Sometimes people come into our lives for a while and basically check us out. Do they want us for a friend or not? At first they go by what they have heard about us, but these maybe-friends want to meet us and judge for themselves.
Often they will stand in the church foyer or your place of work and ask some questions and show themselves friendly. They may even give you something, or take you out for coffee or for lunch. Sometimes they even find a reason to come visit you at home.
It may not always be the rich Queen of Sheba that comes calling as was the case in King Solomon's life, but studying her visit may be helpful to us.
This independently wealthy woman and government leader had heard down in Ethiopia, her own country, of the wealth and wisdom of King Solomon, and she came to check him out, her long retinue bearing gifts to give him.
Her gifts and praise must have impressed and tickled dear Sol, for he showed her all his own wealth and gave her rich presents too. It says in 1 Kings 10:13, "King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for, besides what he had given her out of his royal bounty. Then she left with her retinue to her own country."
When someone gives us presents we tend to reciprocate, don't we? The more we have the more or larger our gifts, right?
(Should we really give our friends everything they desire, or only if we can afford their desires? Or is there better wisdom in this regard?)
This particular Bible story doesn't tell us exactly what we should do regarding gift-giving among friends, but it appears that Solomon was accustomed to receiving gifts. I Kings 10:25 says, "Year after year, everyone who came brought a gift - articles of silver and gold, robes, weapons and spices, and horses and mules." Folks just knew to bring a gift if they were going to come into his presence. No wonder he became the richest man in the world.
That was all very exciting and pleasurable in the beginning, but later he wrote the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes and there he denounced the getting of wealth as vanity of vanities. It wasn't a lasting, meaningful pleasure.
Many others have found this true. If we have friends just for the sake of the gifts they bring us, we will eventually find life meaningless as well. Lasting friendships that we will value and treasure in our hearts and memories must be based on more than gift exchanges.
So before we dash off - what is the answer? How should we deal with potential friends who are checking us out?
First, look beyond the gifts they may bring us. Eager as we may be to reciprocate with gifts and exposing everything in our minds and hearts, I think we should step back internally and try to look objectively for their motives. Just separate your thinking processes from your emotions for a bit.
Ask yourself, "Could this potential friend be trying to get something from me by pretending to be friendly? What proofs of sincerity do I see?" Not that we want to become suspicious of everyone we meet, but sometimes we can be blinded and misled if we react emotionally, without thinking. Another question to ask is, "Has God perhaps brought this new person into my life because He wants me to learn and grow in this new friendship?" A person of greater maturity and with the graces and skills we ought to learn could be a great example to us. On the other hand, a person of great need might draw patience and caring and love out of us - which could also be part of God's plan for our development.
Yet another possibility is that God is just sending this new friend into our lives momentarily to bless us and be His way of confirming to us that we are on the right path. Or perhaps to show us that we are not on the right path. We may even have an insight or a blessing we are to share with this short-term friend.
Personally, I delight in meeting new people. I try to control my tendency to show off everything I know and have to them right away, like eager and hospitable King Solomon did. While watching to see how far this person's friendliness will go, I also try to discern what this potential friend really needs and is prepared to offer in a friendship. Then I weigh the risks and the kind of time commitment this friendship may draw out of me.
Whenever possible I try to talk it over with my Best Friend, the Lord Jesus, first. Just in case I missed something.
But of course, I'm not the only one making decisions. If the other party latches onto me and claims me for a friend, I usually agree quickly enough. It is only when I have observed that this person would drain me dry and take advantage of me that I have held back and sought to avoid them.
What about us checking out someone else? Do you have a method of operation like the Queen of Sheba? How do you go fishing for new friends?
If you are looking for more than a friend, perhaps a marriage partner to share everything with you - I still think it is good to make sure you will be compatible as friends first. You may load them down with valentine's gifts, but if you can't win their respect and acceptance as a friend, you are not likely to go any further.
This getting acquainted period is not always all that comfortable, but it is important enough to take time to do right. Each of us only really needs one or two good friends we can love and trust.
Personally, I think I am wealthy in friends! Though I fall far short of giving them all good quality time, somehow I'm always open to new ones.
[Note: if you missed any articles in this series of article on Friendships in the Bible, and want to read them, you'll find them all linked from this index which is about Friendship]
My novel, Ruthe's Secret Roses, and this related site have a Friendship theme. By getting to know and follow around the heroine, Ruthe, you can learn a lot about friendships, and that there is one that is the golden key to enriching all your other friendships and making them more satisfying. The site is more like a perfumed poupouri of articles and pages on that theme, and I've started a series on the friendships we observe in the Bible and what practical insights we can gain for our own friendships by thinking about them
Visit the RoseBouquet for my weekly short articles about what is happening in my life, week-by-week.
You may also subscribe to the ezine edition and have it delivered to you every week, using the subscribe form in the right column on this page (or almost any page).
Also from Booklocker.com