It often first surfaces in the seemingly innocent words of a three-year-old venturing into unknown tasks — “I can do it!” the child adamantly asserts to his parent. Yet he likely cannot do it and he may even be endangering himself in his quest.
Oh, that we learned to stop bragging after those first foolish words. But we don’t. Bragging words are the inevitable result of our fleshly pride. A mind that feasts on self-glorifying thoughts can only belch out self-exalting words. And we are prolific with those words. We minimize our inadequacies and failures. We “stretch” our accomplishments beyond reality. We make ourselves and our conquests the focus of our conversation. Instead of being genuinely interested in others, we ask questions to evoke an opportunity to exalt ourselves. We are prone to braggadociousness. We find joy in our bragging words; those around us are repulsed by our self-focus.
No one likes a braggart. And that includes God.
God hates boasting and bragging because boasting and bragging robs God of His glory. Bragging minimizes God’s greatness and arrogantly asserts that there is something or someone more satisfying than God. God hates boasting because boasting cannot and will not satisfy in the end. Only He will satisfy, so He desires our praise of Him because only then will we experience the greatest joys of life. In condemning boasting, God is pointing people to the true object of pride so that we avoid being proud of something that is secondary or tertiary — or last.
Further, boasting claims authority, power, and sovereignty when there is none. Boasting attempts to supplant God from His kingly throne. Boasting shuns humility before God and trust in God. In pride, the boaster takes the One who is ultimate and makes Him secondary and takes the one who is lowest and makes him ultimate. It turns everything about God and man and reverses them. If God, in grace, makes the last first, that’s one thing. If the last man pridefully asserts his exalted status and usurps God’s authority, that is ungodly folly.
Consider what the Scriptures say about prideful boasts:
Like clouds and wind without rain
Is a man who boasts of his gifts falsely. (Prov. 25:14)
Do not boast about tomorrow,
For you do not know what a day may bring forth. (Prov. 27:1)
Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man?
The lovingkindness of God endures all day long. (Ps. 52:1)
They pour forth words, they speak arrogantly;
All who do wickedness vaunt themselves. (Ps. 94:4)
In summary, bragging is lying, foolishness, arrogance, and wickedness. That’s not a good list. So God hates self-boasting. But there are some things in which we can rightly boast.
If we must boast, then let us boast in:
- tribulations (Rom. 5:3)
- God (Rom. 5:11; 1 Cor. 1:31; 2 Cor. 10:17)
- the ministry of others (2 Cor. 5:12; 7:14; 9:2)
- authority given by God (2 Cor. 10:8; 11:16-18)
- weaknesses (2 Cor. 11:30; 12:5-6, 9)
- the cross of Christ (Gal. 6:14; Phil. 3:3)
- perseverance of other believers (2 Thess. 1:4).
There’s no self-exaltation on that list. But because all those things point to God as the source of strength, transformation, and hope, then those boasts all will lead to our joy.
God hates boasting — and He especially hates boasting about salvation. That’s why Paul says in Ephesians 2:9 that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone — “so that no one may boast.” Salvation is by grace for the express purpose of excluding boasting. Man was re-wired through original sin to be self-righteous and boastful. God’s salvation intentionally excludes that opportunity for boasting so that all our declarations about our salvation terminate on Him and not ourselves.
Because the believer is eternally reliant on the grace of God for salvation (cf. Eph. 2:7), that means boasting will always and only be in God and self-boasting is never appropriate for the believer. Boasting in self always detracts from the work of God and attributes divine action to human ability — and that is heresy. There will be no boasting in our achievements in Heaven. There should be no man-focused bragging on earth, either.
Never boast in yourself. Never attempt any kind of self-righteousness. Never brag to the infinite God about your salvation “powers.” Do you still find yourself inclined to boast? Then, consider the great gift of your salvation from God through Christ (1 Cor. 1:29-30) and then “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31).