26 August – 1 September 2018.
Whenever people first meet, there is an immediate competition to see who is the best. We chat together, and we ask each other questions. But too often behind those simple questions is a subtle attempt to find out who is better. We want to know: Who makes more money, who has the better job, who is younger, who has the richer husband, even who has been a Christian longer. Competition is important to us because we want to feel special; we want to find one measure where we can say that we are more important than other people. So our pride pushes us to find something we can boast about.
This problem in our human nature has affected people all through history. It was a problem that Jeremiah also saw in the Israelites around him, and a problem that led to disastrous results. When we boast about our own achievements, this feeds our egotism and self-centredness – it makes us want to promote ourselves and lift ourselves up above everyone else. This behaviour pushes us to see everyone else as a competitor, someone to be challenged, attacked, and defeated. As a result, it tears our communities apart and pushes us to ignore and even hate others rather than caring for them. Jeremiah describes how the Israelites had become liars, people who go from evil to evil, taking advantage of each other, cheating, slandering, deceiving, and even oppressing each other. Why? Because their self-centred pride pulled them away from the path that God wanted them to walk on.
That’s a danger for us too. When we let pride and egotism rule us, when we want to boast about the unimportant things in our lives just to make ourselves feel better than others, it becomes almost impossible then to treat those around us the way God wants us to. After all, we rarely love our competitors, instead we search for ways to defeat them. That’s why in Jeremiah 9:23–24, God tells the Israelites not to boast in wisdom or power or riches. All of those things can be good to have, but in the end they are nothing compared to what is really important in life, which is following God’s command to love.
In v. 24 God says: “those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth – and that I delight in these things.”
In the end, money, power and prestige can never be the most important things in life. They can never give our lives meaning and direction, or be something to proudly boast about. Instead, to really be on the right and best path in life means simply to know God, and to work for those things that God finds best: to work for justice, to seek righteousness, and to support love.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis