Did you know you can rent a friend now? A few months ago, I came across this website, Rentafriend.com. No matter where you are in the world, they are building a database of people who are willing to rent themselves out to you as a “friend”. As I checked the website today and they had 621,585 friends available for rent worldwide. In addition to events that you might hire a friend for such as fun outings, activities and even dates for things like proms and weddings, they are encouraging “Virtual Friend Services” in order to comply with local Covid restrictions you might have in your area. So, you can pay people to hang out with you online and in person.
For these services, you can pay $10/hr or more, depending on the friend and the desired activity. The website does note that many of the friends will negotiate and some will waive their fees for some activities. In looking through the website and the different uses that they highlight, it is easy to see the appeal. Some of the things suggested are:
- Moving to a new town and need a local to show you around and introduce you to people
- Looking for someone with a unique talent or skill they could teach you such as learning or practicing a new language or learning to cook
- Don’t hire a personal trainer, hire a friend to workout with you and help motivate you
- And of course, the plot of many a B movie, you need a date for a wedding, dinner party, etc. and don’t have anyone to go with
The site discourages romantic friendships, stating that it is only meant for plutonic friendships. I’m sure this is to help avoid it being accused of being a pseudo escort service. When I first heard about the site, my first response was to dismiss it as a joke. It does kind of sound like the plot of a movie, but when you look at the site and browse through some of the profiles, you find people from all walks of life, looking to connect with other people. The growth of the site over time as well as competing sites which have emerged demonstrate the market for this kind of thing. The use of the word friend here may be similar to the way it is used in the online world, meaning it has a very broad definition.
There is no data on what might be called true friendships that have developed as a result of connections made through sites like these, but it seems like the very nature of the relationship would be a barrier towards a true lasting friendship. After all, you are basically paying for someone to stand in as a friend for a limited time. What this demand definitely does point to is the need for community. God has created us to desire community with other people. I know introverts would argue that point, but the vast majority of introverts I have known personally do want community of some sort, it is just usually on a more limited basis than our extrovert friends and might look somewhat different.
From the beginning, God’s plan was for us to be together, not alone.(Gen 2:18) Jesus’ plans for His Church was not to send them off by themselves, but in both the teachings of Jesus and His followers “together” is emphasized. Here are but a few examples:
- Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16b)
- Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
- Serve one another (John 13)
- Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
- Live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)
- Be honest with one another (Colossians 3:9)
In the book of Hebrews, the author writes that they should “not giving up meeting together.” In the book of Psalms the author writes, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” This is a small collection of just a few of the many verses that encourage and describe the community of God’s people. But what about friendship? We were made for community, but what about friendship?
Friendships are sometimes marked by power dynamics. Rentafriend.com spells that out and makes it a formal transaction. You are paying for an agreed for service, not much differently than when you hire someone to fix your plumbing or bake you a cake. Real friendships also can be marked by this kind of relational give and take. Similar to the story of the prodigal son, you can see people who have money and influence and they will find no shortage of friends as long as that continues, but when that dries up, many of these friends disappear. While there is no formal rental agreement in these situations, some people chose friendships solely for what they can get out of it. Have you ever had that “friend” who you only hear from when they need something from you? Unfortunately, this is fairly common.
Other people choose friendships for an emotional “payment”. They aren’t looking for a financial gain, but they choose to surround themselves with people who will make them feel good about themselves. You can see this in real life and social media. The contrast of this is we avoid those who consistently make withdrawals from our emotional bank account.
None of this is what God created us to crave. We desire something greater than this and it is the absence of true friendship and community that spawns the need for people to seek other escapes or to be willing to rent a placeholder for an actual friend. None of us want to Rent-a-friend. We want a real friend, but not one who is only there for the wrong reasons, but instead someone who will really care about us in the manner in which the Bible describes community and friendship.
We want friends who are:
- Loyal and ready to help in time of need (Proverbs 17:17)
- Who stick closer than a brother/sister (Proverbs 18:24)
- Who are willing to sacrifice for the sake of our friendship (John 15:13-15)
- Who are reliable (Proverbs 20:6)
- Who give good advice (Proverbs 12:26)
- Who will love us with a pure heart and gracious speech (Proverbs 22:11)
- Who will tell us what we need to hear (Proverbs 27:5-6)
The answer to our friend problem starts with us. Don’t be satisfied with being alone. Pursue deep relationships. Join a church where God is worshipped in community, not just for an hour on Sunday morning. Be a part of a Bible Study or small group where they challenge you to grow and care enough to want to know more about what is going on in your life than just “I’m fine” or “We’re okay”. Real community and friendships are built by sharing life. Don’t eat alone. Invite people to go along with you on trips or when you have things to do. Invite people over to your house to play games or for even a night of good conversation. Welcome the new people in your neighborhood, church or community. God created us to need each other and to desire this kind of community. Life is better together.