You Are Who You Associate With

Proverbs 1:8-19
8Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching,
9for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.
10My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.
11If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason;
12like Sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
13we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder;
14throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse”—
15my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths,
16for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood.
17For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird,
18but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives.
19Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.

One of the truths of life my father tried to impress upon me was that you become like the people with whom you associate. If you hang around with people who swear, eventually, you will swear. If you hang around with people who smoke, eventually, you will become a smoker. If you hang around with people who drink to excess, eventually, so will you. You get the idea. While he painted a rather black and white vision of the world, I don’t think he was entirely wrong. And I (foolishly) experienced this exact phenomenon. I did become like the people I spent most of my time with – sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

First, let me point out that Solomon speaks to his child and encourages them to heed the words of their father and mother. This happens on more than one occasion in Proverbs. Women (specifically mothers) are given high standing as bearers of wisdom. So even if he uses the word “father”, he is referring to both parents. The responsibilities of parents to train children are taken seriously in Proverbs.

Solomon speaks to my son, in the next 9 chapters, words of wisdom about how to get through life in a godly fashion. This is his first salvo. In summary, he says to watch out who you hang around with, for evil people will lead you into evil places and have no qualms about hurting you in the end. The picture Solomon draws is of a gang of young men who seek only after their own wealth and the thrill of perpetrating violence against others. While a gang engenders a sense of belong somewhere, it is a place of greed and evil toward others. In the end, the ambushes set to trap others springs upon the gang members themselves. Greed is the overriding enemy here. If you surround yourself with greedy people who will do anything to meet their need to have great wealth, you will become like them in thought and deed.

Dear Lord God, I am reminded by these words that You have filled my life with wonderful people who fear and love You. That is an abundant blessing. Thank You for the gift that each one of them are to me and I am so grateful that You use them to show me what a grace-filled like looks like. Please protect me from those who would lead me down a path that is not of Your making and would You grant me the discernment to recognize those who are of You from those who are not? In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.