principle is clear: There are things in life that are messy, but they are worth it because of the value they bring to our lives.

"Can you help me move?" It is a question that many of us have asked others once or twice and it is likely a question we have been asked as well. Your mind can't work fast enough to come up with an adequate excuse for why you cannot help. At that moment you think to yourself, "Maybe my life would be better if I had no friends at all."

Or, maybe for you it has been a much more serious example. Perhaps a friend betrayed you. It could be that someone you trusted in turned their back on you when you needed them the most. We have all been there. It is a painful thing to feel the sting of friends not coming through for you.

Friendships can be messy -- like everything else in life. Sometimes you invest so much in a friendship only to one day discover that the friendship was not as meaningful to them as it was to you.

The world today is particularly harsh to teenagers in terms of friendships that go awry. Suppose you are a high school student and your group of friends has left you out. It is not simply that Friday night now finds you at home alone. It is worse these days. Now, that teenager gets on social media and sees picture after picture reminding him that those who used to be his friends are having loads of fun. It is one thing to be left out. It is something else entirely to have to watch the highlights of the very event in which you were excluded. He wonders to himself, "Is it even worth it to try to make friends?"

Yet, just like with marriage, parenting, and ministry, it is worth it! Relationships can be painful at times and the "manger" can get messy, but much good comes from having friends nearby. It is easy to get hung up on the failures of others when we would be better served to care for others as the Bible says. Rather than going through life being frustrated by how others treat us, let's instead choose to be the best friend we can be to others. In other words, strive to be the friend to someone else that you wish someone would be to you.

What does the Bible teach about friendships?

- Proverbs 17:7 "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."

This reminds us that we need to stay with our friends. We need to laugh with those who laugh and cry with those who cry (Romans 12:15). Too often people turn their back on their friends when difficulty comes. The truth is, when people are having their worst season of life, this is the time they need their friends the most. Look for those in your life who are going through adversity and be the best friend to them you can possibly be. Yes, there will be some headaches and mess (the manger will be smelly!), but remember, friends and brothers are born for adversity.

- Proverbs 27:6 "Faithful are the wounds of a friend"

This verse teaches us that it is a faithful friend who loves us enough to say the hard things. Do you have people in your life who care enough about you to confront you in your sin? If so, do not become angry with them. Rather, bless them. Even though their words of confrontation may be painful at the time, the wounds inflicted, when done in love, are the evidence of their true friendship.

- Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!"

I remember the first time I rode a ski lift. I was somewhat mentally prepared to struggle going down the mountain. I had thought about keeping my head up when I struggled to make turns or got going too fast and fell over. What I was not at all prepared for was the embarrassment of falling...OFF THE SKI LIFT!

I fell and my skis come off. I dropped my poles and was laying face down in the snow. Then my friend came over to me and stuck out his ski pole and told me to hold on and pull myself up. I was so grateful. I still had to gather up my skis and poles and get out of the way, but it was a lot easier to do so with someone beside me who knew what they were doing.

Are you there to help others when they fall? Are you willing to pull up a friend when they have fallen? Do you look for ways to serve people when they feel alone?

This much I know: when you fall, it is good to have a friend. I also know that there will absolutely be times when we do indeed fall. It is worth it to cultivate friendships and to be a faithful friend to others in your life. Yes, the manger gets messy, but friendships are worth it for the value they bring into your life.

Why not take a few minutes today to thank the Lord for the friends you have in life? Then, spend the rest of the day being the very best friend to others you can possibly be.

Read Part 1 -- The "Manger" of Marriage (click here)

Read Part 2 -- The "Manger" of Parenthood (click here)

Read Part 3 -- The "Manger" of Ministry (read here)


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