1 Corinthians 13 Part 7: Love does not Brag and is not Arrogant
1 Corinthians 4d, 1 Peter 5:5-7 Love IS humility, not bragging and arrogance.
“…love does not brag and is not arrogant,”
1 Corinthians 13:4d NASB1995
Paul lists two more attributes that are not love: Bragging and arrogance. The sin that closely follows envy as being insidious and the opposite of love is pride, which is one of the basic building blocks of arrogance and boasting (envy plays into those attributes as well). When I tried to find an appropriate photo for “pride” on the photo resource Unsplash, you can just imagine what the results were and almost all of the hundreds of photos had to do with the current usage of rainbows as a certain cultural symbol. So I looked at “awards” as another option and found this simple trophy as an appropriate symbol of what I’m writing.
Confession time: I am a braggart and can be quite arrogant in my dealings with other people (this harkens back to my devotional about being the “smartest person in the room and being the loneliest”). I was quite competitive in school (scholastically) and also during my work years, especially when I had a great deal of experience that led to my recognition as a “subject matter expert”. I received several awards from my company and from conferences for my research and technical papers and gazed quite often and proudly at those awards. I pursued other avenues to be able to increase my boasting, like doing many outreach volunteer activities with school and civic groups. All of these things helped me become an associate Fellow of a respected professional society near my retirement (oops, there I go, bragging again).
Now that I am retired, the awards and certificates are occupying a bookcase, requiring regular dusting and making me wonder what I will do with them when we downsize into a smaller senior dwelling in a few years. Even if we had had children (the no-child decision was made because of “careers” and “fun” that is a huge regret now), those children would likely not care about these bits of glass and metal. Perhaps the awards can be used as targets at a shooting range, since they are of no value to anyone else. Now I seem to “brag” about other things, like our travels; there’s nothing like traveling to bring out the oneupmanship competitions among people. “Where have you been?”, “How many cruises have you taken?”, “How many countries have you visited?”. Gee, I’m just answering this question to be friendly (and have a chance to brag). Sometimes I ask the question so I can answer it for us (yikes!). I need to just share pictures that are nice and not keep a scorecard.
None of this matters in the least to God. In fact, for many years of my life these activities and plans were done without any acknowledgment of Him whatsoever. Awards and kudos and having fun are things that are usually not based in love, only in self-aggrandizement and personal pleasures. The world is full of pride and puffing up and awards and self-esteem building and also full of bragging and arrogance and a profound lack of love. Just look at how many awards are in place for people that act in movies: Wikipedia lists at least 28 different awards in the United States alone that an actor can garner for a performance in a motion picture, from local critics awards to the prestigious Academy Award. This does not include awards you can receive from other countries or agencies (like Golden Globes, BAFTA, etc.). I’m sure receiving a boxful of these awards is quite invigorating and gets you invited to many parties, but you can’t pack them into your casket and take them to the afterlife (wherever you might end up).
So let’s dig into these terms to understand how they interfere with love, starting with “brag”: According to the Blue Letter Bible, “brag” is from the Greek word perpereuomai, with the following definitions:
to boast one's self
a self display, employing rhetorical embellishments in extolling one's self excessively
“Brag” is used for this passage in several translations, including the NASB1995, which is the Biblical translation that I use for these devotionals and the one used at our church. The same root Greek word is discovered in the KJV version for “vauntheth not itself”. Reading some of the commentary on Precept Austin, I found an intriguing observation that bragging is really the other side of jealousy. Jealousy is wanting what someone else has. Bragging is intended to make others jealous of what we have. Bragging puts us first; everyone else (including God) is of lesser importance in the braggart’s mind.
Now let’s examine the word “arrogant”. Again, according to the Blue Letter Bible, arrogant is derived from the Greek word physioo, with the following definitions (part 2 is obviously the most relevant to this context):
to make natural, to cause a thing to pass into nature
to inflate, blow up, to cause to swell up
to puff up, make proud
to be puffed up, to bear one's self loftily, be proud
Reading some of the commentary on Precept Austin, I found a link to Studylight, which has the William Barclay’s Bible commentary. This little gem speaks to how arrogance leaves no room for love:
Love is not inflated with its own importance. Napoleon always advocated the sanctity of the home and the obligation of public worship--for others. Of himself he said, "I am not a man like other men. The laws of morality do not apply to me." The really great man never thinks of his own importance. [William] Carey, who began life as a cobbler, was one of the greatest missionaries and certainly one of the greatest linguists the world has ever seen. He translated at least parts of the Bible into no fewer than thirty-four Indian languages. When he came to India, he was regarded with dislike and contempt. At a dinner party a snob, with the idea of humiliating him, said in a tone that everyone could hear, "I suppose, Mr. Carey, you once worked as a shoe-maker." "No, your lordship," answered Carey, "not a shoe-maker, only a cobbler." He did not even claim to make shoes--only to mend them. No one likes the "important" person. Man "dressed in a little brief authority" can be a sorry sight.
No one likes a braggart and no one feels comfortable in the presence of insufferable arrogance. Napoleon felt that he was above the moral norms of the day and I’m sure this translated into his fine leadership skills (like invading Russia in the winter). The treatment of missionary William Carey by a British elitist in India not only showed that person’s snobbery, but also demonstrated how a person of true humility behaves (Carey). The worst arrogance that can happen may be spiritual pride, which occurs when love is not in your heart. Doctrinal purity is important, faith is wonderful, service is valuable, but all should be done in a spirit of abject humility/love.
Love is humility, if Paul was going to write this as a positive statement. Jesus demonstrated His perfect humility in everything that he did while here on Earth, even submitting to the Cross. Peter admonishes the church about being humble in one of his epistles:
“You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:5-7 NASB1995
I humbly apologize to everyone I have known in my life for my braggadocio and unseemly arrogance. Time to change some habits. Also, I really cringe when someone says they live vicariously through us and what we do - please don’t do that! Your life and what you have is a gift from God. Let us all live our lives with patience, gratitude, kindness and humility!
My next devotional examines 1 Corinthians 13:5a Love does not act unbecomingly
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Please forgive me for my arrogance and all of the bragging that I have done in my life. Please help me to walk in humility in every situation, which leads to true unselfish love of others. In Jesus name, Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org