Vanity is never painted in a good light in the Bible. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines vanity as “inflated pride in oneself or one's appearance” or “something that is vain, empty, or valueless.” People who are vain are normally self-absorbed, selfish, and prideful.
With media trends and social media, vanity seems to be at an all-time high. This fact does not make God happy because He does not want us to be vain. Keep on reading to discover the truth about vanity according to God’s Word.
1. Understanding Vanity
The writer of Ecclesiastes understands the emptiness of vanity as he declares, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, ESV). The writer of Ecclesiastes is thought to be Solomon by most scholars. Solomon was a man who knew what it was like to have everything you could ever want.
He was blessed with wisdom, riches, and all of the desires of his heart. Even after he was blessed in all these different ways, he was still not happy. At the end of his life, Solomon came to the truth that the only thing that truly matters is following God.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 states, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” Vanity is very common in the modern-day, but God does not want us to be vain.
Vanity is rooted in self-absorption and pride. Following God entails the need for humbleness and selflessness, not vanity. Rather than looking out for our own interests, we are to look out for the well-being of others.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:24, “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” Jesus commands us to take on a servant attitude and to follow His example. Just as Jesus was humble, so should we be humble in everything we do (Philippians 2:1-11).
Jesus’ life was the exact opposite of vanity. He was humble, generous, and died for the salvation of the world (John 3:16-17). If anybody has a right to be vain, then surely Jesus, who is God in the flesh, could have the permission to be vain, yet instead, Jesus was humble and took on the nature of a servant.
Vanity does not run through Jesus’ veins because vanity is a sin. Since vanity is a sin, believers do not need to follow the cultural trend of vanity.
2. Dangers of Vanity
God does not want us to be full of ourselves. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” He wants us to be humble, compassionate, and kind. Vanity will not cause us to have any of these traits.
There are many dangers of vanity, such as sinning against God, hurting others, and hurting yourself. Even though vanity has been normalized in modern society, Christians need to clothe themselves with the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14).
Vanity has no place in a Christian’s life. If vanity is a hallmark of a Christian’s life, they will not be a good example of Christ. Vanity causes a person to obsess over their appearance, hurt others in the process, and downplay others.
This is because if a person is vain, they will be mean to others who do not meet their standards. In the same way, if a person is vain, they can even be mean to themselves if they do not meet their own standards.
Normally, people who are vain love themselves obsessively; however, vanity can cause you to be stricter or harder on yourself. It is worthwhile to mention that vanity is different from self-love. Self-love is good because we are to love ourselves as God loves us.
Jesus says, “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31). From Jesus’ words, we are told to love our neighbor as ourselves, which means we should not hate ourselves, but rather we should love and care for our bodies.
This type of self-love is radically different from vanity. Vanity is a self-absorption, prideful, and narcissistic infatuation with oneself. This type of narcissistic love for oneself can cause all sorts of problems and unhappiness.
3. Vanity in the Bible
As we have established, King Solomon has his own experience with vanity, and he found it extremely empty and negative. Another person who showed themself to have extreme vanity in the Bible is King Saul.
King Saul let vanity go to his head since he was handsome, a skilled warrior, and God’s anointed (1 Samuel 9-10). Sadly, however, Saul’s vanity went straight to his head and ultimately caused his downfall.
Rather than obeying God’s commands sent to Saul through Samuel, Saul chose to follow his own understanding. Saul’s vanity ultimately ended in the crown being taken from Saul and given to David. Saul committed suicide during his last battle out of fear (1 Samuel 31:4).
Rather than being killed by a Philistine, Saul first commissioned his armor-bearer to kill him with the sword, but when his armor-bearer refused, Saul decided to take his own life. This is not to say suicides in the modern day are related to vanity because they are not.
Suicides are the result of depression, long-term problems, and a desperate attempt to leave the pain of one’s life. Saul’s, however, was due to the last stroke of vanity. He would rather take his own life rather than be killed by a Philistine.
4. Avoiding Vanity
In the modern-day, vanity is often portrayed as being glamorous and popular; however, Christians need to forego falling into the trap of vanity. Just like any other sin, it can be hard to break away, but it is possible.
If you are finding yourself stuck in the trap of vanity, ask for God’s help today. Pour your heart out to God and tell Him how you want to change. Ask Him for His help to transform you into a servant like Christ and to leave the ways of vanity behind you.
Your happiest and most joyful life will only come when you are living out in obedience to God’s Word. Vanity will only bring sadness, pain, and toil.
Choose today that you are going to follow Christ and His life for you. Jesus never participated in vanity even though He is the Name above all names. As Christians, we should never think more highly of ourselves than what is warranted.
Romans 12:3 states, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (ESV).
Vanity causes a person to think very highly of themselves, yet as Christians, we are to think of ourselves with sober judgment. There will be many temptations throughout our lives to be vain, however, we can fight against these temptations with God’s help and providence.
Vanity will cause a life of self-obsession, but a life with Christ will be a life of love, compassion, beauty, and freedom. Jesus will give you freedom — vanity will only leave you all alone.
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Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.
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