Summary: Jesus’wisdom teaches us to win in the struggle between pride and humility.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, there is an old saying, “A nail that sticks out will be pounded.” Although this saying might be appreciated by those in the building trades, I think it originated in the military. It’s nice to receive recognition, but not too much. You don’t want to call too much attention to yourself, especially not from some mean training instructor.
Our Lord Jesus put it this way: Those who exalt themselves will be humbled. Those who like to exalt themselves are like that nail that sticks out and gets pounded.
I read a story that Tomas Wheeler, chief executive officer of the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company told on himself. While he and his wife were driving in the country, he noticed they were low on gas. So, he pulled off the first exit and came to a dumpy little gas station with only one pump. There was only one attendant working in that place and Thomas asked him to fill it up while he checked the oil level. He added a quart, closed the hood, and noticed that his wife was talking and smiling at the gas station attendant. When they noticed he was looking at them, the attendant walked away and pretended as if nothing had happened. Wheeler paid the man and pulled out of that little station.
Somewhat puzzled, he asked his wife if she knew the attendant. Well, she admitted she did know him. In fact, she had known him quite well. Not only did they attend the same high school, but they had also dated seriously for about a year. Well, Tom Wheeler couldn’t help bragging a little so he said, “Boy, you were lucky I came along. If you had married him, you would be the wife of a gas station attendant, instead of a CEO.”
To which his wife briskly replied, “My dear, if I had married him, he would be the CEO and you would be the gas station attendant.”
That’s what they call a well-pounded nail. Those who exalt themselves will be humbled.
Few people are more exalted in our society than movie stars. We treat them nearly as gods. My first church was in Hailey, Idaho, a community where some of the famous people could be seen - Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Clint Eastwood, and Batman to name a few. The favorite topic of conversation among local residents was where and when they saw these movie stars. As if breathing the same air with them were a means of exultation.
But, sometimes even famous actors could fall off a pedestal. One of the most popular shows in the golden age of television was Studio One. During one memorable broadcast, the scene was the interior of an airplane cockpit, flying at an altitude of 30,00 feet over the mountains of Tibet. Three men were in the cockpit talking, when suddenly there was silence. One of the actors forgot his lines. This being a live production, there were no retakes, no stopping action. That was it! Millions of eager viewers were glued to their black and white screens, waiting to see what would happen next. The actor’s solution? He got to his feet, in a cockpit supposedly at 30,000 feet over the mountains of Tibet, and voiced the immortal line: “Well, this is where I get off!” He left the set and walked into the history of unforgettable bloopers. Those who exalt themselves will be humbled.
I had one memorable humbling experience over 25 years ago on the Island of Kauai. Our pastor, Edward Spirer, was celebrating his 50th anniversary of ordination. His friends put together a marvelous banquet for his at the Coco Palms Hotel. Number of distinguished guests were present from all over the island, from Honolulu, from the synod office. Now Pastor Spirer was in his 80s and would get mixed up in the liturgy so there were two people assisting his at worship. Myself, a floor covering contractor back then, and Frank, a retired CEO of some big utility company.
It just happened that Frank, his wife, and I arrived at Coco Palms together. We walked down toward the banquet hall exchanging polite conversation, when the congregation president motioned to follow to one of the front tables. Somehow I assumed that I too was to be included in the places of honor, by the virtue of my service in the church, so I followed all the way to the table. There I discovered that they were one chair short, and they were not planning to play musical chairs.
Have you ever experienced a moment where you could just crawl into the woodwork? Time for damage control! I smiled, wished them a pleasant evening, and back-paddled to one of the outer tables. Those who exalt themselves will be humbled.