In What Do You Boast?
BOASTING is not in itself wrong. It all depends upon in what or whom you boast. Boasting about the wrong thing or person may not only be foolish but harmful and even wicked. That is the way man’s only sure Guide, the Bible, presents the matter.
Some make their ancestry, nationality or race their boast; others, their physical charms, their fine clothes or other material possessions. Still others boast because of their cultural, scientific or artistic achievements. And then there are those who make their religious titles their boast. All such boasting shows a lack of understanding and appreciation of one’s relationship with his Creator and his fellow man.
Fittingly, the Word of God asks of those who thus boast: “Who makes you to differ from another? Indeed, what do you have that you did not receive? If, now, you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”—1 Cor. 4:7.
Forcibly driving home the same point, Jehovah’s prophet likens man to the saw and ax: “Will the ax enhance itself over the one chopping with it, or the saw magnify itself over the one moving it back and forth?” An extreme analogy? Not at all! As the ax and saw are wholly dependent upon human hands to accomplish anything, so man is wholly dependent upon his Creator for his spark of life, the means to sustain it as well as all his mental and physical faculties. If mankind everywhere appreciated this truth, what harmony and peace we would see between races, peoples and individuals!—Isa. 10:15.
Perhaps someone will say, But surely I can boast if I make wise and energetic use of my faculties and opportunities, since so many fail to do so. No, such a one cannot; God’s Word likewise rules that out. In the first place, all God’s gifts are conditional. He therefore rightfully requires that those who receive his gifts show appreciation by making the best possible use of them. As the great Teacher, Jesus Christ, once put it: “When you have done all the things assigned to you, say, ‘We are good-for-nothing slaves. What we have done is what we ought to have done.’”—Luke 17:10.
Furthermore, no matter how hard we may work and how wisely, factors over which we have no control invariably are involved if we have success; even as the farmer depends upon the weather. For Christians, God’s blessing is the all-important factor. Note how forcibly the apostle Paul made this point to the fleshly-minded Corinthians: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow; so that neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes it grow. For we are God’s fellow workers.”—1 Cor. 3:6, 7, 9.
In particular should we guard against boasting of our virtues or moral strength. “Let him that thinks he has a firm position beware that he does not fall.” The apostle Peter felt so sure of himself that he boasted that even if all the other apostles deserted Jesus he would not, and he reiterated his boast after Jesus had warned him that he would deny him three times that very night. He thought he had a firm position, but before that night was far spent Peter had proved his Master’s words true by denying him three times.—1 Cor. 10:12; Matt. 26:31-35, 69-75.
Boasting about our plans for the future the Scriptures likewise show to be unwise. “Do not make your boast about the next day, for you do not know what a day will give birth to.” How uncertain life is can be seen from the mishaps, accidents and disasters the press daily reports. So, “do not let one girding on boast about himself like one unfastening”—he may not return alive for “the swift do not have the race, nor the mighty ones the battle.” Why not? “Because time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all.”—Prov. 27:1; 1 Ki. 20:11; Eccl. 9:11.
The disciple James uses some strong words in speaking to such boasters: “You do not know what your life will be tomorrow. . . . Instead, you ought to say: ‘If Jehovah wills, we shall live and also do this or that.’ But now you take pride in your self-assuming brags. All such taking of pride is wicked.”—Jas. 4:13-16.
Perhaps the most common as well as the most unwise of all such human boasting is hero worship, boasting in human leaders, religious, political, financial, cultural and suchlike, and in the achievements of man. All such boasting not only is bound to end in disappointment but incurs the wrath of Jehovah God. Why? Because the exaltation and worship of creatures robs God of what is justly and solely due him. Thus also, lauding the United Nations as man’s only hope pushes aside the divinely provided remedy, the kingdom of God. So, “let no one be boasting in men,” nor in the achievements of men. That command was first given because some had been boasting in such men as the apostles Peter and Paul. If there was no reason for boasting in these, certainly there is none for boasting in anyone living today!—1 Cor. 3:21.
And finally, let it be noted that throughout eternity no one will ever have grounds for boasting because of having gained salvation. It will all have been due to Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, as his Word so clearly shows: “By this undeserved kindness, indeed, you have been saved through faith; and this not owing to you, it is God’s gift. No, it is not owing to works, in order that no man should have grounds for boasting.”—Eph. 2:8, 9.
There is One and only One in whom we can boast, and the more we learn of him the more we will want to boast in him. He is Jehovah God, the Most High, the King of eternity, the Source of all life, the Father of celestial lights, the Giver of every good gift and of every perfect present; the One perfect in power, wisdom, justice and love. Yes, “he that boasts, let him boast in Jehovah.”—1 Cor. 1:31; 2 Cor. 10:17.