Love Does Not Boast

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast (1 Corinthians 13:4)

There are many things we can study in which there is a necessary delay in the application of what we have learned. You put your mind to something, you learn, take information in, process it all, and at some point you apply what has been learned, the knowledge becomes useful in some way. For instance, if someone is studying to be a doctor, and she is in her first year as a pre-med student, even in that first year she may learn some things about the human body, but she is not yet qualified to pick up a scalpel and make an incision to repair some organ that has ruptured. We all understand that there will be, in that instance, a delay between what has been learned and when that learning will be applied in the field, or operating room in this case.

Many things are that way. We study, learn, prepare, get psyched up in some cases, we wait for the big day, the time of testing with anticipation or sometimes even anxiety and at just the right time, here we go. We finally get to put into practice what we have learned. There is a day when theory turns to practice.

However, for some, the day for putting into practice things learned never comes. Think of the perpetual student. The one who learns, and learns, one who loves to take in new things. This person may enjoy the learning so much that he sees no good reason to move on. In fact, this person may become frightened of leaving the relatively safe world of learning and entering the risky world of trying out the things he has learned. What if he fails? What if he cannot succeed in a world of practice? What if he forgets what to do or simply cannot adjust to something new?

In our study through 1 Corinthians 13 on the topic of love, I want to point out two things by way of introduction. First is this: there need not be a period of waiting to apply truths about love that we have learned and will learn. We don’t have to have it all figured out, be experts on love, know all there is to know – none of that. There is a whole field of people in your life, and even here this morning, that you can go to work on. You don’t have to have a license or malpractice insurance! And I am sure that they are okay with you practicing on them. Practicing patience, kindness, not being envious, and not boasting. Are you okay with people close to you practicing those things on you? I’m sure we are all okay with that. 

Secondly, don’t get so caught up in the learning about love that you, we, fail to step out and be loving. Don’t be one who says, “Well that was interesting,” and move on to something else. No, it’s not interesting until it is put into practice, until we see it work. 

We are brothers and sisters in Christ, we are family. We are connected to each other by Christ, and this relationship we have with Christ and each other is to be saturated in love.

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

We show our affiliation with Christ by how we live our lives loving other people. That is huge. Our words can be shallow and cheap. But the demonstration, the day in, day out demonstration of love will give evidence of our relationship to Jesus Christ. The practice of love means something. It means and tells those around us that we belong to Him!

And so, don’t get hung up on the idea of a learning curve or studying forever, practice begins now, even right now. How will you love the people around you this morning during this worship service? I mean we don’t even have to wait until the sermon is over, right? We can start right now! How? Being careful not to distract anyone who here. Maybe listening intently or taking notes that you can use later on to help someone in need of answers to life’s problems. Maybe prayerfully committing to live differently, which will certainly affect your friends. Even now it begins, loving others because we love Christ.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast (1 Corinthians 13:4)

We have looked at three aspects of love so far: love is patient and kind and love does not envy. Today we will see that love does not boast. When God says in His Word that love does not boast, it means that it does not brag or parade itself. In other words, love does not show itself off.

Now last week we looked at the truth that love does not envy, and we talked about that as a problem primarily of how we view God. God is our provider, God is our protector, for His children He gives liberally all of that is good and best for us, and He withholds what is harmful for us. He is taking care of all things that come to us and of all things that don’t get to us. And every bit of it for our good. So to envy what others have is to doubt God’s goodness, His wisdom, and His love in our lives. To envy is to say to God, “I don’t like how you are caring for me and I know better than you do what is best for me.” We are making ourselves to be God when we envy what other people have. Love does not envy. Being envious also harms our ability to love others because we get all caught up in comparisons, we want what they have so we can’t properly rejoice with them in the ways God has given to them.

Now to boast is sort of the other side of the coin. To boast or brag is to put ourselves in a position over other people and to provoke our neighbors to become envious or jealous. When we brag we tend to build ourselves up, try to make ourselves look important, and conversely others unimportant. There is a key theme to both envy and boasting and that key theme is a love for and emphasis of self!

This is what was going on in the Corinthian church. There seemed to be a great deal of boasting regarding spiritual gifts. A comparing of gifts and ranking them in order of importance. Teaching, serving, tongues, administration, and others. It was as if they believed that God gave gifts to individuals according to their own merit, that is what they were thinking. Like, “You are so gifted, so here is your gift!” God doesn’t work that way. In fact sometimes we see that He gives some gifts to the most unlikely and most undeserving candidates. If gifts were earned then there could be boasting, but since they are not earned where is the boasting to be? Not with ourselves!

I love what Richard Philips says about boasting or bragging. He really helps us to put this in perspective and see the foolishness of our own depraved hearts that we would even boast at all. Here is what he said…

“From the Bible’s perspective, such boasting is pathetic and evil. We are so busy trumpeting our virtues and strengths, when in fact we are covered in shame because of sin and are daily shown to be weak, needy creatures. Indeed, the problem with pride is not that it seeks to bring us glory. We were created for glory, being made in the very image of God. Adam and Eve were glorious in the Garden…In itself, glory is good, appropriate, something to be rightly pursued. The problem with our self-glorifying is the problem with all sin; it is a good thing made evil because it is not used for its right end but to seek a wrongful end. Our glory is intended to promote the glory of the One who created us; that is what Adam was to do and to be, the image-bearer of God’s glory. The problem with our pride and boasting is that it steals glory from God, to whom all boasting is rightly due.”

So the question is this: “Why not boast in what is truly glorious?” Boast in God! Boasting in self is anti-that. Boasting says, “Look at me, look what I have done, look at what I have, glory in my accomplishments, in my success. Be in awe of my looks, my body, my possessions.” Boasting says, “Don’t glory in God, glory in me!”

Here are some things love will not do:

Love will not do what the man did in Luke 18:11-12.

11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

Love will not do what the people did that Jesus described in Matthew 6:1,16.

1 Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven…16 And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

Love will not do this, from Matthew 23:5-7

5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.

Love wont do what Ananias and Sapphire did in Acts 5 when they sold land and lied about their gift to the church; they wanted to look good in the eyes of men.

Love won’t try to impress people with:
Power
Knowledge
Education
Material possessions
Beauty
Skills
Importance
Position
Background
List of associates
Family accomplishments

Love won’t…
Exaggerate the truth
Overdress or underdress to attract attention
Live beyond our means to try to impress others
Only tell the flattering parts of our lives
Take credit for ideas that weren’t our own
Use unnecessary big words to impress

And we could go on and on. Real love won’t do these things! But what will it look like?

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. (2 Corinthians 4:5)

18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:18-21)

How does all this tie in to loving other people? Get this, because this is so important, so basic and yet so important, and I love this because it all becomes so clear.

All of these three passages that I just read show us how to glory in God, boast in God. “far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,” “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord,” “Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice,” “For to me to live is Christ.”

Do you see what happens here as we focus on Christ, as we love others? We are saying, “Look at Christ, look at His work, look at His glory, glory in His work and peace and comfort and faithfulness. Look into His love, see what He is providing for your future, find your joy in Him, focus on Him, look on Him, boast in Him!”

Our boasting in Christ, pointing to His glory, provides loving, needed encouragement to those who are lost, suffering, or confused. It builds up, gives hope, strengthens faith. We are pointing our Christian siblings to the source of what they need at any given moment and playing a part in their sanctification. Do you see that? Do you see what boasting in Christ does for your close friends?

Think of the alternative. Think of, instead of boasting in Christ, we spend our time with others trying to impress them with what we have or what we have done or who we know. Now, that is really helpful, isn’t it? Instead of driving them or leading them to the throne of grace, we provoke them to sin, to jealousy, to envy. We tear them down instead of building them up. That is where boasting in ourselves leads; it is not loving, it is contrary to love and counter to what is most needed in anyone’s life. Do we want to cut others down or do we want to build them up in Christ?

Jesus Himself, as He walked on this earth, had a love for others that did not brag. Of all the beings that have ever walked on the earth, Jesus could have boasted. From the cross He could have boasted of His power and followed that up with mighty acts of retribution. While being scourged Jesus could have bragged about His creative powers and stopped those evil men from using the very bodies that He made to stop the beatings. He could have boasted in His wisdom and tricked those who killed Him without hardly an ounce of His intellect. But no, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23) He refused to boast in His power, in His creative power and His wisdom.

In Acts 8:32 Philip said that Jesus was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearers is silent, so He did not open his mouth. Amazing! 

He is our example. Our boast is in Him, never in ourselves. All glory to Him, not to ourselves. We can put Him on display, not ourselves.

So it seems we have a choice in the matter of whether to love or not in the way we present ourselves and our Lord to others. In whom do we glory? Which way do we choose? Satan exalted himself, Nebuchadnezzar exalted himself, and the Pharisees exalted themselves. It’s our fleshly tendency – to exalt ourselves, not for the good of others, but for the self-glory that we crave. A glory that we sadly crave at the expense of loving others.

It is important, I believe, for us to understand that since we all have a fleshly tendency, sinful desire, at least in some measure to boast in ourselves, we must understand what the only motive will be that can break that tendency and desire. 

That all-important motive must be that we see who we really are in Christ, and let that stop the self-boasting. If we really know that, then a shift will take place, a necessary shift will take place from a primary desire to exalt ourselves, to an ever-increasing desire to exalt Christ and boast only in Him.

We are, as Christians, in Christ. We have been called by God, set apart for Him, sanctified in Christ Jesus, called by His name. We are those who have received His grace in Christ, we have been spiritually enriched by God in Christ, we are awaiting a second coming of Christ, we have fellowship with God in Christ, united with God in Christ, we are loved by God in Christ, accepted by God in Christ, made new by God in Christ, we have peace with God through Christ, we have been relieved from our guilt in Christ. He is everything, everything to us, our all in all, everything. Why would we exalt Him and not ourselves? Because of who He is and what He has done and who we are in Him. It is because of the Gospel. Our boast is in Him! Boasting in ourselves is all about us; boasting in Him is for eternal good, for His glory.

I really want to urge each of you, even as I am speaking to my own heart here, to carefully and thoughtfully consider your speech, your conversation with others ,especially in how we present ourselves. We can be so subtle with our boasting. I know I have caught myself many times just slipping in things about myself to try and make myself look better than I am. To try to lift up myself in other people’s opinions. Sinfully so, subtle boasting, bragging. Maybe you can identify some of that in your own life and repent. We can repent and find ways to lift up the name of Christ together, to make Him known, exalting Him in this place and as we enter our homes, places of work, schools, clubs, neighborhoods, or wherever else we may go.

Love does not boast – love exalts Christ.

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast (1 Corinthians 13:1-4)