Are you a boaster?
Bet I’m a bigger one…
I’ve been thinking about the early chapters of 1 Corinthians recently.
Here’s some of the things they boasted in.
Chapter 1:31 alludes to Jeremiah 9:23. There the spotlight is on wisdom, strength and riches.
This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
Wisdom, strength, riches – do they tell you who you are? Is that where you turn for an ego boost? Well really- Forget that stuff. That’s small-time boasting. That’s like being proud of your long bushy nasal hair. “Hey guys, check out my new perm!” You’re being ridiculous. Stop it.
But it’s not just our own wisdom and strength we boast in. The Corinthians demonstrated the perennial temptation to boast in our connection to the world’s wisdom and strength. They got a big ego trip from keeping up with the intellectual elites, the opinion formers, the celebrity power players. It’s not even that they were these big players, but they got a kick out of knowing their celebrity gossip, following their diets, repeating the arguments of the columnists at dinner parties, adopting the attitudes and management techniques of the movers and shakers. Yeah, they were in with the people that really matter in the world. Paul says, that’s puny, God’s made that look pathetic at the cross (1 Cor 1:18-20). It’s like pointing to smoking rubble and saying ‘Lookey!’
Then there’s the most subtle yet most rampant kind of boasting in Christian circles – to boast in Christian labels and leaders (1 Cor 1:12). I know where I stand because I’m emergent or neo-reformed or whatever. I’m ok because I line up with Stott or Carson or Driscoll or Piper or whoever. And Paul says – forget those guys, they’re just slaves (1 Cor 3:5). Slaves might boast about knowing their famous masters, but who ever boasted about knowing a slave? They’re farmers. (1 Cor 3:8). Whoever heard about celebrity farmers. They’re builders (1 Cor 3:10-15) – and you’re not the ones to do the survey of their building. God is.
Do not boast in Christian cliques, and parties, theologies and leaders. Was Calvin crucified for you? Were you baptised into Barth? (1 Cor 1:13).
And anyway, it’s all yours! (1 Cor 3:21-23) You don’t belong to Christian leaders, they belong to you – all of them belong to all of you. Anything Christ-exalting said by the Arminian, the Pentecostal, the Catholic, the Emergent, the Orthodox, even the Anglican – it’s yours. Cheer up, you’re inheriting the whole universe and Paul, Apollos, Cephas, Martin, Thomas, and Karl are thrown in.
Stop all this boasting in you, in your worldly connections, in your Christian connections – stop that.
But don’t stop boasting. No, no, no. By all means keep on boasting. Paul commands it:
“Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:31)
Boasters of the world take heed. Do not put a lid on your boasting. Boast with gusto, with verve, with unstoppable audacity. Boast big-mouthed and full-throated. Boast until you’re blue in the face.
Just don’t boast in you. Boast in Jesus.
Notice how the very next thing Paul does is describe his evangelistic ministry.
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Cor 2:1-5)
Here is what it looks like to switch your boasting from self to Christ. It looks like a trembling, humble evangelist, no techniques, but bold as brass for Jesus and dead certain of His foolish message. In other words it makes for missionaries unsure of themselves but certain of Christ. And that’s what the world needs.
So, boasters of the world, for goodness sakes let’s stop boasting in ourselves. But don’t stop boasting. Use the decades of practice we’ve accrued and turn it to good.
We used to rabbit on about our own achievements, now let’s rabbit on about Christ’s. We used to name drop Christian leaders, now let’s name drop Christ. We used to slip impressive facts about ourselves into conversation, now let’s slip in impressive facts about Jesus. We used to think of ourselves in relation to worldly power and wisdom, now let’s regard ourselves according to the cross. We used to gain identity from theological labels, now let’s claim the LORD as our banner.