Title: Love Does Not Boast
Text: 1 Corinthians 13:4
Time: February 18th, 2007
Today we continue in the sermon series on love from 1 Corinthians 13; we come to the second contrasting characteristic in the Apostle Paul’s list – Love does not boast. Normally, Paul lists a positive characteristic of love, but starting in verse four he begins mixing both positive and negative characteristics. Or in other words, Paul contrasts what love is with what love isn’t, what love does with what love doesn’t do. Today, we’ll again be looking at what love doesn’t do, that is, love doesn’t boast. In the past few weeks we’ve looked at what love is – patient and kind. Then last week we looked at what love isn’t – envious. This week we’ll again look at what love isn’t – boastful. What does it mean to be boastful? According to Webster’s Dictionary, it means to “speak of or assert with excessive pride; to possess and often call attention to something that is a source of pride; to express pride in oneself or one’s accomplishments.” Some other words that are similar to boast are: brag, vaunt, crow. It says, “Boast often suggests exaggeration, but it may imply a claiming with proper and justifiable pride. Brag suggests crudity in glorifying oneself. Vaunt usually connotes more pomp than boast and less crudity than brag. Crow usually implies exultant boasting or bragging.” So we can see from these words and definitions the basic idea that Paul is trying to teach us not to do. Love does not boast. I think for me the best illustration of boasting is the image I’ll never forget of the prizefighter Mohammed Ali during the time when he was in his prime, looking into the television camera and saying, “I’m the greatest of all time!” Now that was part of his persona, his image, his acting job that he’d use to intimidate the other fighters, but there was no doubt a lot of it was his own boasting. We’ve seen athletes boast so much we’re almost used to it by now, and we’ve seen celebrities and famous personalities boast about themselves so much that we consider it part of the game of show business. For example, the radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh boasts on the airwaves that he is “talent on loan from God.” But we all know that it’s part of his show, entertainment. But what bothers us is when we see a regular person, or somebody not entertaining exalt themselves or boast about their possessions or accomplishments. We’ve all heard people brag about themselves. We’ve all heard people talk about themselves with pride and vanity. We all know what boasting is because when we hear someone boasting we automatically don’t like it. Something inside of us objects to someone else puffing themselves up to others. But what we have to ask ourselves is whether we do it ourselves at times, because if so, it’s not a loving thing to do. “Love does not boast,” says the Apostle Paul. So today, I’d like to take a few minutes and unpack Paul’s teaching. Remember, we are trying to be more loving people in the New Year 2007. So we must learn that love does not boast. Let’s look at three areas.
First, Love does not boast about possessions. 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love does not boast.” The old King James Bible says, “Charity vaunteth not itself.” The Bible teaches us that we aren’t supposed to brag or boast about what we possess. Have you ever seen anyone brag about something they own? Sure, we all have. We human beings are funny creatures. We like to feel good about ourselves and one of the ways we try to feel good about ourselves is to brag to others about what we have. For example, some people boast about what they drive – their car. Some people will go on and on about their car. If they get a new car, they brag about it to everyone. But it could be anything really. It could be a new house; it could be a super sound system or home entertainment system. It could be this or that or the other, but we human beings love to boast about things we have. Now why is that? Because we are trying to impress people. We are trying to show people how important or how special we are, so we use things, our possessions to make us look good in the eyes of other people. It’s always looking good in the eyes of other people. Without other people, there is no room for boasting. Think about it. Have you ever heard anyone brag to his or her dog? Have you ever heard anyone boasting to their cat? Have you ever seen anyone out in the middle of a forest trying to impress the trees? No. But we’ve seen plenty of people trying to impress other people by bragging about something they have in order to make themselves feel important in front of other people. But why is bragging or boasting wrong? Because it isn’t considering the other person, it’s only considering ourselves. Think about it. When I boast or brag about something I own, I’m doing it to make myself feel good about myself, and I’m wanting to impress you to feel good about myself too. But it’s all about me. It’s all about myself. I’m thinking about making myself feeling good and building myself up, or as the King James Bible says, “puffing up” myself. I’m using you to build myself up, but I’m not really considering you at all. I’m using you for me. In fact, when people brag and boast, they usually do so in order to make themselves feel big and others to feel small in comparison. When I boast about something I have that you don’t have I’m building myself up by cutting you down. I’m saying, “Look what I have and what you don’t have; I’m better than you.” That’s not love, that’s pride. Love looks out for the other person. Just a couple of weeks ago we learned about love being patient and kind. That’s thinking of the other person, not just myself. But when I’m boasting or bragging about what I possess, that isn’t loving other people, it’s loving myself. I’m thinking of me, and not others. Because boasting about what I have that others don’t is “rubbing it in” as they say, or flaunting something in front of others. That’s doesn’t build others up, that doesn’t love people, that tears them down. Love does not boast.
Second, Love does not boast about achievements or accomplishments. 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love does not boast.” Some people use possessions to make themselves look superior to others, but other people use achievements or accomplishments. That’s what Mohammed Ali did in his boasting. For a number of years during the 1970s, he was the best prizefighter in the world, and he let everyone know it too! Every time a camera turned his direction he’d stare right into the lens and say clearly and distinctly, “I’m the greatest of all time.” He was also the one who started saying, “It ain’t bragging if you done it.” But that’s not true. It’s still bragging and boasting even if you done it! Boasting is self-exalting yourself. Bragging is tooting your own horn. Now most parents try to teach their children to not compliment themselves, to let others do it. But when we boast or brag of our accomplishments or achievements we are complimenting ourselves, and that’s not right. Some people have gone to college; others have not. We are not supposed to boast or brag of going to college because that might make other people who haven’t feel bad, or feel insignificant or unimportant. If we love people, we care about how they feel; that’s being kind. But if we are bragging about our accomplishments, we aren’t being sensitive to others; that’s not love. Some people have awards of recognition for something, or earned certificates of recognition from organizations to honor them. It isn’t loving to boast or brag of these accomplishments. Some veterans boast and brag about their war accomplishments. Some of these stories are interesting, but a lot of them are like fishermen stories – a lot of hot air. But even if they are true, they shouldn’t be used to boast or brag in order to make the person telling them look important. Some parents like to brag about the accomplishments of their children; that isn’t right either, although we do give some allowances for these kinds of boasts. “My son is a doctor. My daughter is the wife of a state senator. My grandson is first in his class. My child is an honor role student at Jamestown High School.” If you want to hear a lot of these kinds of boasts, go to Florida and visit a retirement community. That’s all they do all day long is boast and brag about their children and grandkid’s accomplishments. And of course, there is a lot of bragging about what they did during there lifetime – again, a lot of this is like many of the fishermen’s stories: “I caught a fish this big!” But as Christians we don’t need to boast or brag to feel good about ourselves. We don’t need other people thinking highly of ourselves, because God already thinks highly of us. If we really understood and believed our own faith, we’d never have to use other people to build us up. All we have to do is turn to God, even the Bible, to find out God thinks we are special already. We are his children. Each one of us is special enough already because Jesus to took our place and died on the cross and forgave our sins and restored us to full fellowship with God. We are special; we don’t need to boast.
Third, Love does not boast about itself. 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love does not boast.” Some people boast about who they are, whose family they belong to, or their membership in a family or group. Some people try to feel important by being a member of an important group. That’s the whole theory behind country club membership. People boast of being a member of such and such a country club. They buy their way into an exclusive group and then brag about it. We have to be careful because we can do that as Americans. I visited Mexico a while back and I found myself bragging to the Mexicans that I was an American. I found myself saying, “This is how we do things,” or “In my country we have this or that.” I was boasting or bragging about America. Now why was I doing that? I guess I was using my American citizenship to feel good about myself at someone else’s expense; that’s not right; that’s not love. Others tell me that American’s do that all the time when they travel. People from other countries don’t like it. We see that when we are bragging and boasting about ourselves, we aren’t really concerned about other people, only about ourselves. We are self-centered, not concerned about the feelings of others. That’s why it’s wrong. Love cares about other people. The great commandment Jesus gave us is, “Love the Lord they God with all they heart, mind, soul, and strength; and love your neighbor as your love yourself.” I’m to love, or care about, God and His will supremely, and then, I’m to love, and care about others as I love and care about myself. Love will try to build others up so that they are encouraged to pursue God’s will for their lives. Love thinks as much about others as it thinks about self. But boasting and bragging is almost entirely selfish, it’s me thinking about what I can say to make me feel important, to build up my ego. It isn’t thinking of other people usually. One of the reasons we may be tempted to boast and brag is we may feel that we aren’t getting enough recognition and attention in life. Maybe we aren’t being noticed and honored for the good we do, so we resort to boasting and bragging to get that notice we feel we deserve. There is truth to the claim we aren’t recognized enough, that we are taken for granted. Yes. That is probably true. But the solution is not to resort to bragging about our possessions, if we’ve got them; or accomplishments, if we’ve got them; or about whom we are, if we are somebody. The solution is to trust that God will honor and recognize and encourage us in His own time, in His own way. God sees the good we do, we don’t need to call others attention to it for their praise. We can trust that God recognizes our lives and will give us honor and attention as He determines. So we don’t need to boast or brag, because our heavenly Father sees all and encourages us in His own way. Love does not boast. Or we might say, love doesn’t need to boast — we are important to God already. We don’t have to build ourselves up in the eyes of others. We can focus on loving others, giving attention to others, instead of trying to call attention to ourselves.