He couldn’t lace his boots

He couldn’t lace his boots
Photo by Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash
Timothy Cross
Timothy Cross Timothy Cross has written many Christian books and articles and has an honorary doctorate from Christian Bible College, Rocky Mount, NC.
01 March, 2012 4 min read

The expression ‘He couldn’t lace his boots’ is used when one person is compared less favourably with another.

Think, for instance, of the occasions when you meet an older man who is convinced that the football era of his youth was the greatest ever. He might say with nostalgia, ‘The players of today couldn’t lace the boots of a George Best, Bobby Charlton, Nat Lofthouse, etc.’


A wag once quipped, ‘Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be’! You sometimes meet people who are convinced that the music, sport, working-life, social conditions, and so on, of the past were all far better than the present. Perhaps they have ‘rose-tinted spectacles’.  

Ecclesiastes 7:10 though reads pointedly, ‘Say not, Why were the former days better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask this’. Whilst we may be thankful for past mercies, undue disgruntlement with the present is ultimately disgruntlement with God’s providence. We must repent if this is true of us.

The expression, ‘He couldn’t lace his boots’, is not found verbatim in the Bible. But the cultural equivalent is.

John the Baptist was Jesus’ forerunner. He prepared the way for the Messiah by his preaching. In proclaiming the coming Christ, John the Baptist announced: ‘There comes one after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose’ (Mark 1:7).

According to Jesus, John the Baptist was the greatest prophet ever. He said of him, ‘For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist’ (Luke 7:28).

Great man though John was, however, God gave him an insight into one who alone could be described as truly ‘great’. God gave John an insight into the person of his own Son — the longed-for Messiah, who was about to begin his public ministry by being baptised in the Jordan.


In Bible days, one task of a slave was to untie his master’s shoes and wash his feet. But John was aware that Christ was so great that he was not worthy even to act as his lowly slave.

He was not worthy even to stoop down and wash the feet of the Master. In saying, ‘I am not worthy to stoop down and loose’. John was saying the cultural equivalent of, ‘He couldn’t lace his boots’. He was declaring the supreme, incomparable greatness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

If the truth be told, no one can ‘lace the boots’ of the Lord Jesus. The great and prominent personalities, princes and politicians of this world fade into insignificance when compared with Jesus.

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