Proverbs 13:20 “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
The verse above tells us in very simple terms that those with whom we spend time have a great impact on our lives. It’s the very same message we find in Psalm 1 where we are warned that those who “walk in the counsel of the ungodly, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers” will end up with a life that is like “the chaff that the wind drives away.” It’s so critical that we be a good example to others around us, but it is just as important that we follow the good examples of others.
You probably have had those people in your life that you want to be more like. You see qualities in their life that you admire. You watch them and want to emulate them in one way or another. It’s a very natural thing. It’s how we’re wired. The media moguls know this, so they work to make “stars” of certain individuals. They highlight the glamorous, the superior athletes, and the rich, for the more we want to be like those individuals, the more likely we are to watch the shows or movies in which they appear or buy whatever promises to make us more like them. We’ll want to wear the makeup they hawk, drive the cars they drive, wear the sneakers they wear. We want to be like them.
But is that the kind of example we should be following? When we do this, are we following the example of the wise that the Bible calls us to? So often, the closer we examine the rich and famous, we see lives filled with turmoil and unhappiness, broken families, addictions, and more. So often it’s these very people that the Bible would characterize as fools, for a fool as the Bible defines one, is someone who either “says in their heart that there is no God (Psalm 14:1),” or thinks, acts, and reacts as if there was none. So, in contrast to what the media would promise us, the verse above tells us that following such examples will likely bring harm to us rather than good.
In light of this, what’s the better way? Who should we be looking at? Whose example should we follow? Well, to get right to the point, if we want walk with the wise in order to become wise, wouldn’t it make sense to walk with the wisest One of all? As Jesus said to the Pharisees, “the Queen of the South . . . came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon (who, by the way, wrote the words of Proverbs 13:20, above) and behold, something greater than Solomon is here” (Luke 11:31). By “something greater than Solomon,” Jesus was referring to Himself, for He Who is God in the flesh is the wisest of all, bar none. Then these words from Jesus to His disciples: “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15). And these words from one of His apostles to us: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). As we spend time with Jesus in His Word, as we speak to Him in prayer, as we look long and hard at the words He spoke and the perfect example that He set for us and by which He gave such power to His teaching, we are walking with the wise, and wisdom will come to us a result.
But we can look to others as well, people whom God gave us as examples of those who put the words of Proverbs 13 into practice in their lives. Perhaps one of the best examples is the apostle Paul. Repeatedly, in Paul’s letters to churches and individuals, he urged them to not just be obedient to his teachings, but to follow his own example of how those teachings were worked out in everyday life. He told the Corinthian church to “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). He told the Thessalonians, “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us” (2 Thessalonians 3:7). And as Paul walked with and taught his young protégé Timothy, he urged him to also be an example with these words: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity (1 Timothy 4:12).”
But then for examples we can look to in flesh and blood – we should look to those who walk the talk, particularly when their talk glorifies God. We should look to those who we know are following the example Christ set, because we’ve watched their lives over the years, and they’ve consistently shown that example to us. But first and foremost, we must look past them to the very Christ they follow, for His example of wisdom is perfect in every way.