Lectionary Ravings: Proverbial Politeness Counts

Driving up a jughandle one day, a lady in a luxury car behind me annoyed me. Apparently I must not have been driving fabulously enough for her and she gave me a honk as she passed. Always one given to roadside passions, I leaned on my horn and thrust my hand out the window, doing a few defiant fist pumps before bringing my smug air-fists back into the driving compartment. Then, for some amount of comic relief, I noticed right then that my prayer rope was still wrapped tautly around my hand as I had made such impolitic gestures to the young heiress. It was as if to tell the rest of the whole known world: Watch out, this one may be demonstrating a good flash of road rage, but at least he’s holy. It also shows that I too can be an intolerably rude and arrogant human being like the rest of us.

This episode brings to mind a certain proscription in Proverbs: The fear of the Lord hates unrighteousness and both rudeness, and arrogance, and the ways of wicked men.” (8:13) Nestled right in the beginning of the chapter we Orthodox call “The Divine Wisdom Manifest in Creation Offers Himself to Mankind,” is this admonition against rudeness, arrogance, and wickedness. This verse basically nails our whole world right on the head. Does it not seem like we are living in an increasingly rude and arrogant culture given to wickedness and unrighteousness (not living by God’s Commandments)? Yes, and it tells us also that this kind of culture is not acceptable to God either.

Saint Macarius said, “Do no evil to anyone and do not judge anyone. Observe this and you will be saved.”

We who seek religious answers can decry all the political issues we want in the name of God; we can blather on about the most theological platitudes that we can citing God’s “opinions”, but the most basic ingredients to a godly life (i.e., the fear of God) are right in front of us: Be good to our neighbor and treat others the same way we’d like to be treated. (By the way, the “golden rule” occurs in the Sermon on the Mount: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12)). On any given day, I can easily strike out on all accounts thereof, but then again, without such proverbs being written down so clearly and concisely, a thickhead like myself might not recognize arrogance, evil & unrighteous rudeness to be ungodly. I could probably find wiggle room around rudeness and arrogance, saying they were expressions of righteous anger against materialism, but then again, why bother?

Seriously, these proverbial tips might seem like small potatoes to more complex theological discussions, but in reality they are the paving stones that lead to righteousness. Thus, in a way, I am still trudging through mud but at least I know that it’s mud in which I trudge — and not some jughandle paved in gold.


About Pete Mladineo

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