- The Book of Ecclesiastes declares “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” (Ecc. 1:2) The Apostle Paul told us that every creature was subject to vanity due to the fall. (Rom. 8:20) That includes all of mankind, a bleak picture indeed.
- But while it may be normal for the unregenerate to live in vanity, Paul gives no excuse for those of us who are believers. In Ephesians 4:17 Paul says that we should “no longer walk as the Gentiles also walk, in the vanity of their mind.” Paul seems to say that although it is possible for us as Christians to walk in vanity just as the unbelieving Gentiles do, we shouldn’t let such a thing happen. God has fully delivered us, so we should live a life free from vanity.
- Most would say it includes feelings of hollowness, worthlessness, emptiness, meaninglessness, and depression. It may hit you while you are involved in a project, studying for an exam, or driving to work. Some, at the end of their careers, discover to their horror that all their life’s work resulted in vanity. Nothing of value was there, nothing will last, and no one appreciates their years of labor. “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”
- I Peter 1:18-19 says “Knowing that it was not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, that you were redeemed from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, the blood of Christ.” Peter, like Paul, appreciated that the salvation worked out for us by God not only delivered us from our sin, but also from our vain manner of life, our life of vanity.
- Peter was called by the Lord while in his boat fishing. (Luke 5:1-11) To be a fisherman was a respected occupation, and no doubt Peter was looking forward to a long and rewarding career, just like Zebedee, the man for whom he worked. Perhaps Peter thought that some day he might work himself into a management position, or even take over for Zebedee. He might well have not discovered the vanity of this dream until the end of his life had not the Lord intervened. When the Lord involved Himself in Peter’s fishing, first by holding back the fish all night so that Peter caught nothing, and them by causing him to catch a great multitude of fish, Peter’s eyes were opened to see his real situation. He fell at Jesus’ knees saying “I am a sinful man, Lord.” Suddenly the value of Peter’s occupation was exposed. It was not sin, but it felt like it. It was vanity. Peter repented, left all, and followed Jesus
- Paul was called by the Lord while engaged in his occupation of religious zealot. Unlike Peter, Paul had spent years in training under the best teachers. He was being groomed to carry out God’s work according to the law of the Old Testament. His own testimony tells how he excelled in his religion. (Acts 22:3-5) In Galatians 1:14, Paul says “I advanced in Judaism beyond many contemporaries, being more abundantly a zealot for the traditions of my fathers.” But when the Lord called him, He counted all his religious zeal and all the religious tradition he had received from his fathers as vanity. Says Paul, “But what things were gains to me, these I have counted as loss on account of Christ. But moreover I also count all things to be loss on account of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, on account of whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as refuse that I may gain Christ.” (Phil. 3:7-8) Paul also repented, left all, and followed Jesus.
- When we as believers begin to sense the presence of vanity in our endeavors, we must praise Him for His mercy. His salvation has come to us. At such a time we should “no longer walk as the Gentiles also walk.” He is calling us to repent, leave all, and follow Him. How can we refuse?