Does It Really Matter Who Your Friends Are?
PLACE a bar of gold next to one of silver. Press them together and let them remain in that position for several months. Then separate the bars. What will you see? Why, some gold will be found in the silver bar and some silver in the bar of gold! What has happened?
Close contact has played its part. “Particles of gold and silver have migrated across the boundary,” says Selig Hecht in Explaining the Atom.
This well illustrates a Bible principle. A person’s associates have an effect on him or her. Just as the silver could be seen in the gold bar and the gold in the silver bar after they had been in contact for a period of time, so your friends have an effect on you.
The Christian apostle Paul stated: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Cor. 15:33) Paul was discussing the resurrection hope. As the strongest proof that God can raise the dead to life again, the apostle cited the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:12-32) But some men were denying this doctrine. Therefore, the apostle remarked that “bad associations spoil useful habits” and then urged: “Wake up to soberness in a righteous way and do not practice sin, for some are without knowledge of God. I am speaking to move you to shame.” (1 Cor. 15:34) Those to whom Paul wrote his divinely inspired letter needed to wake up from the stupor of wrong doctrine, which was misleading certain ones and causing spiritual sickness and death. And why was this happening? Because some were associating with advocates of false doctrine.
Clearly, then, it really matters who your friends are. A person can be affected detrimentally in a spiritual way by those he chooses as his friends. However, this proves true in other matters as well.
The wise man Solomon said: “Do not have companionship with anyone given to anger; and with a man having fits of rage you must not enter in.” Why? “That you may not get familiar with his paths and certainly take a snare for your soul.” (Prov. 22:24, 25) Companionship with a person who is given to fits of anger can make an individual become just like him. This proves to be a snare, for it leads to involvement in arguments, sin and various unfavorable consequences.
Hence, a person’s friends can affect him in more than one way. Not only can they have a bad effect on him spiritually; they can also induce him to manifest very undesirable personality traits. Both of these things can ruin a Christian’s life.
On the one hand, associating with advocates of false doctrine and accepting their views can result in loss of a favored relationship with God and may lead to expulsion from the Christian congregation as an apostate. On the other hand, the person who yields to bad influences and imitates a man given to fits of rage is likely to bring woe upon himself. He may ruin his relationship with Jehovah God and the Christian congregation. At any rate, he will lose the respect of others, for we are told in Scripture: “A man of loving-kindness is dealing rewardingly with his own soul, but the cruel person is bringing ostracism upon his own organism.”—Prov. 11:17.
Further, an individual may be led into a course of foolishness or calamity because he keeps company with unwise persons. Said Solomon: “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.”—Prov. 13:20.
Here the Hebrew word for “stupid” does not merely denote one’s lacking knowledge. Rather, it implies that the “stupid ones” are insensible to moral truth. They are ungodly persons. Accordingly, it is said in Proverbs 13:19: “It is something detestable to the stupid ones to turn away from bad.” Obviously, a godly person would not want the ways of such ungodly “stupid ones” to ‘rub off’ on him.
The Christian wisely heeds the implied advice in the words, “he that is walking with wise persons will become wise.” (Prov. 13:20) These “wise persons” are not specifically identified here. Elsewhere, however, we are told: “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom.” (Ps. 111:10) Hence, worshipers of the true God, those properly ‘fearing Jehovah,’ are really the wise ones with whom a person does well to associate.
What a contrast there is between associating with the ungodly and having companionship with those pursuing true worship! Whereas a teacher of false doctrine can lead a person to spiritual ruin, association with godly people in studying the Bible is spiritually strengthening.—Prov. 11:9.
Moreover, whereas one’s association with a man “given to anger” can harm one’s personality, friendship with individuals fearing Jehovah will have good effects. In what way? In that he will be stimulated to cultivate the fruits of God’s spirit, those truly Christian qualities of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness and self-control.—Gal. 5:22, 23.
Just as a person’s friends and associates have a profound effect upon him, so too a close personal relationship with Jehovah God as His dedicated servant has a deep effect upon one, and always for one’s good. Furthermore, his modestly ‘walking with God’ in this way results in happiness. (Mic. 6:8) The inspired psalmist declared: “Happy is everyone fearing Jehovah, who is walking in his ways.”—Ps. 128:1.
There certainly is no danger of developing undesirable traits from walking with God, for “Jehovah is righteous; he does love righteous acts.” (Ps. 11:7) By means of His Word and holy spirit, God imparts wisdom to those desiring it, and they become truly wise. Moreover, the consequences are pleasant indeed. “For,” says the wise man, “to the man that is good before him he [Jehovah God] has given wisdom and knowledge and rejoicing.”—Eccl. 2:26.
Yes, it really matters who your friends are. They affect you, even as gold and silver, in close contact, affect each other. How wise, then, it is to avoid bad associates and to seek the company of godly persons! Especially desirable is a close, friendly relationship with Jehovah, who ‘gives wisdom, knowledge and rejoicing.’