My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. (Proverbs 1:10, ESV)
You will be lured by bad people to go along with things you know are wrong. We’ll call this peer pressure, though it can come from anyone, not just your peers.
In Proverbs 1:8-19 we’ll see:
- How to spot peer pressure
- What to do about it
How to Spot Peer Pressure
Let the following keywords act as red flags as you guard against peer pressure: hide, hurt and have.
If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason…” (1:11, ESV)
Will going along require you to lie, pretend or keep secrets? Will it hinder you from walking in the light? Will it break your fellowship with God or man?
Peer pressure lures you into hiding. When your boss pressures you to shade the true value of a product, he pressures you to deceive your customers. When your friend whispers gossip in your ear, she invites you to know something you’ll have to pretend you don’t. When a brother pressures his little sister, “Don’t tell mom and dad!” he forces her to taint her previously transparent relationship with her parents.
To press further, think of the secrecy that certain marketing pressures promote. How many advertisements do you see in a given day that invite you to indulge in secret pleasures? That titillating headline or image lures you into a world of easy sleazy procrastination, voyeurism or even brute pornography–all of which leads to hidden guilt, shame and regret. You’ll later have to pretend you don’t have those images floating in your memory, those words ringing in your ears, those minutes or even hours wasted.
5This is the message we heard from Christ and are reporting to you: God is light, and there isn’t any darkness in him. 6If we say, “We have a relationship with God” and yet live in the dark, we’re lying. We aren’t being truthful. 7But if we live in the light in the same way that God is in the light, we have a relationship with each other. And the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from every sin. (1 John 1:5-7, GWT)
11If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood;
let us ambush the innocent without reason;
12like Sheol let us swallow them alive,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit…” (1:11-12, ESV)
Will going along with this hurt anyone? Is there a victim involved? Will there be “blood?” Will anyone be ambushed?
This can be as obvious as the Muslim extremist recruiting via Twitter or the gang initiation requiring a violent crime be committed. It can be as subtle as the group of friends mocking someone for easy laughs. Victims can be swindled clients, slandered gossip subjects, deceived parents, the abused pawns of the porn industry–anyone who is hurt by the pressur-er’s schemes.
Remember, “All of Moses’ Teachings are summarized in a single statement, ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself'” (Galatians 5:14, GWT).
13we shall find all precious goods,
we shall fill our houses with plunder;
14throw in your lot among us;
we will all have one purse” (Proverbs 1:13-14)
Does going along with this promise easy profit? Will it lead to “precious goods” you didn’t earn, “plunder” rather than the fruit of your own labor?
The pyramid schemer promises big money with little effort. The cheater promises A’s without study. The flirt promises pleasure without relationship. The gossip promises knowledge without responsibility. The lottery advertisements promise winnings rather than earnings. But the wise person remembers that “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it” (Proverbs 13:11; ESV).
What to do About It
When the hide, hurt and have red flags appear, what should you do?
My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. (Proverbs 1:10, ESV)
“Do not consent” means “do not be willing,” or “do not go along.” It doesn’t mean to fight the pressure-er. It means to resist his pressure.
Peer pressure is a riptide. You can’t fight a riptide, you must escape it. Experts advise that you swim sideways until you’re safely out of the powerful current, rather than swim directly against it in a desperate attempt to defeat it and make it back to shore. When you encounter peer pressure, don’t fight it, escape it.
15my son, do not walk in the way with them;
hold back your foot from their paths… (Proverbs 1:15, ESV)
Based on verse 15, here’s your 2 step peer pressure response plan.
1. Avoid the People
“Do not walk in the way with them.” Don’t be friends with the gossip. Teach your kids to play on the opposite side of the playground, away from the mischievous kids and bullies. Move if you must to distance your children from such bad influences. Transfer out from under the crooked boss. Refrain from going to the websites with tempting headlines and images. Find a new group of friends who do not make fun of people. Get out of the appointment with the pyramid schemer. Whatever it takes, swim away from the current!
2. Avoid the Paths
“Hold back your food from their paths.” Avoid the policies and practices of your crooked coworkers. Avoid the humor of your friends who mock people. Avoid gossipy phrases like, “Don’t tell anyone you heard this from me.” Let it be known that you will not be party to gossip, underhanded business practices or any other means of deception, harm or get-rich-quickery.
Remember Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the person who does not follow the advice of wicked people, take the path of sinners, or join the company of mockers.”
16for their feet run to evil,
and they make haste to shed blood.
17For in vain is a net spread
in the sight of any bird,
18but these men lie in wait for their own blood;
they set an ambush for their own lives.
19Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain;
it takes away the life of its possessors. (1:16-19, ESV)
Remember, Proverbs is primarily pragmatic, not moral. So the reason it gives for avoiding peer pressure isn’t because it’s wrong (which it is), but because it’s foolish. Going along with peer pressure is self-destructive. Your crooked coworkers will be fired and business owners bankrupt. Bullies will be beaten. Mockers will be humiliated. Mischievous kids will be punished. Cheaters will flunk. Gang members will be shot or arrested. Gossips will become social outcasts. Peer pressure-ers ambush themselves. Join them in their practices; join them in their plight.
- Take some time to catch up.
- Read Proverbs 1:8–19 together.
- What strikes you most about this passage? Why?
- When is the last time you felt pressured to do something you knew was wrong or foolish? Share with the group.
- How would this passage have helped you navigate that situation?
- Verse 15 seems to indicate that we should avoid certain sinful people. How can we discern when we should move away from people in wisdom and toward people in love? What scriptures come to mind that might help?
- What is one practical way you plan to respond to this passage?
- Pray together.
Picture by Kevin Dooley.