Read 1 Peter 5:5, 6; Matthew 20:20–28
The children worked long and hard on their own little cardboard shack. It was to be a special spot—a clubhouse—where they could meet in solemn assembly or just laugh, play games, and fool around. As they thought long and hard about their rules, they came up with three rather perceptive ones:
1. Nobody act big.
2. Nobody act small.
3. Everybody act medium.¹
Not bad theology!
In different words, God says the very same thing:
Give preference to one another in honor. (Romans 12:10)
Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. (Matthew 20:26–27)
Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
A stranger, and not your own lips. (Proverbs 27:2)
Just “act medium.” Believable, honest, human, thoughtful, and down-to-earth. Regardless of your elevated position or high pile of honours or row of degrees or endless list of achievements, just stay real. Work hard at counteracting the celebrity syndrome. Junk any idea that you deserve some kind of pat on the back or wristwatch for a job well done. Who did you do it for, anyway? If you did it for God, He has an infinite number of unseen ways to reward you. If you did it for man, no wonder you’re clawing for glory!
But it’s so subtle. So easy to draw out that praise for yourself, isn’t it? Especially around the house when you do a few extras.
A certain firm made headlines out of deflating overblown egos. Its well-trained employees accept contracts to squash juicy pies into the faces of pompous individuals. In its first few months, over 60 hits were made at $35 per splash! All on disbelieving, immaculately dressed, prim-and-proper victims.
Imagine this scene: A dignified, well-tailored executive vice president waits for the elevator to open on the 18th floor. As he steps out, a stranger whips a pie out of a cardboard box and splosh! Giving the pie a professional twist, the hit man jumps into the elevator headed for the main floor. There stands Vice President Shmotz...his once-spotless suit, matching vest, and tie now dripping with lemon meringue goo and crust.
An employee of the pie-tossing company said, “A pie in the face brings a man’s dignity down to where it should be and puts the big guys on the same level with everyone else.”2
Even Biola College weathered the pie-throwing rage. No one was safe from the meringue gang—neither the professors nor even the school’s great-hearted president who took it on the chin like a champ. I’d hate to think how many college presidents would have responded with their super-guarded, highly polished egos smeared with bright gold pumpkin pie and whipping cream. I wonder how many would “act medium.”
Again what was it the Son of David said?
Let another praise you...and not your own lips.
Meaning what? Meaning no self-reference to some enviable accomplishment. Meaning no desire to manipulate and manufacture praise. Meaning authentic surprise when applauded. Genuine, rare humility—regardless.
One final warning. Don’t try to fake it. False humility stinks worse than raw conceit. The answer is not in trying to appear worthless and “wormy” but in consistently taking notice of others’ achievements, recognizing others’ skill and contributions...and saying so.
Got the rules memorized? “Nobody act big. Nobody act small. Everybody act medium.” Such good advice from a clubhouse full of kids, who, by the way, are pretty good at practicing what they preach.
And they also laugh out loud when you get a pie in the kisser. Believe me, I know.
1. Leslie B. Flynn, Great Church Fights (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1976), 105.
2. Flynn, 104.
Excerpted from Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, Copyright 1983, 1994, 2007 by Charles R. Swindoll Inc. (Zondervan Publishing House). All rights reserved worldwide. Used by Permission.