Men love to brag. Old men regale their grandchildren with “war stories” of daring exploits in foreign lands, while younger fathers tell their children of athletic prowess and dazzling performances in years long gone. Males of inferior morality brag about sexual conquests, men of superior intellect of academic honors. The need to impress seems to flow in the testosterone.
When it comes to their spiritual lives, men tend to be more reticent. If pushed to talk about their religion, they may fall back on bragging about a heritage they no longer pursue and about rituals to which they no longer relate. They may wish to suggest that they are living lives that, while far from perfection, are close enough to a passing grade.
There was a time when the apostle Paul had a right to brag about religious matters. His response to the religious tradition into which he was born had been extraordinary. He dared to say, regarding his religious status and practice, “I could have confidence in myself if anyone could. If others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!” (Phil. 3:4). Paul then listed heritage, commitment, and activities that would impress anyone.
But then, Paul disavowed them all! “I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done” (3:7). Paul quit bragging! In its place, a humble, trusting attitude was born. It was his discovery of Christ that made the difference. Paul stated simply, “I trust Christ to save me” (3:9). He began to see boundless possibilities in his new relationship with the Lord: “I can really know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I can learn what it means to suffer with him” (3:10). And he looked forward to eventually experiencing “resurrection from the dead” (3:11). All because of Christ—and not because of himself!
Lest he should fall into the trap of bragging about his new found faith, however, Paul quickly added, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be” (3:12).
Apparently Paul suspected that some of his readers might not “agree on these things” (3:15), so he added, “We must be sure to obey the truth we have learned already” (3:16).
For Further Study: Philippians 3:1-16