Today we read a passage that is very dangerous to the human mind. It seems as though Paul is defending the right to boast in yourself or the work you accomplish, but in fact he is saying the exact opposite.
13 But we will not boast beyond our measure, but within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even as far as you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as if we did not reach to you, for we were the first to come even as far as you in the gospel of Christ; 15 not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, 16 so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another. 17 But he who boasts is to boast in the Lord. 18 For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends.
There are a few key elements we need to take away from today’s passage: realize God’s calling in your life, stay focused on the task He has put before you, realize that all good work is a result of Christ’s initial good work in you. In our own personal ways, we want recognition for our work. It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden where man’s pride and desire to be lord over all kicked in and separated us from God.
Another definition given for the word boast from the original text of kauchaomai is to rejoice. Paul writes to the Philippians rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! One thing we need to remember is that we exist to praise and worship God. We all have different manners of doing so (ie following our own design) and this is what Paul is getting at. When we take credit for someone else’s work or receive praise for something we didn’t really do, we are lying to others and ourselves. God sees this and it is pointless. It is all about the praise and glory of God, not ourselves. In Matthew 6, where we find Jesus’ sermon on the mount, He warns us, “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” Paul mentions not taking the credit for what other men have done, but he also makes even clearer to give glory to God in whatever He does through us. Let us be aware not to take credit for God’s work.
Yes, there are things we do. We play a part but we must not lose sight of why we do what we do. It is because of the transforming work of Christ in our lives. It’s like an addict who has seen recovery in their lives who gives credit to their sponsor. Yes, the addict had to put in the work and do what was necessary, but he had help. This is why the Holy Spirit is referred to as the Helper that Christ sent after His ascension. Notice that Paul’s only desire for themselves to be praised and motivation to boast is to give honor and glory to God. If they look to Paul who then redirects their praise to God, then his mission is accomplished. As bearers of the Good News of Christ, our job is to direct people to God so they can develop a relationship with Him. Anything short of that is us sleeping on the job. It’s us wasting away our salvation; we were not only saved from something, but for something.
Are you soaking up praise that belongs to someone else? Do you act out of desire for acceptance and worship or so that your Father in heaven may be worshiped all the more? How can you better praise God today?