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Apr 16, 2010

Let Not the Mighty Man Boast

Last week in church, a passage was read from Jeremiah 9:23-24 which caught my attention as it relates to my ongoing encouragement to Christian men to be more manly.
Thus says the Lord: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord."
As I'm encouraging men to be bold, to have courage, and to man up for God, I have to give a word of caution and explanation too. Yes, I believe our present generations of men need to be more manly in a Biblical sense and yes, I'm citing examples of men who are brave, strong, and capable. We need more men who are heroes and role models, men who command respect, even men who are feared, at least by those who oppose them in battles between right and wrong. But this Biblical encouragement has to come with a warning from the Bible too.

Brothers, as you develop your strength and confidence as a man, don't fall into the sin of boasting in your own strength. Don't brag or even allow inner pride in your capabilities or accomplishments. Yes, men, strive to man up and become Mighty Men for God, but "let not the mighty man boast in his might."

There's already enough self-centered machismo and arrogance in the lives of many men. We certainly don't need to encourage this idolization of men's physical strength and false bravado. I even saw a Christian men's conference where they brought in big body builders and guys bending frying pans with their bare hands. I'm not sure what that's supposed to prove to Christian guys trying to figure out how to be authentic men of God.

Remember that pride has always been our most prevalent and deadly sin, especially for men. Most men are naturally prone to be at least a little prideful. We don't ask for directions, we don't need anyone's help, and we don't easily take advice. Some men have a hard time saying sorry or admitting they're wrong. We would rather give advice than listen to someone else's ideas. We're competitive and we like to win. We all secretly love our medals and trophies, whether literal or figurative. This causes problems for us at work when we have to report to our "idiot boss."  We may struggle in our marriage when our pride won't let us listen to a woman's opinion or advice, even our own wife's. We sometimes frustrate our children when just because we're the father and head of the house, we think there must only be one way to do things and everyone else just needs to listen to us.

As with most things, our challenge is to find balance. As men, we need to balance our God given roles of leadership, headship, teaching, protection, and provision with those of humility, service, understanding, and grace. One key to accomplishing this is also found in the verses from Jeremiah. If you look closely, it doesn't tell men never to boast. It only tells us not to boast of our own might. Instead, we're told to boast of God and his strength in our lives. As the old praise song goes, "Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord."

Jeremiah tells us that when we boast, "boast in this, that [God] understands and knows me." And when we boast in God, we should also emulate him and pursue our identity as men by modeling ourselves after God, "who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth." Why should we do this? "For in these things I delight, declares the Lord."

God delights when we too show steadfast love, justice, and righteousness. But if you've learned anything about being a man yet, it's that it often takes quite a mighty man to steadfastly express real love, to fight for justice, and to actively pursue righteousness. For most of us, we're still on the long growth path to becoming men who delight the Lord in these ways.

So men, continue in your quest to become and grow into Godly, real men. Your wife and children, your church, and your world need mighty men of God and fewer wimpy Christian nice guys. Go right ahead. Strive to be like David's Mighty Men or Jesus' inner circle of Peter and the Sons of Thunder. But as you develop yourself into a mighty man of God, one who may be respected, admired, feared, and followed, don't fall into Satan's trap of boasting in your own might. Boast instead in the power, grace, and love of God, from whom all blessings flow and to whom all glory is due.

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