The Meaning of Proverbs 17:17—A Friend Loves at All Times

The book of Proverbs provides an excellent template for godly friendships. What is the meaning of Proverbs 17:17? How can we be loving friends?

Do you have a friend who you know will be there for you, no matter what? 

Are you the kind of person who your friends know will be there for them, no matter what? Our modern world has many ideas about what a friend should look like, but what does the Bible say a friend should look like?

One of the Bible’s definitions of a good friend is found in Proverbs 17:17: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

While this verse could be written off as a simple platitude about friendship, it actually contains an amazing insight into what godly friendships look like.

A friend who “loves at all times” is consistent

In his commentary on the book of Proverbs, Matthew Henry shares this comment on this verse: “That is not true friendship which is not constant.”

In other words, real friends can be characterized as constant, dependable and consistent. They are always there, whether in good times or in bad. They don’t abandon you in the hard times, nor do they get bored and walk away in the easy times. Like the law of gravity, they are a constant.

There is something intrinsically comforting in someone who is a consistent friend. This is the kind of person you know will be there for you at all times, whether or not you ask.

Constant friends are certain to be there for you when the hard times come because they are always there.I’ve been blessed to have had the same best friend throughout my entire life. One of the many reasons that our friendship has lasted so long is that I know, even though we live hundreds of miles apart, he’s ready to be by my side at any time.

In every battle I have faced in life, this friend has been there to provide support and comfort, whether he knew it or not. Without fail, it was on my hardest days that I would get a call from him out of the blue, cheering me up with conversation.

That’s one of the many beautiful things about consistency in friendship: it is all-encompassing. My friend didn’t have to know the particular days that I was struggling in order to provide comfort and support. He was already being the best friend he could be by just reaching out to check in every once in a while.

Constant friends are certain to be there for you when the hard times come because they are always there. And, as Proverbs 17:17 suggests, something special happens as a result of facing adversity together.

When a friend becomes a brother

The people that stick by your side in trials ultimately become more than friends.

Proverbs 18:24 alludes to this higher form of friendship: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Who is this friend that “sticks closer than a brother”? This friend is the very same one we read about in chapter 17, who sticks with you in times of adversity. The friend who remains by your side in times of trial and hardship becomes much more than a friend—he or she becomes a brother or sister.

In the Bible, Jonathan and David are shown to have had this kind of friendship. Their friendship was so strong that 1 Samuel 18:1 describes their souls as being “knit” together as one.

A friend becomes a brother (or a sister) when he or she stands by you even when it is inconvenient. Throughout their lives, David and Jonathan’s friendship grew in the face of hardship. Even when King Saul, Jonathan’s father, sought to kill David, the young prince consistently defended his friend (1 Samuel 19:2-4).

While it is unlikely that any of us will face the same kind of life-threatening trials that plagued Jonathan and David, we can still aspire to their example of friendship.

Adversity comes in many different shapes and forms, but it befalls each of us. Personal hardships can range from the very large, like a death in the family or the loss of a job, to the very small, like everyday inconveniences that shake our confidence.

When these hard times come, a true friend makes himself or herself known. He or she sticks by your side, even when you aren’t particularly fun to be around. And, as was the case with Jonathan and David, the hardships you endure together will make your friendship stronger.

A friend becomes a brother (or a sister) when he or she stands by you even when it is inconvenient. Jonathan could have been punished severely for helping David escape from Saul, but he did so anyway because of how dearly he loved his friend, who was more like a brother.

Friends may be found in everyday life, but these proverbial brothers are forged in the fires of adversity.  

Be that loving friend

Proverbs 17:17 doesn’t just tell us what to look for in a friend. It also should inspire us to observe how we behave within our own friendships.

Are we the kind of friend that others know they can count on? Are there ways in which we can improve?

There are many practices, both big and small, we can employ in our everyday lives to become better friends to the people around us. Here are a few examples:

These actions and more can set you on a path to being the kind of consistent friend that is like a brother (or sister). Those times of hardship may never come—but then again, they may. 

If you are already being a good friend, your friendship won’t falter when the day of adversity comes.  

For more information on how to be a good friend, read “How to Be a Better Friend.”

Topics Covered: Relationships, Christian Living, Life Lessons

About the Author

Jordan Iacobucci

Jordan Iacobucci

Jordan Iacobucci attends the Raleigh, North Carolina, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association.

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