“I’m not one to brag about myself, but let me tell you how I did it!”
“I’m not one to toot my own horn, but did you hear that I did this?”
Have you ever heard statements like this come out of the mouth of another person? Unfortunately, I have way too often and I’m guessing your ears have also been subjected to this type of arrogant, self-admiration. My first reaction is usually one of suspicion. I’m quite leery of people who brag about their own endeavors. It usually is a sign of extreme insecurity and most of the time they have embellished and exaggerated so much that you don’t know what part to believe. This leads us to the next characteristic of love defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4.
The NIV states that love “does not boast, it is not proud.” Other versions such as the New King James Version and the New English Translation use “does not parade itself or does not brag” in place of “boasting” and both refer to pride as being “puffed up.” That latter phrase always reminds me of a pufferfish. Did you know that pufferfish contain a toxic substance that is deadly to humans? Do you know any “pufferhumans” whose pride is or will be that detrimental force that will eventually destroy them? After all, King Solomon reminds us that “pride goes before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18).
I’ve learned there are two types of boasting; boasting about oneself which is connected to pride, and boasting in the Lord, which is the acceptable and preferred typed of boasting. When God spoke to the people of Judah through the prophet Jeremiah, he told them this,
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight…” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
Did you notice that the three things the Lord admonishes not to boast about were the very same ones that we emphasize in our culture today?
Wisdom is often associated with accomplishments and higher education, but this is the world’s view of wisdom. True wisdom comes from the Lord (Proverbs 2:6, James 1:5). God is not against wisdom, but against the boasting of wisdom. After all, “Christ became for us the wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30). I wonder what God thinks of man’s obituaries that lists all of his worldly accomplishments? Personally, based on what He told Jeremiah, if the deceased did not boast on knowing the Lord, I believe it displeases Him.
Who doesn’t want more strength? Physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, etc. No one likes to admit they are weak in any area. But like wisdom, true strength comes only from the Lord. “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isaiah 40:29). King David wrote about the Lord giving strength and being our strength (Psalm 29:11; 118:14). Again, God is not against anyone having strength, He warns that the strong are not to boast in their strength as if it was something they attained on their own. The apostle Paul said he would gladly boast about his weaknesses, so that Christ’s power would rest on him. Because when he was weak, then he was strong through Christ (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
As a Christ follower my life should not be about what I possess on this earth. Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” God blessed many people in the Bible with earthly wealth (Abraham, Job, King Solomon just to name a few), but these men knew their riches were from God. Unfortunately, not all wealthy people give God the credit both in biblical times or today. Haman in the book of Esther was the perfect example of such a person. After dining exclusively with Esther and the king, he boasted to his friends and wife about his vast wealth, many sons, and his honored position with the King, but he only lived one more day to enjoy them (Esther 5:11-13; 7:10).
If you are thinking none of this pertains to you because you are not wealthy, strong or wise by the world’s standards, then boast about the fact that God chose you with his purpose to shame the wise and the strong of this world and to reduce to nothing the things that are, so that ono one can boast before God about themselves (1 Cor. 1:27-29). He did this through the gift of His Son and all we have to do is accept it through faith.
So what can we boast about? God gives us permission to boast about Him as the Lord, his character and what He has done. Besides the greatest act of reconciling us to him through his Son Jesus’ death and resurrection, God has done awesome things! He created this earth with majesty and beauty for us to enjoy. He sustains us, provides for us and blesses us with family and friends. But think about the less obvious things of God we can boast about such as orchestrating our circumstances. For example, just the other day, we were in the midst of a situation that could have cost us at least one thousand dollars. We stopped and prayed, praising God for being in control and asking Him to soften the heart of the person asking for the money. Within, minutes of the prayer, this person’s heart was indeed softened and we did not owe a penny! Now that’s something to boast about! I’m sure if you stop and think about it, you will find numerous ways to boast about the Lord!
So go ahead and boast but only about God, and remember that any other type of boasting is evil and not of love.