Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Sin of Boasting

When reading about the Zoramites, I happened to notice that one of their problems was that they “lifted up their hearts unto great boasting in their pride.” (Alma 31:25, emphasis added) 

My attention was caught by this and I felt like I needed to gain greater perspective and insight about what boasting is and why it is bad. I knew it was related to pride, but in what way I didn’t know. 

So I did research.  And what follows was very interesting to me because I got to find it and synthesize it and put it together, and discover things I needed to work on.  But I’m sharing it because I hope someone else might get a little benefit from it too.

Wikipedia was helpful.  It said boasting is attention-seeking by exaggerating accomplishments or their importance or one’s credit in a venture.  It may consist of one-upmanship.  It also said that boasting may also include exaggerating our obstacles and problems to bolster self-esteem.  Or it may consist of magnifying our injuries or discomforts in order to avoid responsibility and malinger.  There is usually some element of deception in boasting.

I was also interested in reading what the scriptures said about boasting.  I found principles, case studies, warnings, and results.  I found so much helpful stuff that I’m going to break it into several posts. 

To start off, here is what Christ said that relates to boasting:

9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:9-14)

Who is boasting in this parable?  Clearly it is the Pharisee.  Who is he boasting to?  Strangely enough, to God!  How weird is that?

Also, notice in verse 12 that the Pharisee is using his obedience to two particular commandments on which to base his trust in his own righteousness.  The problem is there aren’t just two commandments.  There’s a lot more than that.  Yes, the first and second great commandments encompass the rest, but those aren’t the one’s this Pharisee mentions. He just talks about fasting and tithing.  So we are led to conclude that the commandments the Pharisee doesn’t mention are the ones he’s bad at keeping because if he kept them, he would have mentioned them too.  

Another thing he does is he says, “I am not as other men are” and a list of other people’s sins follows. He thinks he is different from other sinful men, and yet.. doesn’t everyone have a few commandments they are good at keeping and certain sins they aren’t tempted by?  What then makes him so special?  The truth is he’s really no different than other men.

The lovely thing about this parable is that it illustrates the kind of boasting we may make to God, even in our prayers, and how this actually has the effect of keeping us from God.  If we find we imitate the Pharisee, we claim reconciliation that we actually do not have and can’t ever obtain until we see things how they really are--we are sinful and need mercy.

I also like that it shows in the publican a proper attitude of humility and the proper action of pleading for mercy for the sins and weakness he discerned in himself.

More on boasting to come later..