Text: 2 Corinthians 11:19-12:9

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Why do we like to brag and boast? Yes, why do we want to brag and boast? 

Well, for starters, we tend to brag about our personal achievements because we are often insecure. In other words, we usually like to talk up our achievements to compensate for our insecurities in this life. If we can give the illusion to others that we are good enough and smart enough, well… people will like us and want to be around us. 

We also tend to brag and boast to get others to notice and value us. Whether we are on social media, at a social event, or at work, we tend to talk ourselves up so that we might be recognized and noticed by other people and then, as a result, be admired by them.    

It is pretty interesting to also learn that psychologists have studied bragging and found that the urge to brag is on par with the desire to eat food or have sex. In other words, bragging seems to be hardwired into our human existence. To the point, bragging is not a sign of strength, power, and might, but more often than not, it is a sign of a person’s fragile ego, insecurities, and anxieties. 

So, if this is the case, why does the Apostle Paul brag in our reading from the Epistle of 2 Corinthians? 

Well, it is essential to keep in mind who Paul is speaking against. You see, during the first century, there were a bunch of popular three-ring circus preachers who made it a part of their practice to brag and boast of their experiences and accomplishments. In other words, everything these performance-driven-ego-centric-preachers did was for the sake of praising themselves. And so, the Apostle Paul, taking a play out of their playbook, meets their accomplishment with his own accomplishments. He matches them. Paul shows that if anyone has reason to brag and boast, it is Himself. He has done more than them. He is better than them. He states that he has worked harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more, and accomplished more than them. But here is the catch – Paul clearly states that he is speaking as a fool. That is to say, Paul is boasting and bragging to humble these three-ring-circus preacher, and also, he is bragging to prove the point that bragging accomplishes absolutely nothing!

Dear friends, bragging about yourselves is actually very, very foolish. The reason being? As you know, our lives are very fragile. The same goes for our human institutions and the works of our hands. Sure, we may boast today, but tomorrow we may be dead.

And human institutions – all have a life cycle. One day a country is on the map, and the next day it is wiped off the globe due to war and a fallen leader. And businesses; they come, and they go. One year they launched with an IPO, and three years later, they filed for bankruptcy. Nothing lasts forever. And so, when we boast and brag about temporal things, we are only boasting for a moment in time. As you and I already know, bigger fish are always in the sea.

Every accomplishment, every record, and every dominion of power will soon be outdone. Nothing is permanent. And so, the fool is the one that talks big and brags about something that is temporal – not realizing that their bragging and boasting will only last a moment.

This is what Isaiah says in the Old Testament.

To paraphrase Isaiah, he states,

“People are nothing but grass; their love is fragile as a wildflower. Just as the grass withers and the flowers fade, so will the people of the earth wither and fade.”

To the point, nothing – absolutely nothing – is accomplished through bragging and boasting except to expose the fact that you and I are fools.

This is the reason why the Apostle Paul tries not to boast about himself. He doesn’t want anyone to imagine that he is anything other than a fool. Paul knows that as a servant of Christ, he does not want any honor for himself but wants everything to point to Christ. 

And so, for us as a church, what does this mean?

Quite frankly, if we needed to boast, we have a lot that we could highlight. For starters, we made it through Covid-19 quite well – maintaining good attendance and good offerings. Furthermore, we can easily boast of our beautiful building and sanctuary. And, we could boast of maintaining and promoting good liturgy when many churches have fallen prey to the world's ideologies. I could brag about my doctoral degree and the books that I have written. You could also brag about your vocations – the honors and accolades you have accomplished. In other words, we could find a thousand things to brag about here at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church; however, bragging about this church and ourselves accomplishes absolutely nothing. All it does is puff us up on a balloon of pride that will eventually be popped by someone bigger and better – resulting in us falling hard where our egos will crack, and our crowns of glory will be bent. 

So, is that the point of our Epistle reading this day to not boast? 

Dear friends, it is interesting to look at the word ‘boast.’  It is a word that means to glory, vaunt, or brag. Technically, the word isn’t a bad or a good word. Instead, the word is somewhat neutral. This is why Paul tells us that he would rather not boast in himself but instead desires to boast in Christ.

You see, there is a good kind of boasting and a bad kind of boasting. The bad kind of boasting focuses everyone’s attention on the one boasting. Bad boasting is the kind of talk that turns the attention inward on you and me. The other kind of boasting – the boasting of a Christian – focuses the glory and attention to the One that is worthy of our boasting… Christ. Furthermore, the Apostle Paul goes so far as to say that we Christians can boast of our weaknesses. We can boast of our weaknesses, and we can boast and brag of Christ because Christ has done all things well for you and me. 

Dear Baptized Saints, if Christ did not rise from the grave – if He would’ve remained dead in the tomb – then we would have no reason to boast, for we would only have a dead god. If Christ had not gone to the cross to bleed and die for our sins – if He would’ve chosen the path of ease – then we would have no hope outside of ourselves and would then be confined to drumming up hope in ourselves, bragging about our own accomplishments and achievements just like shallow pagans who have no hope. But your Christ bled, died, and rose – for you.   This means that your sins are truly forgiven, the devil is truly defeated, death is truly overcome, and you have eternal life. So, not only is Christ worthy of our boasting, but the One that we can truly boast about because He has done all things well for you and me.  

And so, whether you are weak or strong, poor or rich, high or low – you need not boast in yourself but have One who has done everything well for you. By having Christ Jesus, we have complete and total contentment in the face of the world.

You and I have nothing to prove to the world and nothing to earn before God because you and I already have Christ. And with Christ, His grace is sufficient; it is all that you need in life and especially in death. 

So, whether our offering plates are full or empty, whether our pews are empty or full, whether this building stands or falls, whether you are in life or in death – it does not matter, for you have Christ. And in Christ, you need not tie yourself up with your strengths or weaknesses; you need not fret about your limitations or good strides. In fact, when abuse, accidents, opposition, and bad breaks fall upon you – you and I can praise Christ because regardless of life circumstances, He is ours, and we belong to Him.   Yes, Christ is yours, and you belong to Him; His Word of Truth is sufficient for you in your weaknesses.

And so, Baptized Saints, let the world boast in nothing, let the world build that which will fall, and let your neighbor do what they do – strive to become an egomaniac through boasting and bragging.

But you, dear Baptized Saints, know this, be a fool for Christ. Know that true contentment is found not in what you have done or can do but in what has been done for you. Take pleasure in being one for whom Christ died and rose. Rest in Christ’s grace, which is sufficient for you. And know that Christ’s power is made perfect in your weaknesses. 

In the name of Jesus – in which we boast – amen.

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