Boast in the Lord and Him only. We may think we’re pretty good compared to others, but not compared to God. We’re just not that good. All other boasting is ludicrous and dangerous.
The other day, I laughed as I overheard four siblings constructing a major building block project. They had gotten along quite well, but now were disagreeing on the finishing touches. Finally, Evan announced, “Here let me do it! Boys are better than girls!”
Shayla, the oldest of the group, placed her hands on her hips, and with eyebrows lowered glared at him in disbelief. His remark obviously stuck a uncomfortable chord with her. Karli, the younger sister, backed off obligingly, pondering the weight of her brother’s comment while beginning to question her own ability. Four-year-old Sara didn’t miss a beat. She gently but firmly shoved the boaster off to the side, “You’re good, Evan, but you’re not that good!”
I laughed until I felt the nudge of Holy Spirit gently, but firmly, speak similarly to me. He was reminding me how easily I too step in with over-confidence, when humility and tact would be more appropriate. Boasting in ourselves usually doesn’t end up well — for kids or adults, male or female.
“Let someone else praise you,
and not your own mouth;
an outsider, and not your own lips.”
Such boasting in ourselves never produces the results we would like. Boasting must have been an issue in the Corinthian church because it was the first problem Paul dealt with.
“Therefore, as it is written:
‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.‘”
I Corinthians 1:31
I have discovered that often boasting partners with insecurity rather than confidence. Those who accurately measure their talents, abilities or expertise, don’t need to boast; their works speak for themselves. Those who feel a need to be publicly noticed or appreciated tend to boast to elevate and validate themselves before others. Such tactics usually backfire.
“Pride goes before destruction
and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Unless you think, for even a moment, I am pointing my finger at anyone else, rest assured, I’m not! God orchestrated this little incident with these young children to get my attention. Although amusing, it speaks directly to some boastful thoughts incubating in me.
Not That Good
Sara’s small but firm voice, “You’re good, but you’re not that good” has been resonating in my ears. I’m asking God to show me places where I overthink my own worth or accomplishments. I have always struggled to receive compliments well. Insults, I’m able to handle more readily, but accolades can trip me up.
I’m not alone! Perhaps the chief danger zones for most of us are pride, praise, and power. These each have a way of ultimately revealing our true nature.
“Brothers and sister, think of what you were
when you were called.
Not many of you were wise by human standards;
not many were of noble birth.”
1 Corinthians 1:26
Having no claim to either nobility or wisdom, this verse resonates with me. Though my parents gave me a generous start, my beginnings were humble. Any wisdom I possess, came from a gracious God and the school of many mistakes.
Quite frankly, I’m not that good! I hate to break it to you, but in the words of Sara, “You’re good, but you’re not that good” either.
Who Are You?
Just this week, someone confessed that when they heard me teach a class for the first time, they thought, “Who does she think she is?” Believe me, I wasn’t offended! It was obvious to everyone in the room, including me, that I wasn’t anybody special. I hold no distinction, certification, title, or degree. Nothing set me apart from anyone else.
But here is the kicker! What does set each of us apart lies entirely in the extra-ordinary mercy of God!
“But God chose the foolish things
of the world to shame the wise;
God chose the weak things
of the world to shame the strong.
God chose the lowly things
of this world and the despised things —
and the things that are not —
to nullify the things that are,
so that no one may boast before him.”
1 Corinthians 1:27-29
This beautiful, intelligent woman felt a little uneasy about her thoughts. I didn’t! God and I both know, I’m just one of the “foolish things…weak things…lowly things…the things that are not.” And boy am I glad! No one can look at me and say I got where I am on my own efforts, intelligence, economic status, or by any other human means.
In Christ Alone
I constantly need to remember what Paul told the Corinthians believers,
Everything originates in Christ — everything. Wisdom? From Him! Health or wealth? From Him! Loving relationships, warm home, security, hope, peace, destiny, and promise? From Christ alone!
When Paul wrote to the Galatians, he said,
“May I never boast except in the cross
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
through which the world
has been crucified to me,
and I to the world.”
The cross puts everything into perspective. So no matter how good we may think we are, we know that we’re not that good.
Not all boasting is bad, however. Paul wasn’t disqualifying all boasting. A few verses later, He lets us know that most of their boasting was in specific leaders. He warned about this propensity to boast about ourselves or others, whether a favorite leader, music group, sports team, college, or whatever.
“Therefore, as it is written:
‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.'”
1 Corinthians 1:31
Here Paul quotes from a much larger portion found in Jeremiah:
“This is what the LORD says:
“let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.”
God Delights in Boasting
God delights when boasting is directed toward Him. Not because He is in any way self-centered or needs such acclaim, but rather boasting in God is healthy and beneficial.
“My soul will boast in the LORD;
the humble will hear it and rejoice.”
Boasting in God has a spin off effect on others, positively turning their eyes toward Him. I’m so glad God didn’t have to use a donkey to speak to me, like He did with Balaam. He chose a four-year-old child to make His point in my heart. I hope her words will stick with me for a long, long time, “You’re good, but you’re not that good.”
A little humility goes a long way!