What is the first thing you think of when someone mentions the word “boast?” Personally, I think of someone bragging or showing lots of visible pride in some talent or skill that they possess. Fortunately, the Bible has a lot to say about “boasting” and what this means for us if we’re really trying to live a Christ-centered life.
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking of dozens of times throughout the past year when you’ve met someone who was very full of themselves. So many people, including me, can’t help but manipulate a conversation to subtly glorify ourselves or what we excel at. I’ve struggled with this a lot in daily conversations with people. Why am I really asking him how he’s doing? Why did I ask her how her weekend was? Was it because I wanted to have a chance to talk about how awesome I think my life is? So many times it unfortunately is. I’ve grown to hate the way others and myself converse so many times. This honestly might frustrate me most about how we, as college students, communicate with each other.
How can boasting fit into a life-model that elevates meekness and humility?
I’ve chosen to write this blogpost about boasting because of how many times in the past few weeks I’ve unintentionally ran into verses where various authors either discourage or (somewhat surprisingly) encourage boasting! The idea that the Apostles encouraged boasting seems so counter-intuitive and against what our parents and society have told us our whole lives. Did Jesus boast? How can boasting fit into a life-model that elevates meekness and humility? I was taken aback, to say the least. But then I remembered one of my favorite verses in the bible:
“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” – Galatians 6:14
I’ve thought so many times throughout the past year about this verse. Paul wrote this in his letter to the church of Galatia and this is one of the last verses that forms a section of warnings to the young believers of Galatia. This verse is so metaphorical in that Paul describes his life as being crucified to the world and the world as being crucified to him. What Paul means is that he is dead to the world in the sense that its pleasures and draws don’t have any power over him anymore. In this verse he states that he won’t boast in anything except the cross (and ultimately the salvation) that Jesus has offered. Let’s look at the verse immediately preceding it:
“For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.” – Galatians 6:13
It seems that many of the early believers were proud of their Jewish heritage and wanted to base their faith on certain actions and works such as circumcision. This is a large part of the reason why Paul wrote to the Galatians. He wanted to discourage a type of Christianity that glorified works and ultimately, us. Paul knew that God desires us to boast in him, and not in anything we are capable of doing.
While I had first seen this verse quite a while ago, I soon discovered a number of verses these past two weeks that all have to do with boasting!
“…And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” – Romans 5:2
“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” – Romans 5: 10-11
“In Christ Jesus, then I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience – by word and deed.” – Romans 15: 17-18
“As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia.” – 2 Corinthians 11: 10
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12: 7-9
“…but Chirst is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” – Hebrews 3:6
All of the above examples of boasting seem so positive and life-giving to mission that Jesus has set before us. Boasting is also chastised in the Bible though in certain scenarios like these:
“As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” – James 4:16
“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” – Proverbs 27: 1
“You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.” – Romans 2:23
What’s the central essence of boasting then? In the above examples, those who boasted were not doing so in the Lord or the hope they had in him! God commands us to only boast in our salvation through Jesus and the hope that we have in him, not in material things or anything that could be gained from our own power.
When I look around I see so few Christians actually boasting in their Lord and Savior! So little evangelism and so much unashamed, gratifying of our sin are very indicative of our hearts. So what does this say about our character? We’re told to boast not in ourselves, but in our God. Instead we boast either in ourselves and our own power, or at best, we boast in nothing. This is such a prideful, Christ-dishonoring existence that does nothing for anyone. By refusing to glorify God, we bring no pleasure to him or us.
If nothing else, we should all recognize our lack of boasting in our savior. Hopefully though, we’ll all look for awesome new ways in our own lives to glorify God! Paul and his passion that he demonstrates in his epistles are incredible examples of not only how we should feel about Jesus’ sacrifice, but also how we should act it out in our daily lives. This means evangelism. This means befriending people we wouldn’t normally want to talk to. This means ending all the excuses and false logic that tells us it would be better if we “waited to share the gospel” or “shouldn’t worry about it now.” Paul says in Ephesians 5:16 that we are living in evil days and James says in James 5:8 that the coming of the Lord is at hand! With all the urgency that we can muster, let us joyfully boast in the incredible hope that we have in Jesus!