Why Boast?

In our culture today there is a lot of boasting. There is a lot of “trash talking.” I remember when I used to play pick-up games of basketball a lot. Trash talking was part of the game. I got into it just as much as anyone else. However, the more I studied Scripture, the more I realized how much trash talking conflicted with what Scripture says. Eventually, I stopped. When I play games nowadays I do my level best to limit my “trash talking.” By limiting it I mean trying not to do it at all. I grew up in a culture where this was the norm. You tried to get your words into your opponent’s head to cause them to play worse. It’s very hard to overcome that habit of trash talking, to resist it altogether. However, when I look at verses like the following, it’s clear that I must:

  Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.  – James 3:13-18, ESV

Boasting and trash talking are not appropriate for a Christian. Trash talking puts down the other person. That’s not exactly the love of Christ, is it? Boasting is calling attention to oneself. If I’m calling attention to me, then how exactly am I glorifying God? I’m not. And this set of verses gets to the point of it all: our works should demonstrate our excellence, not our mouths. Also, we’re not to go out and make a show of things. That’s not “meekness of wisdom.” That’s not to say we shouldn’t talk about our experiences and what we’ve overcome. That’s part of our testimony. It describes who we are and why we are what we are. The thing to consider is, “why we are doing it?” Not the why we tell ourselves, but the real why. Why would I share? Am I doing so to glorify God or to get an “attaboy?” Am I looking to encourage another person or show him or her how great I am? The intent is everything.

It’s even worse when we start boasting to out-boast someone else. That tends to lead to exaggerations and outright lies. A number of very prominent people have been undone by the fact that degrees and schools attended on their resumes weren’t actually degrees that they earned or schools that they attended (or if they did attend, it wasn’t to extent they imply or state on said resume). How did these people get to that state? How did they get to the point where they were living a lie? It had a lot to do with trying to look good compared to other people. There was at least some jealousy and ambition involved. As a result, they agreed to a lie, they lived a lie, and it ended up being their downfall.

Let us not boast with words. Let us not look to puff ourselves up. Rather, let us serve God and glorify Him, giving Him all the credit and praise. When it is appropriate, we should tell our stories to educate, to encourage, and to help others, but most of all to heap praise upon the Savior whom we love.

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