Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
the tongue that makes great boasts,
those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
our lips are with us; who is master over us?”
Boast – to speak with exaggeration and excessive pride, especially about oneself.
It strikes me… these anti-love traits are doing more than just defining bad character. They are saying, “Envious people are not loving people. Boastful people are not loving people.” I’ve missed that glaring point till now. But there in the text of 1 Corinthians 13 are eight anti-love traits. Eight terribly common tendencies within me.
If boastfulness and agape cannot co-exist, then I have some serious adjustments to make. It’s not complicated. How can I love (which is a selfless act), when I am consumed with self, when I feel the need to speak for the purpose of elevating myself? I can’t. Leave it to God to store the big revelations on the low shelf.
The antonyms of boasting are humility, modesty and deprecation. Sometimes it’s easier to identify the presence of a trait by looking at its antithesis. We start getting a lens into why God hates boasting (pride’s identical twin), and places the highest value on a humble heart.
Pride and humility are polar opposites. Humble people recognize their true measure before the living God. A prideful/boastful person is egocentric, with a loose grasp on reality. Some boastfulness is cloaked in self-deprecation. It bears pointing out that false humility is veiled boastfulness. Most of us can smell it a mile away.
It’s no wonder we struggle so profoundly to be humble. Our consumerist society plays to our egocentricity. It lures me to look at myself, see what I lack (they tell me), and reach for “what I deserve.”. The lure encompasses possessions, position and relationships. Jesus’ economy advocates self-less-ness, inviting me to get out of that game. If I do, Consumerism loses its hold altogether. Advertisements are seen for the low-ball, rice-paper thin manipulations they are. They no longer dictate what I’m supposed to do, look like, wear or possess.
How on earth is there any case to be made for boastfulness… except in God? I am a created being who bears the image of her Maker. I am cared for by God in every way. Everything I “possess” I’m meant to steward on His behalf. That includes talents & abilities.
Am I boastful? Sometimes I am. I am always vulnerable to it. But the key seems to be, very simply, to STOP fixating on ME. Look up. Look about. Focus anywhere but inward, and invest there. I’m in no way minimizing the importance of introspection. But it has a specific objective which always leads to the ability to better and more thoroughly serve God and people.
Selfless people are not boastful. Selfless people get that life is not about them. The ultimate example, of course, is Jesus, who actually could have boasted in Himself. He chose instead to show us a path that reflects the way things actually are, not the delusions conjured up by our pre-occupation with self.
Loving people don’t boast. Loving people deflect praise, simply re-directing it where it belongs. They recognize the source of every good and perfect gift. They understand that the air they breath and their ability to draw it in to their lungs, is an extension of the power and grace of God. To be boastful would seem an absurdity to them. That’s accurate.
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!