Making Pride Month Meaningful No. 4: Pride and Boasting

Jun 28, 2024 by David Fowler

Making Pride Month Meaningful No. 4: Pride and Boasting
The response of many Christians to Pride Month, which is coming to a close, is something to the effect that God hates pride, and no doubt the Bible says that. The Bible also speaks a lot about boasting. I began to look at the meaning of the words “pride” and “boast.” There seems to be a difference between them that we don’t speak much about anymore. I think I know why.
Getting Some Definitions Straight
In Webster’s Dictionary, the nouns pride and boast are synonyms. For example, pride is included in the definition of boast: “1: a statement expressing excessive pride in oneself: the act or an instance of boasting (see: BRAG) 2: a cause for pride.”
Pride and boast can also be verbs. For example, “He prides himself in his appearance.” And the definition of boast as a verb (intransitive) entails the word pride: “to praise oneself extravagantly in speech: speak of oneself with excessive pride.” Again, an example would be, “He boasts about his educational pedigree.”
But what caught my attention is a second definition of the intransitive verb, boast: “archaic: GLORYEXULT.” And those two words are found throughout the Bible.
Are Human Beings Made to Boast?
If we think of boasting only in terms of pride, we might say that all boasting is bad or wrong.
For example, James writes that those “who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’” don’t understand that life is “a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” Thinking we are the final arbiter of our doings is to engage in a form of “boasting” James says “is evil” (James 4:13, 14, 16).
But the Bible doesn’t say all boasting is evil. Christians are told to boast and to exult and so, such cannot be wrong per se.
Interestingly, the Lord (God’s formal name, not a title), speaking through His prophet Jeremiah, seems to assume we are going to boast, so He gives us instructions:
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man glory [boast]  in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory [boast] in his might, Nor let the rich man glory [boast] in his riches; but let him who glories glory [boast] in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight," says the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24 NKJV).
So, in the Bible, whether boasting is good or bad depends on the object of the boast: Is our boast in God or in something else such as ourselves regarding our station in life, such as how little we sin compared to others, or how brave we are for coming “out of the closet,” being our “authentic self,” or “living our truth.”
Why Boasting Takes a Prideful Turn
In John 5:41-44 we get Jesus’s take on where boasting takes a wrong turn.
These verses recount Jesus talking to the local religious leaders. He says to them, “I do not receive honor [i.e., praise or glory] from men.” But then he seems to switch subjects, saying "But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you.”
What an offensive thing to say to them! These Jewish religious leaders think it’s obvious that they love and honor God because they are so punctilious in keeping the traditions that they have added to God’s law to keep them from breaking God’s law!
Why would they go to such lengths if they didn’t love God?! No wonder they wanted to “cancel” Jesus!
Jesus Gives an Example of What We All Do
But Jesus gives a clear and damning example of why his assessment is accurate:
I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me [but] if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.
Jesus is saying that if there were in them the love that is God’s love—the love produced in us by God by faith as opposed to the love we try to gin up to prove to ourselves and others that we are loving—then that love would love Him who God sent in His name. 
Putting Jesus’s Example in a More Familiar Context
Though this analogy falls short, think of Jesus’s words like this. The love of my daughter is in me. And I know she loves me. So, when she thinks her children are old enough to fly to Tennessee to visit me (and their grandmother), I will receive them gladly and without reservation, and love them like they are my own children.
However, if you, who I do not know, send your children to our house, I will likely send them back.
So, Jesus is effectively saying to the religious leaders that they would rather love the child down the block that they don’t know and who shows up at their house over the “child” sent to them by the Heavenly Father who they claim to love and honor
What’s Wrong with This Picture?
Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t leave us guessing as to what is wrong with people like this:
"How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?”
Let’s get this straight. Jesus has been telling this group of people that God's love is such that He sent his only and eternally begotten Son into the mess of our human condition to let us know that this is how good God the Father is, and they find no honor and no glory in it.
“Nothing praiseworthy or to glory in there,” they say. But have one of their colleagues think they are great? Well, that’s quite an honor! That’s something to boast about and glory in.
Jesus is saying we can’t see the glory that is right in front of our face because our eyes are looking for some kind of glory from the person down the street, or in our group or club. That’s a glory we can boast about before other prideful boasters.
Looking Down My Nose at These Religious Hypocrites
I could be smug and look down at the people Jesus encountered and think, “They, of all people, should have known better.” After all, Jesus next says to them something like this, “You have Moses and the ‘Bible’ he wrote, so you should understand who I am.”
But I was just like them.
All my life I had access to the whole Bible, the completed story of the revelation of God from the beginning, and yet I could see only a way to escape Hell. Only in recent years could I see the glory offered by the Triune God who created and sustains the universe to have me, a sinner,  know Him and enjoy forever with Him the intimate, loving fellowship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
There was never anything in me to merit that kind of glory, and therefore there is nothing about which I can boast except to make my boast in Him (1 Corinthians 1:30-31: “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’" (emphasis supplied)).
Born to be Boasters
We are born to be boasters, but like the Pharisees, we find our boast in lesser things, far lesser things, than what God offers to us in the person of Jesus.
“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17). 
The condemnation is “that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). Loving darkness over the Light that forgives our evil deeds is surely an odd thing to boast about.
It’s also odd but true, that humility before God is the way to exultation and glory. “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:10,  NASB).

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