Chapter 1.
Proverbs on Boasting or Bragging

We now embark on a topic that we do not address very often, yet, it is vital that we understand its importance. Many of us have known people who are boasters that have ended up making fools out of themselves. The greatest tragedy that succumbs the boaster is when he rejects Christ because he feels he has no need of the Savior or His forgiveness. He has a false sense of security. The Bible states that if he dies without Christ, he will spend eternity in Hell. That is a genuine tragedy that has eternal consequences. This is the mistake that the rich farmer made in Luke 12.

Luke 12:19-21 .... And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. [20] But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? [21] So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

One symptom of world's wisdom is boasting. James told us in his epistle that we are to "glory not."

James 3:14—But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.

If you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don't cover up the truth with boasting and lying. This phrase "glory not" in James 3:14 comes from the Greek word katakauchaomai {kat-ak-ow-khah'-om-ahee} which means "to boast one's self to the injury of a person or thing."

Beloved, pride loves to boast or brag. When God's wisdom is at work, however, there is a sense of humility and submission. The person wants the Lord to be glorified. When the person is boastful, he wants to be glorified. His attitude is "It's my life and I want my way."

If you perform service for the glory of God, you won't get offended if you don't get recognized or patted on the back. If you are serving to gain glory from others or to boast, you will struggle with bitterness when you are not recognized. You will be offended. Your feelings will get hurt. As you can see, this matter about boasting or bragging is an important one.

Solomon lays out for us in Proverbs, important principles about this issue of "boasting." If we will heed his counsel, cautions, and concepts about this matter, we can avoid a lot of mistakes and problems that we tend to create when we boast or brag. We will examine five areas concerning boasting.

I. Boasting about the Denseness of Foolishness

Proverbs 12:23—A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.

Proverbs 13:16—Every prudent man dealeth with knowledge: but a fool layeth open his folly.

The prudent, sensible, wise man thinks before he acts. He researches a matter before making choices. He endeavors to get a grasp on his situation or circumstances before he makes a decision. The Bible says in 13:16, he "dealeth" with knowledge.

The word "dealeth" is from the word Ężasah {aw-saw'} which means "to press or squeeze." Like a thirsty man trying to squeeze all the water out of a wet sponge, the wise or prudent man thirsts for knowledge and squeezes or presses all the wisdom he can gain on an issue. Such was the description of the men of Issachar.

1 Chronicles 12:32a—And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do;...

The fool, on the other hand, behaves in a much different manner. He "lays open" his folly. This phrase is from the Hebrew word paras {paw-ras'} which means "to display, to spread out." It has the idea of boasting or bragging. The boaster spreads out his accomplishments for all to hear and see.

In the case of the fool, he brags about his stupidity and foolishness. That which should make him ashamed, he brags about and feels a sense of pride. Why does he do this? He is a fool. What happens when he does this?

A strong young man at a construction site was bragging that he could outdo anyone in a feat of strength. He made a special case of making fun of one of the older workmen. After several minutes, the older worker had enough. "Why don't you put your money where your mouth is?" he said. "I'll bet a week's wages that I can haul something in a wheelbarrow over to that building that you won't be able to wheel back."

"You're on, old man," the young worker replied. The old man reached out and grabbed the wheelbarrow by the handles. Then he turned to the young man and said, "All right. Get in." He was trapped by his pride and words.

One of the most famous fools that boasted or proclaimed foolishness was a French atheist named Voltaire. He once said, "In twenty years, Christianity will be no more. My single hand shall destroy the edifice it took twelve apostles to rear."

Voltaire wrote that in fifty years no one would remember Christianity. But in the year he wrote that, the British Museum paid the Russian government five hundred thousand dollars for a Bible manuscript while one of Voltaire's books was selling in the London book stalls for just eight cents. Fifty years after his boast, the house in which Voltaire wrote his atheistic literature was the headquarters of the Geneva Bible Society and was therefore being used to propagate the Word of God.

The nurse who attended Voltaire in his last illness said, "For all the wealth in Europe I would not see another infidel." His physician's name was Trochim. He was with the great Voltaire when he died and reported that Voltaire's last words were: "I am abandoned by God and man! I will give you half of what I am worth if you will give me six months' life. Then I shall go to Hell, and you will go with me. O Christ! O Jesus Christ!" Solomon was on target when he said that a fool proclaims foolishness and lays open his folly.

II. Boasting about Deception

Proverbs 20:14—It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer: but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth.

To get the seller to lower the price of his product, the deceptive buyer labels the product as defective and worthless, when in reality, it is not. He purchases the product after the price is lowered and brags about his bargain, telling everyone the quality of his product. The product was not bad after all. Solomon is describing people who do not say what they really think in order to get what they want. They deceive in order to take advantage of the seller.

III. Boasting about Donations or Gifts

Proverbs 25:14—Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.

Boasting is based on pride. It is to seek admiration by claiming to be or to have, what one actually is not, or does not possess. Solomon turned his attention here to the person whose profession is empty as a bucket full of holes. Solomon mentions a false gift. The word translated "false" here means "pretended, disappointing, or fraudulent."

The kind of person Solomon had in mind pretends to be someone he isn't, or claims to have skills, abilities, and insights he doesn't have. He makes promises he cannot keep and leaves heartache in his wake. The individual that brags or boasts about giving a gift, but fails to follow through on his promise, is like clouds and wind that bring no rain at all. Especially in times of drought, clouds in the sky give hope of rain. When the rain fails to fall, there is deep disappointment.

People that boast or promise to give a gift ignite hope and excitement in others that are in need. When they fail to keep their word, they discourage and dishearten those who are dependent on that promise. It would have been better to not make the promise at all.

When it comes to giving, we are to give and keep our mouth shut about it. If you promise to give or help someone, then do all that you can to keep that promise. If you are unsure you have the ability to help someone, then don't make the promise at all.

Proverbs 21:14—A gift in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath.

Matthew 6:3-4 ... But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: [4] That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

Beloved, true heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. Some folks give to serve others, while some give or promise to give in order to serve themselves. In his book The Prodigal God, best-selling author and pastor Timothy Keller offers the following story to illustrate self-centered giving:

Once upon a time there was a gardener who grew an enormous carrot. So he took it to his king and said, "My Lord, this is the greatest carrot I've ever grown or ever will grow. Therefore, I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you." The king was touched and discerned the man's heart, so as the gardener turned to depart, the king said, "Wait! You are clearly a good steward of the earth. I own a plot of land right next to yours. I want to give it to you freely as a gift so you can garden it all." The gardener was amazed and delighted, and went home rejoicing.

But there was a nobleman at the king's court who overheard all this. And he said, "My! If that is what you get for a carrot—what if you gave the king something better?" So the next day the nobleman came before the king and he was leading a handsome black stallion. He bowed low and said, "My lord, I breed horses and this is the greatest horse I have ever bred or ever will. Therefore, I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you."

But the king discerned his heart and said thank you, and took the horse and merely dismissed him. The nobleman was perplexed. So the king said, "Let me explain. That gardener was giving me the carrot, but you were giving yourself the horse."

Let me ask, "Do you give to get something for yourself such as recognition, praise, or good public relations for business or promotion? When you promise to give to others, do you keep your word? If not, you are like clouds and wind without rain. You have hurt the credibility of your word.

IV. Boasting about your Destiny

Proverbs 27:1—Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

Boasting about tomorrow leads to carelessness. The cocky, overconfident attitude can lead a person to drop their guard or be caught off guard. Boasting of tomorrow demonstrates pride. It denies God's control over one's life. The attitude that says, "I'm in control and I'm going to do what I want" can lead to some big surprises. Babylon had this attitude and James warned us about thinking this way.

Isaiah 47:10, 11 .... For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me. Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put if off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.

James 4:13-15 ... Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: [14] Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. [15] For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

Solomon warned, "Boast not thyself of tomorrow!"

Boast Not Thyself of Tomorrow

Boasting about tomorrow is the kind of attitude that causes people to be caught by surprise when their plans take an unexpected turn for the worse. It also causes them to neglect or shun the Lord, because they have no room in their lives or their plans for Him.

Having God-directed goals are great. There is nothing wrong with them. Caleb had a goal for 45 years to conquer his mountain. Plans and goals are important. They give us a purpose and something to shoot for in our lives. Without goals or a purpose, you become bored. That's your fault. Get some goals for God. Serve the Lord and other people.

Realize, however, you may never reach some of your goals. Your circumstances can change drastically. Solomon says, "Don't boast, or don't shine about what you are going to do tomorrow." Some folks go through life and say, "Lord willing, I will do this." That's good. Others have the attitude, "I am going to do this or that, and nobody will get in my way. I am going to get my own way no matter what it takes. I don't care what anyone else says." That can be bad when the Lord is left out of the equation.

In 1987, William McKinley Lewis Jr. died. His son, American sprinter Carl Lewis, placed the gold medal he had won for the 100 meter race at the 1984 Olympics in his hand to be buried with him. "Don't worry," Carl told his mother. "I'll get another one."

In 1988, Carl met Canadian Ben Johnson in the 100 meters at the Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. Johnson and Lewis had taken turns in defeating each other in previous match-ups and were fierce competitors. On September 24, Johnson beat Lewis in the 100 meter final, lowering his own world record to 9.79 seconds to win the gold medal. Lewis finished at 9.92 seconds, but was crushed by the defeat.

Johnson boasted, "They can break my record, but they can't take my gold medal away." However, Johnson's urine samples were found to contain a steroid, and the judges disqualified him three days later. The gold medal, as well as the world and Olympic records were awarded to Carl Lewis. Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

You have no guarantee of tomorrow. For this reason, if you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, then put your faith in Him today. This is what Paul urged us all to do.

2 Corinthians 6:2—(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)

V. Boasting about Distinctions and Dignity

Proverbs 20:6—Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?

Proverbs 27:2—Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.

According to Reuters News Agency, on April 28th, at the 1992 Galveston County Fair and Rodeo, a steer named Husker, weighing in at 1,190 pounds, was named grand champion. The steer was sold at auction for $13,500 and slaughtered a few days after the competition. When veterinarians examined the carcass, said a contest official, they found something suspicious. They discovered evidence of what is called "airing."

To give steers a better appearance, competitors have been known to inject air into their animals' hides with a syringe or a needle attached to a bicycle pump. Pump long enough, and they've got themselves what looks like a grand champion steer, though of course it's against the rules. The Galveston County Fair and Rodeo Association withdrew the championship title and sale money from Husker. A pumped-up steer is like a person that brags on himself. Such boasting is empty and lacks substance.

If there is going to be any bragging going on about you, then let another person do the bragging. A man's praise smells sweet when it comes out of other men's mouths, but in his own mouth, it stinks. Don't brag or boast about yourself. Why? The person who sings his own praises is usually off key. People who sing their own praises usually do so without accompaniment. Franklin Jones said, "Nobody's so apt to be a soloist as the fellow who blows his own horn." Do you wish people to think well of you? Don't speak well of yourself.

Since there is room for one glory only in the universe, the moment we glorify ourselves, we set ourselves up as rivals to the Most High. We are to bring honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. To boast in the Lord is to give God the praise and glory that are rightfully His.

1 Corinthians 1:31—That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

Galatians 6:14—But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

Psalm 44:8—In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah.

Jeremiah epitomizes the biblical perspective on boasting in the ninth chapter.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 ... Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts, boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth.

This passage repudiates boasting about oneself as misplaced praise and encourages boasting in God, which is appropriately directed praise offered to one who is worthy. To boast in one's self is to claim the praise and glory that belong to the Lord. It is evil.

James 4:16—But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.

People boast in their good works and deeds, thinking they will earn their way to Heaven. God, however, has made it very clear, that we are saved by His grace, not by our works. In fact, He tells us why we are saved by His grace.

Ephesians 2:8-9 .....For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: [9] Not of works, lest any man should boast.

James Montgomery Boice stated that years ago, when he was a boy learning his first lessons in the Bible, he was influenced greatly by Donald Grey Barnhouse, one of his predecessors at Tenth Presbyterian Church. This is what he shared: I remember many of the stories Barnhouse told to illumine Bible truths. One of them was about a young man who had been brought up in a New York City slum but had risen to fame and fortune in the theatrical field through his song-writing talents.

He bought a yacht with his new wealth, and although he did not know the first thing about yachting, he hired men to sail the boat for him and assumed the title "Captain." Then he invited his mother, who had come to the United States from eastern Europe and had more common sense than her son, to go sailing with him.

The young man seated his mother in the stern of his yacht and went below to change into his captain's uniform. When he appeared on deck a few moments later, he was resplendent. His uniform was white, and it was liberally decorated with gold braid and brass buttons. The young man struck an appropriate pose and said, "Look, Momma, I'm a captain!" The old woman calmly surveyed him, then, like one used to deflating the ego of her bumptious children, answered, "Sonny, by you, you is a captain, and by me, you is a captain, but by captains, you is no captain."

After telling this story, Barnhouse would apply it to good works and our lack of standing before God. He would say, "By you, you're good; by me, you're good; but by God, you're no good. In his sight you have no goodness at all."

Isaiah 64:6—But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.