“He who walks with wise men will be wise,
But the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
Who you hang with matters!
Spend time with fools, and it will surely bring you trouble. “The companion of fools will suffer harm.” Sometimes the harm may be ‘guilt by association’ and its attendant damage to your reputation. Other times the more tangible repercussions of your friends’ actions will slosh over upon you (your reckless friend crashes your car, for instance). And, worst of all (and I think probably what Solomon has primarily in mind), “the companion of fools” will often find their very foolishness rubbing off on him.
On the other hand, spending time with the wise has a rubbing off effect as well! “He who walks with wise men will be wise”! Solid, wise, God-fearing companions will have a good effect on what we think and how we live.
For better or for worse, says Solomon, our companions will rub off on us! So choose your companions well!
And let me say (influenced by Iain Murray’s The Undercover Revolution*) that surely this rubbing off principle applies, not only to our physical companions, but also to what we might call our virtual companions – those people whose company we may regularly place ourselves via television, movies, social media, song, magazines, radio, books, and video games.
If you regularly watch a particular television program, for instance – the men and women behind the content of that show become, in some ways, your companions. Their worldviews (and potentially agendas), passed on through the medium of that show, are washing regularly over your mind and heart. And, like water washing regularly over a piece of ground, these worldviews are bound to have an effect. If the ideas conveyed are wholesome and godly, then the effect will be a good one … shaping the clay of your heart more into conformity to God’s wisdom. But if their worldviews are unhealthy and foolish (for instance, in the belittling of certain people, or in how they portray gender roles, or sexuality, or the use of money), then you open yourself up to the eroding effect of the thinking of these, your chosen companions. Because the norms of those with whom you spend a good deal of time will tend to become your own.
The same could also be said of the kinds of authors you read, the people you follow most closely on social media, the song-writers whose lyrics and videos you admire, and even the creators of the games that you play.
And so … What if we determined to choose wise virtual companions – people who fear God, and whose worldviews and agendas therefore align with a biblical worldview? What if we read books written by the wise, and listened to podcasts created by the wise, and so on? What if we set aside our regular virtual ‘hanging out’ with people of faulty worldviews, and began to be the virtual companions of a much more God-fearing set of people? How would it affect us? Answer: “He who walks with wise men will be wise.”
This is not to say that you can’t learn anything from unbelievers, nor enjoy some of their art, or humor, or creativity. But it is to say that people of foolish worldviews shouldn’t be our companions; they shouldn’t be those with whom we walk; we shouldn’t make them our close friends – not even virtually. We shouldn’t spend a great deal of time imbibing the worldviews of those who don’t fear the Lord. And we should spend lots of time being rubbed off upon by the wise!
So choose your companions well!
*Murray points out how, through the medium of novels, ungodly authors in the past had a devastating influence on the culture that read them, and how we need always to beware such infiltration of our minds and hearts. Having learned from him how ungodly people can influence us through their creative works, I apply that lesson in this article.