Charity [agape love] suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly….
— 1 Corinthians 13:4,5
When Paul wrote First Corinthians 13:1, he alluded to “super-spiritual” people in Corinth who boasted of great spirituality but who exhibited very little love in their lives. He said they were like a “sounding brass” and a “tinkling cymbal.”
As noted earlier (see September 9), these particular phrases indicate that these people talked incessantly, annoying and aggravating others with their never-ending, self-consumed chatter. In fact, the words “tinkling cymbal” were the very Greek words used to depict the clashing of cymbals that announced the onset of a war. This gives us the impression that the ceaseless talking and bragging of these “super-spirituals” often made their listeners fighting mad!
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Could this be the reason Paul makes his fourth point on the characteristics of agape by saying that love “…vaunteth not itself…”? The word “vaunteth” has lost its meaning in today’s vernacular, but in Greek it is very powerful! This word comes from the Greek word perpereuomai, which means a lot of self-talk. In other words, it describes a person who endlessly promotes himself and exaggerates his own virtues. His self-promotion is so outrageous that he is usually prone to exaggeration that borders on lying. One Greek scholar has said that the word perpereuomai pictures a person who is full of hot air. Another expositor has said this word refers to a windbag!
The word “vaunteth” is Paul’s strong warning to let us know:
“…Love doesn’t go around talking about itself all the time, constantly exaggerating and embellishing the facts to make it look more important in the sight of others.…”
Even as I write, my thoughts have turned to an individual who fits this description perfectly! If you know anyone like this, you’re probably thinking of that person as well, because people like this are such an annoyance that it’s hard to ignore or forget them.
Regarding the man I’m thinking of, people who see him coming in their direction immediately begin to look for a way to escape. They know that once this man gets hold of them, he’s going to start talking endlessly about himself, his projects, his ideas, and his accomplishments. He boasts to such an extreme degree that it is outright obnoxious. The problem is, he doesn’t seem to be aware how full of his “self” he is!
Once a mutual friend asked him, “Why don’t you ever ask about anyone else? All you ever talk about is yourself and your own feats. Don’t you think it would be good to show at least some interest in what others are doing? Do you know how selfish you seem to be to other people?”
The man answered, “Is anyone else besides myself doing anything that is worth talking about? I’m the only one doing anything significant.” He was so self-consumed that he couldn’t even recognize the fact that there are other hard-working high achievers in the Kingdom of God!
Coming from a terrible, insecure foundation in his own life, this man somehow feels that he must stretch the truth to a ridiculous extreme and brag about his own accomplishments. He has sung his own praises so long that no one close to him wants to hear those songs anymore! His total lack of concern for others and his complete preoccupation with himself have become offensive and disgusting to nearly everyone who knows him.
Often people exaggerate and boast endlessly because they have a hidden agenda they want to promote or because they want to gain some higher position or place of authority. Other times they are hoping to make the kind of impression that might give them special status or recognition in the eyes of others. Finally, they may just feel driven to prove their worth. Regardless of the reason that people boast about themselves, this kind of behavior does not demonstrate the way that agape love behaves!
Agape love is so strong, so sure, and so confident that it doesn’t need to speak of itself or its accomplishments, even if those accomplishments are greater than anyone else’s. Real agape love would never flaunt itself in this way; instead, agape love wants to focus on the accomplishments of others in order to build them up and make them feel more valuable and secure. Remember, agape isn’t a self-focused love — it is focused on giving of itself in order to meet other people’s needs.
Paul gives the fifth characteristic of agape love when he tells us that love “…is not puffed up.” These words are based on the Greek word phusio, which means to be proud, to be swollen, or to be inflated. Thus, this word vividly paints the picture of a person who is filled with pride.
Paul warns that agape is never phusio. This means agape love is never deceived into thinking too highly of itself, nor does it arrogantly claim that it is better than others. Making this word even more significant is the fact that the word phusio also carries the notion of a person who has an air of superiority and haughtiness or a person who is snooty or snobbish in his dealings with other people.
Paul uses the word phusio in First Corinthians 4:6 to denote the pride and arrogance that was developing between wrangling members of the Corinthian church, each of whom believed that his or her particular leader was more important than other leaders. In First Corinthians 4:19, Paul uses phusio again as he warns these believers to change their behavior; otherwise, he will come to rebuke those who are “puffed up.” This arrogance involving leadership was the primary source of division, contention, and rivalry in the Corinthian church.
In First Corinthians 5:2, Paul uses the word phusio yet again. After boldly confronting the Corinthian church for tolerating a grossly immoral situation among its members, Paul expresses his amazement that they could be “puffed up” in light of the ungodly relationship that was thriving right before their eyes. Then in First Corinthians 8:1 (NKJV), Paul uses the word phusio when he tells the Corinthians, “…Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.”
When you consider the Greek meaning of the words “puffed up,” it becomes evident that Paul was letting us know:
“…Love does not behave in a prideful, arrogant, haughty, superior, snooty, snobbish, or clannish manner.”
After Paul tells us that love is not puffed up, he proceeds to give us his sixth point. He writes that love “doth not behave itself unseemly….”
The Greek word for “unseemly” is aschemoneo, an old word that means to act in an unbecoming manner. It suggests a person who is tactless or thoughtless. It also expresses the notion of a person who is careless and inconsiderate of others. Both his actions and words tend to be rude and discourteous, and he exhibits bad manners in the way he deals with people. His language is harsh and brutal, revealing that this person is uncaring, insensitive, and unkind. In short, we would say that this is a person who “acts ugly.”
Because of the word “unseemly” in First Corinthians 13:5, it explicitly means that the Holy Spirit is telling us:
“Love is not rude and discourteous — it is not careless or thoughtless, nor does it carry on in a fashion that would be considered insensitive to others.…”
So how do you fare when you look into the mirror of God’s Word today? Do you pass the love test, or have you come up short again? If you see that you have fallen short of the high-level love God wants you to possess and exhibit in your life, it’s time for you to go back to the Lord and talk to Him about it again! Never stop going to Him until you know that you are walking continually in the high-level love He wants you to demonstrate in your life!
When all these Greek words and phrases are translated together, an expanded interpretive translation could be as follows:
“…Love doesn’t go around talking about itself all the time, constantly exaggerating and embellishing the facts to make it look more important in the sight of others; love does not behave in a prideful, arrogant, haughty, superior, snooty, snobbish, or clannish manner; love is not rude and discourteous — it is not careless or thoughtless, nor does it carry on in a fashion that would be considered insensitive to others….”
Is the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart? Is He showing you areas where you have:
- Exaggerated the truth to make yourself look better to others?
- Acted in a prideful, haughty, snooty, snobbish, or clannish manner?
- Permitted yourself to act in a way that is not acceptable for someone who is striving toward excellence in God?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, it’s time for you to take immediate action! You need to spend some quality time with Jesus. Ask Him to forgive you, and let His blood cleanse you; then ask the Holy Spirit to start the process of transforming you into the image of Jesus. Don’t stop until you think, see, and act like Jesus Christ — every moment of every day!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I ask You to help me live my life in a way that glorifies You. You are my Lord, and I am Your servant and child. I don’t want to do anything with my life that brings disrespect or dishonor to Your precious name! Help me to not exaggerate or embellish the truth. I ask You to correct me when I am lured into snobbery or pride and to lovingly rebuke me when I “act ugly” toward others. I want to be like You, Jesus, and I’m not going to stop pressing ahead until I demonstrate Your life and Your nature in my life!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I am never going to stop until I have attained the high level of love Jesus wants me to have in my life! I don’t go around talking about myself all the time, constantly exaggerating and embellishing the facts. I don’t behave in a prideful, arrogant, haughty, superior, snooty, snobbish, or clannish manner. I’m not rude and discourteous. I’m not careless or thoughtless. As I spend time with Jesus, I am being changed into His image — and I demonstrate His life and His nature to other people!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Have you been guilty of exaggerating or embellishing the truth to make yourself look better in front of other people? Would you feel comfortable telling those same stories if you were face-to-face with Jesus?
2. Have you ever been guilty of acting in a snobbish or clannish manner? Are you and your friends so tight that others might view your group as an exclusive little clique?
3. Have you been acting in a fashion that glorifies the name of Jesus? Or are there certain ways you behave that are too “ugly” to be representative of Jesus?