But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
1 Corinthians 1:27-29
In life, there can be a thin line between two things, and the verb ‘to boast’ is an example of this. On the one hand, we receive warnings in the Bible with regards to boasting, yet on the other we see examples where boasting is commended.
Let us start with those references which serve as warnings. In Psalm 10, the ‘wicked’ are described thus: “the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul” (verse 3). In another Psalm we receive a very specific example of boasting which is unacceptable: “those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches” (Psalm 49:6). In the book of Proverbs, it is man-made plans which receive a warning, “Do not boast about tomorrow” (Proverbs 27:1).
These are all negative examples of boasting, of course, but not every boast is inappropriate: “…let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD…” (Jeremiah 9:24)
It is worth noting that the Hebrew verb used to denote the unacceptable kind of boasting is often used to mean ‘to praise’ God. Now that is a thin line!
As we turn to the New Testament, we see again that boasting can be something to reject on the one hand, yet commended on the other.
Therefore, we see James warning his readers, “you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:16).
In contrast to this, the Apostle Paul makes great claims about the boast of the Christian: “Not only that, but we rejoice (boast) in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance…” (Romans 5:3).
The pinnacle of it all is surely the blessing that stems from our reconciliation with God through Christ, “we also rejoice (boast) in God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:11).
Iwan Rhys Jones, ‘Ymffrost’, Geiriau Bywyd, 2017