God Wants You To Brag
Did you know that God is totally fine with bragging?
Don't get me wrong, God is never cool with you bragging about yourself.
For example, In Jeremiah 9:23-24 the prophet declares the following:
"This is what the Lord says; The wise must not brag about their wisdom. The strong must not brag about their strength. The rich must not brag about their money..."
I met a pastor recently who, within the first hour or so of our meeting, made sure that I knew he had a 140 IQ. I heard later, he also shared this information with his congregation in a sermon not long after he arrived at the church as a new pastor. Additionally, he made sure to bring it up in conversations with church members, staff, etc.
When I heard this, I shook my head in disbelief.
"Who does that?" I asked the person who was sharing the information. "I would never do something like that with my congregation. I know better! I guess that's one of the reasons why my church has over five hundred people in worship and his barely has a hundred and fifty!"
And just like that, I went from being righteously indignant over that other pastor's bragging--to bragging in my own right. It's easy to do, isn't it? It's easy to fall back on our own strength, our own ideas about how we're superior to other people.
The rest of that passage in Jeremiah gives us something to brag about, however, that doesn't land us outside of the will of God.
"But if someone wants to brag, let him brag that he understands and knows me. Let him brag that I am the Lord, and that I am kind and fair, and that I do things that are right on earth. This kind of bragging pleases me..."
This subtle (and very Hebrew) way of re-framing what it means to "brag" is so powerful. It means that we aren't pushing our way forward to take credit for all of the good things in our life.
When we live into this passage, we are acknowledging the sovereign and amazing grace of God that we are able to do and accomplish whatever it is that we accomplish, and to have whatever it is that we have been able to acquire--whether that be riches, success, prestige, accolades, natural ability, you name it.
But even further, it means that we are also giving glory to the One who makes all good things possible, and that a relationship with this One is worth celebrating, sharing, gushing over and---yes, even bragging about.
In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul actually lists a whole bunch of his own accolades--some earned and some inherited, and then counts them as nothing, less than nothing even.
“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” (Phil 3:8)
Paul actually uses the Greek word skubala, which is a a slang word for dung. You can substitute a slang word for dung in English, if it pleases you. That's what Paul thought of his own accomplishments in the light of God's grace to him in Jesus. What mattered most to Paul was his relationship with God through Christ.
May you count all of your blessings, abilities, possessions, success and affirmations today as gifts from Almighty God, who should get the glory for all of them. May you find ways to celebrate your relationship with God, to share it with others, to brag on God's grace and mercy.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.