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Bible verses about Vanity
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 3:10-11

The time had come. Previously, Moses thought he was ready, and he impetuously promoted himself to do the job. He did it without waiting for God.

Look at the difference: Before, Moses promoted himself, but now he says, "God, who am I?" What a change took place in his thinking! He not only hesitated about going, but he almost seems petrified about the prospects of going. This is a true principle of those who have been humbled in their field of expertise.

The young foolishly think, in their vanity, that their strength will allow them to sail through any problem. They are deceived by their own ignorance. Like Moses, they foolishly rush in where angels fear to tread. When they come to understand, usually after years of experience, they realize how very little they know.

This principle is clearly shown in the way a student of science might be humbled. He may have graduated from high school, then from college, and may have even obtained a master's degree and now works on a doctorate. He has learned a great deal. However, after maybe twenty years of experience in the field of chemistry or biology, he realizes there is a great deal more that he does not know, more than his accumulation of schooling and experience. If he is a Christian, he begins to see God's creation and the Creator's mind in a much different light.

That is what has happened to Moses. In those forty years, his impetuous spirit had been dissolved, and he saw the power of Egypt in its true light. He may have feared execution, imprisonment, or embarrassment by the powerful Egyptians.

Does this not encumber and constrain us as well? We worry and fear that we will look foolish before friends and relatives if we obey God—if we keep the Sabbath or tithe. How many of our relatives have castigated us because of tithing? It seems awfully dumb to them, but how do we feel? Do we fear what they think?

Moses more fully recognizes his weaknesses in comparison to Egypt, and he quails at the thought. God has to overcome Moses' resistance. What a change! Moses was going to do it on his own before, but God now has to overcome his resistance. All of the testing God had put Moses through produces right faith and right conviction.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Conviction, Moses and Us


 

Job 42:5-6

Though among the most upright of men, all his life Job had held a wrong evaluation of himself in relation to God and other men. But when God allowed him to "see" himself, he was devastated, his vanity was crushed, and he repented. Only then could he really begin to love.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover, Obligation, and Love


 

Psalm 39:5

God inspired His servant David to announce that, in his very best state, man is vanity. Not quality, not excellence—vanity! Although God made man "very good" (Genesis 1:31), He purposely made him temporary and incomplete (II Corinthians 4:18; II Timothy 3:17; James 1:4).

Staff
God's Quality Way of Life


 

Proverbs 11:2

The proud hypocrite deceives himself into ignoring realities in the conduct of his life that the meek and humble person quickly recognizes and takes into account. The proud person's vanity pushes him into conduct that will end in shame. The humble person's attitude, on the other hand, is a vivid contrast, for his wisdom prevents him from pursuing the same conduct. This in turn produces even more wisdom when good fruit is produced because it reinforces his right decision.

This pride seen in Proverbs 11:2 literally means "boiling up," or we might say, "puffed up." It can mean "to overstep the boundaries." The proud person has an inflated opinion of himself and/or his possessions, abilities, powers, and accomplishments. This exists because pride has deceived him about his importance. He is the center of the world! The day is coming soon when everyone's proud ego will be deflated, and man's haughty self-regard will be stripped away.

This is exactly what happened to Satan. He got so full of himself that his pride tricked him into believing he could defeat His Creator in battle and take His place! He ignored the reality that he was the creation of God, and that God was thus superior to His creation in every way. His pride deceived him into underestimating the awesome power of God that he had seen demonstrated in the creation! It made him disregard the limited nature of his own power in comparison, making him think he was stronger than was true. It actually made him think he could be God!

This attitude is also at the foundation of Laodiceanism. Of what does God accuse the Laodiceans? "[Y]ou say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'" (Revelation 3:17). Their pride deceives them into believing they are self-sufficient. They have it all! They do not need anything! We should consider that in all probability the Laodicean does not say any such thing with his tongue. In fact, he is probably able to "talk the talk" very well and hypocritically put on a good show of righteousness. But God looks on the heart, seeing not only his public conduct but also his motivations and private conduct. The Laodicean is of the class that professes to know God but denies Him in works. God's judgment—the correct judgment—is that they are "wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Humility, and the Day of Atonement


 

Proverbs 29:18

Proverbs 29:18 in the New Living Bible says, "When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild." It does not mean that those without vision were "screaming Mimi's" running around tearing their hair out or something of that nature. It simply means that those without the revelation of God, those without godly vision, live purposeless lives. Their lives are lived lawlessly and in vanity - without direction. Therefore, for a group to be unified, all must have the same vision of where to go in life. We cannot do that until we all believe the same things.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 5): Ephesians 4 (B)


 

Ecclesiastes 1:1-3

The book begins abruptly by announcing that it is written by Solomon, son of David, king in Jerusalem. Some commentators dispute this, claiming evidence that it was written as late as the third century before Christ. I cannot grasp how their speculation profits anyone who is sincerely looking for truth about how to live a life that glorifies God and is profitable for themselves. The message is what is important, and ultimately, the message is from our Creator, who inspired it and desires our growth and His glorification.

The first 11 verses act as an introduction, providing several terms that dominate the theme of the book. Three terms particularly important to grasping Ecclesiastes' message are contained within the first three verses: "vanity," "profit," and "under the sun."

"Vanity" (Hebrew hebel) is a vivid metaphor used 33 times in the book. Literally, it suggests a breath, something akin to vapor, like one's breath on a cold day, or a puff of smoke rising from a fire. Smoke and breath not only disappear quickly, but neither can they be grasped and held on to. Thus, vanity aptly portrays life as being insubstantial, rather flimsy, and passing.

One of the more vivid explanations is that "vanity" suggests the scum that remains when a soap bubble bursts against a hard surface. Of what value is such a thing? Surprisingly, vanity has some value in life.

The New International Version translates Ecclesiastes 1:2 as, "Meaningless! Meaningless! says the teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." The Message Bible renders it, "Smoke, nothing but smoke. There is nothing to anything—it's all smoke." In the New Testament, James 4:14 describes human life similarly: "For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away."

While it makes for an arresting opening, vanity is not useless to God's purpose. We have to grow to understand that, as things stand in His purpose, vanity plays a vital role. The apostle Paul states in Romans 8:18-21:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility [vanity, KJV], not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

Without a doubt, life is difficult, and the vanity that Paul mentions plays its part in the difficulty. It seems apparent from Genesis 3:14-19, where God enumerates the curses following Adam and Eve's sin, that He not only pronounced man's subjection to a measure of vanity but activated it at that time. God deliberately subjected the creation to futility as a reminder that sin is the source of the difficulty as well as an obstacle to be overcome for the purpose of growth into His image. We must recognize it and deal with it.

Despite Solomon's exclamation, Ecclesiastes contains sufficient evidence that he never completely lost his view of God, as the book's last paragraph is witness. Instead, he clearly demonstrates that for those who believe God, vanity does not have the last word. Therefore, we can glean a great deal of hope from Ecclesiastes.

Notice how Paul considers the sufferings that this world and nature impose on us and concludes that they are insignificant compared to what lies ahead if we overcome their vanities. In fact, in Romans 8:19, he personifies the creation as burdened and groaning right along with us because of the futility imposed on it, saying that it, too, looks forward to its release from what the Creator subjected it to.

Since God purposefully subjected the physical creation to vanity, therefore we can honestly conclude that all this vanity is a reality that serves our overall good in preparation for the Kingdom of God. It is a challenging obstacle. In His wisdom, He has determined we must first experience the emptiness of life without Him, become thoroughly disillusioned with what it has to offer, throw it off, and depart from it. The sufferings that vanity imposes help us to make a true assessment of the value of His grace and goodness, as well as truly and zealously commit ourselves to Him and His purpose. In such a circumstance, vanity will not have the last word.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part One)


 

Ecclesiastes 1:1-3

Though the term "profit" (Hebrew yitron) is used only six times in Ecclesiastes, its placement at the beginning of the book adds to its weight. It is used as if Solomon is asking, "In light of the fact that so much of life is vanity, is life really worth living? Is it worth going through life's vanity-packed challenges? What does one gain from it?"

Undoubtedly, life requires a person to expend a great deal of time, energy, and stressful uncertainty, companions of the pains of vanity. On the surface, life appears to be just running in circles, so what does one gain from it? Because of questions like this, Solomon takes the reader through the descriptions of the repetitious cycles of earthly systems that follow. Meditations of this sort make an individual appear so puny against the backdrop of the immensity of time, the earth's large population, and the monotony of the earth's natural cycles. The reality is that each of us truly is insignificant against such a background.

It is helpful to understand that Solomon's question regarding profit is asked in a rhetorical sense to stimulate thinking at this stage of his writing. Solomon already knows the final answer, but he is attempting to get his hearers to think along with him. As we study this book, we will find that not everyone's life is sheer vanity. Solomon finds that much of life is profitable but not truly lasting. On the other hand, if another factor is added to a person's life, life is not only very profitable because it is pleasing to God, but thoroughly enjoyable and everlasting as well.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part One)


 

Ecclesiastes 1:1-3

To those unfamiliar with the usage of this figure of speech, "under the sun" may be the most mysterious of the three significant terms in Ecclesiastes. This phrase accounts for much of why Ecclesiastes seems so pessimistic when first read. By using it, Solomon is stating the perspective from which he, and the overwhelming majority of mankind, views life in all of its vain complexities.

He is literally telling us that he is looking at these matters of life where the sun shines. For the most part, and especially at this point within his lecture, his perspective does not include what is above the sun—God. To see things "under the sun" is to look at life's events from a carnal perspective. Life from God's perspective is not in view in such a case.

"Under the sun" is to think and act from an earthly point of view, to look at things carnally. Solomon is leaving God out of the picture for a time as his lecture unfolds. His purpose at this point is to cause us to begin to fear that vanity is all there is to life. All too often, in the busy crush of everyday events, we forget to remember God and His purpose. When we do this, even though we may be converted, we are back under the sun once again, looking at things carnally.

Ecclesiastes is not just about meaninglessness. It also opens the possibility of an "above the sun" perspective of life that can teach us that everything matters in spite of all the vanity we face. By being a means of helping Him to form us into what He desires, vanity can play a major role in God's purpose. We will learn as we continue through Solomon's lecture that an internal disgust of vanity can motivate cooperation with God and produce growth to maturity.

We will also find that Solomon is not at all pessimistic about a life in which God is considered in all things. The truth is that he is teaching why everything matters and that God's children need to be aware of making right choices or life will be meaningless. The gift of life is precious, and the gift of having the responsibility to make many choices in life is wonderful. God's calling and the revelation of Himself and His purpose are gifts beyond calculation. Solomon is urging us to make every effort not to waste the gifts God has so graciously given.

Each of us has only one opportunity for salvation. Life is not vain for us because we are being transformed, created for a different world. This vain and weary world should serve as a reminder to prompt us to turn our perspective to the right one, "above the sun."

Tremendous profit lies in what the called children of God are experiencing. We must choose to direct our lives to follow an "above the sun" perspective so that our lives are not meaningless. The choice lies between chasing the dreams of the unconverted or submitting to what God has revealed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part One)


 

Ecclesiastes 1:2-3

Vanity is a word that we are familiar with in another form. It appears early in the Bible as the name given to the second person born on earth, Abel. Adam named him "Vanity." In its simplest form, it signifies a breath, which is comparitively nothing. That is what it means—nothing.

A breath has a short existence. We breath in and breath out, and then we take another one. It lasts for just a second. When we carry out the application of this word, temporariness begins to come to the fore because a person's breath is very temporary and quickly replaced by another and another and another. Vanity describes something that is nothing, impermanent, temporary. But that hardly exhausts its meaning.

This phrase "vanity of vanities" is written in the Hebrewsuperlative form. It is similar in its application as "holy of holies." Another one is the "Song of Songs," sometimes called Canticles or Song of Solomon. Modern translators tend to translate vanity of vanities as "meaningless." A single breath has no meaning to it. Some have gone so far as to translate it "absurd." In a way, this fits the context of Ecclesiastes best because absurd means "irrational," an affront to reason, something that does not fit the order and purpose we seek from life.

That is what Solomon means: Life is absurd. Why do we live? All of our life, we spend working, playing, relating, and at its end, what does a person have to show for what he has done? It is absurd, irrational, meaningless.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 1)


 

Ecclesiastes 1:3-11

Overall, how do we, as Christians, perceive time? Every day we are witnesses to its progression. Daylight comes and passes, and night arrives only to be followed by daylight again. We can look at a clock and see that its hands are moving. But how - in what manner - is time moving?

As a culture, the Greeks have become known as a people sensitive to the rhythms of time, and this, though written by Solomon, a Hebrew, is a decidedly Greek view of life and of time's movement. This perception of life and time - their acute awareness of things like the perpetual ebb and flow of tides, the continuous cycle of the four seasons, and the constant repetition of weather patterns - became a major building block of Greek philosophy, leading them to develop the concept that time is cyclical.

They concluded that man's life is lived within a series of continuous, changeless recurrences. To them, time works like a wheel turning on an axis, and the events that mark time's progress repeat themselves endlessly. They believed that nothing could be done about it because such events will happen eternally. Thus, a person is born, lives his life on a stage, and when his part is done, he exits. Such belief inexorably leads to a fatalistic view of life.

Notice verse 8 especially. The Soncino Commentary opines that Solomon is saying that this inescapable repetition in life is such weariness that he lacked the words to describe it aptly. Despite what Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 1, the general Hebrew outlook is decidedly different. The Hebrew concept of time greatly benefited from God's revelation. In Jude 14-15, the apostle quotes an Old Testament personality, Enoch, whose pre-flood prophecy deflected Hebrew thought about time in a far different direction:

Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." (Jude 14-15)

This quotation shows that the Hebrews who believed God knew that time was headed on a very different path from the Greek view. Events do not just happen in a vacuum; they are moving in a definite direction. Enoch is warning that a time is coming when men will have to answer for what they have done during their lifetimes.

Even so, he is nowhere near the earliest indicator that time and the events within it are moving in a specific direction. Notice Genesis 3:14-15:

So the LORD God said to the serpent; "Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel."

God had revealed Himself to the Hebrew descendants of Abraham, and some among them, like Moses, believed what He said. Thus, they knew that time was not cyclical, as the Greeks perceived it, but linear: The Creator is moving time and all that happens within it in a definite direction.

The prophet Amos receives credit for giving that "sometime" a general title, or at least the term is first used within his prophecy. He called it the "Day of the Lord." Generally, he appears to mean the time when God will intervene with a strong hand in the affairs of this world - an act that is definitely not repetitious.

However, it remained for the Christian church to define time and its right usage for its members. The church's conception of time blends the cyclical concepts of the Greeks and the linear concepts of the Hebrews. It is true that many things in life - things like wars, economic depressions, and political revolutions - do recur in an inexorable manner. Yet, as the New Testament shows, much of this happens as a result of man's self-centered nature. In other words, they do not have to happen, but they do happen because man's choices make them happen. Man continually makes bad choices because his nature is unchangingly anti-God.

Thus, in general, the Christian view is that time indeed contains stressful, repeating cycles, as Solomon describes, yet the New Testament calls these cycles "evil" (Galatians 1:4). However, it also shows that time is moving in a definite direction and that God Himself is orchestrating many of the events within its progress toward the return of Jesus Christ, the Day of the Lord, and the establishment on earth of His Family Kingdom.

This led the church to develop, under the inspiration of Jesus Christ, an overall concept of time management unique to church members. It has its roots in the Old Testament: Isaiah 55:6 urges us to "seek the LORD while He may be found."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part Two): A Foundation


 

Ecclesiastes 4:1-3

The world shows a long history of oppression—the strong oppressing the weak. Regardless of when people live, their lives are only relatively better or worse. In other words, we really would not improve our lives by going back to the time of Solomon or Christ or the Renaissance or the Wild West.

There is no such thing as "the good old days." Life has always been the same. This is hard for us to grasp, it is true because people are driven by the same things: by envy, by lust, by vanity, by revenge—by human nature. Solomon goes into this in verses 4-7.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)


 

Ecclesiastes 11:1-10

This chapter marks a decisive change in the book in that it not only becomes much more positive than it has been preceding this, but it also becomes more exhortive.

Remember that the term qoheleth means "the lecturer" or "the preacher." The preacher is now calling on the people who are listening to his dissertation to make a decision. He does not say, "You can make any kind of decision you want," but He weighs his advice heavily in one direction. He says, "I want you to make a decision, but this is the decision I think you ought to make."

It becomes positive in its tone and exhortive in terms of making a decision as to what they should do with the knowledge that he has given them thus far. He strongly urges his readers or hearers to cast their lots with God.

This section begins in Ecclesiastes 11:1 and ends in 12:7. There is a sustained theme of exhortation to hold wholeheartedly to the faith and to decisive commitment to obedience to God, regardless of whether life is adverse or comfortable.

Remember that at the beginning of the book he said that life is frustrating. If God is involved in a person's life, he has the opportunity to remove a great deal of the frustration from his life. His relationship with God will take the meaninglessness, the vanity, out of life. But all the children of God are required to make that choice because both choices are still there.

Not only that, but we know from earlier in the book that the life of the person who is living by faith will also be filled with many of the same kind of adversities that those living in vanity are. He has to live with the understanding that many things are out of his control.

The Christian therefore has to deal with this, and the way this is done is to make a decisive commitment to cast his lot to live by faith. If he does that, then Romans 8:28 will be fulfilled in his life. The difficulties will be there, but because the Christian has involved God in the way that he lives his life, then all things will indeed work together for good to those who are the elect and who love God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)


 

Ecclesiastes 11:7-8

Light is a symbol of the goodness of life or joy. Life is just not good of itself, but it is to be savored with enthusiasm, as one might enjoy honey.

Life is good, but it can be even better. This is quite a change from the beginning of the book, where Solomon says life is frustrating, meaningless, and absurd. The difference is that God is involved in the life that is good, and things will work out for the good. God removes the frustration by His Spirit.

It is intended that life be enjoyed all life long, but Solomon says at the end of verse 8 to take advantage of it now, because the clock cannot be turned back. All that is coming is vanity, futility, death, which verse 9 picks up on.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)


 

Ecclesiastes 12:8-13

Verse 8 reminds the reader where Solomon's treatise began. A person's life will end in vanity if he does not take advantage of the life of faith that God has given to him. His life will simply end in meaninglessness.

Solomon advises us to fear God and keep His commandments. He is saying to eat and drink joyfully, but to do it in balance. We should never lose control of ourselves. We need to work with purpose and do it diligently. It is best to enjoy our marriage with our mate. We are to seek wisdom and use it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)


 

Isaiah 2:6-18

In the vanity of our pride, we put our trust in material strengths. A sense of strength perverts our judgment, and soon we are in conflict with God and men. Twice in this brief section, God says He will bring low the haughtiness of men. Lucifer's pride hardly endeared him to God—it eventually brought him into open conflict with Him! He was cast down (brought low) to earth, but because his pride is still influencing him, the worst is yet to come. And in the interim, he is infecting us with his most dangerous attribute.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Contention, and Unity


 

Isaiah 2:7-11

Everywhere, the Bible shows the same principle: Pride has its roots in a feeling of wealth or accomplishment, which is then used to compare. We can tie this to Satan and what is written about him in Ezekiel 28, how pride arose within him because of his beauty. He had something to brag about that made him feel good. But his vanity, developing into outright pride, began to get to him. He began to feel better than the other angels, and eventually, in his own eyes, he equated himself with God. In time, he thought of himself as greater than God—a very perverted comparison.

It does not have to be intelligence or beauty or power as it was with Satan. It could be things like money, position, social position, natural ability, social status, knowledge, strength, hair, clothing, a house, furniture, automobile—the list is virtually endless. In the New Testament, the Greek is huperephania, which means "to show oneself above." It does not imply one who others look up to, but one who stands on his own self-created pedestal.

Psychologists tell us that pride is actually a mark of inner inferiority and uncertainty, and such people compensate by over-emphasizing and flaunting the qualities that they think they possess that will make others think well of them. This feeling of wealth is highly relative because each person is capable of setting his own standards of comparison, regardless of his real accomplishments.

Proverbs 26:16 speaks of the sluggard who is wiser in his own eyes than all others, who can render more answers than seven wise men can. Although he is virtually devoid of anything that anybody would consider worth bragging about, the sluggard has created his own set of standards. He thinks he already knows the answers. He has a feeling of wealth, of prosperity, of power, or of security in whatever standard he in his own conceptions has set. He is so sure that he knows the answers that he is undeterred by facts and continues then in his ignorance. He is self-sufficient.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 7)


 

Hosea 10:1-2

The problem between God and Israel is clearly exposed. Hosea describes Israel as a luxuriant grapevine sending runners in every direction, indicating producing a bountiful crop. Great prosperity is indeed produced, yet it is consumed in self-indulgence.

Israel abused its prosperity by using it for purposes of idolatry. God is indicating that its prosperity played a part in corrupting the people's hearts. This is why the deceitful, divided, disloyal heart is mentioned in context with the multitude of its fruit.

Much of the world's appeal is that it seems to offer financial security. However, God shows there is a possible evil, secondary effect: As people become financially secure, their attention is diverted from His purpose to things that are vain and corrupting.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Laodiceanism and Being There Next Year


 

Habakkuk 2:13-14

These two verses really form one thought, which is that God allows man to labor in futility, in vain, to prove a greater point and to show the tremendous contrast between man's way and His way. Verse 14 supplies the reason for this vast difference, as well as making a wonderful promise. God allows evil to go seemingly unpunished because He is showing the stark contrast between man's way and His way, and He promises that one day He will make things right by absolutely flooding this world with the knowledge of His way.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Matthew 16:6-12

Jesus warns His disciples to "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." Seeing their puzzlement, He explains further. "Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (verse 12). Both testaments use leaven as a symbol of sin because of what it does to a lump of bread dough. Once yeast enters the dough, it immediately begins to spread by breaking down in reaction to the dough's sugars and producing a gas that puffs the bread up.

Like leaven, when sin enters a person's life, it begins to corrupt and fill him with vanity. A person enslaved by habitual sin will have a difficult time growing in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ because of sin's corrupting influence. Sin defiles and can permanently destroy relationships with God and man.

Throughout the year we hear frequent exhortations to produce fruit and grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. During Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, we give special emphasis to "getting the leaven out." These three actions are all parts of the same process. Though not technically the same, they are related closely enough to say they are simply different ways of describing the same process. "Getting the leaven out" is the most negative, "growing" is the most general, and "producing fruit" is the most specific. All three emphasize that a Christian should not stand still after entering the New Covenant. God expects him to take steps to ensure that these actions will occur in his life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

Matthew 16:24-27

Our Savior is trying to explain the relative values of our physical lives and what we can humanly accomplish to what awaits us in what is commonly called the afterlife. In short, there is no comparison!

Notice the Bible's consistency on the value of human life apart from God:

» Ecclesiastes 1:2-4: "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun? One generation passes away, and another generation comes; but the earth abides forever.

» Job 14:1-2: Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away; he flees like a shadow and does not continue.

» Psalm 90:10: The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

» Isaiah 40:6-8: All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.

» James 4:14: For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

» I John 2:17: And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

The physical life we would live now is a bowl of lentils compared with eternal life. It is nothing more than a vapor, a breath, a shadow. The passing pleasures and cares of the world will only gratify and satisfy the immediate desires. If our only interest is the immediate gratification that the world has to offer, we are indeed saying, "What profit is the Kingdom of God to me now?" Like Esau, we will despise our inheritance and go our way apart from God.

Our inheritance is the Kingdom of God. By seeking it and His righteousness first (Matthew 6:33), we are telling God that we place high value on it, that we want it, that we want to be like Him and think like Him, and that we can be trusted to take care of His estate and to live and reign with Christ.

Staff
What Is Your Lentil Soup?


 

Matthew 20:24

Matthew 20:20-26 records the occasion when the mother of James and John asked Jesus for special consideration for her sons. When the other disciples heard of the mother of James and John asking Jesus for special consideration for her sons, they were indignant, angry. Why? From Jesus' reply we can infer that their vanity was pricked—they had been "beaten to the punch"! They had been thinking of the same request because in their vanity they thought they deserved special consideration too.

Their proud minds had pictured themselves as worthy of being served, and they were offended because they thought that chance might be slipping away. Jesus reminded them that, even to be in the Kingdom, one has to have a humble attitude of a servant.

Unlike love, pride is "touchy and fretful." When pride feels threatened, it broods against what it perceives to be hurting it or lessening its chances of "being on top," "coming out ahead" of another, "looking good," or "getting even." And so it competes against others. It looks for ways to elevate itself or put another down. It counts all the offenses, real or imagined, and puts them into a mental account book to justify its position until it finds an opportune moment to break out in "vindication" of itself.

Love does not do any of those things. I Corinthians 13:5 says it as simply as it can possibly be put. Love does not insist on its own way—it will not even become provoked in the first place. And it makes no accounting of the evil done against it! We all have a long way to go in this regard!

When love dominates a person's life, becoming offended either through hurt feelings or a strong temptation to sin is remote. When pride dominates, hurt feelings or strong temptations to sin seem to lie behind every bush.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Defense Against Offense


 

Romans 12:3

Paul admonishes us not to esteem ourselves too much, an attitude that leads to vanity and arrogance.

Yet, is that not what is being pushed in our society today? A central premise in education and childrearing is instilling self-esteem in our youth, supposedly to give them confidence and motivation to succeed in life. There is no surer method to produce competition and strife! The Word of God, on the other hand, teaches us:

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself (Philippians 2:3).

This latter attitude produces peace, cooperation, and unity.

Martin G. Collins
Celebrating Birthdays


 

1 Corinthians 1:26-29

I Corinthians 1:26-29 resounds through our minds as a constant reminder that we are the foolish, weak, base and despised of this world. In these verses God formally states that He has sought no particular advantage in carrying out His purpose by calling us.

This is humbling in both a present and future sense. We seem to fall short when we compare ourselves to those who have accomplished great things or seem to have strong and good character in today's world. When we consider the World Tomorrow and the daunting challenges that will face those reconstructing a world out of the chaos of the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord, it is enough to make us feel completely inadequate.

Vanity keeps telling us we are intelligent, beautiful, clever, talented, cultured, and unappreciated, but these verses should pull us back to reality. God's assessment is accurate because when we compare our accomplishments with people in the world, ours fade into near nothingness!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Rule!


 

1 Corinthians 8:1-2

A cause of Corinth's divided congregation was that the members were flaunting their gifts, claiming they wanted to edify, but the fruits of division showed Paul the real motivation was intellectual vanity - pride.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Contention, and Unity


 

1 Corinthians 12:4-26

In verses 4-11, Paul shows that each person God places in the body receives gifts for the benefit of the entire body. In verses 14-20, he explains that diversity in the body is necessary because, if the entire body was just one part, it could not function. The diversity in this context is in terms of gifts, not doctrine, nationality, sex, or race. Diversity enables the body to be much more effective, efficient, and versatile in performing its intended purpose. Each person has a specific function necessary to the whole.

In verses 21-25, Paul makes a veiled warning that we need to guard against both pride in our abilities and its opposite—equally vain—that we have nothing to give. We become useful members when we choose to set aside these vanities and begin doing what we should.

Verse 18, combined with verses 22-26, teaches us that God Himself has organized the body. We need to understand that the greatest Authority in all of creation has specifically placed us within it and given us gifts. If the body is to function as He has purposed, each part must recognize his individual dependence upon and concern for the whole. In addition, each must understand what the body is designed to accomplish. It is the responsibility of each part to subordinate himself to God to produce the unity that will enable the whole body to do its work.

God expresses these concerns for the body because He wants it to function efficiently and effectively in unity. Therefore, what happens to one part, or what one part does, affects the whole. What we do does indeed make a difference because we are individual parts of a living, spiritual organism. Our actions will produce an increase of good or evil, efficiency or inefficiency in the use of spiritual resources, effectiveness or ineffectiveness of our witness, and growth or backsliding in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Little Things Count!


 

2 Corinthians 6:1

In other words, "Do not receive the grace of God to no purpose." That is what vanity is. It has no purpose, no contact with reality. God is reality, and the Kingdom of God is reality. The law of God is reality because it is truth, and truth, by definition, is reality.

Again, Paul's appeal is, "Do something!" What are we to do? He replies, "Cooperate with God! Truly work with Him to accomplish His will in your life." Jesus says, "Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say?" He is the One who says in Luke 16:29-31 that, if we want to know how to avoid the Lake of Fire, look to Moses and the prophets. This is why Paul says in II Corinthians 5:20, "Be reconciled to God through the repenting of sin. Quit breaking His law."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 16)


 

2 Corinthians 6:1-2

The church developed, under the inspiration of Jesus Christ, an overall concept of time management unique to church members. It has its roots in the Old Testament: Isaiah 55:6 urges us to "seek the LORD while He may be found."

Why should we seek Him? Because He has the power and the willingness, if we will trust Him, to give us a completely new nature, breaking the vain, frustrating, repetitious cycle. Isaiah 61:1-2 adds helpful understanding:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God.

This is a prophecy that Jesus partially quoted as He began His ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth where He grew up (Luke 4:18-19). These passages suggest an element of movement toward something soon to happen. Isaiah 55:6 suggests we seek Him urgently because the Lord is moving on, and if we do not seek Him now, it will be too late. Time and events within it are moving. Isaiah 61:1-2 is similar: Now is an acceptable day for those called of God. If we wait, the acceptable day will pass, and the day of vengeance, even now moving toward us, will be here. It will be too late to avoid its destructive powers!

In Solomon's complaint about time (Ecclesiastes 1:3-11), God was nowhere mentioned. Events just go around and around endlessly, effectively describing Solomon's frustration. However, in the prophet Isaiah's description, God is involved in the movement of events that impact directly on His people's lives.

II Corinthians 5:20—6:2 from the Revised English Bible helps us to see the sense of urgency in a New Testament setting:

We are therefore Christ's ambassadors. It is as if God were appealing to you through us: we implore you in Christ's name, be reconciled to God! Christ was innocent of sin, and yet for our sake God made him one with human sinfulness, so that in him we might be made one with the righteousness of God. Sharing in God's work, we make this appeal: you have received the grace of God; do not let it come to nothing. He has said: "In the hour of my favor I answered you; on the day of deliverance I came to your aid." This is the hour of favor, this the day of deliverance.

These admonitions to "seek God now," "now is an acceptable time," and "do not let it come to nothing," all indicate a passing opportunity. The Christian is dealing with a specific period during which events are working toward the culmination of some process, and if he does not take advantage of the present opportunity, it will never come again. The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins in Matthew 25:6-13 illustrates our need to make the most of this opportunity now. This parable's major lesson is that both life and time are moving. The precise time of Christ's return is unknown, so He urges us to take advantage of the knowledge and time we already have in hand. Those who reject His advice will find their way into the Kingdom blocked.

Recall that II Corinthians is written to Christians. Paul's message is a call to strike while the iron is hot! Both Jesus and Paul remind us that our calling is rife with possibilities, so much so that we can consider each moment as big as eternity. That is how important this "day of salvation" is to us! The New Testament's instruction to Christians is, "Now is the time!" Everything is in readiness for success. It is as though the New Testament writers are saying, "Don't be like the slave who refuses when presented with freedom, or the diseased person who rejects help when offered healing. God's door is open to us! Charge through it by cooperating with Him!"

John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part Two): A Foundation


 

Ephesians 5:14-17

Notice the encouraging reason Paul gives to wake up and carefully mind how we live: "Christ will give you light." This is an outright promise that He will give us the help to do what we must do. Backed by this promise, we are to redeem the time "because the days are evil." If his days were evil, what would Paul think of ours?

This passage reveals how the early church regarded time as it applies to a Christian. For us, all days - every period in which God's people have had to live their lives by their God-given understanding, thus by faith - are evil. God's truth has always run counter to the course of this world. Thus, the truth adds a peculiar, stressful difficulty to life regardless of when it is lived. Moreover, since each called-out individual has only one opportunity to lay hold on eternal life, and must overcome, grow, and prove his loyalty to God during that time, he must make use of every experience.

Galatians 1:3-4 confirms this perspective: "Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father." In terms of growing and overcoming, living in a particular period in history gives a Christian no advantage. Every era, every age, is against him, and within it, he must make the most of his calling. The times have always been evil.

To the church, then, because it must operate responsibly toward God within a highly specialized understanding of life and its purpose, every age is full of the cyclical, frustrating, repetitious events that Solomon called futile vanities. Such events lead nowhere and produce a discouraging fatalism.

However, a Christian also knows that God is directing time and events to His desired end. Thus, the church's view of time is an elegant combination of both realities, realizing that it has a work to accomplish as an organization and that each individual Christian must grow and overcome within it. So, as Christians, we must face the evil of repetitious vanity produced by sin, which history clearly records, with faith in the hope of a glorious victory for God's called-out ones, which God's Word prophesies.

Thus, Paul advises in Ephesians 5:17, "Therefore . . . understand what the will of the Lord is." As we live our lives each day, we should never let what God says slip from our minds. His point is that we need to make the most of every opportunity because time is inexorably moving toward God's desired end, and it will not stop and wait for us. We do not want to be left behind! No occasion is too insignificant to do the right thing. Time is precious! We, like God, must take it very seriously.

We must not make the mistake of relegating Christian living to a mere couple of hours on the Sabbath. Christianity involves every aspect of life. Personal study and prayer are times of clarifying God's will. But we must not neglect the doing of His will as occasions arise - and they will arise every day. Woe to us if we disregard them, for they comprise the very circumstances that challenge us to overcome and grow in our seeking of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part Two): A Foundation


 

Philippians 2:3

Paul is getting to the heart of the problem. One or both of these ladies had a problem with pride, with vanity.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 7): Ephesians 4 (D)


 

Hebrews 2:10

Where did this suffering come from? It came as a result of having to live in this world of despair that Solomon lived in and wrote about. He had to be subject to circumstances that were beyond His control. If everything had been under the control of a righteous person like Jesus Christ, many events would never have happened. But surrounded by sin and despite His righteousness, He was subject to the futility, vanity, and meaningless of this world.

What did He do? He rose above it because He believed and lived the principle that is found in Romans 8:28.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 1)


 

James 4:1-3

This world is filled with wars of every size and magnitude, declared and undeclared. The strong attack the weak, and oppressed minorities fight to throw off the yoke of tyranny. Labor and management throw verbal bombs at each other. Husbands and wives do not divorce because they have peaceful, productive marriages! Increasingly, parents and children seem to look upon each other with scorn and sometimes break into open anger and fighting.

James shows ever so clearly that the root of these problems is lust, merely one expression of human nature. Human nature expresses itself in vanity, jealousy, lust, greed, murder, hatred, avarice, competition, lying, stealing, dishonoring parent, fornication, adultery, and - the most damaging of all - idolatry. In fact, we could say that all the above flow from idolatry!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Rule!


 

1 John 2:17

If any New Testament verse summarizes the theme of Ecclesiastes, it is I John 2:17. God calls things that are not as though they are. To God, the world is already dead, so He says, "Love not the world, for it is passing away." "Passing away" is a euphemism of dying. To God, the world is a putrefying corpse, but it has not yet been buried. It is a system in the process of self-destructing as a result of the course of vanity and meaningless self-centeredness, and it cannot be any other way because men and demons are operating it.

Think of this in terms of the main conclusion of the book of Ecclesiastes, of the priority that a person ought to set in his life, which is to fear God and keep His commandments.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 1)


 

Find more Bible verses about Vanity:
Vanity {Nave's}
Vanity {Torrey's}
 




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