I’m a big fan of the early Saturday Night Live sketches (perhaps because I’m old enough to have watched them the first time they aired!). One of the great catch-phrases of those first seasons was the opening of the Weekend Update with Chevy Chase dead-panning, “I’m Chevy Chase … and you’re not.”
In this week’s lections, we come across a scripture that seems as if God is saying to some of us, “I’m God … and you’re not.” And according to the Psalmist, one of the main targets of God’s catch-phrase is … tall people.
“Wait, what? God’s got it in for tall people? He doesn’t like basketball? What is this, payback for Short People?”
Hold on — before you leap to conclusions, let me explain. It’s a play on words — just like the Psalmist does in Psalm 138:6:
For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.
Most anyone reading this verse would catch the first contrast, between the “highness” of God and the “lowliness” of the lowly. What you may not know, however, is that the word translated “haughty” is actually the Hebrew word for “high” or “tall.” The same word can mean tall in stature, high or lofty in position, or “tall” in one’s own mind — that is, proud.
It’s like saying someone is a Big Man on Campus; you’re using “big” not to refer to their physical attribute, but to their social status. Unless, that is, you use air quotes; then you’re saying they’re a legend in their own mind.
So, a better translation of Psalm 138:6 might be
For though the LORD is at the top of the org chart, he pays attention to and cares about the persons on the bottom rungs of the ladder. But the ones think and act like THEY are at the top? From those people, he keeps his distance.
We don’t talk much about the Seven Deadly Sins these days — but it seems pretty clear that pride, self-importance, haughtiness, whatever you want to call it, puts distance between us and God. If we are “tall” in our own eyes, we are probably going to have to be “made low” before we will truly enjoy communion with the Lord.
And one other note: if God pays attention to the lowly, what does it mean if we ignore them? Even worse, if we take advantage of them, or abuse them? I suspect that if we want to be truly Godly, then we’d better pay attention to the things God pays attention to.
This is one of a series called “Reflections on the Lections,” which posts each Wednesday and discusses one of the passages for that Sunday’s Revised Common Lectionary readings. When I have enough of them, I’ll post an index. This one is for Year B, Pentecost + 2, Proper 5, Ordinary 10 (depending on which system you use).