A photograph capturing a torn Bible, lying open on a table, surrounded by dark, shadowy figures symbolizing bad company, serving as a visual representation of the Bible's warning against associating with negative influences.

What Does The Bible Say About Bad Company?

The company we keep can have a profound impact on our lives. As the old saying goes, ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ This is a truth that is emphasized throughout the Bible.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Bible repeatedly warns believers to avoid association with wicked, immoral, and ungodly people, as spending time with fools, mockers, and the wicked can lead a righteous person astray and into sin.

In this comprehensive article, we will examine several key Bible passages that discuss bad company and associations. We’ll look at warnings to avoid wicked companions as well as advice for how to choose righteous, wise, and edifying friendships.

Let’s explore what God’s Word says about the influence of relationships and the importance of walking with the wise rather than with fools.

Old Testament Warnings Against Bad Company

Proverbs 13:20 – The Company of Fools

Proverbs 13:20 warns that “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” This profound verse teaches us that the company we keep can profoundly influence our lives, for better or for worse.

If we associate with wise and righteous people, their example can rub off on us and help us grow in wisdom. But spending time with fools, mockers, and the wicked can drag us down morally and spiritually, as we are more likely to follow their poor example.

The stakes are high – our very character and reputation are at risk if we join with the wrong crowd. As 1 Corinthians 15:33 similarly warns, “Bad company ruins good morals.”

Psalm 1:1-2 – Avoiding the Path of Sinners

Psalm 1:1-2 provides this advice: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

Here the psalmist warns against even going near the gatherings of those engaged in evil activities. The imagery suggests that we should avoid being influenced by the ungodly, not even setting foot on their sinful path.

The antidote is to delight in God’s law, mediating on it and letting it shape our character.

Proverbs 22:24-25 – The Hot-Tempered

Proverbs 22:24-25 cautions, “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.” Here Scripture warns against close associations with those prone to anger and fits of rage.

Their bad temper and lack of self-control is likely to rub off on us if we join our lives to theirs. We could get caught in the crossfire when they eventually provoke someone stronger than themselves. This wise advice urges us to be very selective in choosing our close friends.

New Testament Warnings Against Bad Company

1 Corinthians 15:33 – Do Not Be Deceived

The apostle Paul cautioned the Corinthian church about keeping bad company and its corruptive effects in 1 Corinthians 15:33, warning: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.'” This reminds believers to exercise wisdom and discernment regarding their friends and associates, as spending time with unwise companions will negatively impact their own conduct and character.

2 Corinthians 6:14 – Light and Darkness

Paul gave similar advice to the Corinthian church in his second letter, stating in 2 Corinthians 6:14: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”

The analogy of not being “yoked” speaks of avoiding close alignment and associations with nonbelievers, as their ungodly influence can pull believers into spiritual compromise.

Ephesians 5:11 – Expose the Fruitless Deeds of Darkness

The apostle Paul instructed the Ephesian church about dealing with bad company, saying in Ephesians 5:11: “Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Rather than participating in sinful behaviors, believers are called to bring these deeds into the light through wise rebuke.

The emphasis is on limiting associations with evildoers to avoid partaking in their unfruitful works.

Choosing Righteous Companions

Proverbs 13:20 – Walk with the Wise

The book of Proverbs offers much wisdom on choosing friends wisely. Proverbs 13:20 states: “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” This verse encourages believers to pursue friendships with those who are wise and godly, rather than foolish or wicked people.

Being influenced by others is inevitable. If we surround ourselves with wise people who make good decisions and have integrity, some of their noble qualities are likely to rub off on us. On the other hand, spending time with those who lie, cheat, or frequently get into trouble can negatively impact our own behavior and character.

Proverbs 27:17 – Iron Sharpens Iron

Another relevant proverb is Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” This conveys the mutual benefit of encouraging friendships. When two people who share godly values and a desire to grow in faith spend time together, they can positively influence each other.

For example, by studying the Bible together, praying together, or serving others together, friends can spur one another on towards deeper spiritual maturity and wisdom. The metaphor of iron sharpening iron emphasizes that the most growth often happens through relationship, dialogue, and mutual accountability.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 – Two Are Better Than One

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 also highlights the value of godly companionship: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.

But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up… A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

This passage focuses on the practical and emotional support friends can provide for one another. It is a great blessing to have people to lean on during hard times. Spiritual friendships give us partners to serve God alongside, offer encouragement when we struggle, and provide counsel when we need guidance.

According to a 2022 Barna study, 84% of practicing Christians say their friends encourage their faith. Clearly, the company we keep impacts our spiritual health.

Jesus as Our Model for Relationships

Jesus Spends Time with Sinners

Jesus was well-known for spending time with people considered “sinners” by the religious elite of his day, such as tax collectors, prostitutes, and others living on society’s margins. Though looked down upon by some, Jesus extended compassion and demonstrated God’s grace and love for all by fellowshipping with people from all walks of life (Luke 5:29-32).

His example shows that we should be open-minded and avoid being judgmental when building relationships.

Jesus Chooses His Disciples Carefully

When selecting his 12 closest disciples, Jesus exercised care and wisdom, purposefully choosing a small group of followers who he invested substantial time and effort into teaching and training to carry on his mission after he was gone.

Though Jesus socialized with all kinds of people for outreach purposes, he was selective regarding who his closest confidants were, implying we too should carefully choose our inner circle of friends, seeking out trustworthy individuals who will strengthen our walk with God rather than lead us astray (Mark 3:13-19).

Jesus Warns Against Causing Others to Stumble

Jesus gave stern warnings about causing others to stumble morally, spiritually, or operationally. He taught that if aspects of our conduct or relationships lead others towards sinful behaviors or weaken their faith, it would be better to remove those influences from our lives altogether, even if they seem beneficial to us personally.

This requires selflessness and a willingness to surrender personal freedoms out of care for others’ well-being (Matthew 18:6-9). Jesus wants relationships that build people up in Him.


As we have seen, the Bible has much to say about the power of influence, both good and bad. God desires for His people to pursue righteousness, shun wickedness, and walk with the wise. He knows how greatly our relationships and associations can impact the direction of our lives.

By examining Scripture, we gain wisdom for how to choose edifying friendships and how to avoid corrupting entanglements with fools and mockers. May we be discerning in our relationships, open to friendships that will strengthen our walk with God, and closed to associations that would lead us astray into sin and darkness.

The company we keep plays a key role in our spiritual growth and direction. Let us heed God’s warnings against bad company, follow Christ’s example of compassionately ministering to lost sinners while avoiding partnerships with darkness, and walk closely with other believers who can encourage us in pursuing righteousness by God’s grace.

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