“My enemies say of me in malice, ‘When will he die and his name perish?’ When one of them comes to see me, he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander; then he goes out and spreads it around.” Psalm 41:5-6

When we’re in leadership, from time to time, we’ll come across those who pretend to be friendly. They come to every meeting, are attentive to things that we’re doing, and express excessive interest in our personal lives. They appear to be sociable, but their real motive is to collect data and use it against us. They present truth out of context, exaggerate our difficulties or imply they know more than they do. They’re collecting information and using it as leverage.

Here we see it happening to David. Someone comes to him when he’s distressed and unwell (verses 3-4), but instead of providing genuine hope and comfort, as a true friend, they speak falsely. The true purpose of their visit is to gather data they can use against him. Their aim is to spread a bad report and undermine his leadership so they can orchestrate getting their own way in the decision-making processes.

As leaders, we’re to be discerning. Are people just being our friend so they can influence our decisions? Are people sharing inappropriate information with us, to trap us into sharing too much with them? Are we allowing them too much access to our private concerns?

It’s important that leaders have close friends, as Jesus did, but it takes time and wisdom to build the necessary trust for a good relationship. Proverbs gives us this advice: “The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Proverbs 12:26).

Choose friends carefully, because those with impure motives will lead us astray.