Does size matter?

Last week, the elders of Israel were quite rude and unmannerly to Samuel, declaring him “old,” and demanding a king. Samuel was justifiably offended, but God told him to go ahead and give them a king (1 Samuel 8). God even gave them a king who would look the part, Saul being a head taller than the people around him (1 Samuel 9:2).

An American Psychological Association report from 2004 tells us that tall people are more successful than their shorter counterparts, earn more money, and are “looked up to” in societal and figurative as well as literal ways:

When it comes to height, every inch counts–in fact, in the workplace, each inch above average may be worth $789 more per year, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology (Vol. 89, No. 3).
The findings suggest that someone who is 6 feet tall earns, on average, nearly $166,000 more during a 30-year career than someone who is 5 feet 5 inches–even when controlling for gender, age and weight.
The height-salary link was found by psychologist Timothy A. Judge, PhD, of the University of Florida, and researcher Daniel M. Cable, PhD, of the University of North Carolina. They analyzed data from four American and British longitudinal studies that followed about 8,500 participants from adolescence to adulthood and recorded personal characteristics, salaries and occupations. Judge and Cable also performed a meta-analysis of 45 previous studies on the relationship between height and workplace success.
Judge offers a possible explanation for the height bias: Tall people may have greater self-esteem and social confidence than shorter people. In turn, others may view tall people as more leader-like and authoritative.
“The process of literally ‘looking down on others’ may cause one to be more confident,” Judge says. “Similarly, having others ‘looking up to us’ may instill in tall people more self-confidence.”*

Unfortunately, in the case of Saul, the height bias thing didn’t work out too well. This week’s reading begins with God regretting making Saul king, and deciding to replace him with David, the youngest child of the family chosen to bear the Lord’s anointed, and presumably the smallest (1 Samuel 15:34-16:13).

Before anointing David, Samuel sees the stature of his eldest brother and is about to make the same mistakes all over again, but God explains that divine sight is not the same as human judgment, and directs him to look again. (It is a little ironic, then, that the description of David is so aesthetically pleasing in a very human way.) As in a folk tale or even a fairy tale, every eligible son has to pass by until only the youngest, the smallest, the overlooked (by human sight) is left to be presented.

David’s diminutive size and its usefulness and ability to contain the will of God will be further emphasized next week, when he faces Goliath of the Philistines (1 Samuel 17) .

All of which might be simply a funny story, an amusing item for musing upon, were it not for the end of the second lesson, from Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church (2 Corinthians 5: 14-17).

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

The American Psychological Association suggests that we find it difficult to break out of a human regard. And what does it even mean to regard no one from a human point of view? More wrestling, it seems, needs to be done before we can give the little boy David his full due as the anointed one appointed by God to be the king of Israel, the ancestor of the Messiah, beloved of his people and his own King. And more wrestling needs to be done before these texts are ready to preach on Sunday …

* http://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug04/standing.aspx

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5 Responses to Does size matter?

  1. Ken Ranos says:

    Let me just tell you how awkward it can be to have a blog post titled, “Does Size Matter?” pop up on your office computer, miss Rosalind 😛 .

    How can we break out of our human points of view? It sounds like one of those things we say, and we might even mean, but when push comes to shove, that’s who we are. We’re not just fighting a tendency–we are fighting our very nature, which is a lot more difficult.

    • Ken, I can’t imagine what you mean!

    • The Interpreter’s Bible commentary suggests that it’s to do with getting rid of prejudices and other divisive stuff – along the lines of no male or female, Jew or Greek etc. I think you’re right that we’re fighting an innate tendency to categorize and prioritize – but occasionally, just occasionally, we get glimpses of how it ought to be. Children are great teachers of that – perhaps because they do see things as new?

  2. Peter Faass says:

    You mean height doesn’t matter? Oh, my now what?

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