Proper Influences in Our Lives
by James Pelton
Jim Rohm, a famous American motivational speaker once said, “You are the product of the five people you spend the most time with.” As far as we know, Jim was not a Christian, but there is some truth in what he said.
Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” The Bible warns us that who we spend our time with will largely dictate what type of people we become. If we believe that the Bible is true, then this warning from the Book of Proverbs should not just be something that goes in one ear, and out the other, but it should change the way we live our lives. We should actively be avoiding bad influences and pursuing good influences in our lives.
Avoiding Bad Influences
The Bible gives us many reasons to avoid bad influences in our lives. Proverbs 14:7 says “Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge.” Spending too much time with a fool will make you a fool yourself.
There are two ways that bad influences affect us. The first is our character. Proverbs 22:24-25 says, “Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man, or you will learn his ways and find a snare for yourself.” Solomon uses “hot-temperedness” as an example here. He says that if you spend too much time with a man who is given to anger, you will learn his ways. You will start becoming hot-tempered yourself.
Bad influences also affect us doctrinally. In 1 Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul is dealing with a group of people in the church at Corinth who were teaching that there is no future resurrection from the dead. Talking about this false doctrine and the problems in living that it was causing, Paul said, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (v. 33).
With these dangers in mind, the Bible tells us that we will be blessed if we do not “walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers” (Psalm 1:1). 2 John 10 says that “if anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting.” Paul commands in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?”
Pursuing Good Influences
The Bible also teaches that not only should we stay away from negative influences, but we should also pursue positive influences. We should put ourselves in positions to learn and grow from godly men and women that point us toward the Lord. If it is true that “we are a product of the five people we spend the most time with,” then it makes sense to surround ourselves with people who reflect the character of Christ.
Proverbs also reflects this wisdom. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise.” Proverbs 27:17 says “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Paul also in the New Testament tells the Philippians in chapter 3 verse 17, “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.”
This should also motivate us to be good influences on other people. Paul says in Titus 2:7, “in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds.” Even for those who are young, Paul instructs in 1 Timothy 4:12, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.”
Considering how much warning the Bible gives against spending time with bad company and pursuing good company, we might think that it is best to completely stay away from all unbelievers. But that is not the best solution, because in completely withdrawing ourselves from the world, we become ineffective in evangelizing the world.
Matthew 5:14-16 says “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
The solution must be that we are to live around unbelievers, but not join ourselves with unbelievers. We engage the world around us as a light pointing them to the gospel, not as friends where we join in their darkness. This is what Jesus prays for His disciples in John 17:15-16 when He says “I do not ask You to take them [His disciples] out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”
Who we choose to spend our time with as believers is a critical aspect of our walk with the Lord. We must be very careful to surround ourselves with godly people who will help us grow, to avoid negative influences, but to not withdraw so much from the world that we are ineffective as witnesses.
We must be in the world, but not of the world. We must live our lives so that people “are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation” (1 Peter 4:4) and they ask us to “give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Then we must be ready to give a defense and share with them the good news of our salvation.