“It’s not bragging if you can do it.”
I’ve heard this more than once. And I’ve heard it as a joke but perhaps there’s an idea lying behind our giggles that needs to be examined.
It seems in the area of accomplishment, there are two types of people: those who talk about it and those who do it. I would suppose that for the latter group they might say, “It’s not bragging if you can do it.”
Yet, those are usually the last people you find talking about what they did. Forget the bragging: they just do it.
It’s easy to think that we’re worth a whole lot more than we are, especially in our religion. As Christians, we can be an arrogant bunch. Since we know the truth of Who God is and His plan for humanity, we can swing that around like a battle ax at people.
And in doing so, we brag on the fact that we have “found” the best way. Paul addresses that today in Philippians 3:4b-7
4b If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. 7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
Philippians 3:4b-7, NIV
Humanly speaking, the Apostle’s credentials are most impressive: a pure Jew, upper social status, upper religious status, passionate for his religion and its purity, and a model in every way. This blush-worthy self-disclosure would be bragging if it weren’t the absolute truth about who Paul was.
In a game of religious one-upmanship, Paul wins. He knew it. His audience knew it. And we know it. Paul didn’t fail at Judaism; he excelled in it!
But for all those bragging rights, it didn’t grant him eternal life.
When Jesus found him, Paul realized there was another way, a better way. Suddenly, all the credentials of ancestry and accomplishment didn’t amount to much.
“For the sake of Christ,” he writes in verse seven, those things that were such proud accomplishments in religion only kept him away from the God who called him.
Dear ones, religion is the perfect insulator against a relationship with Jesus. After all, Jesus challenges us to humble ourselves while religion looks for bragging rights.
Religion craves position and influence; a relationship with Jesus calls us to pick up the shovel and get to work.
Religion looks for the spotlight; a relationship with Jesus turns the spotlight on Jesus.
Jesus calls us to diminish ourselves by finding ourselves in Him. He equips us in order to advance His cause, His purpose, His mission.
When we take all the religious stuff we do and pile it up, we might have some bragging rights with other Christians. We might be able to show how we go to church services four times a month, give ten percent of our income to our church, attend a small group weekly, go to a gender-based Bible study weekly, serve the homeless or poor once a month, and donate a few times a year to other charitable organizations.
Perhaps we can brag and say we’ve been Christians all our lives. We know the lingo, jargon, clichés, expressions, Bible verses every “good Christian” is supposed to know.
But all of that—as good as it might be on its own—can actually keep us from Jesus.
Loved of the Lord, don’t seek the religious trappings that only serve to have others notice us. Instead, seek to spend time with Jesus and make “look at what Jesus did” all the bragging we care to do.