Overcoming Sin Through Christ – Boasting or Bragging

Overcoming Sin through Christ

Richard Hollerman

Boasting or Bragging

Are you sometimes around a fellow-worker, relative, or neighbor and you can always be assured that the person will boast about his or her accomplishments or abilities? Some people are more prone to this than others. It would seem that intrinsic in the human heart is the desire to be best and brag about it!

Boasting may not be a serious problem for you, but we all know of others who do boast about their intelligence, their accomplishments, their knowledge, and their physical abilities.  But most of us must guard ourselves carefully lest we fall into this sinful activity.  To boast is “to glorify oneself in speech; talk in a self-admiring way. . . . to speak of with excessive pride.”[i]  It is the same as brag, which means “to talk boastfully. . . . to assert boastfully,” and the noun means “arrogant or boastful speech or manner.”[ii]  God says, “Love does not brag and is not arrogant” (1 Corinthians 13:4), thus it is important that we know something about this sin in order to manifest genuine love.

In the Greek, the verb for boasting is kauchaomai, which means “to boast, exult, glory, take pride in,” and the nouns, kauchema and kauchesis, mean “boasting, pride, exultation.”[iii]  Two other words of interest are alazoneia¸ which means “boastfulness” or “arroganceand alazon, which means “boaster.”[iv]  

Boasting can be used in a positive way, a negative way, and sometimes a neutral way.  Paul says that “we exult in hope of the glory of God” and “we exult in our tribulations” (Romans 5:2-3; “we rejoice in hope. . . . we rejoice in our sufferings,” ESV).  We “boast in the Lord” (2 Corinthians 10:17) and we “boast . . . in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).  Paul confessed, “I will boast of what pertains to my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30; cf. 10:13).  He also said that he boasted to Titus of the Corinthians’ generosity.

The negative use of bragging and boasting is what concerns us here.  Have you ever known of someone who always speaks well about himself, always tells you how much he knows and what he has done, and proclaims his travels and accomplishments? He brags about the important people he knows and the achievements he has made. Even professing Christians may boast of their exploits, not for the glory of God but for their own praise. 

I once knew a man who would constantly tell stories where he was the chief character and was the leading performer who outdid others.  It was so prominent that nearly everyone else detected his spiritual pride.  Another person nearly always was anxious to share how much he knew about different subjects and how inferior and ignorant his friends and fellow-workers were.  Are we like this?

There is a problem when we always proclaim our own achievements, without a thought of how God has provided for us and blessed us.  Paul wrote, “Who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).  This speaks to our own experience, doesn’t it. 

We’ve seen a person receive an award, a medal, a trophy, or a tribute.  More often than not, they are willing to accept the accolades and receive the praise for themselves.  Athletes are willing to spend thousand of hours in training so that they will beat their opponents and receive a prize.  Sports stars are willing to live in self-discipline to beat the other players to receive higher salaries and receive the praise of others.  This is true in the intellectual, business, and entertainment worlds as well.  They are willing and anxious to boast about their achievements that will show their superiority over others. Even when they don’t open their mouth, they still relish the superiority feeling that comes with worldly success.

Paul says that “no man may boast before God” (1 Corinthians 1:29).  If we can’t boast before God or boast before others, is there a place for boasting at all?  Paul answers, “Let him to boasts, boast in the Lord” (v. 31).  God is to receive the praise and not ourselves.  Certain Jewish rulers were unwilling to confess Jesus publicly, “for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God” (John 12:43). 

When we are anxious to have people think well of us and when we brag of our accomplishments before them, we are not placing God in His proper place.  Paul also says, “Let no one boast in men” (1 Corinthians 3:21).  We are not to boast in ourselves or in others, but only in God!  James says that we should not arrogantly look toward the future for we don’t know “what your life will be like tomorrow” (4:14).  Thus, he says, “You boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil” (v. 16).

Some of those in Corinth were “arrogant” about their acceptance of a fornicator in their fellowship (1 Corinthians 5:2).  They were like many religionists today who are prideful of their liberal attitudes and acceptance of sin in their midst, thinking that this glorifies the grace of God.  Paul totally rejects this liberal attitude of accepting sin and evil. He says, “Your boasting is not good,” and then he plainly says to remove the unrepentant person from the Lord’s body (vv. 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13).

We must avoid prideful boasting and arrogant bragging.  Nebuchadnezzar boasted about his great Babylon (Daniel 4:40) and the Lord judged him (vv. 41ff).  Goliath boasted of his strength and power (1 Samuel 17) and the Lord removed him (v. 50).  The Pharisee in the temple boasted of his righteousness and was not justified by God (Luke 18:10-14). 

God hates prideful boasting!  Boasting was to be one of the characteristics of the difficult times of the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-2).  Paul urges us, “Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:26).  It is no wonder that Scripture says that the “boastful” are “worthy of death” (Romans 1:30, 32).  Let us have a spirit of humility that recognizes our own limitations, failures, and need of God’s grace—and be willing to renounce all expressions of boasting and bragging.

 



[i] The American Heritage College Dictionary.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Richards, Expository Dictionary.

[iv] Ibid.

 

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