A study of God’s Love from 1 Corinthians #19 – Love Does Not Boast…Does Not Brag

23 Jan

Boasting is a Sin Rooted in Pride: Let's Tear it Down - Thankful Homemaker(1 Corinthians 13:4 NIV)  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast…

Love does not vaunt itself (peopereuetai): is not boastful; does not brag nor seek recognition, honor, or applause from others. On the contrary, love seeks to give: to recognize, to honor, to applaud the other person.

While some believers may have a problem with envy, those with the “greater” gifts might have a problem with boasting or pride. Again, it seems that this may have been a problem in Corinth.

When spectacularly gifted believers begin to boast, they have directed their energy toward themselves. The gift becomes not a tool of service for the kingdom but a way of self-advancement. Such believers are proud. While some pride can be positive, this kind of pride takes credit for an undeserved gift.

Gifted believers who are caught up in pride and boasting over their gifts are unable to serve. Without love, they may feel that by using their gifts, they are doing someone a favor, that others should be grateful to them, and that they are far superior.

Before we look at the aspect of love that is part of our series from 1 Cor. 13, we need to read the words of Paul in Phil. 2:4-11: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. {5} Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: {6} Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, {7} but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. {8} And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! {9} Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, {10} that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, {11} and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Paul understood what was  really important in life. The understanding he had of the cross put a proper focus on  all of life’s endeavors.

Love is no braggart.  There is a self-effacing quality in love.  True love will always be far more impressed with its own unworthiness than its own merit.

Some people confer their love with the idea that they are conferring a favor.  But the real lover cannot ever get over the wonder that he is loved.  Love is kept humble by the consciousness that it can never offer its loved one a gift which is good enough.

I found myself working early hours during the fall of 1971. Terry and I had just been married two months and she was finishing her last semester of school, which involved student teaching in a local elementary school.

I went to school part-time that semester and finished two semesters later. But I gladly did what needed to be done so we could both get out of school and “get on with our lives;” I went to work at 2:30 a.m.,  got off around 1:00 p.m. and took classes at night (though I admit I did very little studying that semester …literally getting my days and nights confused).

I found myself getting the lowest jobs on the totem pole – you know, the jobs no one else was forced to do. Why?  The answer is found in two words: pecking order.

We can thank Norwegian naturalists for the term. They are the ones who studied the barnyard caste system. By counting the number of times chickens give and receive pecks, we can discern a chain of command. The alpha bird does most of the pecking, and the omega bird gets pecked. The rest of the chickens are somewhere in between.

Those days in Murfreesboro, Tennessee taught me that me something: I understood the pecking order.

You do too. You know the system. Pecking orders are a part of life. And, to an extent, they should be. We need to know who is in charge. Ranking systems can clarify our roles. The problem with pecking orders is not the order. The problem is with the pecking.

Just ask the shortest kid in class or the janitor whose name no one knows or cares to know. The minority family can tell you. So can the new fellow on the factory line and the family scapegoat. It’s not pleasant to be the plankton in the food chain.

A friend who grew up on a farm told me about a time she saw their chickens attacking a sick newborn. She ran and told her mother what was happening. Her mother explained, “That’s what chickens do. When one is really sick, the rest peck it to death.”

For that reason God says that love has no place for pecking orders. Jesus won’t tolerate such thinking. Such barnyard mentality may fly on the farm but not in his kingdom. Just listen to what he says about the alpha birds of his day:

They do good things so that other people will see them. They make the boxes of Scriptures that they wear bigger, and they make their special prayer clothes very long. Those Pharisees and teachers of the law love to have the most important seats at feasts and in the synagogues. They love people to greet them with respect in the marketplaces, and they love to have people call them “Teacher.” ( Matt. 23:5–7 )

Jesus blasts the top birds of the church, those who roost at the top of the spiritual ladder and spread their plumes of robes, titles, jewelry, and choice seats. Jesus won’t stand for it. It’s easy to see why.

How can I love others if my eyes are only on me? How can I point to God if I’m pointing at me? And, worse still, how can someone see God if I keep fanning my own tail feathers?

Jesus has no room for pecking orders. Love “does not boast, it is not proud” ( 1 Cor. 13:4 niv ).

His solution to man-made caste systems? A change of direction. In a world of upward mobility, choose downward servility. Go down, not up. “Regard one another as more important than yourselves” ( Phil. 2:3 nasb ). That’s what Jesus did.

He flip-flopped the pecking order. While others were going up, he was going down.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! ( Phil. 2:5–8 niv )

When the loving person is himself successful he does not boast of it. He does not brag.

To brag” is used nowhere else in the New Testament and means to talk conceitedly. Love does not parade its accomplishments. Bragging is the other side of jealousy. Jealousy is wanting what someone else has. Bragging is trying to make others jealous of what we have. Jealousy puts others down; bragging builds us up. It is ironic that, as much as most of us dislike bragging in others, we are so inclined to brag ourselves.

The Corinthian believers were spiritual show-offs, constantly vying for public attention. They clamored for the most prestigious offices and the most glamorous gifts. They all wanted to talk at once, especially when speaking ecstatically. Most of their tongues-speaking was counterfeit, but their bragging about it was genuine. They cared nothing for harmony, order, fellowship, edification, or anything else worthwhile. They cared only for flaunting themselves. “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation” (1 Cor. 14:26). Each did his own thing as prominently as possible, in total disregard for what others were doing.

Charles Trumbull once vowed: “God, if you will give me the strength, every time I have the opportunity to introduce the topic of conversation it will always be Jesus Christ.” He had only one subject that was truly worth talking about. If Christ is first in our thoughts, we cannot possibly brag.

  1. S. Lewis called bragging “the utmost evil.” It is the epitome of pride, which is the root sin of all sins. Bragging puts ourselves first. Everyone else, including God, must therefore be of less importance to us. It is impossible to build ourselves up without putting others down. When we brag, we can be “up” only if others are “down.”

Jesus was God incarnate, yet never exalted Himself in any way “Although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and … being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself” (Phil. 2:6-8).

Jesus, who had everything to boast of, never boasted. In total contrast, we who have nothing to boast of are prone to boast. Only the love that comes from Jesus Christ can save us from flaunting our knowledge, our abilities, our gifts, or our accomplishments, real or imagined.

Arrogance and boasting are the reverse side of the coin. Jealousy is my sinful response to the prosperity of others. Arrogance and boasting are my sinful response to my own prosperity. Arrogance (or pride) takes credit for my “success,” as though it were due to my own merit or superior efforts. Boasting is letting other people know about my success in a way that tempts others to be jealous of that success.

Arrogance and boasting are not Christian virtues; humility is a virtue. Arrogance is a character trait of Satan. In Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, political potentates are rebuked for their arrogance in a way that suggests a close kinship to Satan himself. It is not possible to take pride in that which we are given, apart from merit or works.

We cannot boast or take credit for the gift of salvation, and neither do we dare be proud of our spiritual gifts or ministries: “For who regards you as superior? And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).

Grace pulls the rug out from under pride and boasting. Paul once took great pride in his performance as a Pharisee, but not after he was saved.

Parenting today seems to operate on just the opposite premise as that set down here by the apostle Paul. Many parents seem to think that in order to be loving parents they must tolerate bad behavior from their children rather than insist on good behavior. Children throw screaming fits, and parents helplessly shrug their shoulders, as though they were powerless to change things and as though they have forgotten what Proverbs says about disciplining a child. Wives and husbands seem to think that if their mate really loves them, they will put up with their bad behavior. Paul turns the tables. He informs us that love requires us not to behave badly.

The Corinthians are not behaving themselves very well. There are divisions and factions. There is immorality, even such that pagans are shocked (chapter 5). There are lawsuits (chapter 6), and some are actually participating in heathen idol worship celebrations (chapters 8-10). Some Corinthians are not waiting for the rest, before they begin to observe the Lord’s Supper (chapter 11). All in all, the Corinthians are behaving badly. This is not what love is all about. Love is about behaving in an appropriate manner. It is about conduct befitting the circumstance. The Book of Proverbs has a great deal to say on this subject of appropriate behavior.

I cannot go on without pointing out some ways Christians behave badly, all in the name of “spirituality.” Often “spiritual considerations” become our “lion in the road,” not only excusing bad behavior, but, in our minds, demanding it.  One way is found in evangelism. Many of us use the gospel as an excuse to be pushy or overly aggressive with others. We confront, buttonhole, badger and bully others, all in the name of soul-winning. Who can fault the faithful “soul-winner”? But Jesus never intruded, never forced Himself upon an unwilling, uninterested victim. Soul-winning is no excuse for running over people rough shod so we can put another notch on our evangelistic gun: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6).

Being “Spirit-led” is another pretext for bizarre behavior. Much of the conduct of the Corinthians in the church meeting was not Spirit-led but merely compulsive self-assertion. Let us never blame God for our bad behavior, and if we are those who truly do love God and others, let us not act badly, whether excused by pious language or not. Love does not act unbecomingly. Love is that kind of conduct which is winsome, which draws people to us, and which prompts them to ask us about our faith (see 1 Peter 3:13-15).

As a Christian, Paul saw his contribution to the work of God in a new light:

1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; 3 for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, 4 although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. 7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (Philippians 3:1-10).

Our calling in this life is not to “enter into the glory” of our Lord, the glory yet to come; rather, we are to enter into His sufferings:

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. 25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me (Colossians 1:24-29).

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you (1 Peter 4:12-14).

The Corinthians were arrogant179 (1 Corinthians 4:6, 18, 19; 5:2; 8:1; 2 Corinthians 12:20) and boastful (1 Corinthians 1:29, 31; 3:21; 4:7; 5:6; 9:15-16; 15:31; 2 Corinthians 7:4, 14; 8:24; 9:2-3; 10:8, 13, 15-17; 11:10, 12, 16-18, 30; 12:1, 5-6, 9). But how does pride and boasting manifest itself in the church—our church—today? Let me suggest some areas where pride might be found.

Pride and boasting are found wherever the most coveted gifts and ministries are present. People who mean well may compliment those with outstanding gifts, and their words may become flattery; the thoughts of those so praised may produce arrogance. One area of pride is the family. Those who may have prayerfully and diligently (though not infallibly) sought to raise their children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) may be broken-hearted because of the outcome, at least as judged at the moment.

And those whose children appear to have turned out “right” may, without knowing it, be inclined to take credit for these results. In truth, good parenting is never a guarantee of good children. God is sovereign in the election and salvation of our children, and He is under no obligation to save them because of any work or merit on our part. When our children walk with the Lord, it is solely due to the grace of God and not to our good parenting. We, as parents, are obligated to be faithful in the rearing of our children, just as we are to be faithful in proclaiming the gospel. But faithful parenting, like faithful proclamation, does not assure us of the results.

Many of us have discovered that we have nothing worth boasting about in ourselves. But we nevertheless find ways to boast in a second-hand manner. The Corinthians, for example, boasted in their leaders: “I am of Paul, Apollos, …” etc. We can do the same: “I go to _________’s church.” Or we can boast in our church: “I go to a New Testament church that teaches the Bible.” “Our church is serious about Bible study or Bible doctrine.” “Our church believes and teaches the full gospel.” Many of these statements may be desirable and even true, but our attitude can be one of pride, our speech boasting.

Advertising is yet another difficult area. I have yet to hear a radio commercial for a church that says anything negative about that church. Can you imagine hearing a local Christian station advertisement: “We are nothing really special. We are not all that successful. In fact, our membership has declined over the past ten years, our budget has slipped, we are giving less to missions, and we’re becoming liberal in our theology.”

Our Christian radio station advertisements offer invitations to attend the church where “things are happening,” where “the Lord is at work,” where “the Spirit of God is blessing as never before … .” If we were to believe our own publicity, we would be proud, and if we actually advertise in this way, we are boasting.

Jesus never found it necessary to send a promotional team ahead of Him, to have radio spots, full-page advertisements, or other propaganda devices. In fact, Jesus often commanded those for whom He did miracles to keep quiet about them and not to advertise Him. Would that the power of God were so evident in the church today that no advertising would be needed.

Would you do what Jesus did? He swapped a spotless castle for a grimy stable. He exchanged the worship of angels for the company of killers. He could hold the universe in his palm but gave it up to float in the womb of a maiden.

If you were God, would you sleep on straw, nurse from a breast, and be clothed in a diaper? I wouldn’t, but Christ did.

If you knew that only a few would care that you came, would you still come? If you knew that those you loved would laugh in your face, would you still care? If you knew that the tongues you made would mock you, the mouths you made would spit at you, the hands you made would crucify you, would you still make them? Christ did. Would you regard the immobile and invalid more important than yourself? Jesus did.

He humbled himself. He went from commanding angels to sleeping in the straw. From holding stars to clutching Mary’s finger. The palm that held the universe took the nail of a soldier.

Why? Because that’s what love does. It puts the beloved before itself. Your soul was more important than his blood. Your eternal life was more important than his earthly life. Your place in heaven was more important to him than his place in heaven, so he gave up his so you could have yours.

He loves you that much, and because he loves you, you are of prime importance to him.

Christ stands in contrast to the barnyard. He points to the sparrow, the most inexpensive bird of his day, and says, “Five sparrows are sold for only two pennies, and God does not forget any of them.… You are worth much more than many sparrows” ( Luke 12:6–7 ).

God remembers the small birds of the world. We remember the eagles. We make bronze statues of the hawk. We name our athletic teams after the falcons. But God notices the sparrows. He makes time for the children and takes note of the lepers. He offers the woman in adultery a second chance and the thief on the cross a personal invitation. Christ is partial to the beat up and done in and urges us to follow suit. “When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” ( Luke 14:13 ).

Want to love others as God has loved you? Come thirsty. Drink deeply of God’s love for you, and ask him to fill your heart with a love worth giving. A love that will enable you to:

Put others before yourself. Esther Kim knows what this means. For thirteen years she had one dream. The Summer Olympics. She wanted to represent the United States on the Olympic tae kwon do squad.

From the age of eight, she spent every available hour in training. In fact, it was in training that she met and made her best friend, Kay Poe. The two worked so hard for so long that no one was surprised when they both qualified for the 2000 Olympic trials in Colorado Springs.

Everyone, however, was surprised when they were placed in the same division. They’d never competed against each other, but when the number of divisions was reduced, they found their names on the same bracket. It would be just a matter of events before they found themselves on the same mat. One would win and one would lose. Only one could go to Australia.

As if the moment needed more drama, two facts put Esther Kim in a heartrending position. First, her friend Kay injured her leg in the match prior to theirs. Kay could scarcely walk, much less compete. Because of the injury Esther could defeat her friend with hardly any effort.

But then there was a second truth. Esther knew that Kay was the better fighter. If she took advantage of her crippled friend, the better athlete would stay home.

So what did she do? Esther stepped onto the floor and bowed to her friend and opponent. Both knew the meaning of the gesture. Esther forfeited her place. She considered the cause more important than the credit. [1]1

This is a good time for a few poignant questions. What’s more important to you—that the work be done or that you be seen? When a brother or sister is honored, are you joyful or jealous? Do you have the attitude of Jesus? Do you consider others more important than yourself?

And then:  Accept your part in his plan.

True humility is not thinking lowly of yourself but thinking accurately of yourself. The humble heart does not say, “I can’t do anything.” But rather, “I can’t do everything. I know my part and am happy to do it.”

When Paul writes “ consider others better than yourselves” ( Phil. 2:3 niv, emphasis mine), he uses a verb that means “to calculate,” “to reckon.” The word implies a conscious judgment resting on carefully weighed facts. [2]2 To consider others better than yourself, then, is not to say you have no place; it is to say that you know your place. “Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of the faith that God has given to you” ( Rom. 12:3 phillips ).

And finally: Be quick to applaud the success of others. To the Romans, Paul gives this counsel: “Give each other more honor than you want for yourselves” ( Rom. 12:10 ).

William Barclay tells of a respected educator of a century past. He was known not just for his success but the way he handled it. On one occasion as he stepped to a seat on a platform, the public noticed who he was and began to applaud. Shocked, he turned and asked the man behind him to go ahead. He then began to applaud the man, assuming the applause was for him, and he was quite willing to share in it. [3]3

The humble heart honors others. Again, is Jesus not our example? Content to be known as a carpenter. Happy to be mistaken for the gardener. He served his followers by washing their feet. He serves us by doing the same. Each morning he gifts us with beauty. Each Sunday he calls us to his table. Each moment he dwells in our hearts. And does he not speak of the day when he as “the master will dress himself to serve and tell the servants to sit at the table, and he will serve them” ( Luke 12:37 )?

If Jesus is so willing to honor us, can we not do the same for others? Make people a priority. Accept your part in his plan. Be quick to share the applause. And, most of all, regard others as more important than yourself. Love does. For love “does not boast, it is not proud” ( 1 Cor. 13:4 niv ).

Someone is piecing this all together. His thoughts are something like this: If I think you are more important than I am … and you think I am more important than you are … and he thinks she is more important than he is … and she thinks he is more important than she is … then in the end everyone feels important but no one acts important.  H’m. You think that’s what God had in mind?  [4]

[1]1 Dan McCarney, “Courage to Quit,” San Antonio Express News, 13 July 2000, sec. 4C.

[2]2 Gerald F. Hawthorne, Philippians, vol. 43 of Word Biblical Commentary (Waco, Tex.: Word Publishing, 1983), 70.

[3]3 William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), 164.

[4]Lucado, M. 2002. A love worth giving : Living in the overflow of God’s love. W Pub. Group: Nashville, Tenn.

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Posted by on January 23, 2023 in 1 Corinthians


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