Boasting! It’s our national pastime. American as apple pie. Our athletes sport a swagger. Our politicians crow about their accomplishments. Our bumper stickers flaunt our favorite teams, our super kids, our alma maters. Talents, treasures, triumphs. Our achievements win us bragging rights. At times, we all like to “toot our own horn.” I grew up in the deep South where we had an expression for the ultimate boast: “No brag. Just fact.” So what’s wrong with a little dose of healthy pride?
The dictionary definition of boast is to “talk with excessive pride and self-satisfaction about one’s achievements, possessions, or abilities.” James stops us in our self-congratulatory tracks. He challenges not just our pride of accomplishment, but also our presumptuous plans:
Come now, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a city and spend a year there and carry on our business and make money.
You ought instead to say, If the Lord is willing, we shall live and we shall do this or that [thing].
But as it is, you boast [falsely] in your presumption and your self-conceit. All such boasting is wrong.
So any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4:13-17 Amplified)
James’ words make me squirm as I launch out on my New Year’s resolutions. I’m more comfortable with plans in place. But he warns me not to boast of my future plans. Boasting is unbecoming for a believer…it’s also unrealistic. For as James reminds, we’re not in control of our lives.
The New Testament word for boast can mean “head held high.” It also indicates “praise or glory.” If we boast about ourselves, we glorify ourselves.
The Hebrew word for boast, halal, also means “to glorify.” From halal, we get Hallelujah, or “to glorify Yahweh.” We can boast about ourselves, or we can boast about God. “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord,” writes Paul (1 Corinthians 1:31).
Let’s go back to James 4:10: Humble yourself before the Lord, and He will lift you up.
When tempted to boast, James encourages us to humble ourselves instead. We’re to trust God to lift us up in His timing. God loves to honor His children, but in a manner that’s for our good and His glory.
About those New Year’s resolutions? Think I’ll still set some goals, plan ahead. But I’ll seek God’s will, bathe my plans in prayer, and hold them all with a loose grip.
Lord, thank you for reminding me of my humanity. You are God. I am not. Most trouble comes when I get that wrong. If I could gain complete control of my world for just one minute, I would stand aghast at my utter weakness. No wonder Eve hid herself in shame after she presumed to become “like God.” I am not equipped to run the world, or even my own little world. I rest in the reminder of Your sovereign control over every aspect of my life. And I humble myself before You, knowing that You will lift me up in Your way and in Your time as I trust in You. -Amen.