WHAT does it mean to brag? Do you know?— Here is an example. Have you ever tried to do something that you are not very good at? Maybe you tried to kick a soccer ball. Or maybe you tried to skip rope. Did anyone ever say, “Ha! Ha! Ha! I can do that better than you can”?— Well, that person was bragging.
How do you feel when others do that? Do you like it?— Then, how do you think others feel if you brag about yourself?— Is it kind to tell someone else, “I’m better than you”?— Does Jehovah like people who do that?—
The Great Teacher knew people who thought they were better than others. They would brag, or boast, about themselves and look down on everyone else. So one day Jesus told them a story to show them how wrong it was to brag about themselves. Let’s listen to it.
The story is about a Pharisee and a tax collector. Now, the Pharisees were religious teachers, who often acted as if they were more righteous or holier than other people. The Pharisee in Jesus’ story went up to God’s temple in Jerusalem to pray.
Jesus said that a tax collector also went up to the temple to pray. Most people did not like tax collectors. They felt that the tax collectors were trying to cheat them. And it is true that many tax collectors were not always honest.
At the temple, the Pharisee began praying to God this way: ‘O God, I thank you that I am not a sinner like other people. I do not cheat people or do other bad things. I am not like that tax collector over there. I am a righteous man. I go without food twice a week so that I have more time to think about you. And I give to the temple a tenth of all the things that I get.’ The Pharisee really thought that he was better than others, didn’t he?— And he told God about it too.
But the tax collector was not like that. He would not even raise his eyes toward heaven when he prayed. He kept standing at a distance with his head bowed. The tax collector was very sorry about his sins, and he beat his chest in grief. He did not try to tell God how good he was. Rather, he prayed: ‘O God, be kind to me a sinner.’
Which of these two men do you think was pleasing to God? Was it the Pharisee, the one who thought he was so good? Or was it the tax collector, the one who felt sorry about his sins?—
Jesus said that the tax collector was the one pleasing to God. Why? Jesus explained: ‘Because everyone who tries to make it look as if he is better than other people will be brought low. But he that is lowly in his own eyes will be raised up.’
What was the lesson that Jesus was teaching in his story?— He was teaching that it is wrong to think that we are better than others. We may not say that we think we are, but by the way we act, we could show that we think we are. Have you ever acted that way?— Consider the apostle Peter.
When Jesus told his apostles that they would all leave him when he was arrested, Peter bragged: ‘Even if everyone else leaves you, I never will!’ But Peter was wrong. He was too sure of himself. He did leave Jesus. However, he returned, as we will learn in Chapter 30 of this book.
Let’s take a modern-day example. Perhaps you and a classmate are being asked some questions at school. What if you are able to give the answers right away, but the other student is not able to? Of course, you feel good when you know the answers. But would it be kind to compare yourself with the one who is slow to answer?— Is it right to try to make yourself look good by making the other person look bad?—
That is what the Pharisee did. He bragged that he was better than the tax collector. But the Great Teacher said that the Pharisee was wrong. It is true that one person may be able to do a certain thing better than someone else can. But that does not mean that he is really a better person.
So if we know more than another person, is that a good reason to brag?— Think about it. Did we make our own brain?— No, God is the one who gave each of us a brain. And most of the things we know, we learned from someone else. Maybe we read things in a book. Or perhaps someone told us about them. Even if we figured something out by ourselves, how did we do it?— Yes, by using the brain that God gave us.
When a person tries hard, the kind thing is for you to say something that makes him feel good. Tell him that you like what he did. Maybe you can even help him to do better. That is what you would like people to do for you, isn’t it?—
Some people are stronger than others. What if you are stronger than your brother or sister? Is that any reason for you to brag?— No, it isn’t. It is the food we eat that helps us to grow strong. And God gives the sunshine and the rain and everything else that is needed to make food grow, doesn’t he?— So, then, it is God we should thank if we grow strong.
None of us like to hear someone brag about himself, do we?— Let’s remember Jesus’ words: ‘Just as you want other people to do to you, do the same way to them.’ If we do that, we will never be like the Pharisee who bragged about himself in the story that the Great Teacher told.
Once someone called Jesus good. Did the Great Teacher say, ‘Yes, I am good’?— No, he didn’t. Instead, he said: “Nobody is good, except one, God.” (Mark 10:18) Even though the Great Teacher was perfect, he did not brag about himself. Rather, he gave all praise to his Father, Jehovah.
So, is there anyone whom we can brag about?— Yes, there is. We can brag about our Creator, Jehovah God. When we see a beautiful sunset or some other marvel of creation, we can tell someone, ‘Our wonderful God, Jehovah, made this!’ Let’s always be ready to speak about the grand things Jehovah has already done and will do in the future.
Read what the Scriptures say about bragging, or boasting, and learn how we should avoid bragging about ourselves: Proverbs 16:5, 18; Jeremiah 9:23, 24; 1 Corinthians 4:7; and 13:4.