Walk with the wise and become wise,
for a companion of fools suffers harm.
- Proverbs 13:20
I have a guess about why the companion of fools suffers harm. GENERALLY SPEAKING, THOSE WHO HAVE FOOLS AS COMPANIONS ARE FOOLS THEMSELVES! I mean, think about it. We spend an awful lot of time in the church and as parents talking to our kids and preaching to them about the importance of picking friends wisely. And we should. Proverbs is full to the brim (not to mention the rest of the Bible!) of that instruction through both statements and examples. But why is it that it never occurs to us that if someone- even our kids!- continually chooses to surround themselves with fools...there is a good chance that the "foolish crowd" is the place they feel most comfortable because it's where they belong! So why the instruction from the wisest man that ever lived?
I can't help but think about how foolishly Solomon neglected his own wisdom by having 1,000 foolish idol-worshipping women around him the way he did! Just think about all the harm that came to him because of these relationships! I don't know when he wrote this or other similar proverbs. Maybe it was at the end of his life when he had found the error of his ways. Or maybe he, like us, knew the truth of the statement he was making but failed to live it. Do we talk to our kids about the power of their companions, but then cozy up to the TV for a good couple of hours a night. Wanna know the biggest difference between real live companions and the characters we choose on TV and in movies? We might actually have a small impact on the fools we live with;
BUT WE WILL NEVER HAVE AN IMPACT OF THE BLASPHEMOUS, PERVERTED, MURDEROUS, SHAMELESS CHARACTERS WE INVITE INTO OUR LIVING ROOMS EVERY NIGHT!
Here's the point. This proverb doesn't begin with telling us to not hang out with foolish people. It simply states that hanging out with fools will endanger us. It's a fact, not a "thou shalt not." What difference does that make? What if instead of focusing so much with ourselves or with our children about who not to hang out with, we spent more time actually teaching wisdom? What if we believed the principle we preach so much that we actually pursue relationships with people who are beyond us in some area? Need to be wiser at disciplining? Find a parent who has been through it and done well and start eating breakfast with them...and maybe even let the reason for your breakfast date slip to your kids. Not a good student of the word? Pick someone who is and make a point to engage them in conversation. I guarantee that if you hang out with them long enough they will begin lighting a fire in you to know God and know His word. Model for your kids the way to become more wise...by spending more time with wise people.
If all they ever hear from us is "your friends are going to pull you down" then we have completely failed to show them the path to growing...and going...up. Do we harp on "bad company corrupts good morals" but never actually teach them good morals? When they get into trouble, do we throw up our hands and shout that they should have known better? Really? Who has taught them the actual "better" that they should have known? If you are assuming they've gotten it in Bible class, through sermons, or through school...well then, maybe they did and maybe they didn't. But it's not fair to hold them accountable for something unless you actually are sure they should have known it because you are the one that has taught and modeled the principle for them.
None of us want our sons and daughters to be fools...or even companions of fools. What are we doing to live the first half of the proverb in order to avoid the second? Is fellowship with other believers (the wise) a priority for your family or simply an option if there is enough energy after the priorities of homework, sports, work, and play? Is the source of wisdom, God's word, an actual source for your family or just a textbook to be used in classes and sermons? Do we spend more time listening to the foolishness of mind-numbing TV than we do to the life-giving words of God? Have we worked long hours to provide them with the most powerful technology the world has ever seen only to leave them to their own devises to figure out how to use them? They have the world at their fingertips...literally. That can be a damning thing for them or a saving thing for the world...literally. Have they been taught the difference?
I wonder how often we have quoted proverbs about fools with a condescending look on our faces while God looks down on us saying, "I pity the fool."