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.”
Watch any presidential debate this election year if you need proof. Bragging is our way of letting others know what it is that makes us strong, that sets us apart from the ranks, that gives us our worth. We all point our finger at something in our life and shout, “That! That is the best thing about me.”
What we brag on in public is what we trust in in private.
Think of it like this: If you make sure everyone around you knows how much money you make, or how spiritual you are, or how much influence you wield at work, you are saying something about where your trust resides. The problem appears when we trust in things that aren't sturdy enough to be trusted in. This is not just a modern issue. This was at the heart of an issue the Apostle Paul dealt with in his letter to the church at Corinth.
The Corinthians were clamoring for importance, boasting about their connection to certain church leaders, and Paul wrote to them in part to correct this error. He began by making a rather offensive observation that the Corinthian believers were, well, unimpressive.
“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.” (1 Cor. 1:26)
How deflating it can feel when we are finally honest enough to admit that we aren’t a big deal. A life that is full of faith in God must always first walk through the valley of humility. Take heart-- if you’re willing to renounce your personal bragging rights and own your weakness, you are right around the corner from a rich, joy-filled walk with Christ.
THE GREATNESS OF GOD
Paul of course did not leave his readers there to wallow in their unimpressiveness. Instead, he began painting a new picture for them-- a picture of a very great God who chooses the unimpressive.
“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 Cor. 1:28-31)
It was not the resume of the Corinthians that made God notice them. God lovingly and shrewdly selected people who, after seeing what Jesus did for them at the cross, could only conclude that God alone had done something great in saving them.
Notice that Paul doesn’t rebuke their boasting, he simply redirects it: “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” He was harkening back to another prophet, Jeremiah, who penned similar words over 500 years earlier to the people of Israel: 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 9:24).
BRAGGING THAT HONORS GOD
God is and always has been pro-bragging. He simply wants our bragging to be directed at the right Object. What makes someone a Christian is not that they don’t boast, but rather that they boast only in Christ.
Christ is the only reason our God can look at us with affection today. He has become for us all the things we could not muster and did not possess: wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption. Today, let Christ be the most impressive, the best thing about you. As you see Him more clearly, your bragging in self will redirect to Him, and your faith will follow suit.