Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
For some months now we have been making our way through Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by a debased mind. Because God is just, when peoples rebel against Him, He delivers them over to a debased mind. Today, we consider Paul’s assertion that these people of debased mind “are boasters.”
Paul uses the term “boasters” both here and in his similar list of sins in 2 Timothy 3:2 where he writes that in latter times,“men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud…” G. Delling defines the boaster as [either] “the one who ‘makes more of himself’ than the reality justifies, ‘ascribing to himself… more and better things than he has, or even what he does not possess at all’; [or the one] who ‘promises what he cannot perform’” (TDNT, 226). So let’s consider these two features.
On the one hand, the boaster is the one who ascribes “to himself more and better things than he has, or even what he does not possess at all.” He seeks to make himself look big in the eyes of others. He boasts of wealth he does not possess; luxuries he has never enjoyed; conquests he has never achieved; grades he has never earned; friends he has never made; creations he has never fashioned; character traits he has never developed. The boaster, in this sense, is the braggart, “a person who has a self-exalting, self-absorbed conceit of their own superiority; especially one that believes that all achievements are of their own doing.”
On the other hand, the boaster is the one who “promises what he cannot perform.” He over promises and under delivers. The boaster assures his customer that the paint will never fade; that the weeklong job will be done within 24 hours; that the product will create a utopia on earth. James describes this boaster as one who says, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit.” But James reminds such a man that, in fact, he does “not know what will happen tomorrow.” Thus, rather than boast, he ought always to be humble and say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But the boaster is not characterized by such humility. “But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16).
So what of you? Are you boastful? Do you think more of yourself than you ought to think? Do you promise what you cannot perform, giving no thought to the will and Providence of Almighty God? Or do you acknowledge honestly in the fear of God both your strengths and weaknesses? Do you couch your promises with, “If the Lord wills”? This is what it means to be a humble man. As the Lord declares through the prophet Jeremiah, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things…” (Jer 9:23-24)
Reminded that we are called to boast in the Lord and not to have inflated and unreasonable thoughts of ourselves and our abilities, let us confess that we often boast in our wisdom, riches, and might. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.