26The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray.
Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. Today we are instructed to choose our friends carefully.
Friendship is one of God’s good gifts to us as human beings. C.S. Lewis writes in his book The Four Loves, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” Friendship reveals that we humans are more than just material beings; we were created in the very image of the Triune God and, therefore, we were made to befriend others and to be befriended in turn. Such friendships provide comfort, stimulate good character, and inspire self-sacrifice. So our Lord Jesus proclaimed to the disciples: “13Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends… 15No 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” (Jn 15:13,15). Friendship is a gift; and friendship with God in Christ is the greatest gift of all.
Like all other aspects of creation, however, friendship has been tainted by the Fall. At times, we find ourselves lonely, longing for a friend; at other times, we harbor sinful desires, looking for friends who will justify our bad choices. Such loneliness and sinfulness tempt us to befriend those who draw us away from God, from truth, and from virtue. And it is this temptation to which our Proverb points us today, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray.” Choose your friends carefully. For, as the Apostle Paul reminds us, “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor 15:33).
So Proverbs is filled with warnings about befriending certain types of people:
- 2:12, 16 – Promises us that if we will but treasure wisdom, then she will guard us from befriending violent men and immoral women.
- 20:19 – Warns us lest we befriend a flatterer, a gossip, a talebearer. “He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; Therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips.”
- 22:24–25 – Warns us lest we befriend a man who lacks self-control. “Make no friendship with an angry man, And with a furious man do not go, Lest you learn his ways And set a snare for your soul.”
- 29:24 – Warns us lest we befriend a thief. “Whoever is a partner with a thief hates his own life; He swears to tell the truth, but reveals nothing.”
So what of you? Teens, are you choosing your friends carefully? Or are you permitting your loneliness or your sinfulness to tempt you to befriend those who are drawing you away from God, from truth, and from goodness? And these friends can be “in the flesh” friends but they can also be online friends, movie characters, and even books. Whom are you choosing to let shape your longings and loves? Adults, are you choosing your friends carefully? Or are you permitting your loneliness or your sinfulness to tempt you to befriend those who would draw you away from God, from truth, and from goodness? “For friendship with the world”, James warns us, “is enmity with God. Therefore, he who desires to be a friend with the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Jas 4:4).
Reminded of God’s call to choose our friends carefully lest we be led astray from God, from truth, and from goodness, let us confess that we often choose friends foolishly; that we are tempted by our loneliness and sinfulness to befriend those we should not. And, as we confess, let kneel as we are able.