“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
As we renew our series in the book of Proverbs it is good to remind ourselves of the familial setting of this book. This is a book from a father to a son. And we should expect that there be “Fatherly advice” in this book.
It is important for us to note that because it reminds us that this is the primary book we are to use when training up our children. It is their textbook. It is the curriculum of God’s choice that we as parents are to be using.
Moreover, we ought to remember that that this book is intimately addressed to each and every one of us here today. For we are to remember that, through faith in Jesus Christ, we are children of God. And by these inspired words our Heavenly Father speaks to us.
And such is the case today. The counsel we receive here is some of the greatest fatherly advice we could ever receive. That’s because it deals with who we regard as our closest companions.
As fathers we are responsible for the nurture of our children. Part of that nurture means we must help our kids discern who their friends should be. That is exactly what the Lord does in this passage.
This proverb calls us to godly fellowship. That is to say, it tells us that we are to surround ourselves with people who are wise. And our passage gives us two reasons why we should do this. The first half of the verse says that we should surround ourselves with wise people because…
I. Wise companions will make us wiser
It says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise.”
You know how you catch a cold. You hang around with people who are sick. The same is true when it comes to wisdom. If you want to be wise, hang around with people who are wise.
Now, before I talk about some specific applications, I want you to remember something very important here. This is not talking about people who get straight A’s or telling you that we are to hang around with people who we might consider “bright.” This has nothing to do with someone’s IQ or SAT score. You need to remember that a wise person is not necessarily an intelligent person. A person can know a lot of things, but that does not make him a wise person.
A wise person is a person who is a Christian. He is a person who knows God’s word and knows how to live by the word. To put it another way: A wise man can be someone who flunked out of school or never passed the 8th grade. But despite his IQ, he is a god fearing man who has devoted himself to the study and application of God’s word. Though he might not have read a lot of books, there is one book that he does know—it’s the Bible.
This is the kind of person that this passage is talking about. That is the kind of person with whom we are to “walk”. That is the kind of person we are to seek out and fellowship with on a regular basis. If our companions are wise and godly people, that’s going to rub off on us. We will become wise and godly ourselves.
Now, having clarified that, let talk about some applications we can make. I want you to take a second and ask yourself…
A. With whom do you associate regularly?
Who you are friends with right now? Are you surrounding yourself with godly people? Are the people you are hanging around with right now, are they pursuing a relationship with Christ? I don’t care about their grade point average. Do they have their hearts set upon Christ?
You need godly friends. Because when you surround yourself with godly friends you yourself will become wise. They will rub off on you. They will teach you, by their words and by their actions.
Think about the disciples. How did they become such great men of wisdom? It is because they hung out with Jesus. They were part of the greatest seminary of all time. And basically, all they did was walk with Jesus and hang out with him for three years.
Of course they sat under his teaching, but think about the “down times”—the time when class wasn’t in session. Don’t you think they still would have learned a great deal? In a sense, they were always in the school of Christ merely by hanging around with him. Christ’s everyday conduct would have taught them, perhaps more than his sermons did.
We usually don’t choose our friends with this in mind. We usually just choose to hang out with the people we like to do the same things as us. But that might not necessarily be beneficial for us. That is not the primary way we are to choose our chums. Those we most often associate with are to be critiqued on the basis of their relationship to Christ.
And as you think about those you associate on a daily basis, think too about who you associate with on a weekly basis.
B. With whom do you associate at worship?
This ought to affect your church life too, and how you worship.
I want to apologize to you. People like me, who are leaders in the church, have done a terrible thing to you. We have made you dumb. We have done a terrible thing by separating your from the older people in the church.
Those of you who may have grown up in the church probably went to Sunday school. You might even have gone to youth group. But how much time did you spend with the older and wiser people in your church? Probably not much. We have not let you walk with wise people.
Now there may very well be a place for Sunday school and Youth group. I don’t think that these things are wrong in and of themselves. As a matter of fact, they can be quite useful. That’s because young people need to develop godly relationships with kids their age. But today a lot of churches have gone the route of completely segregating their churches by age. Churches today are too divided today. Not over race, but age. (A lot of churches will even send children out during worship!)
I’m glad this church does not do that. I like that you follow the family integrated model. That’s good because there is that healthy mixture of young people with those who are older and wiser. And know htat your elders have intentionally designed your service this way because they know that if you worship with the wise, you will become wise.
But don’t just think about how this applies to those you hang with on a regular basis or how you worship. Think about what you are doing with your free time.
C. With whom do you associate during your free time?
Who do you hang around with when nobody is around? Are you walking with the characters on the Television? Or are you cultivating your spiritual life with good books? Are you reading the Bible? Are you walking with the apostles and prophets? Are you walking with Jesus?
The home is where we spend a lot of our time, but just because we are at home does not mean that we have to be alone. We can still fellowship with saints who have been blessed with wisdom. We can surround ourselves with Christian literature—devotionals, sermons, books of theology. We can pick up something written by Martin Loyd Jones or Charles Spurgeon. We can walk with these guys. We can gain their wisdom.
You know it is good to read novels. But in the long run they aren’t going to do much for you. Even if it is a “Christian novel.” To some extent it can be like TV-- bubble gum for your brain. It tastes good, but it really doesn’t do much for you. It probably won’t make you that much wiser. But if you walk with people like John Piper or RC Sproul, you are going to benefit from their wisdom.
As a matter of fact I was reading a book by RC Sproul just yesterday. On almost every page I read he was citing someone else, Jonathan Edwards or some other Christian thinker. I thought to myself, “Sproul is just borrowing from everyone else! But I look to him for wisdom!” He had walked with other saints, that’s what makes him so wise.”
Let me make a suggestion to you. Martin Llyod Jones once said that the best thing a Christian can do is read biographies. He said that we ought to saturate ourselves with books about the men that God has raised up throughout history. And biographies are great because they oftentimes read like novels. They have that interest level because of the excitement surrounding their lives. But they also detail the lives and beliefs of these men that can be examples and guidance for us.
I want to encourage you to do this. Pick up a biography of some notable saint and begin to walk with him. Sit at his feet, study his life, consider his doctrine. And as you do you will find that he will begin rub off on you.
If you are going to be wise, that’s the way to do it. It doesn’t matter if it is choosing who your friends are, where you worship, or how you spend your free time. If you want to be wise, you need to surround yourself with people who are filled with godly wisdom themselves.
Now let me just reiterate how important it is to do this. Surrounding yourselves with wise and godly people is of the utmost importance, not just because wise friends will make you wiser, but because but foolish friends will make you suffer.
II. Foolish companions will make you suffer
If you look at the second half of this verse (20) you will see this. It says, “The companion of fools will suffer harm.” If you have a different version it may say something slightly different, but it should still read pretty much the same.
But let me unravel this a bit for you. I want you to notice that last word. The word for harm comes from a word that literally means “to scream.” Doesn’t that bring a new light to the text. “The companion of fools will scream.”
I want you to think about how this applies to your everyday life.
A. Think about how this applies to your everyday life.
Do unbelievers make up your “inner circle” of friends? I want you to understand that if they do, then you will be harmed.
Think about what it says in 2 Corinthians. In chapter 6 Paul explicitly says that we are not to be yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14). A yoke is something you put on cattle to guide them. Two cattle are strapped together with a special harness so that they can pull a plow. But if one of those cattle is dead, then which way is the plow going to be pulled? It will be pulled in the direction of the dead one.
That is how it is when you become intimately involved with someone who is spiritually dead. They don’t help your walk with the Lord. They will hinder it and pull it in the wrong direction.
I’ve known Christians who have gone of to college and started hanging out with people who weren’t Christians. Perhaps they even joined a fraternity or sorority. As a result their faith was harmed.
I never joined such a group, but I did choose to live with people who were not Christians during my college days. I look back on those days with a great amount of disdain. I had the opportunity to link up with a lot of Christian guys. I could have lived on a hall where my spiritual life would have been valued, rather than disdained. But instead I chose to spend my days with guys whose lifestyle was no wise favorable to my faith.
Now I didn’t go out drinking with them. I didn’t join in with any of their pleasures or crudeness. As a matter of fact I looked on it with a great deal of contempt. But, looking back, I wonder where I would be today if I had chosen the alternative route. They might not have made me a hellion, but they didn’t stir me on in my walk with Christ either. Though they did not harm my walk with Christ, they did not help it either. If I had chosen to make my companions Christians, I could be a lot farther ahead in my sanctification today. I might have been able to conquer some different sins a lot easier or a lot earlier. I can’t say where I’d be, but I know that I would be a lot farther along that I am right now. And I look at that now and it really irks me. Sometimes it makes me want to scream.
I don’t want to make myself out to be a saint either. There were times where I joined in their sins. I laughed at their jokes. I enjoyed it when they made fun of other people. There were all sorts of things that I got caught up in because they were my friends. And I have to say that my soul was hurt because of it—and it still hurts as I look back and reflect on it.
Now, I don’t want you to think that we jump ship and break off all contact with the unbelieving. You know me better than that. There’s no possible way to do that. We mix with the unbelieving all the time. And it is important that we do because that’s the way the gospel advances in the world.
However, I do want to warn you. I want you to make sure your closest buddies are not those who don’t share your faith. You will be harmed if you do.
But don’t just think about how this applies to your everyday life…
B. Think about how this applies to your wedding day.
If this applies to your bosom buddies, of course it is going to apply to who you marry. That’s because marriage is nothing more than the most intimate of friendships.
I have met some quite a number of ladies who I would classify as “spiritual widows” (Christian ladies with unbelieving husbands). Most of them became Christians after their marriage. But I can’t even begin to think about the pain they must experience. They have talked with me and you can just tell they hurt. I wouldn’t doubt that there have been times in their lives where they have just screamed. On the one hand they hurt because the one they cherish the most is not living in God’s grace.
But at the same time, think about how their spiritual lives suffer too. They don’t have a man who will read the scriptures with them. They don’t have a man with whom they can pour out their soul and have pray for them. I can’t imagine the loneliness they feel because they can’t share much of their life—how they are growing in Christ, what treasures they have found in the Scriptures. It’s so sad.
Young people, don’t ever let yourself suffer in such a way. As you grow up, make sure you don’t get caught warming up to a boy or a girl who is not a solid Christian. If you do, you will find that your life will be filled tears and sorrows—and perhaps even some screams. .
But don’t just think about how this applies to your everyday life and your wedding day…
C. Think about how this applies to Judgment Day
If you are a companion of fools, most likely, you are a fool yourself.
Typically, people associate with people who are of the same mind. People who join the country club join it because they have similar interests. People who join a sorority do so because they are of the same mindset as that group. People who join the church do so because they are one with Christ.
So if you like companionship of unbelieving people more than the companionship of the church, most likely you are of the same heart. And the Bible says, if your heart is set against Christ, you will suffer—you will scream.
The story goes that one spring some crows began to pull up some of the farmer’s young corn. The farmer loaded up his gun and made out to frighten them away. The farmer had a pet parrot whom he loved. But when they got out to the field the parrot left the farmer and flew over to the crows in the corn. Bang! The farmer shot and then went to inspect what came of it. He found that he had hit three crows and his parrot.
He took the parrot home and the farmer’s children asked, “What hurt him?” The farmer responded “Bad company.”
That’s how the day of judgment will be for some people. They might have grown up in the church, but they come to enjoy the company of sinners more. When Christ comes, they are severely hurt.
St. Augustine is quoted as once having said, “I would rather have speeches that are true than those which contain merely nice distinctions. Just as I would rather have friends who are wise [more] than merely those who are handsome.”
Augustine knew what he was talking about. He once had some close chums who were not wise. The only way they helped him was to sin. As a result he ended up suffering a lot of pain. Wise friends—wise companions—are to be much more preferred.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.