Six Great Bible Counsels Against Boasting
There is a thin line between pride and boasting or bragging. Secure in our sense of self-worth and self-respect, we take healthy pride in declaring our achievements. If our pride becomes excessive and we present our achievements as evidence that we are more worthy than others, we become arrogant and boastful. The key is to balance our sense of self-importance with gratitude for divine and human support.
People also boast about their affiliations, crimes, good deeds, possibilities, self-indulgences, wisdom, power and wealth. These are the areas in which the following six Bible verses (New Living Translation) counsel us not to boast.
(1) Don’t boast about following a particular human leader. - 1 Corinthians 3:21
Haven’t we suffered enough discontent from the moral fall of church leaders, celebrities, and other admired individuals whom we followed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, denominational and civic platforms? We thought that our status received a boost from their status when we affiliated and interacted with them. Now we know that we set ourselves up for disappointment when we follow and boast about other human beings.
In the Church at Corinth, members boasted about being followers of Paul, followers of Apollos, followers of whomever discipled them into the church. Paul discouraged the party spirit. In our modern society, the number of preachers increases daily and some of them encourage this kind of groupie behavior by presenting their achievements and their own human affiliations to attract people to their congregations. We have been warned.
This is not an attempt to discourage church membership or loyalty to church leaders, but to reinforce Paul’s counsel to believers then and now: “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31).
(2) Why do you boast about your crimes, great warrior? Don’t you realize God’s justice continues forever? - Psalm 52:1
In the opinion of some godly persons, killing a priest is the ultimate crime. But Doeg, the Edomite, killed 85 of them (1 Samuel 22: 11-23) as a presumed loyalty to King Saul. David begins Psalm 52 with reference to that incident and the Benson Commentary explains:
"It seems probable that Doeg, after he had massacred the priests, boasted of his loyalty to Saul . . . and that he had been liberally rewarded by Saul on account of it."
So David compared the effects of Doeg’s crime and God’s justice. He wanted all criminals to know that boasting is inappropriate when they have to encounter justice. Even after the victims have suffered and died, justice will render to the criminals what they deserve. What a sobering thought when they are tempted to boast!
(3) A warrior putting on his sword for battle should not boast like a warrior who has already won. - 1 Kings 20:11)
This verse is King Ahab’s response to the King of Damascus who threatened to defeat him in battle. His words “have a dash of contempt and sarcasm, all the more galling because of their unanswerable common-sense. ‘The time to crow and clap your wings is after you have fought’.” (MacLaren’s Expositions). The bully lost the battle.
This is great lesson for both young and old. “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it, if you can dream it, you can become it,” we have been told by William Arthur Ward, but it would be foolish to boast about something that is not yet real. In each stage of our lives, we dream about many possibilities, but let us not be foolish enough to boast about the end of which we know nothing.
(4) If his [Abraham’s] good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way. - Roman 4: 2
Paul made it clear that God honored Father Abraham, not for his good deeds but for his faithfulness (verse 3). It seems that it not always appropriate to list our good deeds. Like God, some people of integrity are more concerned with inner qualities than with accomplishments.
On the resumé, our qualifications matter. On introductions, our social profile may make a difference. If asked, the questioner may have the right to know, giving us the right to tell. We can learn to display a healthy self-esteem without boasting. Still some may find it acceptable to adopt Henry David Thoreau’s rational:
"If I seem to boast more than is becoming, my excuse is that I brag for humanity rather than for myself."
(5) What sorrow for those who are heroes at drinking wine and boast about all the alcohol they can hold. - Isaiah 5: 22
This verse brings back memories of a fellow worker who drank continually but always carried out his duties effectively. Although the smell of alcohol was on his breath, the result of his work was admirable. He got away with his self-indulgence as did the drinkers in our verse, who went to their workplace intoxicated and carried out their corrupt practices (Isaiah 5: 23, 24).
Such people find it easier to surrender to self-gratification than to self-discipline. They call themselves heroes and boast about their ability to be strong in their wrong, but they usually self-destruct. This is true in all manner of irresponsible living. The only way out is repentance, initiated by humility, which is at the opposite end of boasting.
Wisdom, Power, Riches
(6) Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. - Jeremiah 9:23
These three desirables are extremely valuable and are usually attained through diligence and hard work. They are not functional if we hide them. We practice wisdom in our interaction with others. We wield power in our positions of authority. We display our riches in the quality of our possessions. King Solomon, believed to have authored Ecclesiastes, admits in Chapter 2 and verse 24, "I realized that these pleasures (he had all three) are from the hand of God."
So there is no good reason to boast about them because:
- They are gifts. "And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?" (1 Corinthians 4:7)
- We are only stewards. We will leave them all behind. "Their wealth will not follow them into the grave. . . People who boast of their wealth don’t understand; they will die, just like animals. (Psalm 49: 17, 20)
So what's left to boast about? God and His innumerable blessings which are His own creation.
How are you most likely to do your bragging?
© 2019 Dora Weithers