Boasting the Right Way

In God We Boast_psalm 44_8

The story is told of a certain dog that had always boasted of his ability as a runner. Then one day a rabbit that he was chasing got away. This brought a lot of ridicule from the other dogs because of his previous boasting. His explanation: “You must remember that the rabbit was running for his life, while I was only running for my dinner.”  (“Illustrations for Biblical Preaching,” Michael P. Green, ed.)

You could say this boastful dog had gone to the dogs when he tried to explain why he didn’t catch the rabbit. Due to the dog’s own ego, he couldn’t stand ridicule which he only brought on himself. Ironical, isn’t it? A rabbit, running for his life, outruns a hungry dog who thinks more highly of himself than he ought to think.

It reminds me of something the Apostle Paul said to the Roman church:

“For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith,” (Romans 12:3, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

Those who brag about themselves and their abilities are in for a let down, sooner or later. So, if they do fail—and surely they will—they’ll have to come up with a “reason” for it, like that boastful dog. We see it with rich people, famous people, media people, educated people and the like who walk around like a proud peacock, attracting attention to themselves.

But one doesn’t have to be a celebrity to always go around blowing one’s horn without regard of the consequences. It could be a co-worker, someone you do business with, a next-door neighbor, you’re closest friend, a family member, and—dare I say—even a fellow church member!

Yes, those who brag and then make excuses for themselves when things don’t go right can be as annoying as someone singing out of tune—the words are there but the sound is painful to the ears. We’re inclined to avoid these kind of persons. There’s a saying, “He who toots his own horn has everybody dodging him.” And they are often known to be among those who attract the most criticism.

Such is the tragedy of bragging, as noted by the instruction of God’s Word. For example,

~”Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring,” (Proverbs 27:1, English Standard Version, ESV).

~”As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil,” (James 4:16, English Standard Version, ESV).

~”Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant…,” (1 Corinthians 13:4, ESV).

Paul the Apostle warned his fellow Jews not to boast in God about relying on the Law (Romans 2:17) if they couldn’t live up to its holy standards (vss. 18-22). “You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God?” (Romans 2:23, New American Standard Bible, NASB, also v. 17). Paul was chastising those legalistic Jews who egotistically wrapped themselves in self-righteousness just because they were benefactors of the Law of Moses. This was not to be the attitude of a true Jew, according to the apostle (vss. 28-29).

Now, while the Bible does not favor bragging about ourselves, there is a way on the other hand to use bragging in a positive sense. Jeremiah the prophet wrote,

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord,’” (Jeremiah 9:23-24, ESV). (Compare Psalm 34:2; 44:8.)

While noting the negative or foolish side of bragging—such as, acting like a wise guy, or getting a big head over one’s accomplishments, or spouting off about one’s possessions— the positive and wise side consists of one’s understanding and knowledge of the Lord. In essence, it’s based not on being ashamed or afraid to humbly live in sync with God’s steadfast love, justice, and righteousness.

The bottom line: One who sincerely loves and respects the LORD will brag on him and the spiritual principles whereby one is committed to live.

The Apostle Paul bragged in such a way when he wrote his second letter to the Corinthian church:

“But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends,” (2 Corinthians 10:13-18, ESV).

Literally quoting from Jeremiah, Paul applies the “foolishness” of boasting as a way to point out the wisdom of the LORD. (e.g., 1 Corinthians 11:1)

In his first letter to the Corinthian believers, he likewise quotes Jeremiah’s passage about boasting in terms of those who’ve been won over to Christ. He credits the wisdom and power of God for enabling him to be a part of the conversion and growth of new believers. Although those of the world would consider this foolishness, the apostle states this is according to God’s wisdom. Paul wrote,

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord,’” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31, ESV).

Had the dog in our opening illustration boasted in the LORD, the canine would have spoken less of himself and more of what God has done by graciously bestowing him with natural instinct and ability such as running. The other dogs would have respected him more for it. And he wouldn’t have needed to make any excuses, rabbit or no rabbit.

It leaves us to ask ourselves, “How might I have ever boasted?” “Do I toot my horn a little too loud at times?” “What excuses have I made when I didn’t quite live up to what I boasted I was going to do?” “How can I boast the right way—boasting in the LORD through Christ?”

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Because God gave his Son to redeem us from sin, we can boast in Christ who alone saves us. Here is Hillsong Worship singing, “I Will Boast In Christ”: http://youtu.be/h_dsUhYUqwc

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