Many make entreaties to the noble, and everyone is a friend to the gift-giver.” Proverbs 19:6
Before we dig into this fine piece of wisdom, let’s get a better understanding of the proverb’s Hebrew words and its context.
The word for “noble” is nadib. This certainly could be a person who is noble; but, more specifically for us, it is likely to mean a person of position who is rich and perhaps generous.
If so, isn’t it generally true that we are inclined to seek the favor of people of this sort?
The thought follows, given this inclination, that we seek to be a friend of one who gives gifts. Note the Hebrew word for “friend” here is rea, which as we learned last week, is more of a companion or fellow than a true friend.
So, what does this teach? Is the proverb encouraging or discouraging us from acting in the manner it describes? What’s right, and what’s wrong?
First, as with so many proverbs, we get the truth here in all its nuance and balance. Whether good or bad, it’s true that we frequently seek to be a companion to gift-givers. We understand and pursue our interests in doing so. It’s just a fact. And it’s also true, as a result, that we often curry favor with those from whom we could be given gifts.
But is this good or bad? The proverb is careful in answering. That’s wise! We would likely not follow guidance if it were simplistic or taught against our sense of self-interest.
Often, it’s good to act in the ways of the proverb, that is, to make entreaties to a noble. The noble could be a generous, good person who would help us. The noble could also be a philanthropist who gives to worthy causes and encourages others to do so. Indeed the noble could be read to be God or those who serve God. In all such ways, it’s good and right to make entreaties and seek to be the noble’s friend.
Further, it’s inherent in healthy relations with others to have such activity. Some can and want to help others, and when they do, it’s good for the giver and the receiver. And it’s right in the world that this happens and is seen as good.
But this proverb is placed near other wisdom in the Book which appears to warn against our following inclinations to form friendships that are flawed. This can occur when we seek to be “friends” with the powerful on the basis of a material self-interest that conflicts with truly serving God and the community. And it can occur when we insincerely hide our real interest behind the facade of what we pretend to be the community’s interest. Here we find both the foul and the fraudulent.
So, is making such entreaties good or bad? The proverb teaches how it could be both. It presents both our core principles and the facts of life, and then challenges us to make good judgments. Finally, it’s up to us, with proper understanding and wisdom, to live in righteous and loving ways.