> Image via WikipediaI had the pleasure of driving into Anchorage tonight with a car FULL of Jr. and Sr. High students…good kids. Two of them in my car were my kids. As we drove in for the 40 minutes or so, it was fun listening to the conversations as the kids felt the need, for whatever reason to exaggerate and use hyperbole in their conversation. It appeared, in typical teenage fashion, that each kid, in their own way was trying to cast their story in the funniest light possible, to make their teachers sound like the absolute worst or best, and, in short, to make themselves look good.
Now, I understand, very well, what it’s like as a teenager and you’re trying to feel out your place among your peers, when you’re trying to impress the girls or the guys or the friends or the strangers and not feel like the odd one out or the one with no story to share. It’s an awkward time. I don’t fault them. None of them were rude (or more rude that I’d allow) and none of them talked trash against anyone.
But, still, I couldn’t help but wonder at the social maneuvering that was taking place, perhaps out of self-protection.
But, we all try, I think, to make ourselves appear in the best light. We don’t want to look bad. Even putting yourself down can be a way to make yourself appear humble and, therefore, look better. It’s part of who we are. All of us inflate ourselves, puff ourselves up.
Paul talks about this phenomenon, even using “puffy” language in the King James Version. Says, 1 Corinthians 4:18-20
18Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.
19But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.
20For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.
Or, again, in 1 Corinthians 8:1-3:
1 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God.
Says Steve Zeisler about this word:
The Greek verb that describes the work of a bellows (phusioo) is used three times in 1 Corinthians 4. A bellows, of course, is an instrument which puffs air into the heart of the fire to make it hotter. We don’t see them too much these days, but in the recent past they were used by blacksmiths and others to fan the fires over which they worked. When the apostle Paul uses the word in the context of this letter, however, he does so in order to describe people who are puffed up and self-important, individuals who like to call attention to themselves.
The word is used only seven times in the New Testament and six of those usages are in the book of 1 Corinthians. It is a term that describes a central problem of the Corinthian church. Being puffed up was characteristic of these believers. They had an air of arrogance and self-importance about them. Paul therefore takes pains to remind them of their problem and he does so by using phusioo to describe their attitude and behavior.
It’s one thing to “puff ourselves” up in our social interactions with others. It’s another when we do so within the church or in our relationship with God.
As I sat listening to the kids in the car, I wondered how often do I do this in my religious dialogue with others.
I hope not at all.
But I’m sure I do.