For my American readers, Tall Poppy Syndrome refers to the crude way in which a society levels the social playing field. Put simply, if someone rises above the pack - socially, economically or politically - then you can count on Aussies to cut them down to size. They try to thwart, destroy and make foolish the successful. Success, therefore equals criticism. (The exception being sports heroes).
It is a phrase used in the UK as well, among other places. Kellahan speaks about it here. Interestingly, according to this reporter, the Syndrome is actually on its way out in Australia.
I agree with Mark. I really do. Tall Poppy Syndrome is crude and rude. It is a sin. But I want to push against Mark's comment for a moment, just so we can capture the nuance of Scripture.
Here is a thought.
I can't help get the feeling that God has his own pure form of the Tall Poppy Syndrome. Not a sinful one. Not an evil one. Not one born out of pride. Nor envy. Nor cultural blindness. But, instead, one born out of his passionate desire to be glorified as the one and only God. He will tolerate no other rival. And more often than not, the language used in the Bible of those whom he cuts down are those who are built upward. That is, God appears to cut down Tall Poppys!
Without understanding this, people may never know the true and living God, for he is a jealous God.
What after all, is the lesson in the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9?
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. ...What does Mary say when she hears that she is going to be the vessel for the humble birth of the Messiah in Luke 1:50-55?
7 "Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech." So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.The simplest may be in 1 Peter 5:5:
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”But the one that links this pattern of God's with the humble downward action of Christ on the Cross is, of course, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. It is at Christ's lowest point that he wins over man's highest success. He does this so that no one will boast. Consider:
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (...)OK. Some thoughts:
27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
I do think that Tall Poppy Syndrome, as it is expressed in Australia, is a sin. I have no doubt about that. And I know it in my own heart. May God spare us from such an ugly sin. And may the humble Gospel grow everywhere in the world, like the growth of the mustard seed, that God may be honored in all the earth. If the Spirit determines that this means larger churches, then may it be so. If it means more believers and more churches, then Tall Poppy Syndrome must be confronted as a sin. I'm with the Dris.
But at the same time, it is worth pausing on what successes ought to be held up. For not all success is good success, as God so powerfully declares in Scripture. Surely success is where Christ is honored and God's kingdom grows. But don't let your triumphalism and capitalist culture run ahead of you.
This kind of success can be present in a humble stable; or in a woman who simply submits herself to her God, as in Mary's case. Or in the person who goes to the toughest place to evangelize and stand for Jesus and promote Christ's honor, even if that person is considered one of the 'weak ministers' in what will naturally be called a 'weaker church'. Surely, success is in the care of the poor, among others who are downtrodden and suffering. Surely success is to 'love the loveless'? Surely 'when I am weak, then I am strong'.
Is this not the message of the cross? The message of the cross is not just a declaration of what God has achieved on the cross, but also a call to a specific kind of downward action of non-worldly love? It's not just success, but a specific kind if success.
May all God's servants be lifted up in due season -- all of them -- no matter what their success looks like in this crude and rude, broken and fallen world.
Pic on Flickr by Steely Man.