Boasting may have a negative connotation in our culture, but when it comes to resumes or bios we are taught to put our best face forward. I remember the first time I had to write my own bio, beginning “Melissa Spoelstra is….” It wasn’t fun. It was explained to me that people want to know your background, including where you studied and your accomplishments, in order to decide quickly if they want to peruse what you’ve written. In reality, my bio could read, “Melissa Spoelstra is a sinner, saved only by grace. The only thing she has to boast about is that she knows Jesus.”
Social media can be another place for a brag fest. While we can celebrate our family’s accomplishments and milestones, we must be careful not to present ourselves to the world—virtual or otherwise—in a boastful way. It’s not wrong to identify our strengths and accomplishments and give God glory for the gifts and talents He has given each of us. Humility is not having a low view of self; it’s recognizing our incredible value and worth because God thought us worth sacrificing His Son to save. So boasting in itself is not wrong, but the content of our boasting is critical.
In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul addressed boasting because it was a socially acceptable custom in Corinthian society. In Greco-Roman culture, students were schooled in the art of boasting about themselves. It was encouraged in both government and business to use practiced rhetoric to speak about your best attributes and accomplishments
Paul helped the believers at Corinth learn the right way to boast. “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”” (1Corinthians 1:26-31)
God is a realist. He loves us so completely that He paid the ultimate price to free us from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and—one day—the presence of sin. Our Creator God doesn’t want us to live with a distorted view of reality. He is the only One worth boasting about. He isn’t a megalomaniac who is obsessed with people boasting about Him; He just favors the truth.
Later in his letter Paul would help the Corinthian believers work through some pretty serious issues including relational disagreements, doctrinal differences, and how to handle sexual sin in the church. But before answering their questions related to those issues, he helped them to build a framework by learning to apply godly wisdom. Rather than simply giving them answers, Paul wanted to be sure they had a proper perspective of themselves and their God as the starting blocks for every discussion or disagreement.
How about you? What are you boasting in right now? The boasting may never escape your lips – but where has pride creeped into your thought life and affected your relationships? If we want to boast in the right way – we should boast about our connection to a loving God. Our dependence on Him helps us refrain from human pride. Jesus sacrificially gave of Himself by dying on a cross so that we could be close to Him. Let’s live in His reality where we recognize the futility of human wisdom and spend our mental energy and words boasting in God’s greatness!
(Interested in learning more about Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth? My next women’s Bible study titled: First Corinthians: Living Love When We Disagree comes out August 2nd and is available for preorder on Amazon and Christianbook.com!)