by Pastor Ola Joseph Kolawole
The interesting thing about Proverbs is the fact that as we read the book chapter by chapter, the Spirit of God has a lot of material to work with in teaching us about many subjects at the same time. (The chapters are not necessarily focused on just one thing.) More often than none, what will be highlighted to each one of us as we read will be different based on very many factors.
So in following the pattern set forth by preceding reviewers, I don’t intend to do a verse-by-verse review of the chapters; rather I will pick one or two verses in the chapter for that day (or the day before as the case may be) which speak(s) to me where I am and make that into some sort of devotional post with an emphasis on what that may look like practically for someone or what that had looked like for me at some point in my journey.
The big idea of the Book of Proverbs, as we know, is Wisdom. Wisdom, however, is not about just getting more and more knowledge; it’s CHOOSING to APPLY that KNOWLEDGE in ways that PLEASE and HONOUR the Lord. In other words, true wisdom finds maximum expression through obedience—through an application of knowledge. I have often found that the big challenge for many believers today — especially among the young adults and teenagers in my immediate circle of influence — is not in knowing the truth, but in making the connection between the knowledge of the truth and the application of the truth.
All that to say this: my approach in these reviews will be more on application. Occasionally, I may use myself as a sort of test book — a far-from-perfect one at that — to buttress the point I’m making. But essentially, my goal is to unpack what one or two proverbs mentioned in that chapter could look like as we seek to apply the knowledge it brings.
This, however, does not stop us from asking questions about any specific verse you may have read and seek further clarifications on. (Thank God, I’m in good company here.) In fact, that is encouraged. And besides, if there is a point or points in a particular chapter that strikes a chord with you, whether or not it will be mentioned in the reviews, why not share what you gleaned from it?
Now, to Proverbs 13.
In this chapter, I’m going to pick on just one verse: verse 20. First, I will quote it from a few translations then proceed to make a few points about it.
KJV — “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”
ERV — “Be friends with those who are wise, and you will become wise. Choose fools to be your friends, and you will have trouble.”
EXB — “Spend time [Walk; Go] with the wise and you will become wise, but the friends of fools will suffer [or get into trouble].”
TPT — “If you want to grow in wisdom, spend time with the wise. Walk with the wicked and you’ll eventually become just like them.”
I have quoted from those different translations (and made different emphasis) so that we can see the proverb in its many-sided beauty. Now to the three points I want to draw our attention to.
1. To WALK with ‘the wise’ (KJV) is to SPEND TIME with ‘the wise’ (EXB, TPT).
In other words, there is a time-factor implied in this verse. And so, by further implication, you become more and more like ‘who’ or ‘what’ you SPEND TIME with.
With Nigeria being the 6th country in the world in terms of internet usage as of the first quarter of this year (behind China, India, USA, Indonesia & Brazil respectively), I wonder how many words an average Nigerian consumes per day. 12 years ago, it was said that an average American consumed 100,000 words each day. I wonder how many thousands or millions it will be now for many of us.
The question that Proverbs 13:20 poses for us relative to how much information we are consuming each day is this: HOW MUCH OF THAT INFORMATION WILL YOU CATEGORISE AS ‘SPENDING TIME WITH THE WISE’?
Simple Check: look back to yesterday. How was your time spent in terms of the different things that caught your attention information-wise? How much of your time was spent on WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Emails, Zoom, Snapchat, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Google, Phone calls, etc… oh, and the Bible?
Mind you, I am by no means saying that spending A LOT of time on any of those platforms or channels of information is necessarily wrong. Not at all. The point is if you were to file all of those data you consumed yesterday into ‘wise’ and ‘foolish’ folders, which folder will be heavier? And if you were to look further back to weeks ago, months ago and even in recent years, what kinds of pattern will emerge?
2. We can (and should) be INTENTIONAL about what/who we spend time with.
The ERV uses the word ‘CHOOSE’ in this verse to emphasize the fact that we actually do have a choice in this matter. By not being intentional about what takes our time in terms of the information we expose ourselves to, we are CHOOSING to be foolish. It takes intentionality to spend time with the wise.
And this naturally leads to the third point:
3. IDENTIFY ‘the wise’ with whom you need to be spending your time.
For some of us, this will look like identifying the authors whose books we can’t afford to miss. When I first read He Still Moves Stones by Max Lucado in 2006, I knew I had found an author whose style of writing communicates God’s truth to me in a very personable and understandable way. Between then and now, hardly is there a book he wrote which I had not read. I am not surprised, therefore, when I get feedback from those who read my books and say things like “I enjoyed reading this book. It felt like I was reading a Max Lucado book.” That’s because I had ‘spent time’ with that ‘wise’ man.
For some of us, this will look like being intentional about who we ‘follow’ on social media. The other day, I was scanning through my wife’s Instagram feed thinking it was my own Instagram account. Before long, I noticed that virtually every post on the feed was either an inspirational quote from some pastor or worship leader somewhere (most of whom I don’t even know) or a testimony of some sort. I knew it felt different from what I normally see on my usual Instagram feed. That was when I realized it was actually not my Instagram account but hers. However, that experience brought alive the fact that who we choose to ‘follow’ actually shapes the kinds of information we get to see on these platforms — and more so, in life. While I was busy accepting any request for followership and choosing to follow all my friends, I didn’t know I was shaping the kind of information that will be thrown at me via my feed every single day. And indeed, these ‘feeds’ and ‘stories’ on these social media platforms do FEED our destinies and has a tremendous influence on our life’s STORIES. Be watchful.
For some of us, this will look like identifying and submitting to the mentorship of an older man or woman who is modelling the kind of practical Christian life we desire to lead. God has blessed me with great mentors and I can’t begin to dig into the priceless treasures such relationships have yielded as I continued to invest in them.
For many of us, this will look like investing in resources that will make the Bible come alive for us in our personal studies. It is great when we catch up on what our facilitators think about the chapters we are reading per time on this platform, but there is never anything more exciting than getting into the bible for yourself and seeing the beauty in God’s Word. That’s spending time with Wisdom Personified! So for some of us, that will look like finding the Bible Translation that suits our bible usage needs per time. For some, it will look like investing in a book that will help you understand the bible more. (I always recommend Living by the Book by Howard Hendricks. It’s a classic!)
In summary, whenever you remember Proverbs 13, I’m hoping that one of the verses that will come to your memory will be verse 20. I’m hoping that we will be a people that are intentional about what/who we choose to spend time with.
May God help us.
PS: I did a video recently on the subject of Bible Translations which may help you to make an informed choice about what bible translations to use and what to bear in mind generally when engaging with any bible translation. It’s available here.