A Gift To Boast

MOTIVATE

One of the traditions people have around this season is lighting candles. Today, people often use a mechanical lighter to push a button with flint interacting with some sort of fluid to spark a fire. However, in the early years of fire starting, matches were an innovation.[1] A recent Netflix show of Enola Holmes 2 gives tribute to the history of matchmakers.

Essentially, friction matches gave people the ability to light fires more efficiently than primitive means. But early matches also created unsafe conditions for matchmakers due to the substance of white phosphorus. Prolonged exposure to it gave many workers “phossy jaw,” a disease causing painful and progressive abscesses, affecting toothaches, swelling gums, and jawbone disfiguration. 

Fire offers many advantages: light, heat, cooking, and more. Yet, there are also concerns: burns and destruction. The same is true concerning love. The blessing to know love is experiencing affection, belonging, and security. Yet, love can be dangerous. It can become distorted so that it begrudges and rages in harmful ways.

So far, 1 Corinthians 13 has defined love in two positive characteristics. However, Paul now turns to eight negative features of love that we must prevent and avoid.  

EXAMINE               1 Corinthians 13

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Today we reflect upon the first three dangers of love: envy, boasting, and arrogance.

Envy can be remedied with God’s grace.

The Corinthian church was engulfed with envy.

  • They divided over which human leader was superior, and which clique was better to belong (1 Corinthians 3:3 – Apollos, Peter, Barnabas, Paul…).
  • They were greedy over possessions, jobs, family dynamics, and even food (1 Corinthians 6:10; 9:3-5; 11:18-22).
  • They were envious over one another’s spiritual gifts and ways people served in their church (1 Corinthians 12).

Envy engulfs our soul. It makes our bones rot (Proverbs 14:30). It’s like kudzu that grows exponentially. We can keep cutting it back but until we reach the root, we will endlessly fight it.  

Paul wanted to correct their covetousness and help them to see that love from God brings contentment that results in compassion for others.

So, the remedy for envy is two-fold[2]:

  1. Fear God. Envy forgets eternity. Greed ignores this world will end. Envy and greed live for this world’s applause rather than God’s cause, only to miss all of God’s blessings. So, if we fear the Lord then we will not be lured to things that will not satisfy.

    1. Prov 15:16-17 “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.”Prov 22:1 “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”Prov 23:4-5 “Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.”

    Ps 16:4, 10 “The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply… [but] in the Lord’s presence is fullness of joy and eternal pleasure at His right hand.”

  2. Focus on grace. When we realize we are not entitled to anything, then we are able to enjoy what God provides. Many of us have much more than we often deserve. Looking at life with the perspective of God’s grace helps us to generously love others.

    1. Prov 21:26 “All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back.”

    Prov 28:27 “Those who give to the needy will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes will receive many curses.”

The remedy for envy is to fear God and focus on grace.

Boasting can be deflated with God’s glory.

Paul says, “love does not boast.” (1Cor 13:4)

Illus: Once upon a time, a turtle wanted to spend the winter in Florida, but he knew he could never walk that far. He convinced a couple of geese to help him, each taking one end of a piece of rope, while he clamped his vise-like jaws in the center. The flight went fine until someone on the ground looked up in admiration and asked, “Who in the world thought of that?” Unable to resist the chance to take credit, the turtle opened his mouth to shout, “I did…”

Boasting takes something good and turns it into a god. It idolizes and excessively celebrates something without considering the contributions of others, most specifically the grace of God.

The sin of prideful boasting comes from the beginning of humanity. In Genesis, Adam & Eve wanted to boast and become like God, so they ate of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:5). Later, prideful boasting caused humanity to build a tower to reach the heavens and make a name for themselves (Gen 11:4). God confused the people’s language to cause the people to disperse. In other words, humanity thinks it can accomplish more than reality, because apart from God, we can do nothing (cf Eph 2:8-9; John 15:5).

Paul challenges the conceited Corinthians and boastful saints several times in the letter.

  • 1 Cor 1:28-31 “God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world – what is viewed as nothing – to bring to nothing what is viewed as something. But it is from God that you are in Christ Jesus… [So] the one who boasts must boast in the Lord.”
  • 1 Cor 3:18 “No one should deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks he is wise in this age, he must become foolish so that he can become wise.”
  • 1 Cor 4:7 “For what makes you superior? What do you have that you did not receive?”
  • 1 Cor 5:6 “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast permeates the whole batch of dough?” In reference to allowing sin to grow in our life.
  • 1 Cor 8:2-3 “Knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up. If anyone thinks he knows anything, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.”

Boasting is a sign of insecurity and immaturity, not influence. To Jesus, greatness is based on service for others (Mt 23:11). Instead of being big-headed, we must be big-hearted. If we want to boast then it should be in the ways that we are contributing toward the good of others.

This is why the ultimate boast can only be in the Lord Jesus, who died for the sins of the world (Mark 10:45; Php 2:3-5; Gal 6:14). When we understand the glory of God was for the Father to send the Son to serve humanity with His death, then all our boasting is deflated, and we are compelled to follow His example.

  • Find your place of service.
    • Greeting Compass (N-S-E-W) each Sunday
    • First Impressions Team with intentional hospitality
    • Worship & A/V
    • CM / YM
    • Group Leaders
    • See a need, meet a need. Listen & Love.

We often overcomplicate ministry by not recognizing the Holy Spirit in every believer and wanting to structure entire ministries that rise and fall on one/few individuals. If you see a need at SPBC, grab a friend (or two) and work together to create solutions and serve others in the name of Jesus.

When we understand the glory of God was for the Father to send the Son to serve humanity with His death, then all our boasting is deflated, and we are compelled to follow His example.

Arrogance has an antidote with gratitude to God.

Paul says, “love is not arrogant.” (1Cor 13:4)

Paul uses the word φυσιόω which means to puff, blow wind, or inflate; to grow large without substance; or more brutally, it is like calling someone a “wind-bag.” Arrogance goes beyond boasting in that it not only promotes self, but it punishes others.  This can be understood in two ways arrogance fails us:

  1. Arrogance fails to admit weakness.  An arrogant person will not say, “This is not my area of expertise.” When an arrogant person faces a problem that they have little experience or ability to overcome, they will do one of two things:
    a) Push. They will force their way forward, believing that somehow, they can simply will themselves toward a solution, and by hard work and determination they will perform all that needs accomplished.
    – And for some this succeeds! There is a lot that can be said for the power to persevere.
    – But for others this fails. Their pushing, forcing, and hammering ahead only creates more chaos, multiplies problems, and produces significant damage.

    b) Pretend. The other way arrogant people respond to problems outside of their expertise is they pretend. Instead of forcing their will they fake their way through the difficulty. And this response doesn’t cause damage as much as it causes delay. There’s gridlock. People are paused from moving forward and getting anything done because they have to wait for the approval/work of the arrogant person who has no clue what or when or how of anything they’re supposed to do. These people fail to understand that recognizing your weaknesses is not limiting your strengths.

The good news of Christianity is that it’s ok to not be okay. It’s wise to admit our weaknesses. Paul tells the Corinthians in an earlier chapter: “14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (1 Cor 12:14-22)

  • Everyone is not everything though some do have specific strengths: eyes, ears, hands, feet… but none are the entire body.
  • Everyone has weaknesses though God has arranged the body for balance. The legs need the feet to assist its walking. The arms need its shoulders to move.
  • Everyone needs to be part of a body. This is why we take membership seriously. When you spectate or snub being part of the body, you weaken yourself and all of us. From the nose of our face to the souls of our feet, our body comes together to become all that God designed and desires.
     

So, #1 Arrogance fails to admit weaknesses… it’s the brash arrogance, while there’s also a buried arrogance…. #2

2) Arrogance fails to acknowledge God is without weakness.

We think we are being humble when we say, “I can’t serve in that area because I’m not that talented or gifted.” While it is good to assess our strengths and acknowledge our weaknesses, we can also miss out on being used of God. Our greatest ability to God is availability.

Another repeated response is when someone says, “God couldn’t possibly use me.” In this case, the person thinks they are reflecting humility when in reality they are robbing God of honor. This thinking accuses God of not being able, wise, or powerful. 

  • Abraham was a coward & Sarai was barren, but God promised them undeserved blessing was faithful to work in their life.
  • Moses stuttered, was hot tempered, and couldn’t lead people, but God gave him power behind his words & deeds.
  • David was a young shepherd boy without armor, but God gave him the confidence of a warrior and the heart of a lion.
  • Peter was impetuous and immature, but God forgave his failures and focused his passion to establish the church.
  • Paul was unpleasant in appearance and attitude, but God’s grace humbled him deeply that enabled him to reach all kinds of people in all kinds of ways.

Today, God’s antidote to arrogance is trust and thankfulness of God’s allotment. Gratitude toward God purges pride bc it recognizes all we are and have is a gift. Like Mary, we must confess, “For nothing is impossible with God. I am the Lord’s servant. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:37-38)

APPLY/THINK

Today we have reflected on the dangers of love: envy, boasting, and arrogance. Yet, while there is danger there is also delight in God’s love. We are created to desire that which is the highest good and boast in the utmost glory.

C.S. Lewis said, “If you had asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. Bit if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened?
A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative idea of unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire… Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”[3]

We are created to desire that which is the highest good and boast in the utmost glory. Let us not be far too easily pleased or filled with pride over that which will fade away into eternity. Let our boast be in steadfast love from the matchless Savior.

So, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the strong man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows the LORD, who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness throughout the earth.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)


[1] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/friction-matches-were-boon-those-lighting-firesnot-so-much-matchmakers-180967318/

[2] https://growinggodlygenerations.com/2016/02/29/se7en-deadly-sins-envy-greed-proverbs-24/

[3] C.S. Lewis, The Weight Of Glory. For a summary: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/the-weight-of-glory-c-s-lewiss-remarkable-and-surprising-sermon/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s