Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding. (Proverbs 9:6)
It’s interesting how these two things go together: forsaking foolishness and living, truly living in the light of Christ. In order to pursue the way of truth, the way of understanding, you must forsake the company of foolish companions. You can’t do them both. You can’t go in the way of understanding, but also keep your foolish friends close by. “Forsake the foolish and live,” and in forsaking the foolish, “go in the way of understanding.” In order to be able to pursue, to really go after, wise ways of living, you must—you must—forsake the company of foolish, short-sighted, ungodly people.
This is a much-repeated principle in the Proverbs. Proverbs 13:20 reads, “He that walks with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” Notice the language of purposeful intimacy that is used, “He that walks with wise men is sure to be wise.” It’s not as though wisdom automatically rubs off on anyone who simply finds themselves in a family of people who are making wise decisions or in a church full of people pursuing wise pursuits. It is walking with wise people that makes a person wise. It is the purposeful decision to walk according to the friendly wise counsel and example that wise people give.
But notice the contrasting lesson in this: “a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” Every one of us has, of course, ungodly classmates, or ungodly coworkers, but this does not in itself ensure our demise. The writer of Proverbs does not say, “The person who has to rub shoulders with foolish people is going to be destroyed.” Everybody in this world has to rub shoulders with people who are not thinking eternal thoughts, who are not living according to God’s wisdom. In fact, if you’re in a family of unbelievers you may have to do this on a daily basis to some degree. But this is the point that the writer of Proverbs is making: it is making companions, intimate friends or confidants of these individuals which will prove detrimental.
There is warning, then, to choose who you surround yourself with and to walk with those wise people. Rather than choosing as your confidants those who are making foolish decisions, short-sighted decision, contrary, rebellious decisions that are not according to God’s Word. Those are the two choices the writer puts before us. There is warning in this proverb because success or failure depends on the deep, life-impacting friendships that we chose to form.
However there is also hope because we can choose who our companions, our close confidants, will be. This is a wonderful privilege that God gives us—and yet a wonderful responsibility.
Let me ask you, which decision are you right now pursuing—to walk with wise counselors or to grow closer to, companion with, to make your counselors people who actually are living according to temporary pleasures and destructive ideas? What friendships are you forming? Which way will your companions be pulling you? Are they pulling you toward eternity and the eternal wisdom of God’s Word? Or are they—even though they may be Christian in name—pulling you away, pointing you to temporary things rather than eternal things to find your joy, your satisfaction, your priorities?