Friends are important.

We tell our kids to “make wise choices” and what we mean is: “Don’t be a fool out there today.” Parents want their kids to live out of a place of wisdom. A big part of that is who they choose to associate with.

Growing up, I was a goody-goody Pastor’s kid. I usually played it safe. I don’t think I was “walking with the wise” intentionally but I usually avoided disobedience at home and at school.

A mild exception I remember was in elementary school, sitting with some kids at recess who were throwing small rocks across the sidewalk toward the school building. The rocks would sometimes hit the tin flashing along the base of the wall and make a popping sound. I was nervous about this but stayed with the group for some reason. I tossed a few too, but I avoided the tin because the sound could alert the supervising teacher. Other kids didn’t care. It felt kind of good to toss pebbles at the classroom wall to really show that we didn’t like school (or jail as we used to call it).

Of course, a teacher came out, rounded us all up, and marched us down to the principal’s office. I never went there.

I remember the shame and anger I had toward the other classmates who had “led me astray.” I realized, however, as the principal unleashed his verbal blasting, that I had made a poor choice about who I was hanging out with at that moment and a poor choice about what Kent was doing.

It’s easy to see how others, including our kids, make good or bad choices in this area of friendships. It’s more challenging to look at our own approach to this. As a parent, it’s interesting to reflect back on our own friendships over the years. We have been shaped, at least to some degree, by our associations. Some of our school friends came and went while others have become lifelong friends that we are doing life with. We can look back and see how our lives have been intertwined for years.

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

Proverbs 13:20 NIV

We instinctively know that choosing good friends to hang around with is really important. This proverb takes it a step further by warning us that if we make poor choices with our friendships, we can suffer harm.

You probably have had an experience when a friend has urged you to do something or been in control of the situation and as you go along with it, you somehow get hurt or receive a negative consequence. Some call this “the law of the farm.”

The Bible tells us that we reap what we sow. This means if you plant super sweet corn in your garden, you don’t get a crop of radishes. Anyone chooses to fill their lives with wise, godly, inspiring people, they will harvest a crop of wisdom in their own life.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:7-9 NIV

Maybe you push back on this: “Shouldn’t we befriend and help those making poor choices?” Of course! Having a good influence on others accidentally happens when we just choose to do the right things. It can be even more powerful if we, or our children, intentionally befriend people around us who struggle. The warning is for us to surround ourselves with wise people that inspire and support us as we follow Jesus. This becomes our base. Then from this base, we can befriend and support others.

Friendship choices create a challenging tension because it’s hard for us to see, from our own perspective, the negative influence some people have on us.

What do you think?

Reflect: If you are a parent, some appropriate sharing of your story here might be helpful. How have you seen friend choices be good or bad for a person? Who is someone that might be wise you could spend time with? Who do you spend time with that could cause you harm? What does being a good, wise friend look like?