In What Do You Boast?
GENERALLY speaking, it is unpleasant to hear a person brag or boast about himself. Yet how prone we imperfect humans are to do so! Perhaps not always in words but in other ways. A person might brag by the very tone of his voice, or by his swaggering manner, causing others to ask, “Who does he think he is?”
Not that all boasting is wrong, but certainly much of it is ill-advised, such as bragging about one’s wealth by wearing ostentatious jewelry or boasting of one’s physical charms by wearing indiscreet or provocative attire. Boasting about one’s gifts was roundly condemned by Jesus of Nazareth: “When you go making gifts of mercy, do not blow a trumpet ahead of you, just as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be glorified by men.” How the modern practice of advertising large gifts made by the rich flies in the face of Jesus’ words!—Matt. 6:2.
Because of our proneness to boast and our little grounds for boasting, we find God’s Word repeatedly counseling us against it. Wrote wise King Solomon: “Do not make your boast about the next day, for you do not know what a day will give birth to. May a stranger, and not your own mouth, praise you; may a foreigner, and not your own lips, do so.” Further, an apostle of Jesus Christ wrote some thousand years later: “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 though you did not receive it?”—Prov. 27:1, 2; 1 Cor. 4:7.
It might be said that we are born with a tendency to boast. A child is prone to brag or boast. Almost everything he does or has is wonderful or praiseworthy and so he calls attention to it so as to get the praise of others. Of course, this is due to his lack of knowledge and understanding. He is not modest, because modesty requires the ability to measure things at their proper valuation, and a child is not equipped to do that. So he boasts, betraying his immaturity.
Pertinent, therefore, are the words: “When I was a babe, I used to speak as a babe, to think as a babe, to reason as a babe; but now that I have become a man, I have done away with the traits of a babe.” Appreciating that boasting or bragging about oneself is a sign of immaturity will help you to avoid its pitfalls. In passing, it is of interest that the Greek word rendered “babe” in the foregoing text is népios, regarding which an authority states: “Immaturity is always associated with this word.”—1 Cor. 13:11.
Bragging or boasting about yourself is unwise, immature. But there is a still stronger reason for avoiding it. And that is? Because such bragging is unloving: “Love . . . does not brag.” That is the very best reason not to boast or brag about ourselves. As has already been noted, what we have we have received—from whom? From God, in the final analysis. To take credit to ourselves for what belongs to him would be most unloving. In fact, everything depends upon him, even as we read: “Unless Jehovah himself builds the house, it is to no avail that its builders have worked hard on it. Unless Jehovah himself guards the city, it is to no avail that the guard has kept awake.” So to the extent that we love God we will not be calling attention to ourselves.—1 Cor. 13:4; Ps. 127:1.
Boasting about ourselves is also unloving as far as our fellow human creatures are concerned. By doing so we are exalting ourselves and may well arouse jealousy and envy, and certainly that is not loving, for it makes others unhappy. It is bound to be that way, for the effect of exalting ourselves is to lower others by comparison or in relation to us. Everyone is conscious of his own weaknesses and shortcomings and struggles to keep self-respect and confidence, and so needs to be encouraged, helped, built up, not discouraged, not pushed down, not lowered. Love gives words of encouragement to others instead of complimenting itself.
The very fact that bragging or boasting is often used as a means of intimidation should help us to appreciate its unloving nature. Even as the Philistine giant Goliath sought to strike fear in the young shepherd lad David, so today world rulers in the cold war between the East and the West resort to bragging to instill fear into each other.—1 Sam. 17:41-51.
However, there is a right kind of boasting, even as the Bible shows. As the psalmist David expressed it: “In Jehovah my soul will make its boast.” One who did so was the prophet Elijah. He challenged the prophets of Baal to a test as to who was the true God, Jehovah or Baal. The true God was to be the one who caused fire to come down from heaven. The prophets of Baal first had their opportunity, and though they implored their god for hours on end, he did not respond with any miracle. True to God’s Word, those making their boast in valueless gods were ashamed. But not Elijah, who had made his boast in the one true God and was vindicated by fire coming down from heaven and consuming the sacrifice.—Ps. 34:2; 1 Ki. 18:21-40.
Not that our boasting need be limited to the Creator, Jehovah God. The apostle Paul told the Corinthian Christians that he boasted to the Macedonian Christians about the zeal, the “readiness of mind” of the Christians at Corinth. The loving principle that there is more happiness in giving than in receiving would apply here also. Even as love does not brag, it does not seek praise for itself but delights to praise or make its boast in others who are truly deserving, following the counsel: “In showing honor to one another take the lead.” By having good things to say about your deserving neighbor you will build him up, encourage him. Doing so, you work for peace, unity and harmony in the family, in the congregation, or wherever it may be.—2 Cor. 9:2; Rom. 12:10.
So, while “love . . . does not brag” about itself, it does make its boast in Jehovah and it is not averse to praising or making a boast about others who are deserving.