Bad Boasting? (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
"Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” —Jeremiah 9:23-24
In our culture, we’re taught from an early age that boasting is bad.
The message takes different forms. Little kids are told not to “show off.” In job interviews we learn to strike just the right balance of drawing attention to our achievements and identifying our areas for growth. “I don’t want to come off as boastful,” we say.
When we dig a little deeper though, our culture doesn’t really mind boasting at all. In fact, we honor it.
Who are the people in our culture who receive the attention? Every single day —in boardrooms and playgrounds, in our houses and the White House—we honor wisdom, and power, and riches.
In the way we order our lives, from focusing on school success or career achievements, to what draws our attention on social media, we reinforce the message that life is really about attaining wisdom, power, and riches.
Our words say “do not boast!” But our actions and attitudes say “seek boast-worthy things!”
That’s where the direction of verse 24 is striking. The Bible doesn’t say “do not boast!” It says, if you want to boast, boast in something more valuable.
The Bible is full of examples of wisdom, and power, and even riches being used properly. But the point in this verse is that they cannot—and must not—be the main thing. What matters most is knowing God.
If you want a full life, do not seek after wisdom, or power, or riches, they will never fully satisfy you. Seek to understand your Creator. He is the one “who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.” Boast in knowing Him. Exalt in His character. Rejoice in His justice.
As our culture honors, and seeks to emulate, those with wisdom, power, and riches, there is a quiet acknowledgement that all is not well. Our world is broken. Great minds deteriorate. Power is not forever. Riches can be stolen or lost.
The answer to that brokenness is only found in Jesus. The wise, strong, King of the universe who became obedient to death on a cross and rose to bring new life.
Our God who delights in steadfast love, justice, and righteousness, does not honor the wise, and strong, and wealthy. He honors the weak. His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Knowing God sets us free from the obsessions of our culture. When, in the words of the psalmist, our “soul makes its boast in the Lord,” it is the humble that hear and are glad (Psalm 34:2).
Every day we are assailed by a culture that honors wisdom, power, and riches above all else. In the face of those strong cultural tides, we have the Bible’s answer. As Calvin said of these verses, “All are greatly deceived who think themselves blessed when they are alienated from God.”
We must all take hold of these verses. Pray them over our hearts. Pray them for our families and loved ones. Pray them for our churches. May those who know God not be boasters in wisdom, power, and riches, let us cling to Christ and boast in the Lord!
Are you particularly vulnerable to boast in one of these three areas (wisdom, strength, riches)?
What are the messages you are believing that are contrary to the gospel, and where are they coming from?
What changes do you need to make to stop honoring those things in your life and to boast in the Lord?