At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: But a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”Proverbs 13:20
In the biblical framework, both wisdom and folly are contagious. This proverb concerns the bystanders, the companions, the associates.
A true proverb could say that the wise will remain wise, and that fools will be destroyed, and that would be true enough. But this proverb is not directly about the wise themselves, or about the fools themselves. It is about those who hang out with them.
The proverb says that those who associate with wise people will themselves become wise. And it says that companions of fools will at some point share the destination of all fools, which is destruction. The implication is that the companion of fools will become a fool, and then what happens to all fools will obviously happen to him.
We learn by imitation. This is why we have regional accents, and it is also why some adults have an absolute knack for wise child-rearing, even though they never read a book on it, and certainly couldn’t write a book on it. If they had wise parents, they saw, up close and personal, how they were taught, corrected, and so forth. If they were privileged to have brothers and sisters, they had a front row seat there as well. They walked with the wise and became wise.
Homes that are in a constant state of foolish disarray are homes that instruct the inhabitants how to live in foolish disarray. The end is unhappy disaster.
My father was converted while at the Naval Academy, and at some point he realized that he had no examples to look up to, and yet Scripture taught that we learn important lessons through imitation. This is when he decided that he would start reading missionary biographies. The authority of a good example need not be limited to someone who is still alive.