There are proverbs that God gives us that are just statements of truth. They are not meant to be approving of what is said - just a simple statement of what will be true in this fallen world. What we learn from them is often discerned as we seek the Lord. Today's proverb is one of these.
Wealth adds many friends. What a loaded statement. When a man is wealthy he has many friends. Ask anyone who has ever won a lot of money - they will tell you that suddenly friends come out of the woodwork. Watch the rich and famous sports figure - he has an entourage of friends who follow him and do his bidding wherever he goes. The word used for friend in the Hebrew is a very general word which can mean anything from a close friend or lover - to someone who is only an aquaintance. For the wealthy man, the trick is to know which is which. He will have those who become his friend because he is rich and the know they will live well when around him. These are the sycophants and human leaches of society. They are around when you are doing well and when gifts flow freely. When this flow stops - or the promise of some payback no longer is there - they are gone.
The second half of this proverb is telling. A poor man is separated from his friend. The word for poor man here is very interesting. It is the Hebrew word, "dal," which means to be poor or weak. these are people who are on the opposite social scale from the rich. The emphasis here is on their poverty and their weakness. Keil and Delitzsch describe this word as meaning reduced, or as "one who has fallen into a tottering condition, who has no resources, and who possesses no means. This man is in the process of being reduced. He may have had wealth - or at least enough - but due to his circumstances and problems he is now being reduced. His condition has become one of a tottering man who is in the process of going down - of falling. This is the man who is separated from his friend. Unfortunately he has fair-weather friends who are around for the ride - who are a friend because of what they "get" from the relationship. Once things start going down - this kind of friend makes himself or herself scarce. This is a lousy friend - and we are being warned here that such friends exist in our world.
What we should learn from this passage is that friends come and go - at least some friends do. The true friend is the one who sticks around even when we are being "reduced." Scripture tells us that there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. There are those who stay with us even when we are at our lowest and most vulnerable. If you have a friend like this - thank God for him or her - because such friends are not abundant in a fallen world where most are more concerned about themselves than about those around them. Lastly, we should realize that Christ is the ultimate friend. We were absolutely reduced by sin and by our fallen nature. There was NOTHING attractive or alluring about us in God's sight - yet the Lord loved us. We read in Romans 5:8 that "God demonstrated His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Christ is our absolute friend. He loved us while we were in rebellion against Him. In this world we will have friends that disappoint us. But take heart because in the Lord Jesus Christ you have a friend that will never leave you or forsake you. When you have no other friend to turn to - you are still not alone - turn to Him for comfort and for encouragement. He will always be there regardless of whether you are rich . . . or reduced.