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What Does the Bible Mean by “Love Does Not Boast?”

In 1 Corinthians 13:4, Paul mentions that love does not boast. Oftentimes, we like flaunting our personal trophies before people, whether it is fame, power, or fortune. We love talking about ourselves because it makes us feel like we are higher and better than other people. Boasting can be either an expression of a highlighted truth of oneself, an exaggeration, or an outright lie about one’s either wealth, character, achievements, or deeds. Boasting focuses on self-promotion and seeking to monopolize attention, and it looks only at one’s own value. It can easily blind a person from seeing the real value of other people or even trying to elevate oneself above God. Selfish boasting can never be love. It causes one to be critical of others, brings about division in relationships, even among God’s people, and causes other forms of harm for the purpose of gaining benefit for oneself. Love cannot boast because it does not look to raise one’s own honor, glory, and beneficence above God and others. Love does not boast.

Jesus teaches us that the greatest commandment given to us by God is to love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30). To love God means to put His honor and glory above our own; exalting God rather than magnifying self before God and before men. Jesus exemplified this kind of love. In His earthly ministry, He would always honor and glorify the Father and the Holy Spirit in every opportunity He had, whether it was fulfilling a religious duty or performing miracles. Jesus never tried to elevate Himself above the Father. Paul tells us in Philippians 2:4-7:

“[4] Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. [5] Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: [6] Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: [7] But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant “…”

We must never be quick to exalt ourselves but consider how we may humble ourselves in God’s eyes and before all men. We must know that God humbles those who exalt themselves, but He exalts those who humble themselves (Matthew 23:12). It is a terribly humiliating experience when God Himself humbles us, just as He humbled the boastful and arrogant people in the past like King Saul, King Hezekiah, King Herod, the Pharisees, and many others.

Jesus also taught us that the second greatest commandment is to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31). This means that love does not just look to personal benefit but to being mindful of the needs of other people, giving them due honor, and helping them, without thinking of crediting it to one’s own glory. Love puts others above self.

Boasting about self may be contrary to God’s standard of love, but there is such boasting that is not sinful or unloving. It happens when boasting becomes beneficial to others and, above all, to God. Consider the example of Paul. He demonstrated such healthy boasting when he boasted about the character, works, and devotion of other Christians to God (2 Corinthians 1:4, 2 Corinthians 7:4, Philippians 2:16), boasting in the glory of the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:31), and boasting in the cross of Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14).

Love is not just about not boasting about self, but love boasts about God and others. There are times when, as we bring glory to God, we also get to share in his glory. It is merely a consequential reward, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that, but we must be careful not to let it bloat our ego. At the end of the day, whatever praises we may receive from men, we must eventually return those crowns to the one who truly deserves them, our Lord Jesus Christ, and be thankful for the opportunity. As Christians, it is our goal that as we love God and others, our deeds may ultimately bring glory to God.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

(Matthew 5:16 KJV)

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