You can tell a lot about people, whether good or bad, by the company they keep. Whom we associate with both reflects and reinforces our character. When we hang out with the wrong crowd, we reveal our character flaws, and our friends supersize our vices. On the other hand, when we hang out with the right crowd, we demonstrate good choices, and our friends magnify our virtues.
In Proverbs 8:12-21, Woman Wisdom talks about her friends and enemies, that is, the company she keeps and the crowds she avoids. Then she talks about how she influences others in their use of two easily abused divine gifts: power and wealth.
Let’s begin with verses 12-14:
I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
I possess knowledge and discretion.
To fear the Lord is to hate evil;
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil behavior and perverse speech.
Counsel and sound judgment are mine;
I have understanding and power.
Here’s a list of Woman Wisdom’s friends: Prudence, Knowledge, Discretion, Counsel, Sound Judgment, Understanding, and Power. This is not exactly the cheerleaders-and-jocks crowd, if you know what I mean. Instead, they are the student government leaders, business majors, and mathletes of the School of Virtues. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good people, but they’re not exactly popular, thrilling, or sexy. The virtues rarely are. They are very ordinary, they must be chosen, and they require discipline.
The vices, on the other hand, are popular, thrilling, and sexy. Who doesn’t love hanging out with the good-looking bad boys or the hot babes with the questionable reputations? The problem is, the more you get to know such people, the more you get to know what they’re really like. They’re filled with pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.
The virtues are plain on the outside but good at heart. The vices look good on the outside, but they’re rotten to the core. Woman Wisdom looks past the façade and sees the interior reality.
And then, she helps her friends reach their full potential in their use of power and wealth. According to verses 15-21:
By me kings reign
and rulers make laws that are just;
by me princes govern,
and all nobles who rule on earth.
I love those who love me,
and those who seek me find me.
With me are riches and honor,
enduring wealth and prosperity.
My fruit is better than fine gold;
what I yield surpasses choice silver.
I walk in the way of righteousness,
along the paths of justice,
bestowing wealth on those who love me
and making their treasuries full.
Notice in these verses that wisdom leads to power and wealth. The great issue in life is not whether we have power and wealth, but how we’ve gotten it and how we’re using it. The vices seek power and wealth as ends in and of themselves. The virtues know that Woman Wisdom’s friendship is what really matters. Power and wealth just happen to characterize the company she keeps.