On one occasion I was being introduced as the special speaker for a banquet. The man who introduced me used such flowery language and extravagant praise that I was almost afraid to speak. He made me bigger than life – something I could never live up to.
Some people are not content to just brag about themselves – the want to appear bigger and better than they really are, so they inflate themselves in order to make a bigger impression. But love doesn’t do that.
In 1 Corinthians 13:4, God describes real love by saying, “Love suffers long and is kind; love envies not, love vaunts not itself, is not puffed up.”
Now, vaunting yourself is bragging about yourself. It is simply calling attention to something you’ve done. Puffed up, however, is exaggerating who you are or what you’ve done. It is not only calling attention to yourself, it is inflating yourself.
The word “puffed up” is a Greek word physioutai that means to “put on airs.” Literally, it means to blow-up, to inflate – from a root that means “to puff or blow.”
Have you ever heard of a blowfish? It’s a simple defenseless fish that seeks to defend itself by inflating itself. As it gets bigger and bigger, it looks more ominous and threatening. So predators become intimidated and go away.
Well, we have a way of inflating ourselves, too. We do it by exaggerating who we are and what we have done. But God says that this is not a loving thing to do. You see, puffing up is simply a way of calling attention to ourselves. Like bragging, it is very self-centered. And love, by its very nature is not self-centered. It is being concerned about others – not about ourselves.
God’s kind of love is totally selfless. It is concerned only for the welfare of others. It is not puffed up. Now you know the real meaning of the word.
Think about a balloon – balloons are inflated with air and call attention to themselves. But just stick a pin in it and there’s nothing left. Don’t be a balloon filled with air!