Proverbs 18:1 declares, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.”
Contrary to popular opinion, I am really an introvert at heart. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t dislike crowds or people. I don’t get anxious in groups. I don’t have some sort of psychological malfunction that causes me huge amounts of stress when I am around people. Introversion is more my preference. I generally like to be by myself, or with a very small group of people. I like to think and read and enjoy quiet conversation (oh, that my parents wish I were that way as a child!)
Yet, my desire to be in isolation is not always what is best for me or for those around me. The Scripture calls for the people of God to be, well, the people of God. We live in a culture dominated by the idea of the individual. Individual rights; individual choice; the “have it my way, all the way, right away” kind of thinking. The Scripture calls for us to live in community together: a common unity. Paul likens us to a building that God is building up by grace through the work of Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:9-22). We are a household (Ephesians 2:19-20), living stones, a spiritual house, a holy and royal priesthood, a chosen race, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession (1 Peter 2:4-10). All of these are plural. We are called to community.
Now, there are many reasons for community. The focus from Proverbs 18:1 is twofold: community protects us from selfishness and poor moral judgment. This Proverb declares that the man in isolation “seeks his own desire.” In other words, he is longing to do whatever he would like; whatever is pleasing to him at that moment. He doesn’t want to be bothered with how his actions will or will not impact others. He doesn’t want to be concerned with the consequences his actions have on those around him. He simply wants to do what he wants to do. Of course, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12). We have been called in to community not to go our own way, but to be a blessing from God for the benefit of others (cf. 1 Corinthians 12-14 on the “others first” purpose of spiritual gifts). To isolate ourselves from a Christian community is selfishness. Selfishness is diametrically opposed to one of the central principles of Christian discipleship: “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34).
Community also protects us from poor moral judgment. When we regularly expose ourselves in a transparent way with other believers, we are pressed into accountability. We are surrounded by those (hopefully) who are more mature than us, who have walked further on the narrow path than we have, who have consumed the Word in such a way that God’s grace has given them great wisdom. And when we allow our lives and our decisions to come under the light of a growing, prayerful, Jesus-honoring, God-glorifying, Spirit-led community, our ability to make better moral judgments is enhanced. We can’t just find our “friends’ advice”to be sufficient. In community we are, by default, brought under the concern and care of those who desire what is best for us, since we rarely know what is best for ourselves.
So, take a good look at your current situation. Are you meaningfully involved in a community that helps combat selfishness and poor moral judgment? I don’t mean do you go and sit in a worship service once a week for an hour and never talk to any of those people (because let’s be real: you can be in a room full of people and still be isolated!) Rather, are you engaging with the church so that you can be mutually encouraged with the saints, prompted to holiness, and conformed by God’s grace into the image of Jesus Christ? The Word teaches that for us to draw into the presence of God through Christ is to also draw closer together as His body and family of faith (Hebrews 10:19-25). Let us live in the wisdom of community and not the foolishness of isolation.