Love isn’t… boastful (περπερεύομαι/perpereuomai, 1 Cor 13:4). It doesn’t brag, doesn’t boast of status, isn’t a braggart or blowhard. A Scottish Bible commentator named Barclay tells the story of the little boy who came home with a good school report, saying, “Mother, am I no’ a wonder?” We can laugh at the cute boy’s delight, but we find it less attractive in an adult who thinks—and insists—that he is something.
Some boast without any reason at all: “A warrior putting on his sword for battle should not boast like a warrior who has already won” (1 Kgs 21:11). Some think they have good reasons to boast, but God says, “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches” (Jer 9:23). And certainly, no one should boast over another’s misfortune (Obad 12). Whatever the case, the psalmist knows, “The proud may not stand in your presence (Ps 5:4); he says, “I warned the proud, ‘Stop your boasting’” (Ps 75:4).
Ironically, the only boasting that Paul would countenance was boasting about his own weakness, which was tantamount to proclaiming God’s strength. He said, I won’t boast, even about the fruit of my ministry, “because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message” (2 Cor 12:5–6). At root, everything about gracious salvation undercuts any possibility of boasting; it’s totally by grace, and not at all by works (Eph 2:9).
Boasting & the Charismata
Wow! What can I say? Someone who exhibits this alongside trying to exercise the charismata would make a near pitch-perfect image of everything that goes wrong the public life of charismatic celebrities. And what shows up painted in broad strokes in the media doesn’t look one bit better up close in a local congregation.
It seems like some come up just short of boasting that they’re “the Great One, the Power of God” (Acts 8:10). If they don’t do it in words, they carry themselves as if it were so. May the Spirit of the one who is meek and humble drive out all such posturing.
A prayer against boastfulness…
Nurture humility in my heart,
in daily living on the street, and
in Sunday morning life among the saints.