I’ve always been intrigued by the nursery rhyme about Little Jack Horner. At first blush it seems rather cute and innocent. But on further reflection, there is something seriously wrong. The closing line describes the self-congratulating boy with his plum-covered thumb held high saying, “What a good boy am I!” But if he is all that good, what is he doing in a corner? As I recall, it’s bad boys who get sent to sit in a corner. And all the pictures that I remember have him sitting there with a whole pie on his lap. I have never known a mother to give her kid a whole pie! It’s conceivable that he stole it from the kitchen. And if you don’t like my take on the story, then I need to ask you: What is he doing with his fingers in the food breaking every social standard of good eating habits? Then to top it off, he finds a plum in the pie (what did he expect from a Christmas plum pie?) and lifts it high, giving himself the credit for finding the plum. The least he could have done was to shout the praises of his mom for buying the plums and then baking them into the pie!
But before we are too hard on Jack, let’s take a good look at ourselves. Compared to a lot of people, we feel pretty good about ourselves. It’s easy to feel self-congratulatory about a lot of things. But in reality the applause is undeserved. Scripture affirms what we already know. When we are honest with ourselves, we have to agree with what God says when He claims that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We are not intrinsically good. Oh, we may do good things now and then, but at the core we are fallen and sinful. We are born with the curse of sin, and we can’t help ourselves. Which is why, when we finally do something good, we become proud and turn the good deed into an occasion to celebrate ourselves.
From God’s point of view, we are in the corner for a reason. And in spite of our self-congratulatory ways, we find ourselves with far too much pie on our lap and with our fingers in the food too often!
Most serious, however, is our tendency to take the credit for our abilities and accomplishments when the credit belongs to God. Let’s face it—and I want to be gentle here—we would be nothing if God had not given us our brains, the opportunities to succeed, the cleverness to stay ahead of the curve in the marketplace, and, for some, the physical features to turn a head now and then! All that we are and have comes from Him. As James reminds us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). But there we are, forgetting all of this and with raised hand showing off all that God has provided for us, taking the credit for it as we boldly proclaim, “What a good boy am I!”
It’s a serious thing to rob God of the glory that is due His name (Isaiah 48:11). So let’s determine that we will tactfully give God the credit for all that we are and are able to do. If He’s been good to you (and He has), get out of the corner and let your world know who it was that put the plum on your thumb!
- In what ways can you identify with Little Jack Horner? Is there an act of sin, or even a pattern of sin, that you have felt proud of?
- To get the full context of Paul’s advice to glorify God in everything we do, read 1 Corinthians 10:23-31. Is there a personal conviction you need to set aside in order to be a help and encouragement to a fellow believer?
- Think about the things God has given you—your brain, your talents, your family—and take the time to praise Him specifically for each of those things. Then take it one step further and ask Him to help you use those things for His glory and not your own.