Archive for the ‘Daniel 4’ Category

The Folly of Boasting

We are looking at righteous speech and today we remind ourselves of “The Folly of Boasting.” Our text is James 4:13-17:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

All about boasting

Boasting means to brag; to call attention to yourself in a prideful way with regard to your accomplishments and abilities. It means to lift yourself up in the eyes of others through your words; to glorify yourself. Now this all assumes that what you are saying is true, otherwise we are dealing with lying. But there is also exaggeration – stretching the truth about yourself, which is a common form of boasting.

The root of it all is an overly exalted view of who we are, or pride. And just as Jesus says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” Matthew 12:34, so boasting words come forth from a heart that is proud, lifted up, and arrogant.

We have a good example, from out text:

  • Someone who thinks he has control enough of his life to say what he will do next year or even tomorrow.
  • This leads to the boast – “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – v. 13.
  • James call this “arrogance” – v. 16.

Now, in our culture boasting is no big thing. Politicians regularly exaggerate and take credit for things they shouldn’t. But we say that’s just politics. Athletes as well boast as a regular part of their routine. So let me make this point as clearly as possible. Boasting is a big deal to God. In fact . . .

Boasting brings disaster

  • James 4:16-17 says that it is “evil” and a “sin.”

  • 2 Timothy 3:2 lists it as a sign of the corruption of the end times which we live in.

  • Romans 1:30 lists it as a sin that deserves death, along with things like murder and God-hating.

Now the reason I say boasting brings disaster is that God takes it upon himself to humble the proud boaster. I Corinthians 1:28-29 tells us that God brings to nothing those that are exalted, “so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

In Matthew 23:12 Jesus says, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” These phrases are “divine passives.” So it means that God will lift up the lowly and God will bring down the boaster. This speaks to the folly or foolishness of boasting. Do you really want God as your enemy? Speaking of being humbled, lets look at . . .

The story of Nebuchadnezzar – Daniel 4

One day this powerful king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and he boasted: ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’

Remember what happens? While these words were still in the king’s mouth, a voice from heaven told him that he was no longer King and he would live like a wild animal.

The story goes on, “that same hour the judgment was fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar was driven from human society. He ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of heaven. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws” (Daniel 4:33 NLT).

After the king came back to his senses, he had learned his lesson. He said, “The most high God’s rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. . ..” He went on to say – “I . . . praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.”

If God can humble such a one, he can certainly humble us. So that this need not happen, lets look at . . .

The cure for boasting before God: The truth

This speaks to our overly exalted view of who we are. We need to pull off the blinders and see reality.

The truth is that we are small and powerless in this world. To those who boasted about tomorrow – James 4:14 says, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” He goes on to tell them that they don’t even know what tomorrow will bring.

As Jesus said in Matthew 5:36, we can’t even make one hair of our head white or black (he is not talking about dying our hair here).

We should recognize how small and powerless we are, so that we say about the future – “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” v. 15. Tomorrow is in God’s hands, not ours. Our very lives are in God’s hands.

The truth is that all we have is given to us by God. I Corinthians 4:7 says, “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”

Are you talented? Do you have many gifts, abilities, and accomplishments? It is all only because God made you able to do these things. You can’t take credit for it. You have to give thanks to God for your gifts and accomplishments. Because without God, you are literally nothing.

The truth is that God will never owe us praise, as if we can impress God. Indeed, even if we are perfect in our behavior, we have only done what we were supposed to do in the first place!

In Luke 17:10 Jesus says, “When you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” You don’t earn credit from God for doing what you were supposed to do in the first place.

Paul knew this. He said in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”

So, for all these reasons, we have no basis for boasting before God. But we also boast before others. And . . .

The cure for boasting before others: Love

That’s because love does not exalt itself over others. 1 Corinthians 13:4 says, “Love does not . . . boast; it is not arrogant . . .”

  • Pride leads you to lift yourself up over others – even to lift yourself up by pushing others down below you.
  • But love is not self-centered. Love leads you to lower yourself in order to lift others up to serve and to help.

If we have a problem comparing ourselves to others and then boasting, what we need is a dose of love for others in our heart.

Three rules for humble speech

1. Let your actions speak for you. In 2 Corinthians 12:6 Paul says, “I refrain from boasting, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.”

Yes, there are times when you have to say what you do well and what you have done, like in a job interview. And we should be able to assess ourselves and know what we do well and not so well – without exaggeration.

But other than being asked, live your life and let that speak for you.
2. Let others praise you. Proverbs 27:2 says, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” You can boast about others. Paul boasts on his converts. So this is fine. But don’t boast about yourself.

3. If you must boast, boast in the Lord. This idea comes from various Old Testament references (Psalm 44:8; Psalm 34:2, Jeremiah 9:23-24). We boast in the Lord by praising him for whatever is good in our lives.

Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 1:31 – “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” But with regard to himself he says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 – “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses.”  

So you speak of how the Lord is working and do so in a way that highlights your weakness and God’s strength. This turns boasting inside out, and uses your mouth for what it was made for: instead of glorifying yourself – you glorify the Lord.

William Higgins

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