The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). This past week, the Pathfinders studied the judge Samson and discovered that this certainly proved to be true in his life. Time after time, Samson chose poorly when it came to who and what he allowed to hold influence over him. The emphasis is on “allowed.” However, he not only allowed it but actually sought out the company of his enemies. As most may already know, Samson’s life ended tragically as a direct result of his bad choices. It is easy for us to look at Samson and wonder at his arrogance and, dare I say it, his foolishness, but if we are completely honest with ourselves we may find that we are more like him than we care to admit. While we have not been called as a “one-man army” fighting against Philistines, we have been called to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and not to conform to the world (Romans 12:2). Perhaps we should take a closer look at our own lives to see what we allow to have influence over us.
The youth in the Pathfinders’ group discussed how their friends often exert a lot of influence over how they act and think. Some described examples they have personally witnessed such as someone beginning to drink or use drugs because their friends were substance abusers. The main point in all their stories is that instead of the person maintaining their level of integrity, he or she eventually begins to exhibit signs of degeneration which is defined as “a lowering of effective power, vitality, or essential quality to an enfeebled and worsened kind or state.”1 All of us have been hardwired to crave acceptance, regardless of age. This desire to be accepted is the driving force behind peer pressure. In my own life, I have often felt the tug to “fit in” by behaving in ways I knew were not pleasing to God, and I suspect most reading this blog have also. Additionally, in past youth group Bible studies, we addressed how certain forms of entertainment also influences us in negative ways.
So, how do we avoid the negative influence of the world without becoming a hermit? Perhaps we can start by a bit of introspection. We all have weaknesses. Some of us may gravitate toward hedonism, pride, greed, or even idolatry as we place more value on what some celebrity thinks than on what the Lord thinks. Basically, anything that causes us to act or think differently than how God would have us act or think becomes a snare to us. In Exodus 23:33, God told Moses, “…they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you.” The word used for snare in Hebrew is mowqesh and is defined as bait, lure, barb, or trap.2 Scripture is warning us that anything that steals our worship from God is a noose around our necks! And any relationship, hobby, television show, or activity that means more to us than our walk with the Lord is a stumbling block that causes us to fall. Therefore, we should strive to identify our weaknesses and be vigilant to avoid anything that could potentially ensnare us—even if it means turning off the television.
1Miriam-Webster Dictionary. “Definition of Degeneration.” Miriam-webster.com. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/degeneration (accessed September 5, 2017).
2Bible Study Tools. “Mowqesh-Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon-New American Standard.” Biblestudytools.com. http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/nas/mowqesh.html (accessed September 5, 2017).