Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: (Jeremiah 9:23)
Today’s culture encourages us to put ourselves first above everything and everyone else. It’s all about YOU! In my previous life before retirement, I found it difficult to build up myself on a résumé in order to land a job. Not that I did not have the qualifications for the positions I sought, but the idea of over-emphasizing my qualifications, using just the right words and phrases, seemed a bit dishonest to me. However, that practice was encouraged by all employment counselors and followed by all who sought work. I did it, but I did not like it because it went against biblical teaching that I should “not think [of myself] more highly than [I] ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:3). Jesus said something similar when His disciples argued among themselves about which one would be greater in His kingdom. Jesus made a small child the example of greatness (Matthew 18:1-4). There is no one more unassuming or humble as a child.
The Bible gives other examples of this concept, for example, our opening verse above. “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom.” The Hebrew word translated “wise” is châkâm, which can be translated “skillful, shrewd, crafty, cunning, subtle, learned, prudent,” It can also be translated as “wise” (ethically and religiously), the kind of wisdom that comes from God. The remaining definitions for “wise” seem well-suited for résumé building. However, God says not to “glory” (i.e., brag or boast) in such wisdom. What is wrong with tooting your own horn about your talents, skills, abilities, knowledge, savvy, etc.? Well, humanly speaking, while you may be better at one thing than the next guy, there is always someone that is better at it than you. Besides all that, no one can top God’s “wisdom.” The wise Solomon said, “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:7).
The verse goes on to say, “neither let the mighty man glory in his might.” The Hebrew word translated “mighty” is gibbôr. It means “strong, brave.” It can also mean “powerful, warrior, tyrant, a valiant man.” When God spoke these words to the Prophet Jeremiah, He was addressing the unfaithful nation of Judah, who trusted in their armies and their alliances, i.e., military might. However, the same idea can be applied to individuals who trust in their own strength, be that physical, financial, intellectual, etc. God says not to “glory” in those things for the same reasons given above. We may out-do one another, but we can never match God in might.
Then He says, “let not the rich man glory in his riches.” The wealth of this world is fleeting. If you have it, when you die, it will go to your heirs (if you have a will) or to the government (if you do not have a will). Solomon considered this when he wrote, “Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me. And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity” (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19, emphasis mine). Jesus also addressed the vanity of material wealth. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matthew 6:19-20, emphasis mine).
Is there anything about which we can boast? Actually, yes, the Bible gives us something about which we can “glory” in the verse that follows. “But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:24, emphasis mine). If you want to brag, brag about your understanding and knowledge of God (provided you understand and know Him). God says He exercises “lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness.” If you understand and know God, you will exercise the same things. These are the things in which God delights and when you understand and know God, you will delight in the same things.
If you want to brag, brag on God!
If you do not know God and are unsure of where you will spend eternity, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”