The ancient word for vanity is actually “vainglory.” Vainglory is when we misplace the true glory and put it somewhere else where it’s not supposed to be.
The true glory is found in God alone. He is the only one truly worthy of all glory.
We don’t believe that. We want some for ourselves. We feel uncomfortable to give him some or any of it. We’re envious that he actually deserves it.
He does deserve it, and then what is so crazy is that he gave it all up. God himself gave up his own status to become implanted into a woman’s body and born of her and then raised by her. In his fullness, he had every right and reason to be the very greatest among all people, and yet he was practically homeless, if not certainly nomadic. He produced no writings. He did not achieve any position among people. He didn’t curry the favor of the rich and famous. If anything, he ticked those people off. He befriended the very least and marginalized in the society. He taught, and most people scratched their heads. He was misunderstood.
In one of his greatest moments, he road into Jerusalem on a donkey. This should have been his triumph. He should have been crowned right then and there as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, for that is what he was. He could have been if that was what he wanted. He had the charisma, the personality, the right and the authority.
But he forsook even those things. The King was also the Suffering Servant. He cried a lot. He healed and he did miracles. He taught and he loved and he walked and he baffled people. He got angry. He had a deep emotional life. He was very connected to the heart of the father and to heart of the lost. He celebrated when they were found.
Isn’t it interesting that the Pharisees and the Sadducees ended up being vain and envious of him? They knew he has something they could never have. Jesus had it. They didn’t. They were vain pretenders. They were envious over-throwers.
So they took it from him. They went so far as to take all of his glory away from him. They stripped him and beat him. They shamed him and put him in his place. They tortured him. They made sure that everyone knew that Jesus was a fraud, that he was an imposter, and that he was to be pitied if anything. He was a scandal. They were stealing his glory away.
So what an incredible reversal it is when Jesus is vindicated when he raises from the dead. His way is the way of love. He gave up his power so others could have it. He gave up his beauty so others could have it. He gave up his voice so others could have theirs. He gave up his health, his position, his status, his relationship so he could celebrate that others could be found.
He mourned and he celebrated, so we can do the same in a true freedom. That is good news for our vain, envious hearts. We can mourn and we can celebrate. We can fast and we can feast. We can be silent and let God work. We can rejoice that he does. We can let him have it all. We can ask him and pray that he’ll care.
One of the worst things I’ve heard of lately comes from my friend Lee Roland. Lee is the principal of Tulakes Elementary School, which is an elementary here in Oklahoma City. He was telling me that one of the apps all of the students have (poor elementary students by the way) is one where they rate each other on their looks on a scale of 1-10. You take a picture of someone and then everyone rates that person based on that person. Did I mention these were elementary students?!
It ends up to be a form of “unbias” hazing. If you don’t like someone, you can pull up that person and show him or her that “score.” It wasn’t like you said that was true. You’re just reporting what others said.
This is hate.
God does rate you in Christ. He pulls up your picture and says you are a 10. You may try to argue him down, but he’s firm in his 10 score. You may say that that 10 doesn’t mean anything because every picture in his phone is a 10. So if we’re all 10, then it’s true that we’re none of us 10. That’s your logic. It’s the logic of a comparative vain envy.
But God won’t let you get away with it. He loves you. He thinks you’re magnificent. He created you. You are created in the image of God. He made you. He fashioned you. He walks with you. He walks over you. He cares about you in every way.
If you are his child, then of course he loves you. He loves his children. Stop worrying about which is his favorite child. That’s an argument he won’t have. Rest in the fact that you are his favorite, and so is all of his other children. This type of beauty and joy is celebratory. It’s found in Christ alone.