CHOICE OF FRIENDS AND ASSOCIATIONS
Avoiding suffering by prudently choosing good companions is emphasized from the opening of the book of Proverbs (cf. 1:10-18). The ancient Latin term for companion was “companionem,” literally “bread fellow.” (Online Etymology Dictionary) The word denotes a close relationship between two; so close they share bread.
Proverbs 13:20 and 27:17 each underscore the importance of choosing friends and, in truth, stand in compliment with each other.
He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed (Proverbs 13:20).
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend (Proverbs 27:17).
The friend that “sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” to wisdom is to be chosen over the friend that “sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” to folly. The association of ungodly companions not only leads to foolishness but is also a workshop of unnecessary suffering.
To teach wisdom, Solomon instructed, “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul” (Proverbs 22:24, 25). Consider also this sage guidance for avoiding unnecessary suffering:
An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire. A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends. A violent man enticeth his neighbour, and leadeth him into the way that is not good (Proverbs 16:27-29).
A man whose companions are ungodly, perverse, and violent will find himself “sharing a meal” with needless and avoidable suffering.
LISTEN TO WISE COUNSEL AND INSTRUCTION
The most poetic of the proverbs that emphasize the prudence of listening to wise counsel paint a picture of the ear, bending to hear: “My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding” (Proverbs 5:1; cf. 22:17). Perhaps James had these proverbs in mind when he penned, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear” (James 1:19).
The book of Proverbs is abundant with the admonitions to hear and attain to wise counsel:
A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels (Proverbs 1:5).
My son, hear the instruction of thy father (Proverbs 1:8a).
The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall (Proverbs 10:8).
The blessings of given heed to wise counsel are also consistently noted: “He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth (Proverbs 10:17).
The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death” (Proverbs 13:14).
Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge (Proverbs 19:27).