Proverbs 13:20

ESV Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
NIV Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.
NASB One who walks with wise people will be wise, But a companion of fools will suffer harm.
CSB The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.
NLT Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.
KJV He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.

What does Proverbs 13:20 mean?

This is an often-cited biblical proverb, for good reason. It is extremely important to choose one's friends wisely. The people we choose to associate with will influence our decisions and our outlook on life. Their choices can affect our lives. Many sad stories involve those who were "caught in" or "caught in the middle of" violence and crime committed by their so-called friends.

Caution with friendship is especially critical when considering how the book of Proverbs defines terms like "wisdom" and "foolishness." A "wise" person seeks God and godly knowledge (Proverbs 1:7; 8:33–36). A "fool" is the one who rejects God and pursues his own path (Proverbs 9:7–12; 12:15). Choosing to associate with wise people causes a person to become wise. However, whoever chooses the companionship of fools harms himself. That harm can certainly be earthly (Proverbs 10:27), but it also can be eternal (Proverbs 11:7).

In Psalm 119:63 David testifies that he made a good choice. He writes: "I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts." Peer pressure is strong, and its influence can be either good or bad. Godly friends exert a positive pressure on one another to be godly, but ungodly friends exert a negative pressure on one another to do wrong. Exodus 23:2 commands: "You shall not fall in with the many to do evil." The Jewish council that arraigned Peter and John knew they were common, uneducated men, but Peter and John's testimony astonished the council. The council recognized that Peter and John had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). Being in the company of Jesus had given the apostles amazing wisdom and courage.
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