We've all experienced the benefits of great friends. Their positive traits and characteristics rub off on us, and we become better people because we spend time with them. We've all experienced the opposite of that as well. We've spent time with not-so-great friends, and their negativity and poor choices rub off on and affect us.
There's a simple but powerful principle we see in the verse above, and that is that if we "walk with" or spend time with those who are "wise", we will grow wise, but if we are "a companion of" or spend time with "fools", we "will suffer harm." Simply put, great friends impact us in positive ways, and poor friends impact us negatively.
Notice two things about the second part of that verse, the warning about being a "companion of fools":
1. It doesn't say that the "companion of fools" will become a fool. The truth is that you may spend time around unhealthy people and not make the same decisions as them or ever become entirely like them. But the Bible makes it clear that your well-being and future isn't always determined by what you do, but is often impacted in powerful ways by who you are with. Andy Stanley says it like this: "Show me your friends, and I'll show you your future."
2. Also, the Bible doesn't say that the "companion of fools" may suffer harm or will possibly suffer harm. No, it says that "a companion of fools will suffer harm." There's a guarantee, and inevitability to the trajectory of our lives if we surround ourselves with unhealthy, self-destructive, careless people. We will suffer harm. How many times have we found ourselves dealing with the consequences of someone else's decisions or actions, when we could've avoided it all by keeping our distance?
The influence of friends can be a powerful and positive force in our lives. Friends can encourage us, build us up, and help us to follow Christ in greater ways. The influence of friends can also be incredibly negative and destructive if we're not careful. We can find ourselves in places we never wanted to go doing things we never wanted to do and becoming someone we never wanted to be.
When it comes to friendship, the choice is yours. Choose wisely.