Equally yoked

20 Walk with the wise and become wise,
   for a companion of fools suffers harm.
(Proverbs 13:20)

There is much to be said about the wisdom we exhibit in the company we keep.  Companions are often the first line of defense against stumbling when we are not paying attention to our journey - they can also be the first line of affording the opportunity to stumble!  Mom always used to tell me to choose my friends wisely.  At the time, I really never knew the purpose of that statement - but looking back at some of the choices I've made, I see the wisdom in her words.  

Our passage today reveals two truths:
  • Those we associate with influence us - good or bad, they influence us.  There is much that brings influence into our lives, but there are times when we turn to the influence of a trusted friend, a faithful companion, quicker than we turn to anything or anyone else.  Therefore, choosing who we allow into our lives determines the influence we allow.  Influence is simply the effect of one person on another.  If you examine the meaning of this word further, you will find that there is a definition that describes the power to "sway" the other in one direction or another.  Effect can be good or bad; sway can be toward the best, or toward the worst.  Influence, then, is a key factor in the choice of traveling companions we align with in our lives.
  • There is an advantage to being yoked with someone going the same direction - there is nothing as effective as the words, comfort, intentions, and insight of another who is walking the same path as you are.  In the days when we relied upon a team of oxen to pull a cart, the farmers always paired the oxen so that there was not one stubborn one constantly pulling against the work of the other.  He wanted them to pull together, because the strength to work to their capacity was realized in being "equally yoked".  If one pulled against the other, their strength was diminished and their work was ineffective.  The effectiveness of our walk is directly impacted by those we "yoke" with in the day-to-day work of life.
Our passage reminds us that when we walk with the wise (equally yoked), we become wise.  This can be a simple as aligning yourself with someone who has more experience doing what it is that you want to accomplish - like someone who has already invested well assisting you in learning how to invest your finances for your future.  Yet, we sometimes are too afraid, or unwilling, to align with those who will afford us the opportunity to grow where we most need to grow.  We are like the oxen too stubborn to be "yoked" with another who might steer our course correctly.

Sometimes it is good to take inventory of who we are surrounded by in our lives.  If we find we are always gravitating toward others with exactly the same experiences, at the same level of spiritual maturity, etc., we seldom are challenged to grow.  If we wisely choose one or two that have differing experiences, who are growing in areas where we most need to grow, there is wisdom in that choice!  We need each other - not so that we won't be lonely along this journey - but because we need to grow in the journey.  Yep, we need to become wise, but the first step to "becoming" wise is to make the "right" choice in our companions!

Who is your traveling companion through life in this season of your life?  Today's companion may differ from those of years gone by, and there will likely be others as you journey on.  Take inventory of those traveling with you today.  Are they challenging you where you need challenge?  Are they enabling you in ways that bring growth, or are they pulling you down?  If they are not enabling your growth, it may be the greatest sign of wisdom to choose another who will!


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