You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you. You’re so vain! – Carly Simon
What is it with vanity? Why do people (not you and I, of course) get so impressed with themselves? I looked back in time and discovered that people have always struggled with vanity.
In Greek mythology, Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection in a pool. Not realizing that it was merely an image, he refused to leave that spot. He later died in that same position.
In the Bible, Absalom, son of David, declared as the most handsome man in Israel, used to weigh his own hair which he only allowed to be cut once a year. (Incidentally, his hair weighed 5 lbs) Absalom was later killed by his enemies while hanging from a tree in which his hair had caught while he quickly fled.
In the 1600’s, Henry VIII was married six times and declared himself head of the church of England. He is most often remembered as being morbidly obese. Because of this, his health suffered in later years. I’m sure that his appearance also put a damper on 17th century speed dating.
In the early 19th centery, Napoleon Bonaparte stated: I am the successor, not of Louis XVI, but of Charlemagne. He spent the last years of his life exiled on British Island of St. Helena. He is reported to have died from stomach cancer, but many believe his actual cause of death was arsenic poisoning. No wonder that most of his depictions show him with his hand on his stomach.
From Narcissus to Absalom to Imelda Marcos, Wilt Chamberlain, Robert Tilton, and Kanye West, vanity has always caused lots of problems for lots of people.
Why is that?
Victor Hugo explained it best when he wrote, “Stupidity talks, vanity acts.”
Think about it – Stupidity causes people to talk too much about too many things without any proof or real knowledge of the subject they are discussing. Vanity causes them to go further than just talking. It is the dead certain belief that one’s own self is more beautiful, more entitled, and more deserving than others.
So, how does one overcome vanity. It’s not an easy characteristic to conquer. According to Robert Louis Stevenson, “Vanity dies hard; it some obstinate cases, it outlives the man.”
So what advice does the Bible give about vanity? Especially those blood-bought, spirit-filled followers of Jesus?
Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. Romans 12:3-5 NLT
Wow. Thinking about how we belong to each other really puts everything in perspective, doesn’t it? We aren’t gifted and blessed for our own benefit, but for the benefit of others. We must use whatever makes us special to help benefit the entire body of Christ.
So, it’s time for us all to get over it. We need to use what God has blessed us with to honor Him and to benefit the body of Christ.