Boasting — in the Lord? (Alma 26)
In Alma 26, Ammon celebrates with his brothers regarding their missionary successes among the Lamanite people and how God has used them to bring many souls to salvation. He is obviously excited that they have been personally used for this accomplishment, stating, "If we had not come up out of the land of Zarahemla, these our dearly beloved brethren…would still have been…strangers to God" (verse 9).
At this point, his brother Aaron rebukes him, saying, "Ammon, I fear that thy joy doth carry thee away unto boasting" (verse 10). Ammon replies, "I do not boast in my own strength…but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things" (verses 11-12). He then continues his rejoicing and "boasting in the Lord."
What's the difference between boasting in the Lord and just plain boasting? It all comes down to motivation.
If my motivation in describing accomplishments that I have been involved with is to bring honor and glory to the name of God (as Ammon did), it can be classified as boasting in the Lord. Of course, in those cases, the way I describe such events should be in language that clearly gives the credit to God and minimizes or omits my own participation. Avoiding the use of "I" can be helpful in ensuring that I succeed in giving all the credit to God.
On the other hand, if my motivation is to gain the praise of others or to build up my own image in some way — in other words, I'm motivated by pride — then I am likely boasting. Examples of this would include statements with excessive use of the word "I" or perhaps descriptions of events that seem to indicate that the outcome was more favorable because I was involved rather than someone else.
Sometimes, the same story can potentially qualify as either. As an example, suppose I tell this story in Church: This past week, a brother phoned me and said he wasn't feeling well. I drove over to his house and anointed him, and he was healed.
So, which is it? Boasting or praising God? It depends on the motivation. Perhaps I want to present myself as an important person in The Church (the members call me when they have a problem) or a good servant (I give up my time during the week to help others) or even as someone who has an inside track to the throne of God (God responds when I pray). On the other hand, perhaps I just want people to know that we serve a God who answers prayer and that we can put our faith and trust in Him, and perhaps I'm excited, blessed, honored, and humbled to be used by God as an instrument to accomplish His purposes.
In an example such as the above, only I can know what my true motivation is. Therefore, I need to examine my motives and make sure I'm praising God, not praising myself. For any of us, this is a good personal test to make sure our heart is where it should be regarding our service to God. As His servants, it shouldn't be about getting credit or being recognized. As long as the work of God is being accomplished and His name is being honored, that's all that matters.
As in the example of Ammon in this chapter, it's not wrong to be excited about being used by God to accomplish great things — as long as we make sure to praise God for the accomplishments. It's not wrong to feel good about ourselves and how much we have grown spiritually — as long as we acknowledge that it's God who has accomplished this work in us. When we understand that all of our accomplishments belong to God, it also makes it easier to accept that salvation is "the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
If we're going to boast, let's boast in the Lord. Let people know we serve an awesome God — one who has changed our lives, one who has redeemed our souls and placed us on the path that leads to eternal life, one who has answered our prayers and performed miracles in our lives, and one who can use ordinary people like us to accomplish extraordinary things. We'll be most effective in helping to spread the Gospel message if we're found boasting in the Lord.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.