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Beware the Company You Keep (Part 2)

In the first part of this two-part series, we covered a number of areas where we have to be careful about the company we keep.   Let us move on to the question of friends.

Our good and true friends are those who will be with us in the bad times as well as in good times.   They will not be fair-weather friends. We have to be aware of the admonition in Proverbs 16:28: “A perverse man sows strife, And a whisperer separates the best of friends.”

Proverbs 17:17 states that “A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” A friendship that is underpinned by God’s Holy Spirit and the love of God will be able to withstand the inevitable ups and downs that life throws at us.   The Free Dictionary states that “Human beings necessarily depend on one another, as you can’t manage all by yourself; no man is an island.  This expression is a quotation from John Donne’s Devotions (1624).”

A very important and vital part of the company we keep is outlined in Proverbs 27:6: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”   Very often, we can bridle when we are told something that we don’t want to hear or don’t agree with, but a true friend we should cherish—one whom we can trust, someone who will be straightforward, honest and without hypocrisy towards us—and we should not resent and argue with those true friends who give us honest counsel.  And that is nowhere better expressed than in John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

As someone once wrote: “Fake friends are like shadows, always near you at your brightest moments, but nowhere to be seen at your darkest hour.   True friends are like stars, you don’t always see them but they are always there.  True friends are always there for you. Fake friends only appear when they need something from you.”

We also have to be on our guard against evildoers and not be complicit in any of their ways.  Psalm 26:5 gives clarity to those with whom we should not have friendship or fellowship: “I have hated the assembly of evildoers, And will not sit with the wicked.”

We are advised in Psalm 37:1: “Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.”

The Pulpit Commentary observes: “The feeling does not need to be eradicated, but only to be held in check. Faith in God’s retributive justice will enable us calmly to await ‘the end’ (Psalm 73:17),  in full assurance that ultimately God’s vengeance will overtake the wicked man, and he will receive condign (fitting and deserved) punishment. Neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. Envy is not a natural passion. To envy the evil-doers on account of their prosperity is at once a folly and a danger. Their position is really not enviable; and, if we allow ourselves to envy them, we shall be tempted to follow their example (see Proverbs 24:1)”  Again, the company we keep is a vital factor in our Christian lives.

Psalm 59:2 delivers a very similar message: “Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, And save me from bloodthirsty men.”

“The story is told of a farmer in a Midwestern state who had a strong disdain for ‘religious’ things. As he plowed his field on Sunday morning, he would shake his fist at the church people who passed by on their way to worship. October came and the farmer had his finest crop ever–the best in the entire county. When the harvest was complete, he placed an advertisement in the local paper which belittled the Christians for their faith in God. Near the end of his diatribe he wrote, ‘Faith in God must not mean much if someone like me can prosper.’ The response from the Christians in the community was quiet and polite. In the next edition of the town paper, a small ad appeared. It read simply, ‘God doesn’t always settle His accounts in October’” (William E. Brown in Making Sense of Your Faith).In Malachi 4:1, we read about the eventual and inevitable outcome of the proud and the wicked: “‘For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven, And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,’ Says the Lord of hosts, ‘That will leave them neither root nor branch.’”

Being aware of evil men and their schemes and plans is necessary so that we can avoid being in, and involved with, their wrong way of life.   It can be too easy to turn a blind eye to wrongdoing; that is, to ignore something that you know is wrong.

Another area to avoid is that of those who are very negative and seem to thrive on misery.

We’ve probably all heard the phrase that misery loves company and negative people can enjoy making others miserable.

“Misery loves company, and it’s really no big surprise either. While happier people can sometimes help balance this out, a miserable person is a force to be reckoned with, and one that if unwatched, will attempt to bring you down as well.  The thing is, no miserable person wants to see a bunch of happy, cheery people around them. If this were the case, then the term ‘misery loves company’ wouldn’t hold true. Having a miserable friend, spouse, or co-worker is bad enough, but dancing to the same miserable tune that they are is what you really want to watch out for.

“Why DOES misery love company? Is it out of jealousy? Is it out of resentment? Do miserable people just naturally attract one another? It’s actually a combination of all three, although which factors are weighted more heavily than the others will depend on the actual individual.  Most people that are happy with life generally don’t criticize or attempt to belittle others unless it was done to them first. I can always tell when someone is miserable though when I hear those kinds of questions…, it’s an obvious attempt at bringing you down to their level” (feelguide.com).

In these two Q&As, we have seen that we are not to walk with, or be envious of evildoers; we are not to be of the world and its ways, cling to those who flatter or be unequally yoked in any way with others who have a wrong mindset.   We are also to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing, not to mix with the wrong crowd and stay away from those who are perpetually negative and spread misery.   Peer pressure can also be a stumbling block where the prevailing ethos in society or the company we keep can be a major distraction, if we are not strong enough in the faith to dismiss and remove this from our lives.

The importance of keeping good company cannot be over-emphasized, and good and true friends can help us in achieving our goal of making it into the Kingdom of God.   We must always keep in mind that “evil company corrupts good habits.”

Someone observed wisely that “You’re the coach: you pick the players on your team.  If you affiliate with people who are pessimistic, burned out, and negative, you’re likely to adopt those same views.”

We should surround ourselves, wherever possible, with uplifting and positive true Christians, whose guiding principles would be wholly positive and not disruptive to our faith in any way.

So, what are we to do about it?   Let us review a few verses that can be very helpful.

We can learn a lot from the Psalms, and the Scriptures below show what our approach should be:  “Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners,Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).   The Pulpit Commentary observes as follows:

“(1) He ‘does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly’; i.e. he does not throw in his lot with the wicked does not participate in their projects or designs;

“(2) he standeth not in the way of sinners; i.e. he does not take part in their actions, does not follow the same moral paths; and

“(3) he sitteth not in the seat of the scornfuli.e. has no fellowship with them in the ‘scorn’ which they cast upon religion.”

Psalm 26:4-5 also delineates those with whom we should have no fellowship: “I have not sat with idolatrous mortals, Nor will I go in with hypocrites. I have hated the assembly of evildoers. And will not sit with the wicked.”

The Treasury of David opines: “So far from being himself an open offender against the laws of God, the Psalmist had not even associated with the lovers of evil. He had kept aloof from the men of Belial. A man is known by his company, and if we have kept ourselves apart from the wicked, it will always be evidence in our favour should our character be impugned. He who was never in the parish is not likely to have stolen the corn. He who never went to sea is clearly not the man who scuttled the ship.”

Psalm 111:1 tells us: “Praise the Lord! I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.”

We read in Barnes’ Notes on the Bible: “I will praise the Lord with my whole heart – With undivided affections; holding back nothing. I will allow nothing to be in my heart that would interfere with the fullness of praise; no coldness or dividedness of affection; no love for other things that would deaden my love for God; no suspicion respecting him that would chill my ardor; no unbelief that would drag me down to earth, while the language of my lips ascended to God.  In the assembly of the upright – With the righteous when they are gathered together for public worship.”

Further good advice can be found in Psalm 141:4-5: “Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, To practice wicked works With men who work iniquity; And do not let me eat of their delicacies. Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked.”

That is a good place to finish where the psalmist, David, prays for safekeeping from wickedness as the sub-heading to the chapter in the New King James Bible reads.   By being aware of the company we keep and opting for the only way that leads to salvation, we will reap the benefits for eternity!

Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)