The Boasting of the World (Part 2)

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1:21-25 ESV).

It is an absolute truth that boasting is the outward form of the inner condition of pride. The truth that pride suppresses most is that God is greater than we are and should be glorified as the greatest reality in the universe, and that God is the Giver of all things and should be continually thanked. A Godward spirit of worship and gratitude is missing from most hearts because of pride. We want admiration for ourselves, not for God, and we don’t want to be dependent like helpless children on God’s mercy. Our reading today declares that when we think we are wise we are actually acting foolishly. Pride prefers not to have God in its knowledge. Pride does not like to submit to authority or depend on mercy. Therefore it is always rejecting or redefining the true God.

Later in the Roman letter Paul shows the form this pride takes in the morally vigilant: “Do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 3:23). There is such a thing as the pride of the lecherous and there is also the pride of the legally careful, moral person. There is even the pride of the religious person who uses his knowledge of God to exalt himself (cf. Romans 2:17). The same could be true of any religious group. We are all tempted to make God himself a means of our own self-exaltation.

So boasting matters to Paul because boasting is the outward form of the deep, root-problem of the human race, pride. This moral corruption lies behind all the evils and miseries of the world. And, worst of all, this pride has put us at odds with God, so that, “Every mouth is stopped and all the world has become accountable to God” (Romans 3:19b). We are under his judgment because of our pride and all the sin that flows from it. My sincere hope is that we will become people who stop arguing about who is right in the realization that only God is right. The rest of us can only be right when we unite in His perfect purpose.