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The DEEP

Friends in Low Places

Fools love company 

Proverbs 1:10-15 

 

10 My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.

11 If they say, “Come with us,
Let us lie in wait to shed blood;
Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause;

12 Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,
And whole, like those who go down to the Pit;

13 We shall find all kinds of precious possessions,
We shall fill our houses with spoil;

14  Cast in your lot among us,
Let us all have one purse”—

15  My son, do not walk in the way with them,
Keep your foot from their path;

 

The only thing worse than a fool…is a group of fools. 

In this study we have met the Scoffer, the Sluggard and the Simple Fool. Each of these sterling characters is under the spell of the siren song of Dame Folly and seemingly immune to the call of Lady Wisdom. Solomon, in this first section of Proverbs, provides instruction and warning of each of them that is a message for young and old to take to heart.

When you study the book of proverbs it is helpful to see and understand these specific brands of foolishness. Lest you begin to believe that wisdom and foolishness are purely pursuits of the individual, however, God reminds you that foolishness can be a group effort:

10 My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.–Proverbs 1:10

My mom used a colorful phrase when I was a boy: “You are judged by the company you keep.” This was doubtless in response to me showing up to the house with a shifty friend, or after receiving a report from school about my errant behavior during recess with one of my fellow troublemaking buddies. 

Little did I realize that mom was laying some ancient wisdom on me, for this was the essence of what Solomon was trying to convey to his son–and you and me. 

This nugget of wisdom is captured in one of the fables of Aesop: The Donkey and his Purchaser. Aesop, the Greek storyteller, lived about three hundred years after Solomon and was doubtless influenced by some of the same sources–or possibly even by Solomon himself. 

In the tale, a man wishes to purchase a donkey and the seller lets him take the beast home overnight for a “test drive.” (Much like a car dealership lets you drive home a Camry for you to see if it looks good in your garage.) 

Once in the barn the new donkey makes his way to the laziest animal in the herd and there finds comradeship. The next morning, the buyer returns the donkey to the dealership (ha!) and tells the salesman that the deal is off. The buyer did not like the company the donkey chose and knew that it would be an indicator of its productivity on the farm. 

(Or that he just could not find the bluetooth connection and there were not enough cupholders.) 

To have a child who “runs with a bad crowd” is a fear of most parents, is it not? That your son or daughter would come to a bad end by hanging out with bad people–or at least come under the influence of those who will teach them bad habits and lead them astray–can keep a mother or father up at night.

Solomon warns that, like Dame Folly, sinners abound who will seek to entice you to follow them into sin. 

You are not immune to this as an adult. Misery loves company, and sinners love a crowd. Social pressure can be exerted upon you to enter into foolishness that is as strong a pull as in the days of youth.

It is tempting at times to enter into business deals or partnerships with dishonest people and this can impact the lives of others–and even cost you financially. This seems to be a modern equivalent to the details of Solomon’s warning:

11 If they say, “Come with us,
Let us lie in wait to shed blood;
Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause;

12 Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,
And whole, like those who go down to the Pit;

13 We shall find all kinds of precious possessions,
We shall fill our houses with spoil;

14  Cast in your lot among us,
Let us all have one purse”—Proverbs 1:11-14

As Solomon warns of wayward youth falling into bloody dealings with bad company, so you as a believer must consider the impact of even the business you undertake. You may not seek to cause harm to others, but you may be faced with a choice to be a part of a venture or even a company that does–or risk of your paycheck and career by speaking up in righteousness.

In my local news, a prominent attorney is on trial for fraud and murder–and it all began with a boating accident. The man’s son and a group of friends spent a night drinking and partying, as many teens are tempted to do. On the boat ride home–for this is the coastal South Carolina Lowcountry–the intoxicated boaters struck a bridge, and a young lady was thrown from the boat and drowned. 

A group of teens (much like Solomon’s pupils) can be prone to foolish decisions but this one led to tragedy. In the months that followed, the investigation revealed an alleged cover-up with the accident and then “shady” business dealings of the father of the youth accused of driving the boat. 

As the investigation focused on the father–an influential attorney–accusations of financial impropriety, and the abuse of power began to fly.  In the middle of this, the sudden, mysterious murder of his wife and son soon brought things to a shocking new level that captured the nation and even the world’s attention. 

This sordid tale has not only added fuel to the fire of local gossip, it made headlines as far away as England. The Guardian newspaper headlined: “Murder, missing money and cover-up claims: South Carolina family mystery grips America” with an account that thrillingly began: 

It's a story as thick and unctuous as South Carolina's low country mud…

When you step back and look at this from the eye of Proverbs, it is easy to see how young people can be easily led into bad, even tragic end by the company they keep. 

Regarding the larger, criminal drama unfolding, many people have asked how a prominent businessman and his family could operate for so long seemingly above the law? Why has no one come forward before now? Where were law enforcement and others who must certainly have “looked the other way” during years of the fraud, theft and intimidation that victimized innocent people? 

Area business associates, bankers, law enforcement officials and public officials are now having to answer these questions of themselves for dealing with, or enabling someone to commit crimes–seemingly with their knowledge. There are a number of people–and even the small town–now with reputations at stake or facing legal action.

This affair may seem like outlandish, Dukes-of-Hazzard-Boss-Hoggery compared to what you face in your everyday life–and that is certainly true. What you may face when you associate with those who live selfishly is really no different–and can have the same devastating effect on your life.

It can be easy to surround yourself with friends who joy in mocking others and sharing gossip–to the point where you at worst participate with them or at the very least bring pain to others in your association with them. It is often difficult to resist or to simply walk away–for you do not want to be lonely or feel the loss and rejection that can result.

This can even be a group of fellow believers with whom you share fellowship, for “group foolishness” can include Christian and non-Christian alike.

The Apostle Paul warns of this, even as he describes the glory of the coming Final Resurrection:

33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”–I Corinthians 15:33

The problem is, we often enjoy it, do we not? Or at least we feel that we can control things to a point and avoid temptation. 

There is a funny scene in TV’s “The Simpsons” where young Lisa tries to persuade her father Homer to not participate in “Whacking Day,” an annual event where the townspeople form a mob to kill snakes. Anxious to join the herpetile bacchanal, Homer makes up an excuse: 

“Maybe if I'm part of that mob, I can help steer it in wise directions. Now where's my giant foam cowboy hat and airhorn?” 

(You will be happy to know that the snakes were saved with the help of singer Barry White. The soulful singer had been enlisted by Bart and Lisa to sing, “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe”–attracting numerous snakes into the Simpson house and to safety.) 

So what do you do? As a believer you are called to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:14), and so you live and function in a fallen place–even if you belong to another. Solomon provides definitive instruction:

My son, do not walk in the way with them,
Keep your foot from their path;–Proverbs 13:20-21

It is clear that you must do what you can to avoid  being counted among those who entertain destruction and heed call of Dame Folly–or the Devil’s lies. Later in the Proverbs, more warning is given, along with a promise: 

20 He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.  

21 Evil pursues sinners, But to the righteous, good shall be repaid.–Proverbs 13:20-21

Simply put, to stand and be counted among fools is to bring punishment, but to follow Lady Wisdom–to love and follow Christ–is to know reward. 

So you flee sin and foolishness, but to where do you go? You are commanded elsewhere to seek the fellowship of believers, for there is found the people of God:

24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.–Hebrews 10:24-25

This world, and many people, are quick to complain and remind you that Christians have brought their share of hurt and pain on others through judgmental words and “fake” righteousness. This is certainly true sometimes, for believers struggle with sin like the rest of fallen man–but in their fellowship is found the Bride of Christ. 

You may enjoy many friends in this life, believer and non-believer alike. Like Country music star Garth Brooks’ 1990 hit song, “Friends in Low Places” implies, there is a refuge among those with home you can live in truth and without pretense. With whomever you associate, however, you must live as Christ lived.

The company of the saints–your fellow church members–are pilgrims with you on the path of life.  Do not neglect this fellowship. Pray for one another, seek companionship, friendship and to get to know them in their pain and joy–just as you experience.   

 

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The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

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The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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