On the heels of part 3 about envy, the next thing that unravels love is boasting. In fact, these two work hand in hand, but not in a loving way. While one person starts boasting, the other starts envying. Then the envying one will come up with some boast to boost their self-image, inciting envy from others.
It’s a vicious cycle.
It derives its power from the “grass is always greener” principle. Your neighbor has the perfect house, perfect yard, perfect kids, perfect job … And your neighbor projects that image, too. Before we get too far down that path, we project images, as well. We’re just not as conscious of it.
Someone says, “How are you doing?” or “How was your weekend?” and we’re most likely to say, “Great! I took in a movie, we went out to eat, we hit the arcades …”
If you want to see some funny, awkward reactions, tell people, “Not too good, actually.”
Some will be concerned, but then get away from you as quickly as they can.
My wife and I joke about what the real vacation photos would look like if people posted them on social media. You know, the pictures capturing all the fights, the snippy words when you turn down the wrong road, or one of the kids spills something in the back of the van. Instead, we see the smiling faces next to Mickey Mouse, the happy family on the beach, and so on. There’s nothing wrong with commemorating a trip with nice photos.
The problem is when we want people to think we didn’t have all the crazy times when the cameras weren’t rolling. The fact is, everyone has those crazy times. We’re all human. We all get selfish and fight. We suffer from envy, unkindness and self-centeredness.
In other words, we don’t glow with love 100% of the time. And we make it worse by boasting as if we live the charmed life.
Boasting also shows up in our thanksgiving. “I’m thankful I’m not like that publican over there! I’m not like those sinners in that part of town!”
The Spirit might be prompting us at those times, “About that….”
For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the LORD. Ps.10:3
The cold, hard truth is that none of us are righteous. None of us obey with a pure heart. And we can’t love with pure motives and show the unselfish kindness and humility until we come to terms (on a daily, even hourly basis) with our own sinfulness and shame.
I know, that’s a bad word: Shame. But, properly placed, it’s wonderful. We should recognize that we don’t deserve any good thing we have. We’re open rebels against God.
What do we all think should happen to ISIS terrorists? Should we give them nice homes in the suburbs and cozy jobs? Actually, there are people who think that’s the solution, but I digress.
No, we’d want those terrorists to pay dearly for their crimes. Justice demands that they pay!
How much worse with us who were born into open rebellion against God. Then, we made–and continue to make–choices to follow that rebellion.
We do this by focusing on ourselves and our appetites. We do this by ignoring God’s laws for proper living. We indulge in the pleasures the world says are okay, then get upset when we get penalized for our lying, lust and gluttony. We make deals with the prince of this world, then run to God when we’re bound in chains and miserable. Only we run to got with an accusatory finger pointed up. That’s right, we blame God for the horrors in this world, even though the horrors are a natural result of our sinfulness.
The fact is, we deserve every mistreatment, every sad outcome, every ‘unlucky’ turn of events that comes our way. We don’t deserve all the good things that happen.
In this world, the wicked appear to prosper. This is due to the common grace of God. They have great gain. They trample the poor and build empires for themselves. They scoff at God in the way they live, as if to tell everyone that there is no God and they are living proof. (see Psalm 10 and 37).
Apart from Christ, we can be included in the descriptions of the evil people. If you believe that God had given you a raw deal, you’re believing the words of Satan over the words of God.
A proper view of our own actual shame is the best and only antidote to boasting. And once we no longer operate on the assumption that “we’re basically good” we begin to be useful for God to love others through us.
In fact, I believe that God’s love is shown through His servants without them even being aware of it. ”Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? (Matt. 25:37,38).
When God’s love pours through us, we’re not even aware of it, so we aren’t going to be boasting about it.
We certainly won’t be going about with a spirit of contention and vainglory (as Matthew Henry points out in his commentary). Rather, we’ll be of a lowly mind, esteeming others as better than ourselves (Php 2:3).
The opposite attitude of being a “know it all” or questioning everyone on any point, always having to be the most interesting person in the room …
Well, that will actually kill your relationships. And worse, it continues your rebellion against God, which keeps you under His (Just) wrath.
Instead, we need to be honest with ourselves first. We need to hold every thought captive to ensure we’re not acting for our own glory, but for God’s. We need to remain humble, not bringing attention to how humble we are (that’s only funny because it’s too often true).
Then we’ll be useful for God’s loving purpose in this world.