What is worth boasting about?

National Day is usually an occasion for our prime minister to give an account of how we have fared in the past 12 months, backed with statistics showing our nation’s economic health. At the National Day parade on 9 August, the strength of our army, navy and air force, together with their expensive military hardware, is put on display.

Singaporeans who have benefitted from more than 50 years of relative peace and progress should be proud of our economic growth and formidable military development. We have been blessed, and for that we can be grateful.

Important as economic growth and defence capability may be, we as a country cannot thrive for long if these are all we can boast about. A country’s longevity is closely linked to what it does for the benefit of its citizens, and for the blessing of its neighbours. We need to invest in the character formation of our citizens and the cultivation of their virtues. This will enhance the quality of life for everyone, and not just for a small privileged group.

While we can feel proud of our achievements, we should not get carried away with boasting about that which has no eternal significance. As God spoke through Jeremiah:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the LORD
. (Jer 9:23–24, NIV)

These verses give us a few boxes to tick. Of primary importance is our relationship with God and how well we understand and know Him. A further tangible test is whether we have at least three identifiable virtues that are found in God’s character: kindness, justice and righteousness.

While this short reflection cannot expound in detail about the virtues that God says He delights in, it is safe to say that even in a country that does not favour any particular religion, everyone who loves Singapore would agree that it is desirable for our people and government to be known for our acts of kindness, commitment to social justice and pursuit of righteousness.

In August, when we celebrate National Day, say a prayer for our people and nation-that we will seek to become people who boast about knowing God, and manifest the kindness, justice and righteousness in which He delights.

The Rev Dr Daniel Koh Kah Soon is an ethicist by training. After retirement, he was re-engaged and is now serving as a pastor at Christalite Methodist Chapel and the Chairperson of the Methodist Welfare Services. One of his pastoral concerns is encouraging Christians to bring their faith to bear on the challenging issues of our time as responsible and responsive followers of Christ.

Picture by geargodz/