This is part one of a four-part study in the early chapters of Proverbs. I plan to post one each day over the next four days. Each post will have study and discussion questions for personal or group use. Since the early chapters of proverbs are words from a father to a son, these lessons are especially helpful for parents who desire to lead their children in the way of wisdom. The study will be based on four main points.
1. Avoid bad company: Don’t be gullible—there are people you need to stay away from.
The two kinds of people to avoid:
“Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse,” (2:12); “It will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words” (2:16). Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way” (Proverbs 4:14-15; cf. Psalm 1:1).
“The fact that this alarm of the dangers of bad company is the first specific warning sounded in Proverbs suggests that folly is not just an individual matter but a social one as well. We travel in groups — whether they are our social friends, our service club, our prayer partners, our tennis set, our business colleagues, or our street gang. What we become is determined in some significant measure by the company we keep” (David Hubbard).
Proverbs 1:10-16 – “My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them. If they say, ‘Come along with us; let’s lie in wait for someone’s blood, let’s waylay some harmless soul; let’s swallow them alive, like the grave, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot with us, and we will share a common purse’–my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths; for their feet rush into sin, they are swift to shed blood.”
“Family, teachers, bosses all make their contribution. But in our society the peer group, the tight circle of intimates, may determine whether a young person dabbles with drugs, experiments with sex, or toys with crime” (David Hubbard, Proverbs, p. 51).
What is the basis for the appeals? What inner desires are these enticements connecting with?
Answers: Acceptance and identity, promise of material gain without hard work; excitement and a sense of power.
What price will be paid to obtain these things?
Answers: Crime and violence, evil against the vulnerable and helpless.
Identify the characteristics of dangerous, wrong-crowd kind of people described in Proverbs 2:12-15
What kinds of dangerous people are listed in Proverbs 6:12-14?
To help his son overcome the temptation of bad company, the father doesn’t encourage him to live in a monastery. Hiding from bad people is not the answer. Life in the world (and discipleship to Jesus Christ) require us to connect with those who need godly influence (cf. Matthew 5:13-16). We must not overly shelter ourselves from the world. Instead, we must be fortified for life in a world full of evil enticements.
In Proverbs 2:11-16—notice the language of safety and protection. What is the risk or danger? Read and note Proverbs 5 in relation to protection from harm.
“Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways. It will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words…”
Again, the father could have assumed that his son would not give in to the pressures of evil people because he was raised to know better. Instead, the father makes no assumptions about the powerful pull of evil.
The father wants to build in his son an ability to recognize the ways of evil and think through the consequences.
Questions for Discussion:
1. Share some thoughts on what the following verses teach about companionship?
- Proverbs 13:20 – “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”
- Proverbs 22:24-25 – “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.”
- Proverbs 23:20-21 – “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.”
- 1 Corinthians 15:33 – “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
- 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 – “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
2. Have you ever struggled with avoiding bad influences in you?
Good advice: “Fly in tight formation with a faithful few” (Crawford Loritts). Can you identify several people in your life who know you well and have access to you at a level of accountability?
We must take seriously the whole matter of friendship. We need to be selective about the kinds of people we choose to significant of time with noting the difference between being a witness and extending godly influence and companionship.
3. Is it true that people who drift from fellowship with God usually don’t drift alone? Have you witnessed this? How does Hebrews 3:12-14 relate?
Perhaps you are in a relationship (or in the process of forming a friendship) that is causing you to compromise your commitment to the Lordship of Jesus. If so, be honest about what you’re doing. Don’t rationalize your way around it.