Having discussed the book of Psalms in the previous article, let’s start in the first verse of the first Psalm:
Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
Psalms 1:1 NIV
If we’ve heard lessons or sermons on the Beatitudes (teachings of Jesus, recorded in Matthew 5:3-12), we may appreciate what it means to be “blessed” (or “bless-ED”, depending on where you’re from). We might think of this as “happy” or as receiving gifts from God. We can learn more about how this person is blessed in verse 3.
First, though, let’s consider who is blessed here. There are two parts of this explanation: what not to do and what to do. However, rather than just giving us a list of what the blessed person (who we hopefully want to be like) does, I see an element of who the blessed person associates with.
Specifically, the blessed person here does not behave like or associate with “the wicked”, “sinners”, or “mockers”. Rather than a list of “do this; don’t do that”, the bad behavior of these (presumably non-blessed) kinds of bad company is known well enough.
Do you remember The Muppet Show? Two of my favorite characters in that show were Statler and Waldorf, the two old curmudgeons who sat in the box seats at the theater, and rained down insults on the show. As part of the theme song, they would sing:
“Why do we always come here?
I guess we’ll never know.
It’s like a kind of torture
To have to watch the show!”
When I think of sitting in the seat of scoffers (per the NASB) or mockers, that’s kind of what I imagine. Whether it’s a bench at the mall, a table in the high school lunchroom, or a keyboard with an open social media page, mockers and scoffers sometimes let the people that they are going to insult come to them, without putting forth a lot of effort (except to insult passers-by).
On multiple occasions, our pastors have said, “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you what your life will be like in 5 years”. Good friends can help us grow, inspire us to get rid of our bad habits, and hold us accountable. Bad company, like 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “…corrupts good character.” In fact, the NIV footnote indicates that this saying from 1 Corinthians actually comes from a Greek poet: even philosophers in the non-Christian world can figure out this pattern.
If you think back to some of the dumb things that you’ve done in our life – don’t worry, I have had my share, too – how many of there were choices made when a group got together and someone had a bad idea, but rather than correcting them, the others in the group encouraged the bad idea and went along with it? We might refer to a “mob mentality”, but it’s all too easy to get caught up in the raging current of bad behavior if we spend time in the “river” of these kinds of people.
I wonder if we really think about the quality of our friends as much as we should, these days. In some seasons of our life (like Middle School, or a pandemic), we might look for friends wherever we can find them, just to help mitigate our loneliness. Social media users try to attract “friends” or “likes”, just to feel better about themselves or what they have posted.
However, just because someone is willing to be our friend doesn’t mean that we should let them get too close, or become too vulnerable with them. Not everyone seeking to befriend us has a character that is worthy of us trying to emulate (whether we want to have them like us, or we want to make them happy, or we just want to fit in).
No, we should be careful about who we let into our lives. Now, we can’t reach out to others with the love of Jesus if we live in a “bubble” that is filled only with others who think like us. However, there is a difference between those who we keep close to ourselves (to whom we reveal the details of our heart), and lost people who we care about and spend time with, in order to help them find something better in Jesus Christ.
Said another way, you may have acquaintances who are wicked, sinners, or mockers – after all, everyone needs Jesus Christ – but if we want to be blessed (and who doesn’t?), we must not walk in the paths that they walk. That’s something for each of us to think about – and act upon – today.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for October 2, 2022
- The Lookout, October 2, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.
- The College Press NIV Commentary, Psalms, Volume 1, S. Edward Tesh and Walter D. Zorn, © 1999, College Press Publishing Co., Joplin, MO.