Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Companion of Fools?

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.
Proverbs 13:20

Growing up in the South I heard an old proverb that goes like this: "When you hang out in the barn, the animals don't come out smelling like you." This may seem like an odd saying, but almost anyone who has spent time on a farm understands it. Animals smell bad, especially when there are a bunch of them in an enclosed space with their own feces. No matter how good you smell when you go into a barn, you tend to come out smelling like the animals, not vice versa. It is the same in our friendships. When we surround ourselves with a great number of bad influences, the chances are high that our friends' bad habits will rub off on us.

The book of Proverbs rightly warns us to choose our friends wisely and to choose wise friends because our friends have a profound impact on us. Over time we tend to become more and more like them. This principle is picked up not only in the proverb above but in several others as well:
Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared. (Proverbs 22:24-25)
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)

I am not suggesting that we should avoid non-Christians altogether. In fact, the Bible has more to say about avoiding Christians who do not live up to their confession of faith (1 Corinthians 5:9-13) than it does about avoiding unbelievers. No, we must associate with unbelievers and engage in relationships with them in order to share Jesus with them. But we should choose carefully with whom we engage in friendships. We don't have to sit in judgment of people, but we should honestly acknowledge that some are better influences on us than others are. We must choose our companions on the road of life wisely, because they tend to affect not only the quality of our travel but also the direction we are headed.

All of our friends have an impact on us. So the question isn't "Are my friends influencing me?" The question is this: "Is the impact my friends have on me positive or negative?" Are your friends sharpening you as iron sharpens iron? Does their presence in your life draw you deeper into Bible study, prayer, and church? Or do they tend to draw you into drunkenness, immorality, anger, conflict, and envy? If your friends impact your life for the worse, then perhaps it's time for you to find some new friends. Finding new friends isn't disloyal because a Christian's primary loyalty is always to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

For further reading...
  • I Kings 12:1-24- Rehoboam is a classic biblical example of how having fools for friends can lead you astray.
  • 1 Corinthians 5:9-13- Read what the Bible says about associating with Christians who do not live up to their confession of faith.
  • James 4:3-5- Friendship with the world?

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