Giving a Good Example

Friends in Christ,
Today in the Gospel, Jesus says that the least in the kingdom of God are those who teach others to break the commandments.  This is called scandal, or giving bad example. (see Tour of Summa) Giving scandal happens when by our words or our actions we lead others to do bad things.  Giving bad example is a sin against charity,  because we hurt the soul of our neighbor.  Scandal is opposed to the good virtue, called fraternal correction, which means helping a person to turn from their faults.   

Examples of scandal:  
Suppose that a lazy boy is passing the afternoon with a friend, and this friend is a conscientious student.  The lazy boy says, ‘I don’t think I’ll do my homework tonight, the teacher doesn’t really care if we do it anyway.’ Now he hopes the other boy will do the same thing,  so that he won’t be the only one without his homework.  This is scandal, or giving bad example.  

Two kids are in the store, and one steals something; he not only breaks the 7th commandment, but gives bad example for the other child.  

Two ladies are eating lunch at a restaurant; one lady thinks: ‘I should probably suggest that we pray before we eat;’ but out of worry of what the other might think, she says nothing.  Bad example has taught the other lady not to pray.   

Scandal is a venial sin if we don’t fully intend to lead another person to sin,  or if it is not a serious matter.  Giving bad example is a mortal sin, if it is a serious matter,  and we want to tempt the other person to commit sin.   
Now if a person is not really bad, but ACTS bad,  this too is giving scandal. This can happen when a person who is good, wants to fit in, and so acts bad like the others. Joe’s  co-workers ask him to golf on Sunday morning, so he is careful to go to Mass Saturday evening. But while golfing, one of them says  ‘the ol lady wanted me to go to Mass, but what a waste of time.’  Joe smiles as if he agrees, because he wants to fit in –  but in doing so, he gives a very bad example, because he led him to THINK that he skipped Mass also.    

Some kids act like druggies or pretend to have had sexual exploits just to fit in: in doing so, they give scandal, even if they do not do those things.  

Now the more innocent is the person that we lead into sin,  the greater our sin.  This is why Jesus says that whoever leads a little one into sin should have a millstone tied around his neck and thrown into the sea.  

We should try to please the Lord by giving good example, then, not only will we have a good reputation, but the aroma of our holy life will lead others to Christ.   

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