Dark Brightness

Bleak Theology: Hopeful Science

The tall poppy syndrome.

This gospel passage is not the oldest description of the tall poppy syndrome, but it is one of them. For the non NZ readers, this sydrome, common in NZ, is that of pulling down the successful to the average level, usually provoked by jealousy.

Matthew 13:53-58

53When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place.

54He came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? 55Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?” 57And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house.” 58And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.

Now, it is clear from this that Joseph has other children. James became a leader in the church of Jerusalem.But that very familiarity meant that the imp of jealousy rose. Why was Jesus doing this. Why was he a prophet, and not us. The very familiarity bred contempt, and stopped his message being proclaimed.

Jesus, however, was not responsible for the offense they took. Sometimes we can offend by our very presence — our skin colour, our accent, the fact we are seen as Christian, or preach the gospel (including the fact there is a law) is unacceptable, unspeakable…  That response is not our problem.

We cannot switch our beliefs off, for we proclaim them with our presence.  What we can do is squelch that thought of jealousy, and instead be glad when others succeed, and glorify God when the great and good are honoured, and justice therefore is seen to be done.

2 thoughts on "The tall poppy syndrome."

  • Will S. says:

    That phrase, ‘tall poppy syndrome’, is apparently also common in Oz.  I like it; I’ve tried to popularize it here, at least amongst friends.

  • Isobel Riel says:

    There is “tall poppy syndrome” which is nothing more than hating, insulting and destroying the successful.

    And there is “tall poppy syndrome” which is actually taking the piss out of those self-important, pecksniffian elitists who think their feces don’t stink.

    Let us not conflate the two.

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