Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.
Friends will make or break you. If you choose worldly friends, they will pull you down. If you allow unnecessary worldly relations, you will not be wise or righteous before God.
Solomon warned his son with advice his father David gave him (Pr 4:1-9). God recorded this priceless wisdom of two kings for you. The proverb above follows this warning, “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men” (Pr 4:14).
Worldly friends will corrupt you, so stay far away from them. You must not even get near them. The proverb says about the path or way of worldly men, “Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away” (Pr 4:15). Reject worldly men except for necessary uses.
Can you see and hear the warning? He repeated it four ways. The lifestyle of the wicked must be strictly avoided (Pr 4:14). Do not follow them. Do not learn their habits. Do not befriend them. Reject their society. Go instead in wise and right paths (Pr 4:11-13).
Good parents worry about peer pressure facing their children, and it was no different for Solomon. He told his son to walk in the way of wisdom and in right paths (Pr 4:11-13), and he warned him against the path of the wicked and the way of evil men (Pr 4:14-15).
Many excuse their sin by saying, “But everyone is doing it!” Wisdom answers back, “That proves it is wrong!” This sinful world is wicked (I Jn 2:15-17; 5:19). Jesus said things highly esteemed by this world are an abomination to God (Luke 16:15). And to follow a crowd into sin and moral compromise is specifically condemned (Ex 23:2).
Consider the choice of words by God and Solomon for this simple proverb. To “avoid it” is to keep clear of it or away from it, to have nothing to do with it, to shun it. To “pass not by it” is to keep a safe distance, to not approach it, to choose a way in another direction.
To “turn from it” is to change direction when you realize you are near it, to quit and get away from it. To “pass away” is to keep moving away, to put distance between you and it. These inspired words teach how you must reject the lifestyle and ideas of wicked men.
Jesus told His followers to enter the strait gate and walk in the narrow way (Matt 7:13-14). As a straitjacket is restrictive, tight, and difficult to remove, so the way of wisdom is restrictive, tight, and difficult. The few that desire it must press in by violent repentance and transformation of their lives (Matt 11:12; Luke 16:16; Rom 12:1-2; II Cor 5:17).
Jesus told His followers to avoid the wide gate and broad way that leads the world down to destruction and hell. Though inviting and popular, easy and comfortable, God’s true saints will not even get near wicked things (II Cor 6:14-17). They choose righteousness, truth, and wisdom at every opportunity and friends from among those that do the same.
David wrote that a man blessed by God, a truly godly man, will not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of the scornful (Ps 1:1). He will not have anything to do with them. He despises their thoughts and their lives. David made this choice in his own life and detailed the kinds of men he rejected (Ps 101:3-8).
Godly men know that friendship with this world is to be God’s enemy, because this world is His enemy (Jas 4:4). The Bible often compares friendship with this world as adultery, fornication, or whoring against God, for you are flirting with or loving God’s enemy. There is a huge difference and opposition between godly men and the world (Pr 29:27).
Ancient and strong enmity exists between the wicked and righteous. It was there in the beginning; it will be there in the end. The righteous hate the wicked; the wicked hate the righteous. They are contrary one to the other, and they shall never make peace. No less than the enmity between God and Satan is the hatred between the just and the wicked.
The righteous hate the wicked, for they cannot stand the vile spirit and actions of the wicked; their hatred is of evil men and their evil actions. But the wicked hate the righteous for their good deeds; their hatred is of good men and good actions. The conflict is between good and evil, God and Satan, holiness and wickedness, saints and sinners.
You are vulnerable to the opinions and influence of others. Paul said, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (I Cor 15:33). You may think you can resist the world’s lifestyle or philosophy, but you cannot! You have to get away from them. You must hate their folly and friendships alike. Go in the other direction. Save yourself!
Solomon also wrote, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Pr 13:20). This is simple but crucial wisdom. Will you avoid foolish and wicked persons with all your might and wit? He also wrote, “Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge” (Pr 19:27).
If you truly desire to be wise and walk with God in this world, you must choose the way of righteousness and limit your friends to those who also fear God by their actions (Ps 119:63). You may have few friends here, but you are united to a great company of angels and just men waiting with Jesus for you in heaven (Heb 12:22-24). Believe it! Rejoice!
Where are you compromising the wisdom of this proverb? Where are you running the great risk of being taken down into the world’s cesspool of folly and sin? Is it at work? At school? In the neighborhood? At a worldly church? In the television you watch? The music you choose? The materials you read? The places you shop? Examine your life.
Some excuse their worldly friends by saying they would not have any friends if they waited for righteous and wise friends. Wisdom answers that no friends would be better! At least with no friends, the truth, wisdom, and righteousness God has taught you will be safe. Noah, Joseph, Elijah, Daniel, and others have had few friends and prospered greatly.
But there are godly and wise friends with whom you can have wonderful times of fellowship around the greatest things in the universe. They are found in the true churches of Jesus Christ, small congregations of sincere souls scattered throughout the world. Being a doorkeeper with them is better than any worldly position or friends (Ps 84:10).