There’s this old blues tune. It’s about 100 years old now. Originally made popular by the legendary blues singer Bessie Smith during the vaudeville era. Revived by iconic guitarist Eric Clapton, this song tells the pain of living life in the company of (or absence of) fair weather friends. The protagonist sings of when he is rich and surrounded by folks he could do for but when he falls on hard times, well, as the song goes: Nobody knows you when you’re down and out.” I don’t think that anyone aspires to being a part of this kind of easy-come-easy-go crowd. One of our deepest human needs is a sense of belonging. What we really aspire to, what we are really created for is community- genuine community. But the truth is that we can undermine the relational security that we seek in community by the way we treat others. As a matter of fact, Proverbs 18 has a lot to say about how people in community should and shouldn’t treat each other. Just let a couple of these land…
1An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends
and against all sound judgment starts quarrels.
2Fools find no pleasure in understanding
but delight in airing their own opinions.
12Before a downfall the heart is haughty,
but humility comes before honor.
13To answer before listening—
that is folly and shame.
Then there’s verse eight, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
they go down to the inmost parts.” We can get a sweet satisfaction out of devouring and dishing someone else’s dirt but it’s hurtful to the one who is uncovered and unhealthy for the one gossiping. More than that gossip erodes the trust and goodwill that is foundational for healthy community. It may make you feel good for a moment to wield that power over someone (even more so if the person has wronged you) but ultimately it is corrosive to the connective tissue of the relationships you may find yourself in need of when you yourself are “down and out.”
Verse 24 says, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” The lyrics of that old blues song tell of a person so desperately needing the support of a “friend closer than a brother” but finding his so-called friends are unreliable. Community is a God-given gift. It is to be cherished and cared for. Every day, I need to ask myself “How am I contributing to or undermined the heath of my community?” How about you?