“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
This is a clear and powerfully important message. It means those who choose the fellowship of fools will eventually find themselves in serious trouble, whereas those who “walk with the wise” will learn wisdom.
It is a simple rule for an effective life: You are the company you keep. Therefore, choose your friends carefully. Stay away from foolish people and stay close to wise people. The New Testament states it very clearly: “Do not be deceived. Bad company corrupts good character” ( 1 Corinthians 15.33).
We are influenced by the people with whom we associate. Everyone knows this to be true. There’s even a term for it: Peer pressure. Our desire for “belonging” can be so strong that we are sometimes tempted to compromise our beliefs or suspend our better judgment in order to fit in with the group.
Even stronger than our desire to belong is our fear of not belonging. This is one of the main reasons we compromise. We do not want to be left out, so we go along with the group, even though deep down we may not even agree with what they are doing. Our fear of not belonging has the potential to override our convictions.
If you align yourself with the right people, peer pressure is positive. That is why this verse says “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise.” This is the fellowship of wisdom. If you associate with, listen to, and learn from wise people, then you also will become wise.
Note that this reinforces the principle that wisdom is not simply granted to us; rather, wisdom is something we learn through fellowship and interaction with wise people.
Look at the words again—the companion of fools will suffer harm. Who are your closest friends? With whom do you spend the majority of your time? Are they people who know and love God? Are they people who encourage you to honor God in everything you do? Are they people who make good decisions in their own life and challenge you to do the same? Or are they fools that drag you down?
“Disaster pursues sinners, but the righteous are rewarded with good.”
This is a great summary of the theme, not just of this chapter of Proverbs, but of the entire book of Proverbs. If you follow the path of sin, then disaster is always chasing you. It might be possible to stay a step ahead for awhile, but eventually sin will catch up with you and disaster will strike.
In other words, don’t equate the delay of consequences with the absence of consequences.
Note also the warning that Proverbs 13.19 gives a few verses earlier: “A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools.” The wise person pursues their desires, but only as long as the desires align with God’s standards. Foolish people, on the other hand, refuse to turn away from their sin. Their stubborn refusal to turn away from evil is what eventually brings disaster.
It is important to note that the wise person doesn’t do good things in order to receive a reward; rather, they do good things because it is the right thing to do. Rewards are the consequence of a godly life, not the goal.
Trust God, walk with the wise, and beware the fellowship of fools.