“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
Here are some additional thoughts about this important verse …
Solomon’s use of the term “walk” in this verse is not by accident. Walking has the idea of a manner of life. It refers to a consistent, daily set of behaviors. It could be translated “way of life.” In other words, the Hebrew term “walk” refers to going on a journey. When one “walks,” it is the path they follow and the things they do (and don’t do) to get to their destination.
What Solomon is saying in this verse is that there are two groups of people who are following two very different paths through life: the wise and the fools. He admonishes us to “walk with the wise.” Associate and fellowship with people who will encourage you and hold you accountable to getting on the right path and staying on the right path.
I think it is important to connect this verse with the recurring theme of “the path” in the book of Proverbs. Scripture repeats this theme for a reason, so I will do the same.
There is a path — a way — that the Lord lays out for his people, and he wants us to see the path, follow the path, and stay on the path. In other words, there is a way that God wants us to live and work. This is the message we saw in Proverbs 4.25-27:
“Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.”
In other words, look straight ahead. Pay attention to what you are doing and where you are going. We can now add an additional command: Pay attention to who you following and are associating with on your journey through life.
Here is a summary of what scripture teaches about being on path:
> The Lord makes it clear that there is a right path and a wrong path. “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7.13-14)
> The wrong path is seductive and deadly. “There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)
> The Lord calls us to the right path. “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” (Ephesians 4.1)> He has given us specific instructions and guidance about the right path. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3.16-17)> He provides illumination so we can see the right path. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119.105)> He provides his power and strength so we can walk the right path. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1.3)> There will be obstacles on the path. We will face adversity and difficulty. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)
> If we stumble, he provides grace and forgiveness when we confess and repent, which allows us to get back on the right path. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1.9)
> We must walk with wise people who are on the right path, and we must avoid foolish people who are on the wrong path. “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13.20)
We must pay attention to the path and stay focused. We must not get distracted. It is a daily calling that extends to every sphere of our lives.
And an essential part of the kingdom journey is “walking with the wise.” We must align ourselves with people who encourage us and hold us accountable to getting on path and staying on path.