Boasting: The Loud Sound of an Empty MindSunday, January 16, 2011
"Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth" (Proverbs 27:1).
This is one of the most famous verses in the book of Proverbs and one of the most often quoted. In tones that are darkly ominous, it reminds us of a truth no one can escape. Life is uncertain. No one knows what tomorrow will bring.
Think of what you would know if you knew the future. You could invest in the stock market and make money every time. You could pass every test because you would know the questions in advance. You would never be surprised by a sudden snowstorm or by an unexpected visitor. Every business plan would succeed because you would have perfectly planned for every contingency. Nervous suitors would never pop the question until they knew in advance the answer would be yes.
There are at least three reasons why it is good that you don't know your own future. Number one, If you knew the future, you wouldn't be able to understand it. So many factors play into what is going to happen six months from now that we couldn't comprehend them all. Most of us want simple answers: "Will the stock market go up or down?" "Should I take that new job?" "If I ask Jill to marry me, will she say yes?" God says, "I can't really answer it that way. I have to show you the big picture." But if he showed us the big picture, we wouldn't understand it.
Number two, If you knew the future, it would make you either lazy or arrogant. Someone has said that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. It's true that hard work doesn't guarantee success. But hard work creates the climate in which success is more likely to take place. One reason we work hard is precisely because we don't know the future. If you knew how the stock market was going to do next year, it might tend to make you take it easy. Why work hard when you already know what tomorrow will bring? That same knowledge might tend to make you arrogant because you would be privy to inside information. Either way, whether lazy or arrogant, you wouldn't be a very nice person to be around.
Third, knowing your personal future would eventually lead to despair. Suppose someone handed you a manila envelope and told you it contained a detailed account of your next ten years. Would you open it? The temptation would be almost irresistible. But suppose the envelope contained news of a forthcoming tragedy that you could not avoid. Knowing the future would then be a curse, not a blessing. We think we want to know the future, but really we don't. It's better not to know because then we're forced to take life as it comes moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day.
Boasting is foolish because it makes us think we control the future when we don't even control the present. It's a subtle form of idolatry in which we attempt to push God off the throne.
If you want to boast, boast that you know the Lord. That's the only thing that matters. And leave the future in God's hands. He can handle it just fine by himself.
Lord, when I am tempted to boast about my plans, please remind me that you can run the universe without any help from me. Amen.