Monday, July 29, 2019

Avoiding Vanity and Vainglory

Turn away mine eyes that I may not see vanity, quicken Thou me in Thy way.
Psalm 118:37

We have all suffered from vanity, vainglory or pride. Saint Theophan defines vanity as “everything that is contrived and done not out of necessity or for benefit, but for delight of one’s senses and desires.” Our world is filled with such temptations. We are bombarded with advertisements that play on our inclination toward vanity. In the Psalm verse Prophet David is saying that we must turn our eyes away. But unless we are in a desert this is impossible and still live in the world. Our challenge is a big one. We must develop a strong will to turn our attention away from these temptations. Not to let ourselves become attached to them by reminding ourselves that this desire for such worldly ways can lead to the death of our soul. That it is imperative to keep our eyes on the way of God’s commandments. This is where there we will find eternal life.

Apostle Paul writes,
Seek those things that are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God (Col 3:1-3)
We must pay attention to the purpose of everything we do. It not good enough to to think what is good, but also what is our purpose for what we intend. We should avoid all actions that can be considered vain. This means avoiding doing any thing that is for our self glory.

Saint Theophan singles out vainglory.
In this vanity, the first place is taken by human glory, for which many and great things have been done by men, called great in this world and much glorified by the public — people who have sought glory not from God, but from men; and, being vain, they received their vain reward.
Desiring to turn away the eyes of his disciples from vanity, the Lord urges them not to do any good in order to be seen by men, lest they have no reward from their heavenly Father. Later, when He began to give them commandments on good deeds in detail — about charity, prayer, fasting — He everywhere suggested that none of it be done for the praise of men, saying that those who act with such an aim have already received their reward (Matt 6:1-23) — not the eternal one, set aside by the heavenly Father for the saints, but the temporal one, which is sought by those who in their doings have on their mind the vain praise of men. And to do anything for this praise means to have ones eyes turned to vanity. Not human praise is to be blamed, for people cannot help but praise good deeds — but to be carried away by it and to do something for its sake is to be blamed.
Even when praise is bestowed upon a righteous person (without his seeking) by men, even then he should not dwell in it or delight in it, but ascribe it to God s glory, for which alone is everything good done by truly good people — for they are good through Him, and not on their own.

It may seem harsh, but to live a God pleasing life we need to challenge ourselves on all self centered activity. This is not an easy task as we tend to defend our ego strenuously. This is probably the main I’ll of our time. It began in earnest with the me generation. Now in everything we do we are tempted by business who seek to profit from our vanity.

Reference: Psalm 118: A Commentary by Saint Theophan the Recluse, p 103-105.

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