Friday, March 30, 2007
The Issue of Vanity
The Issue of Vanity
In January 1973 Singer songwriter Carly Simon had a big hit on the radio, with the song, "You're So Vain." The song is about a broken hearted woman telling this man about how she feels about their relationship and about him. The refrain goes like this:
"You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you
You're so vain, I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you? Don't you?"
According to the singer, the man believes himself the center of the universe. So much, that she thinks he would think the song is about him. Vain people are conceited, thinking themselves better than others, and thinking that without their presence or input things would not happen.
In the dictionary, the word vain means: overly proud of oneself, especially when concerning appearance, and or egotistical. Other definitions include: having very little substance, pointless, futile, and useless. So the word vain does not only refer to people but to things or actions. People talk about vain calories, or doing something in vain, etc. Vanity is the quality or condition of being vain. Someone vain has vanity. Pursuing vain actions are considered vanity.
As the lesson says, the word translated as vanity from the Hebrew in Ecclesiastes is "hebel." Hebel means vapor, smoke or breath. Ecclesiastes 12:8 says, "Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity." It is no wonder the translators of the Bible decided to use vanity in this case. You see, smoke, breath and vapor are related to air. And, we call anything this is full of air: empty. And empty is one definition of vanity. Although air or any gas state is matter - it has weight - it has no form. Also, air moves around. When we say something is full with something solid or liquid. It is because it is visible, and the likelihood of being the same matter again when we return to look at it is a lot higher than if it was just air. We can touch it. Smoke, breath, or vapor can be distinguished from regular air, but we cannot touch it, and it will probably dissipate eventually, as it spread through the air.
Another aspect of this analogy is brevity. Smoke, breath and vapor dissipate through the air pretty quickly. Sometimes slower than others, however it will not stay for ever. And, once it dissipates it will seem that it was never there. You may see it now, but in a few moments it will disappear and perhaps forever and no one will remember it.
Lastly, it is issue of insignificance and meaninglessness. As long as the breath, smoke or vapor is concentrated in the same spot, there may have an impact and maybe a significant one. However, once dissipated, its presence will be insignificant, if compared with the rest of the contents of air.
A vain person is proud of something that will disappear, in a short time, and in the end will not matter. A vain pursuit is about is the same way. It will not accomplish for you the fulfillment you desired, in fact this false fulfillment will not last long and you will feel you wasted your time and effort. This is what the preacher was talking about. The things of this world disappear, in a short time, and in the end it will not matter that we pursued them and whether we succeed or not. Very few will remember.
How does this happen? And can we prevent it from happening? The following three passages form the book of Matthew quote Jesus answering question. Let us read,
Matthew 6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
Matthew 6:20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Matthew 16:26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
What this world has to offer will be corrupted or stolen, and will lead to eternal death. What God has to offer can not be corrupted or stolen, and leads to a righteous life, and eternal life in the Kingdom of God. A life of disobedience, refusing to listen to God is vanity. A life of a continual choosing to hear God's voice and heeding to His leading is profitable. Which one you choose is up to you.
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