“The one walking with the wise will become wise.”—PROVERBS 13:20.
1-3. (a) What do we learn from Proverbs 13:20? (b) Why do we need to choose our friends wisely?
HAVE you ever noticed how a baby watches his parents? Even before he can talk, he is absorbing all that he sees and hears. As he gets older, he begins to imitate his parents even without trying to. It is not surprising that adults too may begin to think and act like the people they spend a lot of time with.
2 From Proverbs 13:20, we learn: “The one walking with the wise will become wise.” Here, the idea of “walking with” someone involves choosing to spend time with him. This means more than just being around a person. One Bible scholar said that walking with someone includes the idea of loving that person and feeling close to him. We are influenced most by the people we spend a lot of time with, especially if we feel close to them.
3 Our friends can affect us in a good way or in a bad way. Proverbs 13:20 continues: “The one who has dealings with the stupid will fare badly.” In the Hebrew language, to have “dealings with” someone can mean to “keep company” with that person, that is, to be friends with him. (Proverbs 22:24; Judges 14:20) Friends who love God will encourage us to remain faithful to him. To help us choose our friends wisely, let’s discuss what type of people Jehovah selects as his friends.
WHO ARE GOD’S FRIENDS?
4. Why is it a great honor to be a friend of God? Why did Jehovah call Abraham “my friend”?
4 Jehovah, the Sovereign of the Universe, gives us the opportunity to be his friends. This is a great honor. Jehovah selects his friends carefully. He chooses those who love him and have faith in him. Think of Abraham. He was ready to do anything for God. Over and over again, Abraham showed that he was faithful and obedient. He was even willing to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham had faith that “God was able to raise him up even from the dead.” (Hebrews 11:17-19; Genesis 22:1, 2, 9-13) Abraham was faithful and obedient, and Jehovah called him “my friend.”—Isaiah 41:8; James 2:21-23.
5. How does Jehovah feel about those who are loyal to him?
5 Jehovah views his friends as precious. His friends care more about being loyal to him than about anything else. (Read 2 Samuel 22:26.) They are loyal and obedient because they love him. The Bible says that God’s “close friendship is with the upright,” those who obey him. (Proverbs 3:32) Jehovah invites his friends to be special guests in his “tent.” He invites them to worship him and to pray to him at any time.—Psalm 15:1-5.
6. How can we show that we love Jesus?
6 Jesus said: “If anyone loves me, he will observe my word, and my Father will love him.” (John 14:23) So to be Jehovah’s friend, we also need to love Jesus and do what he taught us to do. For example, we obey Jesus’ instructions to preach the good news and make disciples. (Matthew 28:19, 20; John 14:15, 21) Because we love Jesus, we “follow his steps closely.” (1 Peter 2:21) Jehovah is happy when he sees us doing our best to imitate his Son in all we say and do.
7. Why should we make sure that our friends are Jehovah’s friends?
7 Jehovah’s friends are faithful, loyal, and obedient, and they love his Son. Do we choose the same kind of friends that Jehovah does? If your friends imitate Jesus and are busy teaching others about God’s Kingdom, they can help you to be a better person and to remain loyal to Jehovah.
LEARNING FROM BIBLE EXAMPLES
8. What do you like about the friendship between Ruth and Naomi?
8 In the Bible, we can read about many friendships, such as the friendship between Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi. These women came from different lands and backgrounds, and Naomi was much older than Ruth. But they became close friends because they both loved Jehovah. When Naomi wanted to leave the land of Moab and return to Israel, “Ruth stuck with her.” She told Naomi: “Your people will be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:14, 16) Ruth was very kind to Naomi. When they arrived in Israel, Ruth worked hard to support her friend. Naomi loved Ruth very much and gave her good advice. Ruth listened to her, and as a result, they both received many blessings.—Ruth 3:6.
9. What impresses you about the friendship between David and Jonathan?
9 David and Jonathan are another example of good friends who were both loyal to Jehovah. Jonathan was about 30 years older than David and was next in line to be king of Israel. (1 Samuel 17:33; 31:2; 2 Samuel 5:4) Yet, when he learned that Jehovah had chosen David to be king, he did not feel jealous or competitive. Instead, Jonathan did everything he could to support David. For example, when David was in danger, Jonathan helped him “find strength in Jehovah.” He even risked his life for David. (1 Samuel 23:16, 17) David too was a loyal friend. He promised to take care of Jonathan’s family, and he kept that promise even after Jonathan died.—1 Samuel 18:1; 20:15-17, 30-34; 2 Samuel 9:1-7.
10. What do you learn about friendship from the example of the three Hebrews?
10 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were three young Hebrew friends who were taken away from home as children. Far from their families, they helped one another to remain faithful to Jehovah. Later, as adults, their faith was tested when King Nebuchadnezzar commanded them to worship an image of gold. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship the image and told the king: “We will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold that you have set up.” When their faith was tested, these three friends remained loyal to their God.—Daniel 1:1-17; 3:12, 16-28.
11. How do we know that Paul and Timothy were good friends?
11 When the apostle Paul met the young man Timothy, he could see that Timothy loved Jehovah and really cared about the congregation. So Paul trained Timothy to help the brothers and sisters in many different places. (Acts 16:1-8; 17:10-14) Timothy worked so hard that Paul said: “He slaved with me to advance the good news.” Paul knew that Timothy would “genuinely care” for the brothers and sisters. As they worked hard together serving Jehovah, Paul and Timothy became good friends.—Philippians 2:20-22; 1 Corinthians 4:17.
HOW TO CHOOSE OUR FRIENDS
12, 13. (a) Why do we need to choose our friends carefully even in the congregation? (b) Why did the apostle Paul give the warning at 1 Corinthians 15:33?
12 In the congregation, we can learn from our brothers and sisters and help one another to stay faithful. (Read Romans 1:11, 12.) But even in the congregation, we need to be careful about whom we choose to be our close friends. We have a wonderful variety of brothers and sisters from many cultures and backgrounds. Some are new to the congregation, while others have been serving Jehovah for many years. It takes time for a person’s relationship with Jehovah to grow, just as it takes time for fruit to ripen. So we need to show patience and love to one another and always choose our friends wisely.—Romans 14:1; 15:1; Hebrews 5:12–6:3.
13 At times, a serious situation may arise in the congregation, and we will need to be especially careful. It could be that a brother or a sister is doing things that the Bible says are wrong. Or someone may develop a complaining attitude that could damage the congregation. This does not surprise us, because even in the first century, there were problems in the congregation at times. In fact, the apostle Paul warned Christians back then: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:12, 33) Paul also warned Timothy to be careful about whom he chose to be his close friends. We should do the same today.—Read 2 Timothy 2:20-22.
14. How can our choice of friends affect our relationship with Jehovah?
14 We must protect our relationship with Jehovah. It is the most precious thing we have. So we avoid being close friends with anyone who could weaken our faith and damage that relationship. Just as we cannot soak a sponge in vinegar and expect it to become filled with water, we cannot have friends who do wrong things and expect that it will be easy for us to do right things. We need to choose our close friends carefully.—1 Corinthians 5:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 7, 14.
15. What can you do to make good friends in the congregation?
15 In the congregation, you can find people who truly love Jehovah. They can become your close friends. (Psalm 133:1) Don’t look for friends only among people of your own age or background. Remember that Jonathan was much older than David, and Ruth was much younger than Naomi. We want to follow the Bible’s advice: “Open your hearts wide.” (2 Corinthians 6:13; read 1 Peter 2:17.) And the more you imitate Jehovah, the more others will want to be your friend.
WHEN THERE ARE PROBLEMS
16, 17. If someone in the congregation upsets us, what should we avoid doing?
16 In every family, there are different personalities, opinions, and ways of doing things. This is also true in a congregation. This variety makes life interesting, and we can learn a lot from one another. But sometimes our differences cause us to misunderstand our brothers or sisters and become irritated with them. At times, we may get offended or our feelings may get hurt. (Proverbs 12:18) Should we let such problems discourage us or keep us away from the congregation?
17 No. Even if someone disappoints us in some way, we would not stay away from the congregation. Jehovah is not the one who offended us. He gave us life and all other things. He deserves our love and loyalty. (Revelation 4:11) The congregation is a gift from Jehovah that helps us to keep our faith strong. (Hebrews 13:17) We would never reject his gift just because someone disappointed us.—Read Psalm 119:165.
18. (a) What can help us to get along with our brothers and sisters? (b) Why should we forgive others?
18 We love our brothers and sisters and want to get along with them. Jehovah does not expect any human to be perfect, and neither should we. (Proverbs 17:9; 1 Peter 4:8) We all make mistakes, but love will help us to keep “forgiving one another freely.” (Colossians 3:13) Love will stop us from turning a small misunderstanding into a huge problem. True, when someone has upset us, it can be difficult to stop thinking about it. It is easy to become angry and hold a grudge against that person. But this will only make us unhappy and bitter. On the other hand, when we forgive someone who offended us, we can have peace of mind, unity in the congregation and, most important, a good relationship with Jehovah.—Matthew 6:14, 15; Luke 17:3, 4; Romans 14:19.
WHEN SOMEONE IS DISFELLOWSHIPPED
19. When do we need to stop associating with someone in the congregation?
19 In a loving family, each member does his part to make the others happy. But imagine that one person rebels. Everybody in the family tries again and again to help him, but he rejects the help. He may decide to leave home, or the head of the family may have to ask him to leave. Something similar can happen in the congregation. A person may choose to keep doing things that displease Jehovah and harm the congregation. He rejects help and shows by his actions that he no longer wants to be part of the congregation. He may choose to leave the congregation himself, or he may have to be disfellowshipped. If this happens, the Bible clearly says that we should “stop keeping company” with him. (Read 1 Corinthians 5:11-13; 2 John 9-11) This can be very difficult if he is a friend of ours or a member of our family. But in a situation like this, our loyalty to Jehovah must be stronger than our loyalty to anyone else.—See Endnote 8.
20, 21. (a) How does the disfellowshipping arrangement show love? (b) Why is it important that we choose our friends wisely?
20 The disfellowshipping arrangement is a loving provision from Jehovah. It keeps the congregation safe from those who do not care about Jehovah’s standards. (1 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 12:15, 16) It helps us to show love for Jehovah’s holy name, for his high standards, and for Jehovah himself. (1 Peter 1:15, 16) And the disfellowshipping arrangement shows love for the person who is no longer a member of the congregation. This strong discipline may help him to realize that what he is doing is wrong and motivate him to change. Many who were once disfellowshipped later returned to Jehovah and were warmly welcomed back into the congregation.—Hebrews 12:11.
21 In one way or another, our friends affect us. So it is important that we choose them carefully. If we love those whom Jehovah loves, we will be surrounded by people who can help us to stay faithful to him forever.