Is Boasting Always Wrong?

By Mark D. Roberts

June 12, 2018

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:8-10


When I was a boy, my parents taught me not to boast. If I got an ‘A’ on a test in school, for example, I was welcome to celebrate with them privately, but I was discouraged from bragging to my friends or siblings. Boasting was something to be avoided.

A man, pointing upwards to heaven.Today, I wonder: is boasting always wrong? Are there times when boasting may be okay?

Ephesians 2:9 frowns on boasting about our salvation. Because we are saved by God’s grace and not by our works, we cannot boast about salvation. It’s nothing that we have earned or for which we can take credit.

But this doesn’t mean all boasting is always wrong. In his letter to the boastful Corinthians, Paul stated that their boasting was not good (1 Corinthians 1:29). But, paraphrasing a verse from the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, Paul adds, “Let one who boasts boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31). The original passage in Jeremiah reads: “This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:23-24). Paul makes the focus of righteous boasting even simpler than in Jeremiah’s version by urging us to boast simply “in the Lord.”

In his commentary on Ephesians 2:9, the Reformed theologian John Calvin writes, “Some room must always remain for man’s boasting, so long as, independently of grace, merits are of any avail. Paul’s doctrine is overthrown, unless the whole praise is rendered to God alone and to his mercy.” Or, to put it more positively, salvation by grace leads us to praise God and to boast of God’s wonders. Boasting, in this case, is simply a matter of telling others how great God is, how loving, how gracious.

Something to Think About:

Do you ever boast about God’s grace at work in your life? When?

Is God blessing you in ways that ought to be shared with others, for their encouragement and upbuilding? How?

Something to Do:

If you answered that last question positively, be sure to share with somebody how God is blessing you. Boast in the Lord!


Gracious God, thank you for your goodness to me. Thank you for all the ways you have blessed and are blessing me. Help me, I pray, to share your goodness with others. May I do so humbly, sensitively, and in a way that gives you all the glory. Most of all, may I be free in boasting about your love poured out through Jesus Christ. You are the best, Lord. You’re truly amazing. Amen.


Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
How to Accept Praise with Two Simple Words

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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