How many cheating friends does it take to ensure you cheat?
Rick Grannis, a sociologist, tracked thousands of UCLA students over multiple years and discovered that those who are friends with people who cheat are much more likely to cheat themselves. He summarized, “If five people encourage you to cheat, welcome to the club, you are a cheater.” He even discovered that if a student lives in close proximity in a residence hall to students who cheat, the pressure to cheat and the likelihood to cheat rise significantly. He concluded that a “student decides to cheat, in part, when one chooses those whom they will allow to influence them.”
The conclusion is powerful and fascinating: We decide how we will live based on who we decide will influence us. Who we listen to greatly impacts how we live. Community is powerful; it will never have a zero effect on us. Community will either break us down or build us up. The wisdom writer said:
The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm. (Proverbs 13:20)
The wisdom writer left no room for middle ground. We are influenced either by the wise or by fools. If we surround ourselves with the wise, we grow wise. If we surround ourselves with fools, we suffer harm.
Of the starting point for wisdom, the wisdom writer declared:
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10)
If we surround ourselves with wise people, we surround ourselves with people who fear the Lord. For this reason, Christian community offers what no other community offers—an invitation to be surrounded by true wisdom, by people who know and fear God. Churches must offer people the incredible opportunity to walk with the wise in community and must not settle for fostering an environment where people merely attend.