Let Not Him Who Straps on His Armor Boast Like He Who Takes It Off

Football players are famous for guaranteeing wins in big games.

Think of Joe Namath of the underdog New York Jets, boasting before the third Super Bowl about taking down the storied Baltimore Colts. His vintage sideburns and shaggy mane fluttering in the breeze, Namath strapped on his armor – his helmet, pads and cleats – and went out and delivered.

Unlike Namath, many athletes fall well short of fulfilling their promises of great upsets and victories. It happens elsewhere in life as well – we call it counting your chickens before they’re hatched – and is common whenever people boast about tomorrow, assume victory because of overconfidence, or underestimate their foes.

The Jebusites thought to repel David in battle with ease, saying, “‘You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off’ – thinking, ‘David cannot come in here’” (Second Samuel 5:6).

Wicked King Ahab of Israel was on the receiving end of this kind of boasting. Before squaring off against Syria, King Ben-Hadad boasted about certain victory and a Hebrew slaughter. Ahab responded in one of his few heroic turns, “Let not him who straps on his armor boast himself like he who takes it off” (First Kings 20:11). Ben-Hadad lived to regret his boast.

Overconfident boasting is a problem in realms other than battle and ball. Christians can become dangerously overconfident through the acquisition of knowledge and years of experience. “This knowledge,” Paul observed, “puffs up” a disciple so that he neglects to see the bigger picture and the threat on the horizon (see First Corinthians 8:1). While knowledge can help defend one against temptation, boasting of invincibility is evidence of a breach. “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment” (Romans 12:3).

The Christian’s adversary is a roaring lion with an appetite for human souls, a cunning fox who is willing to wait for a vulnerability or opportunity to appear. Overconfidence breeds complacency, a decline in vigilance and an arrogant assumption of success that almost ensures defeat. That is why Paul warned so frequently against apostasy and why the devil must laugh when theologians treat its potential as something mythical and impossible. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (First Corinthians 10:12).

A rest is ahead for the people of God when the race is finished and victory has been judged, but for now, no boasting is wise (see Hebrews 4:9, Second Timothy 4:6-8, Romans 3:27). “Let not him who straps on his armor boast himself like he who takes it off.”