Love Does Not Brag

Of the characteristics of love that Paul lists in 1 Corinthians 13, eight of the fifteen are negatives. That is, what love doesn’t do is as significant as what it does.

“Love does not brag and is not arrogant” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Here are two things that love doesn’t do, but pride does. The first denotes the speech or action of pride, the second its attitude. The root of Paul’s word rendered “arrogant” refers to a bellows that is filled with air (so the KJV “puffed up” is quite accurate). Pride gives one an inflated sense of his own importance, which is reflected in how he talks and acts toward others.

Love is humble. Conceit wants to assert its superiority over others; love esteems others better than self (Philippians 2:3). God warns each of us “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (Romans 12:3).

Many things appeal to our pride and can make us arrogant:

Knowledge can do it—even spiritual knowledge. Paul warned, “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies [literally, knowledge puffs up, but love builds up]” (1 Corinthians 8:1). A disciple needs to grow in knowledge, but it must never become an excuse for him to look down or talk down to others.

Wealth can do it. God warns the rich “not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but…to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share” (1 Timothy 6:17-18). It’s been estimated that one third of the world’s population can’t afford to buy shoes. That means we are the rich, folks. Take heed.

Ability can do it. Just as one disciple can envy another who has more “talents,” one can be puffed up toward another who has fewer. It appears some at Corinth had this problem (see 1 Corinthians 12:12f). Pride inflates one’s self-worth; love considers the worth of others.

Jesus’ story of the Pharisee and the publican shows the danger of becoming boastful about our own righteousness (Luke 18:9-14). Do I brag about how spiritual I am? Do I try to make others feel inferior? That kind of self-righteous arrogance is inexcusable; it betrays not spiritual greatness, but spiritual immaturity. Love knows that greatness in the kingdom comes through humility and service, and that “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).