To “boast” has a fairly specific meaning in our English language. It means, “to speak with excessive pride about one’s own accomplishments, talents, or possessions.” It does not take a Bible scholar to know that love does not do those things. But sadly, it seems to take a rare type of scholar to know when we ourselves are boasting.
Boasting is the kind of thing that we recognize far more easily in others than we do in ourselves. When we boast, we are simply stating facts. When others boast, they are exaggerating, being arrogant, demonstrating vanity…
Consider the text of 2 Corinthians 11:16-18, where Paul writes to the same church and says with emphasis:
“I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then receive me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool. Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast.”
What Paul is doing here is showing his congregation exactly how unseemly their conduct is! I recall a conversation with one of my children some years ago in which “whining” had become the basic tone of conversation. At one point, I said, “Do you realize what that sounds like? How would you like it if the rest of us in this family spoke to you that way?” Then I offered some particularly whiney versions of “Do your homework,” and “Five minutes to lights out.” That is what Paul does in 2 Corinthians 11:16-12:6; he shows us what our boasting sounds like. Take a minute to read those verses here.
Now ask yourself this question: “Does Paul sound like he is “out of his mind”- or like he is very lucidly stating facts?” I suspect that we would find Paul’s manner of speaking defensible! But Paul insists that he is talking like a complete fool and he specifically tells us this is not how the Lord would talk. Now go back and revisit the last argument with your spouse or friend… Did you ever find yourself thinking, or even saying, things like: “I do this, and this, and this, for you and you never….” Or, “You say you are committed, I have done this and this, what have you done…” Maybe this: “I have given up so much for you…”
Although all these phrases may refer to real issues that may need to be addressed in our relationships, bringing them up by boasting about our superiority is not wise, neither is it loving. Consider the passage from 2 Corinthians referred to above. Everything that Paul says is true. Everything that he says is also important. But by his own insistence, we must recognize that bringing up true and important things by way of boasting is foolish and ungodly; it is not loving. Focusing on all the things we have done and reciting them in order to establish our rights or get our own way is not a relationship strategy the Lord will honor.
Christian, would you grow in your relationships through a more faithful expression of the kind of love that God both desires and requires that we show to one another? Let’s ask the Lord to help us stop boasting as we grow in humble commitment to one another.