It was early on in our church planting endeavors. Our sapling church was hardly standing. Many had come and even more had gone. It was a painful time for me. But not always for righteous reasons. I ached that the sapling was so small, numerically. I sorrowed over so few staying. Church-planting and ministry friends would ask the dreaded question: “So how is the church plant going?” “Uh, fine. Sort of.” Which lead into the next, more-dreaded question: “How many people are attending now?” “Uh, well, at one point we had, like, 50ish.”
As I look back on those days, I have to ask myself, “Why were those such dreaded questions?” For me, there was really one reason: I wanted to brag. I craved crowing over numbers and ministry results. I wanted to boast in “what the Lord was doing” and “how humbled I was that the Lord had brought so many.” But I didn’t want to boast in the Lord. I wanted a triple-digit number to brag about to our supporters. I wanted to boast in me. I wanted the spotlight.
“Love does not brag” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Among other things, the Corinthians were boasting about the supposed supernatural spiritual experiences that they were having, hence Paul’s correction. “Brag.” The word has the idea of self-glorification, boasting, and a superficial self-applauder. It speaks of someone who vaunts, displays, and praises self.
Why is love antithetical to bragging? Bragging is an expression of self-worship (over and above God) and self-love (over and above others). All love and glory is channelled to self.