“’Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” (2 Corinthians 10:17–18, ESV)
My dad taught me a lot of things. One was that a man should not have to toot his own horn. To “toot one’s own horn” is an idiom that refers to one bragging about his accomplishments in a way that is excessively prideful. I generally tried to follow this principle in my life, even before the Lord saved me. However, it was not long until I discovered that not tooting one’s own horn was contrary to the way the world system functions.
I was working in the printing and paper converting industry as an assistant manager in the printing department. It was my job to work with the department personnel to improve the machinery and the technical aspects of the department’s operation. I was promised the department manager’s position when the existing manager would be promoted. Everything was going well. The department improved in manufacturing quality and productivity. Then my boss, the department manager was promoted. I assumed that I would immediately be promoted to the department manager’s position.
Unfortunately, that is not what happened. They did not put anyone in the position for over a month, but allowed me to run the department for about two months. I figured that they wanted to see if I could handle the job. During those two months, the press crews worked harder than ever because they wanted to see me get the job. Yet two months later they appointed another person in the plant, who knew nothing about the process, to be the manager. On his first day, he told me that he knew nothing about the operation and that I was to teach him all that I knew about running that department.
About a week went by and I asked the plant superintendent why I was passed over for the job. His answer was that I did not promote myself. In other words, I did not toot my own horn.
Paul’s opposition, the false teachers were quick to boast about what they were doing. In the system of the world, boasting about the accomplishments of men is the norm. The Corinthians had become enamored by people. We can see this in the first letter where they were experiencing divisions based upon the teachers they followed (1 Cor 1:10-13; 3:4). Not only as there was the impropriety of boasting in the flesh by the false teachers, but this boasting was also manifested in others who followed their favorite teachers.
It is ok to look at one’s accomplishments and recognize them. However, there is a danger. It often leads to puffing people up. More seriously, it can bring people to deny the power of God’s grace that accomplishes all things. Paul’s antidote for this foolish boasting is simple. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” It is to boast in the Lord, in Him and what great things He has done. Men go to great lengths to commend themselves and others but these commendations mean nothing from an eternal perspective. He let the Corinthians know a truth. The one who is approved is the one whom the Lord commends.
Seeking the approval of men is a principal of this world system. It is not the principle of the kingdom of Heaven. It is the approval of God that matters. Thus, Paul was satisfied that God called him to be the apostle to the Gentiles and that he fulfilled this work according to the will of God and by His strength. We should follow this example. Serve the Lord in the position to which He has called you. Do it by the provision of His grace and according to His will and then you can boast in Him alone.