Five Toxic Persons to Avoid

Wait a Sec! Who Are You to Say Christians Should Avoid Anyone?!

The title may cause some to scratch their head, or even bristle.

Is it Christian to avoid certain people? Didn’t Jesus hang out with everyone?

This reaction will spring from:

  • Apostates who substitute “unconditional acceptance” as the meaning of love, and put the second greatest commandment (love thy neighbor as thyself) in front of the first great commandmant (love God with all thy heart, mind, and strength);
  • Baby Christians who want to share the gospel and lead others to faith in Christ, but haven’t grasped why Christ said, “Give not that which is holy unto dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine.

So before identifying whom to avoid, I will show some Scriptures that prove Christians can in good conscience avoid certain persons.

  • “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” 1 Corinthians 15:33
  • “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them.” Romans 16:17
  • “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” Proverbs 13:20
  • “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed. 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deed.” 1 John 1:9-11
  • “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:4

Note well: “Avoid,” as I mean it, does not involve tasteless tactics like refusing to speak one word to someone else, or darting wildly into another aisle upon seeing a toxic person in the store. Rather, it involves looking well to your going; avoiding situations or places where toxic people while their hours away (e.g., bars, or YouTube comment sections); keeping toxic persons from becoming your close buddies.

Who are these toxic persons? Five kinds of fools:

  • the angry man
  • the sluggard (or slothful)
  • the flatterer
  • the adulterous woman
  • the babbler

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, nailed them in his book of Proverbs.

1. The Angry Man

How is this defined? One who is constantly, easily angered.

God Himself is slow to anger (Nahum 1:3, Psalm 103:8, Nehemiah 9:17). God is perfect, men are imperfect. Since the Perfect One is slow to anger, then how can we imperfect men justify haste to anger?

  • “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.” Ecclesiates 7:9
  • “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.” Prov. 14:29
  • “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” Prov. 16:32

Note: These masculine pronouns and nouns encompass both sexes. Solomon did specifically mention angry females: “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry woman.” Prov. 21:19 (Similar verses are Prov. 21:9 and Prov. 25:24.) Anyone who has endured the a brawling, angry woman’s presence will wryly appreciate this truth.

Anger is their most prominent attribute, but angry men possess secondary qualities: a brilliant wit, a golden voice, a strong physique, a wealth of factual knowledge (not the same as wisdom or maturity). These attributes attract others, and snare them in their melodramatic world.

“He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly,” Prov. 14:17a You cannot trust an angry man to deal equitably, wisely, with you or with others. “An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.” Prov. 29:22 Do you want your energy sapped, your life choked, your peace ruined, by needless conflict and drama? Be with an angry man.

Hot heads and stiff necks bridle not their tongues or tempers: they “look” for trouble. When the repercussions of their anger fall upon them, they demand bail from those foolish enough to spend time with them. A man of great wrath shall suffer punishment: for if thou deliver him, yet thou must do it again. Prov. 19:19

Prov. 22:4-5 warn us,

Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: 5 Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.

Some angry men are subtle: they cloak, or dress up, their anger. Men who seem “passionate” about a cause or causes—passionate about the rights of others—might be simply ruled by anger and pride. Thus, they would remain angry even if the “cause” about which they ostensibly care were gone. Author Theodore Dalrymple describes it as “the will to outrage”:

Outrage supposedly felt on behalf of others is extremely gratifying for more than one reason. It has the appearance of selflessness, and everyone likes to feel that he is selfless. It confers moral respectability on the desire to hate or to despise something or somebody, a desire never far from the human heart. It provides him who feels it the possibility of transcendent purpose, if he decides to work toward the elimination of the supposed cause of his outrage.

Absalom, one of David’s sons, typifies a man who pretended to be “passionate” about a cause when in reality selfish anger and bitterness were simmering within.

II Samuel 15 vv. 1-6 give an account of Absalom’s pretending to care about the rights of others. Absalom would stand in the gate and when “any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment,” then Absalom would greet him and tell him, “See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee.” (v. 3) Absalom said moreover, “Oh, that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice!”

“And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.” (II Samuel 15:6) Of course, Absalom was not interested in justice for all. (If you don’t know what finally became of him, read chapters 15-18.)

2. The Sluggard (or Slothful)

In the basic form, it is one who won’t do work: ”The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing,” Prov. 20:4 “By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.” Eccl. 10:18

Procrastination is a euphemism for laziness, and those who habitually, regularly procrastinate, are slothful.

Making ridiculous excuses for laziness is one sign of a sloth: “The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.” Prov. 22:13 “The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.” Prov. 26:13

A slothful man might say nowadays, “The weather is bad outside” to excuse his laziness.

Trying to reason to a sluggard will frustrate you: The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason. Prov. 26:16

Government bureaucrats are brothers of sloths: “He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.” Prov. 18:9

If you’ve been in a situation when you had work to do, and another person was supposed to accomplish part of the task, and he failed to deliver, you know the reality of these verses:

  • “As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him.” Prov. 10:26
  • “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.” Prov. 25:19

The New Testament has some strong words for people who do not work. See 2 Thessalonians 3:6-8 & 10-11:

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. 7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you. 10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

If any would not work, neither should he eat... Doubling down on this theme, Paul elsewhere writes that if a man “provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1 Tim. 5:8)

Wow! If a man is lazy and doesn’t provide for his family, he is worse than an unbeliever?

Yes. Jesus tells the parable of the two diligent servants and the one lazy servant in Matthew 25:14–30. The lazy servant who did not use the talent his lord gave him was condemned as “wicked and slothful,” (v. 26) and cast into “outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v. 30).

Failing to prepare for the future can be a sign of slothfulness. In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus recounts the parable of the ten virgins, five wise and five foolish, waiting for the bridegroom. The wise took extra oil for their lamps, and the foolish ones did not. When the bridegroom was coming, the foolish had no more oil, and when they went to buy oil, the bridegroom came. When the foolish virgins came back from buying oil, the lord told them, “Verily I say unto you, I know you not,” and they were not allowed.

All of us inherit Adam’s fallen nature: we would all rather take the path of least resistance. A body in inertia tends to remain inert. If you discern that another person consistently dawdles or procrastinates, that he sits around yacking the hours away, or surfing the web, or analyzing situations to death before acting on anything, avoid him. He will drag you down and make it harder for you to maintain necessities and achieve goals.

3. The Flatterer

He that speaketh flattery to his friends, even the eyes of his children shall fail. Job 17:5

Flatterers ooze with sticky, syrupy treachery. If one of your friends is a flatterer, you may not even realize that he (or she—flatterers can often be female) is one. But someone who gushes forth with compliments could easily be a dangerous, two-faced-apple, flatterer.

The best-case consequence of friendship with a flatterer is that you will have a swelled head, an inflated sense of your abilities or performance or whatever aspect it is about yourself that the flatterer exaggerates to you. You will be hindered in reaching your full potential, because the flatterer will make you think you have already reached your full potential.

That is the best-case scenario, because the worst-case scenario is that the flatterer will betray you.

  • “[T]heir throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.” Psalm 5:9c
  • “A hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbor.” Prov. 11:9a
  • “A man that flattereth his neighbor spreadeth a net for his feet.” Prov. 29:5
  • “He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him; 25 When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart. [...] 28b A flattering mouth worketh ruin.” Prov. 26:24-25 & 28b
  • “He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.” Proverbs 20:19

Psalm 12:2-3 assure us that God will take care of flatterers: “They speak vanity every one with his neighbor: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. 3 The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things.”

In contrast, “He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favor than he that flattereth with the tongue.” Proverbs 28:23

The most sinister conqueror is not he who with brute force overcomes your defenses, but he who oils his words and melts your mind and heart so that you resist not. Daniel 11:21 reads, “And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honor of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.”

The serpent in Eden used a form of flattery to convince Eve to take the fruit: he told her that their eyes would be opened; they would be like gods (Genesis 3:4-5).

The next time you hear praises lavished upon you, remember: “The simple believeth every word, but the prudent man looketh well to his going.” Prov. 14:15

4. The Adulterous Woman

Solomon outlines various traits of this toxic person in Proverbs 5:3-10. “For the lips of a strange woman drop as a honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: 4 But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as two-edged sword. 5 Her feet go down to death: her steps take hold on hell. 6 Lest thou shouldest ponder the path of life, her ways are moveable, that thou canst not know them.”

The adulterous woman, then, speaks suave, beguiling words. Her path is the path of death. (STDs, anyone?) “Her ways are moveable...” She is instable, imprudent, and unpredictable.

Verses 8–10 continue: “Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house: 9 Lest thou give thine honor unto others, and thy years unto the cruel: 10 Lest strangers be filled with thy wealth, and thy labors be in the house of a stranger; 11And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed.”

“[W]hen thy flesh and thy body are consumed...” Adulterous women spend money like water: wardrobes, casinos, cruises, plastic surgeries, cosmetics, massages. (They will not do productive work—being photographed is not labor, nor is it productive— because (1) the adulterous woman is obssessed with drawing eyes to herself and (2) Doing productive work is HARD, and can ruin your wardrobe and/or physical appearance.) Your flesh and your body can be consumed in the sense of providing funds for her fancies. But also, your flesh and your body can be consumed in the sense of contracting sexually-transmitted diseases.

Solomon describes other aspects of the adulterous woman in 6:26:

“Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids.”

“Lust not after her beauty...” An adulterous woman has physical beauty—and like all physical beauty, ’tis fleeting and temporal.

“Neither let her take thee with her eyelids.” An adulterous woman uses eyelids as weapons: she may slather them with make-up, attach fake eyelashes, curl the eyelashes, bat the eyelashes, or a combination of any of these. In this, indeed, there is nothing new under the sun. From Queen Cleopatra to Kim Kardashian, the adulterous woman’s techniques are fundamentally the same. And the responses of, and the consequences for, foolish men are fundamentally the same:

Proverbs 6:26-27 “For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adultress will hunt for the precious life. 27 Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?”

In Proverbs 7, Solomon discerned “a young man void of understanding,” who went the way to the strange woman’s house at nighttime, and “there met him a woman with the attire of a harlot, and subtle of heart.”

“Attire of an harlot...” Countless times, others have told me that it doesn’t matter how skimpy or indecent one’s clothes are; it only matters whether the wearer has the “proper attitude.” Here, according to Scripture, there is a style of (un?)dress that is objectively whorish.

“She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.”

“[L]oud and stubborn,” This brings to my mind a female I once saw sporting a handbag that shamelessly proclaimed “All-American B****.”) “Her feet abide not in her house: now is she without, now in the streets...” She is not one to cook and clean and do laundry. No sirree!

A bit later, Solomon declares: “[W]ith her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her mouth she forced him.”

It is worth noting that “she forced him,” because so many people, including those who call themselves Christians, would say most immorality is consensual and thus okay.

In verse 26, Solomon says something contradicts a prevailing opinion today: “For she has cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her.”

I have heard more often than I can count that women are the sexual victims of men. Here Solomon indicates the exact opposite can be true: men—many strong men, to be exact—have been slain by the adulterous woman.

Potiphar’s wife exemplifies an adulterous woman. We recall how Joseph, a young man of honor, was sold into slavery and his master’s wife “cast her eyes upon Joseph, and she said, Lie with me.” (Gen. 39:7) He refused. She spoke to him “day by day,” and he “hearkened not unto her to lie by her, or to be with her” (v. 10) One day, when he went into the house to do his work, no one else was present, and“she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me,” and he left his garment in her hand, and fled (vv. 12-13) She literally unclothed him in her sickening attempt to seduce! (Furious at her failure to seduce him, she used his garment in her hand as proof that he had tried to rape her.)

Proverbs elsewhere reiterates the fatal power adulterous women can wield over men. “The mouth of strange women is a deep pit: he that is abhorred of the LORD shall fall therein.” Prov. 22:14 “For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit. She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.” Prov. 23:26-27

Jesus, God the Son, defined adultery as encompassing adulterous thoughts and desires. An “adulterous woman” need not have acted upon adulterous thoughts or desires; a continuous focus to incite lust is sufficient to make a woman adulterous.

5. The Babbler

A babbler is defined here as someone who does not moderate what he says: either he talks too much, or he blurts out comments that should not be said (“You look a lot fatter than the last time I saw you”), or both.

Loose lips sink ships, the saying goes. Solomon emphasized it twice: “But a prating fool shall fall.” Prov. 10:8b & 10b

(For those who are not old-school, “prate,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means “to talk long and idly: chatter.” The Cambridge Dictionary puts it as: “to talk stupidly, or about things that are not important, for a long time.”)

“He that hath knowledge spareth his words,” we read in Prov. 17:27a. In contrast:

“[T]he mouth of the foolish is near destruction.” Prov. 10:14

“The mouth of fools poureth out foolishness,” Prov. 15:2b.

“He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.” Prov. 13:3

“Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.” Proverbs 21:23

“Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” Proverbs 17:28

“A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes. A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.” Proverbs 18:6–7

“A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.” Prov. 29:11

A babbler can also be someone who might not necessarily talk all the time, but someone who, when he talks, is blurting out thoughts or ideas without thinking ahead of time. Peter, before he became an apostle, seems to belong in this category.

Consider Matthew 16, when Jesus told His disciples that He would go to Jerusalem, and be killed, and raised again the third day. Verses 22–23:

Then Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall not be unto Thee.” 23 But He turned, and said unto Peter, “Get thee behind Me, Satan: thou art an offence unto Me: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”

Take also Matthew 17, where Jesus takes Peter, James, and John, into a high mountain, and there Jesus is transfigured; and Moses and Elijah appeared, talking to Jesus.

In verse 4, Peter blurts out, “Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if Thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.” Peter was obviously not remembering Eccl. 5:2, Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.

If you meet someone who seems to have been vaccinated with a gramophone needle, think twice before choosing him as a friend.

In childhood, I simplistically thought that persons who talked and talked were friendly. Now I know better. Someone who talks and talks might be friendly. Or, he might just be a fool who is self-absorbed. I had to learn the hard way that someone who, after five minutes past introductions, begins to Information Dump (e.g. telling you everything about his life history, or his health problems, or his personal preferences, etc.) is often not interested in friends—but audiences.

The babbler will consume your precious time if you let him—and even sometimes when you try not to let him.

If you have to call him, for example, he will try to trap you on the phone. (I recall one babbler who ensnared me on the phone: I watched the clock tick by, and she rambled for fifteen minutes solid without pausing once to let me say a word.)

We would do well to say with the Psalmist, “[D]eliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood.” Ps. 144:11b

Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge. Prov. 19:27

Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge. Prov. 14:7

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