“Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.”
Romans 3:27-28 NLT
In this life, it is easy to find people who boast about their achievements. The general on a battlefield. The captains of industry who claim that they have built their companies from nothing, through sheer hard work. The aid worker who has helped large numbers of people. A charity that has influenced government legislation. The neighbour down the street who has purchased a new car. The list is endless. But all these achievements have one thing in common – a boast that their claims depend on human effort, and particularly theirs.
What does this word “boast” mean? A dictionary definition is to “talk with excessive pride and self-satisfaction about one’s achievements, possessions, or abilities“. There are two words in this definition that are worth noting – “pride” and “self“. In God’s eyes, both of these can be considered to be sins. There are some Bible verses warning against boasting. James wrote some words about misplaced self-confidence in James 4. Here is one of the verses he wrote, verse 16, “… you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil“. But James was not the only Biblical writer warning about boasting. Another verse from Proverbs 27:1, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring“. Boasting is associated with evil people. Psalm 94:3, “They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers are full of boasting“.
In our verses from Romans 3 today we see that, in our relationship with God, we have nothing to boast about. The Apostle Paul wrote a list of all the challenges he had experienced in his life, and how he could boast about them, if he wanted to. We can read about them in 2 Corinthians 11. But in verse 30 he comes from a different angle. He wrote, “If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am“. In the following chapter, he referred to having “a thorn in [his] flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). After asking God to take it away, he wrote ““Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Somehow, it’s not possible to boast about our faith, and not just because those worldly people around us perceive it to be a weakness. Why would we want to boast about such a thing? We can do nothing to earn our salvation. Through faith in Jesus, we accept the free gift of God, His salvation. The very essence of our faith is God. It’s all about Him and what He has done for us, and not about us at all. In Philippians 2:3 we read, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves”. Humility is the way forward for Christians. We have an inner strength that comes from knowing that God loves us personally and individually. And because of that we don’t have to puff ourselves up in front of our peers. We don’t have to make inflated claims about our worth, to try and make those around us look up to us. The Lord Himself will lift us up at the right time. We read in James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honour”.
Living in God’s Kingdom is counter-cultural for most of the time. The world’s values and virtues mostly don’t exist in God’s world. And boasting is one of them.
Father God. Please help us to have a Godly perspective of ourselves, and not one dictated to by worldly people and values. Amen.