The word of the day is “boast.” Our society sees achievement as a sufficient reason be proud of ourselves. It sees nothing wrong with football players who do a dance of exaltation when they score or sack the quarterback. But today in our reading of 2 Corinthians 10:7-18, Paul joins the Lord who criticized the Pharisee who congratulated himself in the “Parable of the Pharisee and Publican” (Luke 18:11).
It’s Easy to Boast When One Measures Oneself
Like the Pharisee, Paul’s opponents in Corinth are boasting of their superior powers and gifts. Moreover, they are criticizing Paul’s supposed weakness and lack of talent. But Paul answers with the observation that it is easy to boast when one measures oneself by one’s own standards. The braggart looks at himself through the mirror of his own opinion. He claims all the credit even for what others have contributed and done.
Looking Outward or Inward
But the apostle notes that those who puff themselves up in this way are “not wise” (vs. 12). The arrogant look at their outward appearance and see what they want to see. But St. Paul says that they should look inward and consider whether they are “Christ’s”—and whether they are thinking and acting as if they were Christ’s. Or are they just serving themselves?
Note how St. Paul demonstrates the virtue of modesty. He will not boast “of things beyond measure” or take credit for the accomplishments of others. He does not want to reap where others have planted. But he is resolved to take the Gospel where others have not yet preached it.
St. Anatoly of Optina said, “Where God is—there is peace… wherever the devil is—everything is ruinous, proud, and hostile” (Schaefer 2009, Kindle Loc 885). If boasting is an expression of pride, then wherever there is boasting, we can be sure that Satan is active. He takes over the heart, mind, and mouth of the arrogant.
On the other hand, St. Isaac the Syrian said, “Humility is accompanied by modesty and self-collectedness” (Isaac 2011, Homily 70). Those who are unpretentious are in control of themselves and can act wisely and discreetly.
Isaac, the-Syrian. 2011. Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian. Edited by Homily 72 St. Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies of St Isaac the Syrian: Holy Transfiguraton Monastery.
Schaefer, Archimandrite George. 2009. Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counself of the Holy Elders of Optina. Jordanville, N.Y. : Printshop of St. Job of Pochaev.