"Love does not boast..."
1 Corinthians 13:4
Violet Beauregarde. We all remember her from Roald Dahl’s famous book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I remember being mildly haunted as a child by the scene in the 1971 film where Violet puffs up like a ballooned blueberry and then is rolled off scene by a bunch of terrifyingly orange oompa loompas. She was quite full of herself, competitive, snatching the gum that “wasn’t ready” and chewing it anyway.
It didn’t surprise anyone that someone so full of herself would literally become so full of herself that it made her sick. What a brilliant scene! The connection might be a bit silly, but the picture will not leave my head. Violet is all of us.
We live in a world that is practically begging us to boast and brag and strut our stuff. Strutting is encouraged. Normal. We are puffed up and inflated continuously by words and likes on screens, and think we are loving by participating in puffing up other people with our own likes and words. Sometimes we even ignore our children while we are posting about them in order to feel better about our parenting endeavors while missing teachable moments. Ouch and solidarity, friends. We think we are protected from sadness or insecurity by making sure we stay inflated. This is a false “good self esteem”, and it’s really just making us sick. Maybe it’s time to roll ourselves off of our lavishly decorated sets and find the antidote.
When we look at the life of Jesus, we see that it is “futile to be inflated with self importance.” (1 Corinthians 4:6). Jesus is love, and he displayed it perfectly while he was here walking the dusty streets. Love did not boast or brag. Love did not strut his stuff. In fact, when various people encouraged Jesus to take his rightful place as king and get to fighting already, he wouldn’t even consider it. Even Satan tempted him in this way with all of the kingdoms of the world in Luke 4. What did Jesus do instead? Jesus humbled himself. He denied himself and took up a cross. And we are encouraged to do the same. (Luke 9:23).
According to Thayer’s, the word for strut in 1 Corinthians 13 means - vain glorious and extolling oneself. In a nutshell, strutting and inflation are our attempts to bring glory to ourselves. We are proud of our accomplishments so in vanity, we strut. The life of Jesus displayed “soli deo gloria.” All glory to God alone. Philippians 2:8 - “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death -- even to death on a cross.” Humility is the antidote to strutting. We cannot strut our self-importance and love others at the same time. We cannot give all glory to God if we are striving to glorify ourselves. We cannot have both. When we look to the cross of Christ we see a total lack of pride. Because “pride cannot live beneath the cross.” (Charles Spurgeon). Work humility in us, Lord. Soli deo gloria.