Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.
Sin is contagious, but not virtue. You transfer sickness to others, but not health. Evil friends will corrupt you; but you will not convert evil friends. This is a law of wisdom and nature. Man defaults to sin, but never to virtue. Friendship and association with evil persons teach you wicked habits and trap your soul. You are the company you keep.
This proverb is connected to the one before it, which condemns friendship with angry men and association with furious men (Pr 22:24). Anger and fury are marks of folly, which reveal the wicked character of men who cannot rule their spirits (Pr 14:17; 16:32; Eccl 7:9; Jas 1:19-20). Godly men will steer a wide course away from such men.
Angry and furious men seldom have friends. They are resented, even by natural men. But friendship overlooks or excuses the error you once despised. Love is blind! The sin will then infect your conduct. You first make excuses, then become numb, and before long overreact with him, then like him! Your depraved soul can now fuel this new sinful habit.
One of Solomon’s key lessons for growing in wisdom is to avoid ungodly and wicked men (Pr 1:10-19; 4:14-17; 9:6; 13:20; 19:27). See the comments on Proverbs 13:20. His father David had taught this rule before (Ps 1:1; 26:4-5; 101:3-8; 119:63). Even rulers, with great character and authority, must avoid bad influence by evil counselors (Pr 25:5).
This lesson has been observed by prudent men throughout their lives. Unprincipled friends destroy the integrity of the righteous. Saints learn a carnal approach to life, and they trap their souls with the pressure to compromise from friends. Israel did not destroy all the pagan nations of Canaan, and it cost them dearly this very way (Ps 106:34-40).
Consider Solomon and his marriages. He made affinity with Pharaoh and married his daughter (I Kgs 3:1). And though this man was blessed with great wisdom and wrote this book and the next two books of the Bible, the evil women in his life corrupted his wisdom and ruined his soul (I Kgs 11:1-11; Eccl 7:26-29).
Marriage must be only in the Lord (I Cor 7:39; 11:11). Believers must marry believers, and these believers must both be sold-out, on-fire, totally-committed disciples of Jesus Christ as measured by Scripture. God once destroyed the earth with the Flood for the sons of God marrying the daughters of the world (Gen 6:1-3).
Paul warned, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (I Cor 15:33). Why the warning of deception? Your deceitful heart will say that you can still hold fast to your convictions with a less than perfect friend. But you cannot, and you will not. You are trying to protect foolish infatuation. Forsake the foolish, and live (Pr 9:6).
Most nations are now obsessed with ecumenical fellowship between many denominations and doctrinal beliefs, all of which are an abomination to God. It does not matter what 15,000 pagans singing “Amazing Grace” sounds like. God condemns such associations. If a man or angel does not worship according to Paul’s gospel, reject him (Gal 1:6-9). The Lord will do so very soon, so you might as well get the first lick in (I Cor 16:22).
Parents have a grave responsibility to protect their children from evil companions. They must screen their friends and eliminate any that would not pull and push their character and conduct higher. Equal friends are of no value. If many parents practiced this rule, fools would have no friends, which is safe and appropriate justice for them.
Do you want a friend who will only teach you the way of righteousness and holiness? Let the Lord Jesus Christ in for fellowship (Rev 3:20). He will provide sweet relief, constant comfort, and wise encouragement for your soul. And He will never leave or forsake you!