Avoid Evil Company
by Brad Shockley
“My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.”(Prov. 1:10).
According to Abraham Maslow, a humanistic psychologist, the greatest longing of humanity is self-actualization, the need for a feeling of self-worth. Maslow defines self-actualization:
Self-actualization is an ongoing process. Self-actualizing people are, with one single exception, involved in a cause outside their own skin. They are devoted; work at something, something very precious to them – some calling or vocation, in the old sense, the priestly sense. When you select out for careful study very fine and healthy people, strong people, creative people, sagacious people…you get a different view of mankind (Accessed online at www.connect.net/georgen.maslow.htm).
For many, surrounding themselves with company fulfills this longing. The media and popular culture promote the idea that popularity is having a wide circle of friends, with which one enjoys the pleasures of life, and is essential for leading a happy, fulfilling life.
If the people around us are spiritually minded, such association can be a positive thing. If the crowd is ungodly in nature, however, it will be a detrimental experience. It is a well-known fact that those we spend time with often exert the greatest influence on our decisions. Satan and his infantry use this knowledge to their advantage. Satan desires to surround God’s children with worldly people at all times. When the prince of darkness succeeds in this strategy, he will be able to influence the decisions of Christians.
Solomon set down these words on parchment long ago – “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not” (Prov. 1:10). Solomon was a very educated man, but not from the leading philosophical schools of the world. Solomon’s wisdom came from two sources. First, it came from God’s divine hand (I Kgs. 3:5-14). Second, Solomon was a star pupil in the well attended “school of hard knocks.” Life experiences could be the best education one can have. Solomon lived a life full of bitter experiences. Instead of drowning in regret over them, he took steps to ensure others could benefit from his mistakes. One would do well to heed the advice Solomon offers after living in a unique life of personal mishaps.
Solomon was in an excellent position, as we shall shortly see, to offer insight and counsel about the danger of associating with sinners. From early in his reign, Solomon’s quest for political power and economic advantage led him to marry foreign women. He became a pleasure seeker and a ladies’ man, and because of his willingness to associate with idolaters, he lost sight of the God he had so diligently served. These women influenced his decisions, and like a snowball rolling down a mountainside, Solomon was unable to reverse the course he was traveling. Eventually, all Israel worshipped false gods. Solomon himself was the center of the commotion. Thankfully, he straightened out his life, for he tells us in Ecclesiastes 12:13, “…Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”
The Scriptures furnish us several reasons why we should avoid evil company. I intend to point out several, in the hopes you will see the folly of associating with the carnally minded.
For Fear of Becoming an Enemy of God
In James’ short epistle, he is concerned with giving Christians practical advice for living a faithful life. He tells us “…know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4). The God we serve is all-powerful. This world is in the palm of His hand. He can do anything He wishes at any moment in time as long as it does not contradict His nature. As God’s children, we should realize the importance of worship and praise in maintaining fellowship with God.
Those who wish to develop friendships with this world will find themselves wrapped up in worldly things. When Christians spend their time trying to impress the world, as opposed to furthering the cause of Christ, they are creating enmity with God. An ill will is present and they no longer have the relationship with God that He desires for all people to have. This is a dangerous bridge to cross. One, which is missing a few planks.
When faced with the decision of who we will be spending our time with, let us heed the words of Proverbs 4:14-15: “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.” Solomon earnestly exclaims, “Do not even touch!” This is much like a mother telling her young child to stay away from a hot stove. The child does not understand the reasoning behind the command until they touch it, but then it is too late. Similarly, the damage caused by our disobedience is severely painful. We would be far better off to walk away at the beginning than to hang around and flirt with trouble. As the Apostle Paul states, “…be not conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2). For fear of becoming an enemy of God, we must stay clear of those with a carnal state of mind.
To Be Wise
To some extent, every person wants to become wise. Wisdom is a key for which many are diligently searching. The key, when found, will unlock happiness, contentment and satisfaction in this life. By fleeing the evil companionship of the wicked and worldly, we begin to unlock the door to wisdom. Solomon, again, offers a few thoughts on this subject, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Prov. 13:20).
The first step in becoming wise in one’s choice of friends is to spend time with others who are wise. This prompts one to ask the question, “Who is wise?” This world is full of philosophers, psychologist, scientist, and people of great intellectual prowess. Does the amount of education a person has, however, make them wise? Certainly not! Those who are “contending for the faith” and trying to please God in everything they do, they are wise. Those obedient to every command of the Higher Authority and striving each day to take one step closer to Him are wise. Those living a Christ-like life and trying to show others the way to forgiveness and eternal paradise are wise. Those “growing in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior” are wise. Wisdom is the act of following the footsteps of Jesus and walking along the straight and narrow path (Mat. 7:24-27).
Wise people pay attention to those they surround themselves with and are mindful of the road they are traveling. The Word of God is a “lamp unto their feet and a light unto their path”, clearly showing where they are going so they will not stumble. They avoid immoral people because “the way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble” (Prov. 4:19). The wicked live in the darkness, unable to see what they are getting into. The devil likes the darkness because people in darkness cannot discern right from wrong. The path is dangerous and the pitfalls are plentiful when traveling in darkness. Again, to be wise we must shun evil company.
They Will Turn Your Heart Away
The next logical reason for avoiding company that is not morally sound is that our heart will be turned away. The devil would have us to become friends with the world so he can turn our hearts away from the truth. We need not look far to see this principle proven. The one whose advice we have been studying experience this first hand.
He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father” (I Kgs. 11:3-4).
As Solomon was busy playing the game of politics, he must have thought in the back of his mind that these women he took as wives would never be able to influence his religious life. He believed he could make a difference in others’ decisions without having to give any ground on his part. Therefore, he went about doing whatever it took to be friends and build alliances with the people of other nations. This led to many marriages and relationships with women of other cultures. It was not long before they talked him into disobedience that was displeasing to God.
This great king believed he could stand strong for Jehovah, but temptation assaulted him on all sides. He gave in and conceded to his wives demands. The thing that makes the devil so successful is the variety and diversity of his attacks. Just when you think you have his game plan figured out, he comes at you from another direction holding a different weapon in his hand.
“Bad Company Ruins Good Morals”
This warning comes from the pen of the Apostle Paul. In First Corinthians he writes, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals’” (15:33, RSV). In one form or another, this has become one of the most common proverbs used by parents to instruct their children. Most parents care deeply about their children and wish the best for them. They know evil people will reap what they sow (Gal. 6:7-8) and, to the best of their ability, parents want to make sure their children avoid the harvest of the immoral.
The people with whom we spend time will have an effect on who we are and how we behave. “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Prov. 27:17). Just as an ironworker can turn a piece of cold steel into artwork or an implement of war, those who surround us will form us. In the presence of righteous people, it is easy to follow what is just and holy. With corrupt people surrounding us, what could have been a masterpiece will likely turn into a monster. Too often, the influence of peers determines which path we will travel. When friends entice us into the broad way, it will be difficult to return to striding down the narrow path.
For You Will Be Blessed
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful (Ps. 1:1). There are three sharp truths in Psalms 1 describing the danger and folly of “hanging out” with the wrong crowd. This advice is priceless; all would do well to heed these three points.
The first picture painted by the author is that of walking “not in the counsel of the ungodly.” Just stay away and keep off the paths they travel and one will never have to worry about following in their footsteps. They have dug deep ruts on the roadways of life, and once you fall into one it is a struggle to re-emerge.
The second truth garnered from this verse is to not “stand in the way of sinners.” After telling us not to walk with the ungodly, the writer points out the danger of just standing in their way. They still will try to influence you if you are around. The best thing to do is to remove yourself from their presence. The sinner’s demeanor creates an environment that is not spiritually healthy for anyone. We are to be the salt of the earth (Mat. 5:13). Therefore, we cannot completely disengage ourselves from the world and hide behind cloister walls. We, however, must be influencing those around us for good, and if it is otherwise, just remember that Jesus said, “…but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (Mat. 5:13).
Third, we should not “sit in the seat of the scornful.” This is not referring to just any mocker. This scornful person is full of contempt for spiritual things. They are contemptuous of the godly and insolent in their disdain for the scornful. In the company of the blood-bought people of Christ, however, we will be strengthened. David said, “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts” (Ps. 119:63). In Psalm 15, David describes the one who is welcomed into God’s house as one in whom “…a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the Lord” (v. 4). David adds, “As for the saints who are on the earth, ‘They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight’” (Ps. 16:3). The godly delight in the company saints; the wicked shun them.
The society of this world entices us to turn from righteousness and holiness. Satan, the expert at deception that he is, knows all the tricks of the trade. His game plan calls for us to forge ties with evil company. The prince of darkness knows that when we spend time in the midst of bad company; he will have a greater opportunity to ensnare us into ungodly living. In avoiding evil company we will be a faithful friend to God, be wise, keep our heart in the right place, keep our morals intact, and be richly blessed.