Often, we see true friendship as being with those who support us and who we can rely on for encouragement. But the wisdom we find in Scripture takes a different view and advises that the wounds of a friend can be trusted. At first glance, this is a slightly troubling verse. Our immediate reaction is surely those who are our closest friends are not going to say or do anything to hurt or wound us? Let’s have a closer look at this Scripture to unpack the meaning of this phrase.
What does the Bible say about the wounds of a friend?
In the wisdom Scriptures, we find this proverb a verse that speaks of discernment. It is a verse that at first is challenging to accept because sometimes we can find truth hard to receive. We gravitate to friendships with people who are just like us, those with whom we have something in common. Even in the church family, we find the youth, singles groups, mums and tots, young at heart, or other groups for seniors. These are our peers, those who understand us! It is there with our friends that we expect to find affirmation and support.
What does Proverbs 27:6 say?
“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” NIV
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” NKJV
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” ESV
“The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive.” HCSB
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend [who corrects out of love and concern], but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful [because they serve his hidden agenda].” Amplified
Faithful are the wounds of a friend
There can be many people that we are friendly with and even have daily contact with. Some people that we meet are easy to relate to and we can enjoy their company. Some friendships are just for a season with a shared experience, a time, maybe, of working together. Then if one of you moves on, and the common interest is lost, the friendship runs its course – and that is okay! But then there are close friends….
I don’t know about you, but I feel blessed to have a few true friends. These are the friendships that have formed over the years. We have been there for each other and walked through some of the highs and lows of life together. The ones that I can rely on for support and encouragement, but I also know that I can trust their godly advice.
What does faithful are the wounds of a friend mean?
The first half of the proverb highlights that a true friend will sometimes speak words that are uncomfortable or even painful to hear. But when they are rooted in love the wounds of a friend can be trusted. A faithful friend will speak with the right motive, love, and concern for our best interest.
The second half of the verse is a warning that sometimes those who affirm our every word, may have a hidden agenda. Sadly, just because someone flatters our views and opinions does not necessarily mean that they are a true friend.
The Gift of Encouragement
The gift of encouragement or exhortation is listed amongst the spiritual gifts in Romans chapter twelve. When I used to teach the church youth and talk about spiritual gifts, I would say that the gift of encouragement is a good place to start. I would play a game with them, where I would ask them to think of encouraging or kind words about someone else in the group. Then they had to write the words on a post-it and stick the note to the back of the person’s chair. This was to encourage them to look at each other kindly and see the good in someone else. Of course, those are baby steps…
But true encouragement is more than just kind words. Sometimes words alone are not enough, we need practical help, and that is when we need our friends and our community around us.
Related Post: Barnabas – Is Encouragement More Than Kind Words?
The spiritual gift of encouragement, or exhortation, is more than simply kind words or actions. It is when what we do and say points someone else back to the Lord, drawing them closer to Him.
This is where we find out who our true friends are – those who will not always tell us what we want to hear, but what we need to hear. Words that affirm our way of thinking soothe our spirit, but that is not always good for our eternal well-being. Sometimes there can be an ouch moment when what we hear is painful, but somewhere deep inside we know it is true.
I don’t know about you, but I have had those times when I’ve realized that my ‘great idea’ is not God’s best plan. The wounds of a friend, although painful at the time can be for our good and, if we listen, avoid a whole lot of heartache!
Related Post: El Roi – The God Who Sees Me
What does the Bible say about open rebuke?
This proverb is advising us to examine our response when we feel hurt if a true friend challenges our behavior. True and lasting encouragement is from those words that point us back to the Lord. It doesn’t matter how many other people approve of our behavior if it is not pleasing to God.
True friends are those who have earned the right to speak into our lives by their love and kindness which has been demonstrated over time. When we have that connection with someone and know that we can trust them to bring prayerful, godly, counsel.
If we feel prompted to speak and challenge a friend about their attitude or behavior, we should tread carefully and examine our own motive. Our intention should be to draw our friends closer to the Lord, and our delivery always needs to be with love. Remember the love of God may bring conviction and correction but never condemnation.
This is not something to do lightly. There is the risk that if the words are not received, in the loving spirit that they are given, the friendship could be damaged or lost.
Paul Openly Rebuked Peter
The early church grew and developed as it began to reach out to Gentiles as well as to Jews. This brought challenges to the Jewish Christians. We find an account, in Galatians chapter two, of where Paul found it necessary to openly rebuke Peter.
It seems that Peter had yielded to pressure, he had given way and changed his behavior to please other people. Paul challenged him about it and Peter accepted the rebuke. In his heart Peter knew that Paul was correct in what he was saying. The open rebuke was necessary because it affected a foundational truth of the Christian faith.
Paul did what was required and Peter responded in the right way. In this instance, the truth was more important than a moment of embarrassment or hurt feelings. Later in Peter’s letters, we find him referring to Paul with warmth and affection, he respected Paul and his teaching. The rebuke did not damage their mutual respect or their friendship.
Can the wounds of a friend ever be encouragement?
The wounds of a friend, although painful, can be trusted to draw us closer to the Lord. Our faith can be strengthened when we are willing to receive godly counsel. We need wisdom as to whom we listen to – but God will freely give us that wisdom if we ask! And equally, we need to seek wisdom before we speak into anyone else’s situation with the intention of building up their faith.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens a friend.”Proverbs 27:17 CEB
23 thoughts on “Can The Wounds of a Friend Be Encouragement?”
I love your very last line most of all. I have friends who are great encouragers. I need to extend myself more to do the same.
I love talking about Barnabas – the “son of encouragement.” His very name defines it!
As you say, he didn’t have to champion Paul, but what a blessing that he did!
Yes I have to say I love the fact that his gifting was so obvious to the apostles that they changed his name! Thanks for responding 🙂
“We can all develop the gift of encouragement”!!!! Yes! Wonderful post.
Thank you. I am just catching up. Great teaching and an encouragement too.
Thank you Brook for taking the time to read and respond! ????
I love your following statement Sharon;
“If we choose to make ourselves Available by being open to the prompting of the Spirit and we have the right Attitude..” this is truly the key that opens the door to friendship, availability attitude & listening to the Spirit of God.
Great encouraging post! You’re welcome to join me in a cuppa new friend, 😀
Barnabas, “the son of encouragement”, has much to teach us all. May I become more like him > “offering friendship and – sharing God’s love in a despairing and increasingly needy world.”
I have never seen Barnabas displayed so beautifully before. I will never look at him the same. So very true! Thank you for this inspired post to be a bridge in our lives for friendships, unity and faith. God bless you!
Barnabas is one of my favourite characters in scripture – we can learn so much from him about having a heart for serving others. Thank you for responding!
You and I are definitely on the same page this week with our writing. By choosing to make ourselves available to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and then doing what he has put upon our heart, we can indeed make a difference in others’ lives! I wonder how many blessings we miss by ignoring that gentle nudge from the Spirit and not reaching out to others?
Thank you Patti your testimony was so on point!
Oh that God would allow each of us to be a Barnabas! What a privilege it is…and how thankful I am for each Barnabas that God has put in my life along the way!!
Like many other commenters, I love that you started with availability. Being available to others is definitely more of an emotional state than a physical one. And I love your tangible example of someone who was open and available to the idea of accepting everyone— no matter the past.
Very thoughtful post, Sharon!
Paul and Barnabas are such a great example of friendship and encouragement. Encouragement is a gift we receive and hopefully give away.
What a great example of friendship! My closest people give me encouragement exactly when I need it!
I appreciate that we can learn from people of the Bible on a wide array of topics including the importance of encouragement. Barnabas’ example is definitely worth imitating and such an upward call. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights with us!
Thank you Marva for responding – I do love learning from the lives of those recorded in scripture!
I love Barnabas. I think he’s one of those men in the Bible who’s overlooked many times, but he played such an important role in the sharing of the gospel—by who he encouraged. I think it’s easy for us to want to be the Paul and not understand when things don’t work out in that way and then miss that we’re the Barnabas.
That is so true, knowing our call is to serve faithfully where God has placed us! Thank you for reading and responding.
I love encouragement, Sharon–the giving of it AND the receiving. Especially these days, I find that I physically FEEL better after a conversation with an encouraging friend … it makes that much difference! I hadn’t thought of it as something that requires courage, but absolutely–Barnabas definitely demonstrates that.
Barnabas was such an example in encouragement, and we can learn so much from him. Thanks for sharing. Many blessings to you!
Thank you – I have been blessed in writing about him!