July 29 / Aug 11 2009 10th Tuesday after Pentecost

Daily Readings.

Guidelines for reading, with freedom for departures.

Who are we hanging out with?

What we do IS who we are with.

EVERYTHING we do affects our intelligence.

1 Corinthians 15:33


“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” (1 Corinthians 15:33 KJV)


We are almost at the end of First Corinthians in our daily readings.

The cycle of daily readings throughout the year begins after Pascha. We read the Gospel of John during most weekdays, and then begin Matthew, followed by Mark, then Luke. We are still reading selections from Matthew, since it is such a long Gospel. We began serializing Acts after Pascha, then proceeded to Romans, and are now finishing First Corinthians, and will go on to the other epistles of St Paul. We read more or less in order, from beginning to end, but skip many selections which are reserved for a particular weekend of the year (Saturday or Sunday).

 

I recommend highly that you read the weekly readings. They are easy to find – in our calendar or using the Menologion program. They can be found easily in English or Russian online.

 

If you are like me, when you read the daily readings, you may feel frustrated because the context of the reading is brief, and there is something important immediately before or after the selection. This is no big deal. We read to be edified, to learn, to feel compunction and glean wisdom., There is no rule that you cannot search out the context of the reading, either in a paper bible, or as I generally prefer, using a program on your computer, such as “e-Sword”.  Having the discipline to read SOMETHING, in SOME KIND of order is very important, and on our better, more attentive days, we might use that reading as a launching pad into other parts of Scripture.

 

I follow the same plan when I read the Fathers. I am reading the Conferences by St John Cassian right now (and plan to have many journal entries about it, if I can somehow put into words the sublime feelings always present when reading this classic). The Conferences are extremely rich in Scriptural references. One reference led me to read almost the entire book of Esther. This is not a good plan if you want to finish a 500 page book in less than a year, but after, all we are not in a race to read books and any attentive spiritual reading will help us finish the race we are in[1].

 

 

Today’s selection has in it the literally proverbial and oft-quoted statement:

 

 “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” (1 Corinthians 15:33 KJV)

 

I love the King James, because it reads so poetically, but sometimes it is good to see other ways a verse is rendered.

 

Another, more clear rendering is:

 

Do not be deceived: "Bad company ruins good morals."

 

This sounds like something our mothers have told us many times; it has passed into the secular wisdom of many cultures. This idea is so common, that I fear that its awesome truth is lost on us, because of familiarity.

 

St Paul was actually quoting the secular wisdom of his day, the Greek poet Menander (the  lost comedy of Thais).

There is a similar proverb in Jewish lore:

“There were two dry logs of wood, and one green log; but the dry logs burnt up the green log.”[2]

I like this version of the proverb very much. Everyone knows that green logs do not burn well. One can even put flame to a green log and be unable to burn it. But when such a log is put with other dry logs in a fire, over time, it will catch fire from them and be utterly consumed. This is a graphic illustration of the effect of the company of men upon our morals.

 

Anyone who considers himself to be immune to losing his morals is a fool. 

 

How many drug abusers have said: “I won’t use drugs, even though my friends do. I’m not that stupid”.  How many who use foul language learned it first from those they associated with? How many have secular opinions that are strikingly against the law of God, concerning for instance, abortion or “living together”, because they have listened to their non Orthodox or secular friends or the steady drone of the television set, with its immoral shows and radically lost newscasters?

 

We are not only influenced by the people we choose to associate with, but also the things we do.

Television, radio and the movies are also associations (or as the King James has it “communications”) with people. There are not a whole lot of good and edifying things in those mediums. We may laugh at a joke on Letterman, and forget that it expresses foul and loathsome things (not to mention that if we are watching TV late at night, it is doubtful that we will pray before bed). We are polluted by such associations and because of them, we change in a way imperceptible to us.

 

This is because the things we do, think and say ALWAYS affects our intelligence.

 

We cannot listen to a dirty joke, or casual swearing, or nod our head with secular opinions, or watch yet another TV show where fornication is as common as breathing without being affected. If we lose the ability to recognize right from wrong, we are undone.

 

It is not that all these things are fire, and we are straw. Instead, they are water, and we are wood. Eventually, after sitting in water a while, wood rots and no longer resembles what it once was. It is useless as wood; it has become trash.

 

The Psalmist offers us the type of life we would lead if we followed St Paul’s admonition:

 

 

 

“Blessed is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, and has not stood in the way of sinners, and has not sat in the seat of evil men.  (2)  But his pleasure is in the law of the Lord; and in his law will he meditate day and night.  (3)  And he shall be as a tree planted by the brooks of waters, which shall yield its fruit in its season, and its leaf shall not fall off; and whatsoever he shall do shall be prospered.” (Psa 1:1-3 Sep, Brenton)

 

There is always a danger when we attempt to “not walk in the council of the ungodly” that we add our own vanity and pride to the effort and become pharisaical, and avoid people out of some kind of misguided piety. We live in the world. Mere association with people will not pollute us; everything depends on our purpose, motivations and disposition. I am a nurse and have taken care of many drug addicts and alcoholics. I assure you, seeing their condition did not in any way make me want to take drugs. Some of you work in offices. You cannot avoid the immoral, but you can be different than them, and not participate in their jokes, and gossip and immoral opinions. 

 

This reminds me of a funny story (to me at least). I was young (once) and working as a software analyst. We sometimes went out to lunch together. One day the group decided to go to “Hooters”. I kid you not, I had no idea what “Hooters” was. I wondered at the time if they had a décor based on pictures and statues of owls. We were all ready to go, when I saw a couple of guys smirking and looking towards me. My radar went off, and I excused myself, and only later found out what this restaurant really is. The group was trying to haze me, because they considered me to be uncool. What they did not realize is that I considered their efforts to be a compliment – they had recognized that I did not hold the same kind of opinions and have the same lifestyle as they did.

 

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-08-11_daily-readings+bad-company-ruins-good-morals.doc

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-08-11_daily-readings+bad-company-ruins-good-morals.html

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

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Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 



[1] 1Corinthians 9:24 KJV  Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.

 Heb 12:1 KJV  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

[2] “Adam Clarkes Commentary on the Bible” for 1 Corinthians 15:33, accessed from the e-Sword program.

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2 Responses to “July 29 / Aug 11 2009 10th Tuesday after Pentecost”

  1. Father, Bless

    In the context of what you wrote – “Bad company ruins good morals” – I long agi started to ask myself a question: why crowds of people are sometimes so aggressive? Why do i feel so uncomfortable & insure when I found myself among a lot of people, and thus hated stadiums, circus, demonstration… Even when I saw them shown on TV I feel like switcing on the programme or switching off the TV at all. It also happens that when people unite into organisations, which may primarily not carry any aggressive or radical character, in the course of time transfer into something like that. Even the idea of the organisation can be at first quite noble by appearance, but then it transforms into its direct antipode. The notion of unity, friendship acquires not a proposition “with”, but – “against” somebody. Maybe it is because the individuals there have not acquire individual godliness? and the soul corruption, which takes place in the individual is multipled when he appeares in the company of those who are similar to him in this respect? But it is obvious that ungodly spirit gains more power when in the crowd. I don’t know exactly, and cannot explain clearly to myself how & why it happens…but events show that dependence…

    To distinguish between what is god & what is bad is not that simple, as I noticed, as it may seem. On the surface it’s clear, especially when we have God’s Commandments. But we often face tangled, complicated, inexplicable situations when we find ourselves totally helpless – to distinguish & to act correctly. The ablity to be correct (of course, like Orthodoxes) – depends on our ability to feel God’s will. This ability depends, in its turn, on how we succeed (or not) in following God’s Commandments. Ou failure in this leads us often to some strange decisions or actions, which we might have even not expected from ourselves, but which at the concrete moment “seem”to us very right, even righteous. But in reality they are often a result og our passions & errors. And when a company, a crowd of people is misled like that – it main ruin much.

    In this respect, I am also convinced that regular reading, studying of what is definitely, undoubtedly correct – The Scripture, Fathers, Psalms… is the imperishable value. It cleans our mind, enlightens our soul, teaches us what is really godly, distracts our feelings from the secular world, at the same time giving us force & courage to survive in it…

    “Blessed is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly”.
    Really he is blessed. As we all know how not very simple to refuse, to draw the line, we shouuld be ready to sacrifice much. As the ungodly will not be in raptures at our silent opposition, even if we act kindly towards them & do not disturb them.

    I read a phrase which seems to me very timely: “The one who does not accept the spirit of the world, is doomed to torture by the spirit of the world”. I am not sure, it’s a liberal translation, but the idea seemed to me actual.

    Thank you, Father.

  2. Deborah says:

    Father, Bless,

    Just recently I ran across the statement that “experience changes us more than understanding”–meaning that what we do or what happens to us, our experiences and our environment, has a more profound effect on us than simply what we are taught, read, study and understand with our minds.

    The deepest level of understanding from which our instinctive action arises could be said to be our ‘gut’. Even our thoughts are effected by these ‘gut feelings’ and understanding. Experiences seem to bypass the mind and directly effect us at this visceral level. So we are not usually even aware of how we are being effected and changed by our experiences.

    The practices of the Church reflect the understanding of this important means of communicating with the deepest levels of our being through experience and thus we worship not only with our minds and words but with our whole body–all of the senses.

    We cannot control all of our experiences but we should be aware of the effects they have on us and be very mindful and careful about the experiences and environmental factors we can control.

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