“Where then is boasting?” (Romans 3:27)
Pride comes in all shapes and sizes. Some folk are loud and proud; others carry it more subtly. We see it in 5th-graders, teenagers, college students, and adults. It spans generations and cultures, genders and workplaces.
It afflicts us all to some extent. And it thrives when we compare ourselves with each other. We like to stand out and impress others. In a world where achievement and success makes us important, pride remains the ever-present threat.
In Romans 3, Paul asks the basic question: “What have we got to boast about?” The assumed answer, of course, is “Nothing.”
We may feel quite impressed with ourselves, but our greatest accomplishments amount to nothing in the eyes of God. How could they? Is He really wowed by our generosity or partial piety? By our ability to attract a crowd or capacity to speak well? By our parenting or IQ? By our service or skills? By our titles or status?
If we have any competence at all, it comes from Christ (2 Corinthians 3:5). God created us. He endows us. He empowers us. He graces us. And we dare to think highly of ourselves?
How remarkably vain we are! It takes only a moment to realize how ungodly and how self-deceived pride truly is. We flaunt our honors and efforts. We promote and elevate ourselves in front of others, with just enough self-deprecation to deflect direct criticism. We boast.
Some boasting itemizes our greatness. Other boasting takes far more subtle forms; names dropped, past successes mentioned, or important connections hinted at. While it’s considered tacky to talk about our money, we’ll happily drive $40,000 to make a gentle statement.
Yes, boasting comes in a variety of shapes and sizes.
In Romans 3, the apostle Paul reminds us that nothing — absolutely nothing — about us is boastworthy. Then, in Romans 5:11, Paul will say, “We boast in God!”
Perhaps that could be our Lenten discipline today. Sincerely deflect all honor to others. Refuse to exalt ourselves in speech, action, or thought. Boast only in God, if we must boast at all.
Pride functions insidiously. It offers to make us feel good but it isolates us from others. It slips into our thoughts and language, and ironically diminishes how others view us. It promises praise, but ultimately produces pain.
May we discover the haven of humility and the true life found in lowliness.