Post by Dr. Mark E. Shaw (with Mary Shaw)

Bad company

When you hear the term, “Bad Company,” are you flashing back to the band and the 80’s song? (Paul Rodgers) [1]
Or are you thinking about the Western by the same title?
Whatever you might be thinking of, let’s push those aside for now and consider, what does God say about bad company?
1 Corinthians 15:33 states,
“Do not be deceived; bad company ruins good morals.” (ESV) [2]
And Proverbs 23:19-21 says,
“Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way. Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.” (ESV) [2]
The instruction and warning to “not be deceived” can be said in another way, “Do not trick yourself.” We are so easily deceived by our own selves! That’s why God is warning us. Bad company does ruin good morals.
Perhaps the musical band named themselves based on this verse of scripture in 1 Corinthians 15:33, we will probably never know for sure.
But this truth remains: when you are around people, your thinking and belief system will be influenced.

The company we keep

In all kinds of addiction counseling (secular, psychological, and medical) this idea of community and connection to people is becoming increasingly popularized and taught.
And in twelve step groups it has been said that we have to change our playground and our playmates.
I’m not surprised that these sayings, which are only a few decades old, are popular because God’s Word said it long before any of those entities discovered these bits of wisdom. And not just decades ago, not just centuries ago, but thousands of years before twelve steps and self help groups, God’s Word said it so much better.
For those of you who are still struggling with some kind of addiction, you may not have realized that community has been your most often underutilized source of help.
The question is:
Which community are you choosing to surround yourself with?
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) will tell you that any higher power will do, but that is not true. Only Jesus Christ will lead you to the One True God.
In John 14:6, Jesus says,
‘”I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'”


  • Our beliefs…
  • The choices we make…
  • The desires we have…
…all stem from our belief system.

What do you believe about God?

You may not even realize some of the beliefs you have upon which your desires are based. Until someone begins to ask you questions like, What does God think of you? Where is God right now? you might not even realize where your feelings toward Him are being cultivated.
If you believe God is evil and doesn’t love you, but hates you, that is certainly going to shape what you do next. Those lies about God in your thoughts are shaping every action you take.
When you believe that He doesn’t want good for you, you will live your life in a way that reflects those beliefs about God. You will struggle. Life will be hard for you.
I want you to know God as He has revealed Himself to us through Jesus Christ and the Word of God. This is where you will have stability and wise living… when you have truth upon which to base your decisions and desires.
What do you believe about God? How do you know who He is and what His character is like?
In order to “be transformed” from addiction (or what is commonly understood as “being recovered from addiction,” or “in recovery”) the power of your belief system is vital. If you are trying to “beat an addiction” as they say, you need to find the people to be around who are going to point you to God and His Word.
Not man’s best ideas.
Not the Big Book which is just stories.
I’m pointing you to another book that is without error or bias. You may have heard it referred to as the Good Book.
I’m referring to the Bible.
The Holy Bible,
the Word of God,
the Scriptures which are the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Today, in this post specifically, I’m pointing you to the truth of the book of Proverbs, which is a divinely inspired collection of wise sayings in the Bible. The Proverbs were written to young men as its primary audience (Not to say that women cannot find wisdom in it, of course).
The Proverbs are not to be read as promises from God or as predictions from God. They are to be read as they were intended: as principles for living wisely.
Being wise is not just having a lot of knowledge. Wisdom is the “doing” of God’s Word. I want to emphasize the ACTION part of living life wisely.
Everyone today wants knowledge about diseases, and about Mars, and about ourselves. More and more knowledge! The endless pursuit.
We really need to emphasize the ACTION part of knowledge… applying what we know to be true into action.

The fountain of our belief system

Verse 19 of this 23rd Proverb in the Bible tells us to direct our hearts.
But how?
Our desires bubble out of the fountain of our belief system.
The pressure that pushes the water out is our belief system.
You will follow what you desire.
But YOU are responsible for directing your heart in the right way.
You have to start reading and studying the Word of God and change what you believe based upon the truths that God tells us.
You need an instructor to help you: God’s Holy Spirit is the perfect instructor, the only One who can illuminate your understanding, and He uses other people to teach us the Word of God more accurately.

The end result of drunkenness and gluttony

In verse 20, God tells us clearly:
“Don’t be among drunkards and gluttonous eaters of meat”
We should not hang around those who are excessive in their pleasure-seeking, who are led by their passions and desires instead of directing their hearts.
God reveals to us 2 things:
  1. Who we are
  2. Who He is
Excessive eaters and drinkers will be lazy, tired, unproductive, and so much so that these things characterize them… a very sad picture indeed. You will see them wearing slumber, fatigue, laziness.. wearing them like garments that have been worn out.
When something doesn’t satisfy, you will become worn out and you will come to despair. That’s the end of this pursuit. God is loving us (by warning us!) from going down this path. Don’t mistake his loving warning of wisdom for hatred. He doesn’t hate you. He loves you.

Who is your community?

I cannot overstate the importance of getting involved in a community who encourages us to be in God’s Word and serve other people. We need that community. The size of your local church congregation doesn’t matter. You can go to a small church and still miss out on the local church fellowship if you are not participating in a small group community. Small groups are where the large church becomes real, and living life becomes community that is meaningful.
The twelve step groups are doing it right; they know the value of community and fellowship.
But the local church has an opportunity to provide the best form of community. Why is it the best? Because Christ followers build community upon the foundation of the Word of God and and a right relationship with Jesus Christ. .

I challenge you to get back into church community

We need people in our lives who point us to God’s Word. We need people who:
  • Correct us when we need correcting
  • Encourage us when we need encouraging
Small groups are where that is found within the local church body. By local, I mean in-person, not social media or internet. Don’t settle for substitutes for real community because you are afraid the local church near you isn’t perfect. No local church is perfect.
Also don’t settle for “The Unchurch” version of church which is self help or twelve step groups.
Not any God will do, only Jesus Christ will do.
Not any community will do, only the local body of believers who follow Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God will point you to ultimate truth of eternal significance. Your source of truth matters. And your beliefs are constantly being shaped and formed by the company you keep.

The community you choose affects your daily actions

Let’s end where we started: with the Word of God.
1 Corinthians 15:33
“Do not be deceived; bad company ruins good morals.” (ESV)
Proverbs 23:19-21
“Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way. Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.” (ESV)
[2] All Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

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