Proverbs 13:20: He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.
Many verses in the bible warn us about the company we keep. There is no doubt that the people we associate with can influence us for better or for worse. I remember as a nine year old having to move into a difficult section of Memphis when my parents got a divorce. I soon found myself with a group of neighborhood boys that were older and their influence on me was not the best. Smoking was the norm in the group and I even found myself watching a fight one night between some in my group and some boys from another group. By God’s grace, we soon moved from that place into a better situation. If I had stayed there, I don’t know what direction my life would have taken.
Years later, after graduating college and moving to Jackson, MS, I was once again profoundly influenced by people around me. This time it was Christians my age that I began to spend time with and whom God used to show me how to walk with Him and eventually to lead me to go into the ministry on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ. These people had a vision for evangelism and discipleship that still affects me to this day.
There are many choices we make in life that determine the kind of people that we put ourselves and our loved ones in contact
with. Who our friends are. Where we live and work. What school we send our kids to or what church we take our family to. All of us can point to people in our lives who influenced us profoundly for better or worse. The lesson from this Proverb is to understand that the people we are around will influence us and our loved ones and to consider carefully who we give that influence to.
But don’t forget that the opposite is also true. We influence those around us. Another application from this verse is to be an influence for good to those around us. Look for ways to influence others for good. Maybe through evangelism or by leading a bible study. Consider coaching or teaching young kids as a way to influence them. My wife and I have tried to have young people into our home for dinner as a way to make a difference. Jesus called it being salt and light.