In this internet age, getting oneself out in front of potential employers has become a big issue. Whether it is the applicant or the HR Manager, differentiating is an issue.
Out of this has come the concept of a “personal brand”. In many regards, it often seems that personal branding is all about boasting and shining the spotlight on oneself. There is training for one’s “personal brand”.
Boasting isn’t all bad. By definition, boast means to have a strong affirming opinion of or confidence in a person. In black and white, that looks like a very positive. Already, we can see an issue.
The definition of boasting is not often the one we use. Our general definition (though the context may change that) is that it is groundless or overly inflated opinion of another, but usually oneself.
The Hebrew actually goes along well with the “official” definition. Often, such as in Psalm 5, it is translated as exult or praise and with God usually being the subject of it. That is very reasonable.
Even in the Greek, the issue is the same. What we miss through the written word is the modifier: empty, shallow, false, or something else. We will imply or infer when we hear or speak of “boasting”, but we often mislead others when we rely on inference or implication.
When Paul is talking about boast, the context is crucial to understanding what he means. It is also incredibly important that we see the “emptiness” that Paul is referring to. The false measurement that the nameless are comparing themselves to is…themselves.
Or, if we take James’ words into account, people who forget who they really are and then measure themselves by a false image.
Boasting, as said earlier, isn’t necessarily bad. It is groundless boasting that is the issue. People can boast for others (think of a job or personal references). However, the danger in boasting is the foundation upon which it is based.
When Paul talks about boasting in the Lord, that’s a pretty safe foundation. Yet, when Paul talks about it, it is more along the lines of “look what God did” rather than “look at what God did through me.” Still, either one is better than “look how well I did.”
Lord, let our hearts be humble towards others and you. Amen.
1) Is there a difference between bragging and boasting?
2) How does the mirror concept of James help understand the concept that Paul is trying to convey?
3) Taking the opening definition of boasting and comparing it to our “street” understanding of it, what other words can you think of that have something similar? How might they affect how you read Scripture?