Against “Trash Talk”

“Trash talking” is an attempt to verbally intimidate an opponent, and it has become a familiar part of American culture, especially in sports and video games — but it has infiltrated many other segments of our society as well. In I Kings 20, we see that “trash talking” is not anything new: King Ben-hadad of Aram came down to Syria and besieged Samaria and he used “trash talk” to intimidate the King of Israel. But Ahab had a word in response which some of us may find useful at some point:

Ben-hadad tried to intimidate King Ahab with his words in :3, “Your silver and your gold are mine; your most beautiful wives and children are also mine.” “Trash talking” even more in :10 Ben-hadad said, “May the gods do so to me and more also, if the dust of Samaria will suffice for handfuls for all the people who follow me.” But the king of Israel replied to the messengers: ‘Tell him, “Let not him who girds on his armor boast like him who takes it off.”‘”

Although Ahab was far from a godly king, his words here are full of wisdom. “Let not him who girds on his armor boast like him who takes it off”! In other words, it is one thing to congratulate yourself on your accomplishments once you have achieved them. It is another to boast about them BEFORE you do!

In the New Testament, James warns us about presumptuous boasting: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what you life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If The Lord wills we will live and also do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16)

Scripture makes it clear that boasting has no place in the life of a Christian. We are not to imitate the “trash talking” of the world, but should be characterized by a humility and submission to the will of God.

Ahab warned Ben-hadad not to boast before he had accomplished his victory, and his words were on target. Israel won the ensuing battle against Ben-hadad, despite all of his “trash talking.”

And the story in I Kings 20 gives each of us a good verse to memorize and use when we are tempted to boast presumptuously, or when someone tries to intimidate us with their words: “Let not him who girds on his armor boast like him who takes it off”!

About Shawn Thomas

My blog,, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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