The word of the day is “company.” “A man is known by the company he keeps.” This adage is one of the most familiar of Aesop’s Fables. But the Scriptures often repeat the same thought. For instance, in our reading of Proverbs 13:19-14:6, the wise sage of Proverbs writes, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed (NKJV vs. 30). We learn from this humble saying that we should seek the best kind of companionship as followers of Christ. Not every would-be friend is a suitable travel companion as we walk in the way of the Lord.
We Become Like Our Friends
A Spanish saying observes, “He that goes with wolves learns to howl.” The Latin Vulgate translation of our verse echoes the same thought: we become “like our friends” (Latin Vulgate Old Testament Bible, vs. 30). As the social beings that we are, we influence one another, whether for good or ill.
The Hebrew word for “companion” can be used for tending a flock, but in this case, it means “an association with a friend (Strong’s Hebrew #7462, 2450). The apostle Paul warns against companions who are ungodly. He says, “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33). We find the same kind of warning in Job, “For the company of the godless is barren” (NKJV Job 15:34).
Choosing Companions Wisely
In this vein, we might ask, can we associate with wickedness and not partake of it? Can we take the path of evil with our friends and arrive at goodness? The sage would answer that “The companion of fools will be destroyed” (NKJV 30). The Hebrew word “destroyed” is derived from the thought of an ear-splitting sound (Strong’s Hebrew #7231, 260). We might say it is a scream of alarm, an unease that portends devastation. Accordingly, the sage warns that keeping company with the foolish who reject the ways of God will result in a ruined life.
No, we must choose our companions wisely. The sage of Proverbs observes, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (NIV Proverbs 18:24). That is a warning that we must discern between acquaintances who may not be trustworthy and true friends. Moreover, the sage observes, “A friend loves at all times and kinfolk are born to share adversity” (OAB 18:24). That is, we should make true friends that will stick with us through good and bad times.
Companions Who Know the Ways of God
The counsel to find loyal friends is not restricted to those who know God. But Wisdom goes beyond such universal insight. The sage of divine Wisdom urges us to choose companions who understand the ways of God. He says that “He who walks with the wise men will be wise” (NKJV vs. 20). Associating with fools who are ungodly is bound to influence us. Likewise, being close to those who have attained wisdom will have a profound effect on us.
By word and example, whether intentionally or unintentionally, wise companions share their understanding with us. Thus, the Sirach teaches, “If thou seest an intelligent man [of understanding], rise early to visit him, let your foot wear out his doorstep” (KJV Sirach 6:36).
Wise Companions Include the Writers of Scripture, etc.
Such beneficial companions on our walk with the Lord may be living persons, but they also may be the writers of Scripture, the church fathers, the saints, and the desert fathers. As we study them day by day, they become our spiritual guides. We can think of our study as a time when we visit them and share conversations with them. Like a spiritual father, they can give us a gracious “word” of counsel each day that guide and encourage us as we follow the path of the Wisdom.
Of course, the one association that we should cultivate above all is our relationship with the Jesus Christ. The Lord said to his disciples, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant, does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (NKJV John 15:15). He is our Wisdom personified (OSB 1 Corinthians 1:30), and He makes known the teaching of the Father (OSB John 15:15). But He has called us His friends. If what we have said in this study is true, we can trust that we become like Him as we closely abide in Him. We will share His likeness provided that we follow His commandments.
They Had Been with Jesus
When Peter and John were arrested for preaching the resurrection “in Jesus” (OSB 4:2), the temple officials interrogated them. Luke, the writer of Acts, reports that the magistrates learned that they were uneducated men. They asked themselves how they could explain the boldness of the apostles. Luke says, “They perceived that they had been with Jesus” (OSB 4:13).
May that comment be said of us. May others observe that we have walked with the Lord and indeed followed His way of the Cross.