There once was a young woman who was being shown around a large coal-mining camp in West Virginia along with a group of businesspeople. All the others on the tour were dressed in jeans and work shirts, while she wore a sparkling white dress.
As the group prepared to enter the rickety old elevator that would take them down a shaft into the underground coal mine, their guide paused and looked at the woman in the white dress.
"Are you sure you want to go down to the mines, ma'am?" he asked her.
The woman looked slightly offended. "Well, why not?"
The man cleared his throat nervously. "You're wearing a white dress," he said.
"Anyone can see that," the woman answered. "There's nothing to prevent me from wearing a white dress into a coal mine if I want to."
The man nodded and shrugged. "Yes, ma'am," he said as he closed the door to the elevator behind her and the others. "But there's plenty to keep you from wearing a white dress out of a coal mine."
That man knew that no matter how white her dress was when she went into the coal mine, it wouldn't be white when she came out. Coal mines tend to rub off on a person, and that's not just true of coal mines. It's also true of other things like habits.
If you're like most kids, you have friends who don't always make right choices. You may even have some friends who almost never make right choices. And you may feel like that woman: "There's nothing to prevent me from hanging around with that person if I want to."
And you may be right. There may be nothing wrong with hanging around with that person. After all, you should love everyone, even those who often make wrong choices. But remember, habits-like coal dust-tend to rub off on a person. You may enter such a friendship wearing "a white garment" of pure thoughts and good intentions. But your outfit may not stay "white."
The Bible says you're much better off if you do not "walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners" (Psalm 1:1, NIV). That doesn't mean you should be rude or unkind to friends who seem to make a lot of wrong choices. It simply means that you should stay away from coal mines and bad influences. Why? Because both tend to rub off.
REFLECT: Do you have any friends who seem to make a lot of wrong choices? Do you think there's a risk that some of those friends' habits might "rub off" on you? If not, why not? Is there anything you can do to limit their influence on you?
PRAY: "Father, I want to be like the person described in Psalm 1, who doesn't let others influence him to do wrong. Please help me to delight in your law and stay away from people who might have a bad influence on me."