By Mike Willis
Those with whom we associate influence us. This influence is called “peer pressure” today and it can either improve or destroy us. Many a soldier has been motivated to heroic bravery by the “ample of his leader, (whether higher or lower in rank). Many have become involved in sordid crimes by the influence of those around them (cf. how the mob was encouraged by the leaders to shout “Crucify Him” at the trial of Jesus).
Recognizing the power to influence our lives which those with whom we associate have upon us, the Lord gave several commandments regarding our associations with others.
The Word of God Will Deliver Us From The Evil Man
When the book of Proverbs was written, it was written “to give subtlety to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion” (Prov. 1:4). Included in what the Lord would do for us through His word was this: “to deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things” (Prov. 2:12). But how does the word of God deliver us?
The Lord does not deliver us from evil men by miraculous guidance and direction of the affairs of our life. Rather, He delivers us from evil by warning of its dangers and directing us in how we should avoid that danger. The Lord warned:
Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge (Prov. 14:7).
Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away (Prov. 4:14-15).
The young man can be delivered from the evil man by giving attention to the divine revelation of God which tells what our conduct toward these men should be.
Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word.
With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee (Psa. 119:9-11).
Hence, the Lord will deliver us from the evil man when we recognize the dangers of the association and resolve to depart from associating with him!
How important it is to teach this lesson to our children. “The injunction, so absolutely stated, to have nothing to do with sin, is required, if not indeed prompted, by the knowledge of the fact that youth, confident in its own power of resistance, frequently indulges in the fatal mistake of imagining that it can dally with sin with impunity” (W. J. Deane, The Pulpit Commentary.- Proverbs, p. 89).
Sinners Entice Us
The Lord warned that sinners work to encourage others to sin.
For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall (Prov. 4:16).
He pictured their enticements to persuade a young man to walk with them in sin.
My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause: let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit: we shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil: cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse (Prov. 1:10- 14).
I am confident that such a scene literally transpires in the ghettos of many major cities where gangs persuade young men to join them. These are the gangs which attack and steal from the elderly.
However, stealing is not the only temptation to sin which peer pressure causes. Some attract others saying, “Come with us and we will stop at the convenience store, buy a sixpack, get some girls, go to a drive-in movie, and have a good time.” Others say, “Come with us and tell filthy jokes.” Others say, “Come with us and read pornographic literature or view X-rated movies and video tapes.” Many young people have fallen victim to the enticements of their friends.
Whom Should You Avoid?
What kind of people should young people avoid? Let the Scriptures reveal the answer to us.
1. The Fool. “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Prov. 13:20). “Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge” (Prov. 14:7).
Who is a fool? The fool is not simply someone who acts silly. The fool in the book of Proverbs is the man who “has no perception of ethical and religious claims” (nabal in Brown, Driver, and Briggs’ Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, p. 614). He believes that God has no claims on his life (Psa. 14:1), reproaches God (Psa. 74:22), and otherwise shows no respect for the Lord. When a person assesses that a man is of this character, he should stay away from him.
2. Angry Man. “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul” (Prov. 23:24-25). What kind of man is an angry man? This is not discussing a man who occasionally becomes angry and directs his anger properly: Even the Lord became angry (Mk. 3:5). Rather, this man is one who has no control over his temper – the hasty of spirit (Prov. 14:29; 15:18; 19:19; 29:22). When you perceive that a man makes no effort to control his temper, quit associating with him!
3. Drunkards, gluttons, and slothful. “Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way. Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh; for the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags” (Prov. 23:19-21). How often these attributes are found together!
Some young men are industrious, clean-cut, and zealous to be pure and holy. They look for jobs by which they can earn funds to buy what they want and/or need. They keep their bodies healthy, not destroying them with drugs, drinking, and immorality. On the other hand, other young men are too lazy to work, ready at any time to go party (get drunk), and are gluttons. When their dissolute manner of living becomes known to a wise man, he will cease associating with him.
4. Those Who Teach Sinful Ways. “Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge” (Prov. 19:27). Paul wrote, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33). This admonition was given, not to a young man to encourage him to avoid associating with drunkards, harlots, and thieves; rather, it was written to Christians to instruct them to avoid associating with false teachers who denied the resurrection of the body (cf. 1 Cor. 15).
Reasons For Avoiding The Wicked
1. The danger of learning his- way (Prov. 4:14-17; 5:8; 22:24-25). The adage is still true that “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6). You say, “This will never happen to me” or “I would never do that.” However, constant association with those involved in sin weakens your resistance and makes you more susceptible to sin. We observe this truth in these English proverbs: “He that lives with cripples learns to limp.” “He that goes with wolves learns to howl.” “He that lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.”
2. The danger of destruction. The one who rebells against God will come to destruction (Prov. 13:20), not only in eternity but frequently in this life as well. One who lives in rebellion against God will reap what he sows (Gal. 6:7). To avoid a temporal life of misery and woe and to avoid eternal destruction in hell, one must abstain from sin.
3. To avoid bringing shame to his parents. “. . . he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father” (Prov. 28:7). Those who love their parents will not want to bring them grief. Grief comes to a parent whose children associate with worthless men of ungodly reputation. Many a parent has gone to an early grave as a result of his worry and concern over a child who becomes involved in wickedness and with wicked men.
With Whom Should I Associate?
1. Those Who Fear God. “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts” (Psa. 119:63). Shun the company that shuns God, and keep the company God keeps. As one Christian, I can testify to how richly my life has been blessed by my association with faithful Christians. We have had many gospel preachers in our home; their life experiences have enriched our conversation, their congeniality has been an example for each member of the family, and their faith has inspired us to persevere.
Some men associate with those who reject God. When they go out to eat, their faith is attacked by their insistence that they have a few drinks before dinner; when they go to a movie together, their faith is attacked by the choice to attend R- and X-rated movies; when they get together just to visit, their faith is attacked through filthy jesting (filthy jokes and remarks). Everything about this association threatens their faithfulness to God.
Others chose to associate with Christians. When they go out to eat, not only is their faith not threatened, they are encouraged to faithfulness by the example of others. They can enjoy recreational activities together without having their faith attacked. The person is encouraged to greater faithfulness, not tempted to apostasy, by these associations.
2. The Wise. “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise” (Prov. 13:20). The wise man should be understood to be the opposite of the “fool” as described earlier. Make opportunities to spend time with wise men; one’s life will be blessed by this association. Make every effort to learn what they know.
What better advice can be given than that from the song “Take Time To Be Holy”? The first verse says, ” . . make friends of God’s children. . .”
We see that one’s companions are a matter of choice. We gravitate toward those with whom we feel the most comfortable. Our English proverb says, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Consider carefully the thoughts of this verse:
You tell on yourself by the friends you seek, By the very manner in which you speak, By the way you employ your leisure time, By the use you make of dollar and dime.
You tell what you are by the things you wear,
By the spirit in which your burdens bear,
By the kind of things at which you laugh,
By the records you play on the phonograph.
You tell what you are by the way you walk,
By the things of which you delight to talk,
By the manner in which you bear defeat,
By so simple a thing as how you eat.
By the books you choose from the well-filled shelf:
In these ways and more, you tell on yourself;
So there’s really no particle of sense
In an effort to keep up false pretense.
I remember a young girl who began dating as she became a teenager. I noticed that every boy she dated looked like a worthless, moral reprobate. I lamented to one of our elders that this girl just could not seem to find a boy friend who was morally attractive. He responded, “We attract whom we want to.” He was right and had made a wise assessment of her character. “Tell me your companions and I will tell you what you are.”
George Washington wrote, “Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad company” (Rules of Civility via The Pocket Book of Quotations, p. 39).
Guardian of Truth XXX: 16, pp. 482, 502-503
August 21, 1986