Jeremiah 9:23-24: The Source of Pride and Boasting

This is what the LORD says:
"Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
or the strong man boast of his strength
or the rich man boast of his riches,
but let him who boasts boast about this:
that he understands and knows me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,"
declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24, NIV)

What makes people feel important? They might see themselves as intelligent. They may see themselves as powerful, whether this power is physical strength, political influence, or military might. They may see themselves as financially independent and rich, owning many luxuries. This is what this passage means by wisdom, strength, and riches. These things do not impress God. He values how we express His desires with our desires (Psalm 37:4-5) rather than how well we look to others. He values the inner person (1 Samuel 16:7). God's purpose for us in this life is for us to develop our inner person. He gives us wealth to participate in kindness, power to involve ourselves in justice, and intelligence to partake in righteousness.
God also reveals His desire for us to show kindness, justice, and righteousness in Micah 6:8.

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8, NIV).

We readily associate acting justly with justice the previous passage. Loving mercy is even better associated with kindness than the English translation reflects. Mercy in Micah 6:8 and kindness in Jeremiah 9:24 are translations of the same Hebrew word. In fact, Micah 6:8 has the same Hebrew words translated kindness and justice in Jeremiah 9:24. The Hebrew word translated righteousness in Jeremiah 9:24 does not occur in Micah 6:8, but it does occur in Micah 6:5, referring to God's righteous acts. Where we might expect a reference to righteous living in Micah 6:8 is the phrase "to walk humbly with your God." God is the source of truth, knowledge, and wisdom. Pride in what we know and in being right only block the true source of knowledge and God's righteousness. Proverbs 3:5-7 expresses this concept as follows:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD and shun evil (Proverbs 3:5-7, NIV).

We can use our strength to carry out justice based on God's standard of righteousness. We can use our money to be kind according to God's standard of mercy. When it comes to our intelligence, we cannot use our creative thinking to determine righteousness. Only God can determine absolute truth. We also must exercise care while using strength to carry out justice and possessions to carry out kindness. In the desert immediately after Christ's baptism, Satan tempted Christ to abuse each of these three resources.

Paul alludes to Jeremiah 9:24 in 1 Corinthians 1:31. The Corinthian Christians had divided themselves into different groups by idolizing different Christian leaders. The root of the problem was pride in human ability rather than recognizing God as the source of everything. When each person worries about receiving honor, then there is jealousy when someone else is honored. However, God made each of us unique and equipped us for unique tasks for Him to work through each of us to accomplish His will. When we realize that it is His working, we can praise God for how well He is working in the Christians around us (1 Corinthians 12:26).

©1999 Perry Vernon Webb. You may quote this page in part or the whole as long as you do not alter the wording and reference this Internet page as the source of the quote.