“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret” (Matthew 6:1-6).
This section of Scripture in Matthew echoes back to the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes which has, as an emphasis, the teaching that all is vanity. By this the writer means our attempts to find our ultimate hope in the things of the world like fame, piousness, money, toil, envy, gathering and collecting (just to name a few).
Vanity is also found in our social interactions when someone puts their views and ideas as superior to another so that they might gain worldly approval. While doing my research for this article I came across an illustration of such attitudes:
Vanity comes in all shapes and sizes and we see it almost everywhere, in our social networks, our media and our politics, so many thinking that their view is the only view. “This is also vanity and a striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:4).
Proverbs 31:30 teaches us that, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Contrary to what you might think, this is not a condemnation of charm and beauty. Both are fine. But when charm and beauty replace the creator of each, in other words, if that is where you place your trust, then vanity has overcome godliness.
He who relies on charm and beauty for power will never be satisfied. She who clings to money for her strength will never have enough. But the person who clings to the Lord with all their mind, soul, body, and strength will never be without because God is always faithful.
When you place that must trust in God, you no longer have to live for worldly things. Vanity will have been eliminated because it is no longer useful because God has made all things new within you.
The Psalmist pleads with God in Psalm 119:37, “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” That should be our attitude as we wade through a world filled with vanity. In us the world should see an example of humility and grace in the understanding that everything you have has been given to us as a gift. “Behold, you have made my days a few handbreaths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! (Psalm 39:5)
Stop striving for the wind and place your trust in Jesus. Instead of vanity (and who has ever had more reason) Christ demonstrated love, placing all others before Himself. What the world needs more of in not vanity, what it needs is for us to be examples of Christlike grace. Together we can strive for change instead of wind. Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, forgive us for counting too much on ourselves and our possessions. Make us to be more like you in grace and humility. Help us to find our ultimate satisfaction in the Creator rather than the created. Amen.