“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend, and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity.” (Proverbs 27:9-10)
In 1978, Andrew Gold wrote a song, “Thank You for Being a Friend” which would go on to be the ubiquitous theme song for “The Golden Girls” sung by Cynthia Fee. We can relate to the goodness that is found in friendship. These verses from Proverbs tell us the value of true friendship. A good friend will be there for us in our day of calamity, while sometimes our own family will not support us.
Now, the wearing of oil and perfume does not have the same connotation today as it did in a by-gone era. All of us have the luxury of regular bathing, deodorants, etc. to make our presence less offensive to those near us. However, they still invoke a powerful sense in our relationships with one another. Whether it’s the teenage boy and his Axe body spray, the “manly” smell of body wash, or the delicate fragrances of a sweet perfume, smell communicates a great deal to us. It is a pleasurable experience. Solomon compares it with the concerned and loving counsel of a dear friend. In this day and age, who doesn’t have an oil diffuser that gives off a wonderful aroma? So, also, when a close friend shares encouraging words coming out of the love in their heart for you. There is just nothing like kind and sweet words of counsel when you need them from a friend who cares for you.
On the other hand, there is nothing as bad as knowing your own natural family is not interested in helping you when you are in trouble. That is why verse 10 tells us that it is better to go to a neighbor who is a true friend in the spirit, than to your own brother who is not close to you in his heart. When we are “born again” into the family of God, we all become spiritual brothers and sisters with the same Father. People who are not Christians cannot understand the family ties all Christians have as brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ. It sounds strange to them when we speak of one another as “brother” and “sister.” Because of Christ we have all been given his love for one other. It is a wonderful blessing of God to have this relationship with people all over the world. It does not matter what color our skin, how old we are, or what social status we happen to come from, when we are in Christ, we have that common bond of love for each other as a brother and sister. It is glorious to be a part of the family of God!
Jesus defined who was his real family (Mark 3:31-35). Jesus was inside a building, sharing and ministering to a crowd that had gathered around him, when his mother and biological brothers came and were standing outside desiring to speak to him. Jesus used this occasion to teach his disciples about his true spiritual family. He told them that all who came to him and did the will of God were his family. They would have the same access to him spiritually as his own mother or brother or sister had.
The whole family of God has been granted special privileges. We are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ Jesus (Romans 8:17). He grants us access to the riches of his glory. We are all saints, and by faith we have been promised his love, wisdom, understanding and knowledge through the promised Holy Spirit. All this so that we might become like him.
Paul offers a prayer that is a great model for us in our relationships together in Ephesians 3:14-21:
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”