We read in 1 Corinthians 15:33,
Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’ (NET)
As human beings, we enjoy having other people around us. Very often though, people find themselves spending time with bad people. They may have many different reasons for spending time with these people. “They make me laugh.” “There is no one else around to have fun with.” “I have nothing better to do.” These are all very poor reasons to spend time with bad people.
Some may have “good” reasons, though. “How can I have a good influence on them if I do not spend time with them and do the things they do?” “Didn’t Jesus eat with sinners?” “My light will shine brightest around darkness.”
These are all fairly good reasons on the surface. But before we address them, I would like to give you a warning. There was a godly man, raised by a godly father. He was blessed with the most wisdom of any man. He built a magnificent temple for God. And then in his older years, he built temples for idols! What happened to him? Solomon chose the wrong companions - specifically his wives. They turned his heart away from God. If it could happen to Solomon, it can happen to you too. Do not be deceived!
So, you want to appeal to Jesus’ example in eating with sinners. Wonderful. Let us examine what He did. How did Jesus keep from being corrupted by the sinners he was spending time with?
First of all, we know that Jesus ate with sinners. That was a favorite item for the Pharisees to look down on Him for. But why was He eating with sinners? He was busy teaching them. He was not having fun with them. Do you remember how He replied to the Pharisees? In Matthew 9:12, Jesus says,
Those who are healthy don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do. (NET)
He was spending His time trying to help these people repent! He did not soften His sense of morality when He was around these people. They knew that He expected better things from them than what they were currently doing. He was telling the to repent. For them to spend time with Him, they had to be the kind of sinners who really wanted to change.
How did Jesus influence these people? He set a perfect example of someone who knows what life is really about. Others wanted the kind of relationship with God that He had. Those sinners who wanted to change were drawn to Him. He never softened His teaching to keep from offending these people. He told it like it was.
Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!
Now, look for a minute at the context of 1 Corinthians 15:33. What bad company is Paul talking about? He has been talking about the resurrection and that there are some who say that there is no resurrection. He says that these false teachers are bad company who will corrupt your morals! Why is that? Doctrine has moral implications. What I mean is this - if you say that there is no resurrection, then you will not be worried about a judgement. Anything goes! Enjoy life because that is all there is. Even spending time with people who teach false doctrine will corrupt you.
But Jesus spent time with the Pharisees! Again, why did Jesus do that? Was He enjoying their company? He was busy teaching them. He was telling them what hypocrites they were. He was telling them to repent. They hated Him so much, they killed Him for it. Is that how you spend your time with false teachers?
In reality, we have to be around evil people much of the time. In 1 Corinthians 5:9-10, Paul acknowledges that fact.
I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. In no way did I mean the immoral people of this world, or the greedy and swindlers and idolaters, since you would then have to go out of the world. (NET)
He says that to keep away from the immoral people in this world, we would have to leave the world. They are everywhere. Notice that he does not say here that we have to make them our close companions - we just have to be associated with them because they are everywhere. But how do we keep from being corrupted when we are around these bad people?
Paul gives Timothy advice in 1 Timothy 6:10-11.
For the love of money is the root of all evils. Some people in reaching for it have strayed from the faith and stabbed themselves with many pains. But you, as a person dedicated to God, keep away from all that. Instead pursue righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness. (NET)
Many people in this world love money. That is an attitude that can quickly rub off on the Christian when he is around those people very often. So Paul tells Timothy how to keep away from it. He tells him to fill his mind and life with good things - righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness. If you fill your mind and life with these things, you will not have time for the love of money or any other sinful influence that is around you. In 2 Timothy 2:22, Paul gives him very similar advice.
But keep away from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faithfulness, love, and peace, in company with others who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (NET)
Here Paul is talking about youthful passions instead of the love of money, but he gives him the same advice. Fill your mind and life with the good things so that you will not have time for the rest. But notice the last part of the verse. Who are we to be keeping as company? Other people who call on the Lord from a pure heart. We must make sure that we spend as much time as we can with other Christians. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that other people are more fun than your brethren. While that might be true, you are deceiving yourself if you think you can spend time with bad people and not be corrupted. Fill your life with good things and good people.
Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good morals.