If you think you know somebody but you really don’t there can be two reasons for this: 1.) They are lying to you and so you believe something about that person that is not true. For example, Judas Iscariot. 2.) They are telling the truth and acting consistent with who they are but you are not able to understand who they are by what they say and do. For example, a girl who believes a homeless meth addict who is obviously lazy and a self-professed liar is the kind of guy that she should marry. Certainly, the guy is in all kinds of moral trouble and in need of loving intervention is a host of ways, but the desire to marry this guy rest solely on the girl’s poor judgment and lack of understanding, at a minimum. She’s not really his friend if she won’t, at a minimum, call him out about his sin. As I’m sure you remember, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” [Prov. 27:6].
So, let’s talk about words. Which of the two above scenarios makes a word a false friend? Which is it, is the word “halt” or “apt” lying to us? Is “halt” a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world? COBRA!! No, of course not. The word is the word. Some people may use the word to harm or lie but the word itself is a specific series of inert English symbols with no desire to mislead, or rule the world for that matter.
The reason “halt” and “apt” may be false friends to us is because we do not understand them. We don’t hang out together at church or the homeschool co-op. When “apt” wants to go get drinks we don’t go because we are teetotalers. If we aren’t going to go hang out with “halt” and “apt” and the rest of their false friends how else could we get to know them? Well, by reading, of course. And here is the rub. We in America don’t read very much.
According to Statista the average time an American reads per day is 20.4 minutes with minors and young adult [ages 15-19] reading only 8.4 minutes per day. It’s hard to make true friends out of friends you don’t understand when you only hang out somewhere between 8 and 20 minutes per day, especially when you need to divide your attention between all your true friend words while mingling with some of those other friends you are trying to get to know. I mean, who has time to make new friends of misunderstood friends when you only hang out with your regular friends 8 minutes a day?
But you say, “We learn words not only through print but also through hearing these words spoken.” Agreed, but when it comes to Scripture can anyone just say some words and call those words Scripture? No, they may not. The Scripture words we get must come from Scripture, from the printed page. So, when we say there are some false friends in Scripture, we are saying that we haven’t been hanging out with the Bible. There are words in there that we could know but we don’t. They are strangers to us and they are strangers to us not because they cannot be known, but because we have not put forth the effort to know them.
Some say that we need to change them. “These friends can’t be friends” or “It’s too hard to be friends with these friends.” These false friends need to be updated and that will fix the problem. Of course, this is silly and stupid to conclude in part because it sounds like a part out Mean Girls: The Text Critical Version. If the problem is that people won’t acquaint themselves with the Bible then the mere changing of words is not going to heal their akrasia, their weakness of will.
Perhaps the Bible can help us with the false friends dilemma. The Scripture teaches us that if a man wants to have friends, he must himself be friendly [Proverbs 18:24]. If we want to reduce the number of false friends in Scripture, we should start being friendly with Scripture. Friendships are difficult to build. They take time and sometimes the relationship can be rough. The wounds of a friend are faithful, are they not? If you are to be a friend to Scripture and Scripture to you then you must spend time with Scripture, ask questions of Scripture, study Scripture, know what Scripture likes to drink with its steak. Scripture is ready to stick closer to you than a brother. It is the living word of Christ, and Christ is friend and brother to all Christians. The question is, are you ready to return the favor with your scanty 20 minutes?