Eugene Peterson’s book Eat this Book teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and then put it to use in practical ways. Our early Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. These two New Testament passages speak remind us of an old-fashioned word, but a 21st century sin: vainglory.
2 Corinthians 4: 5-12 (MSG)
Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.
If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives.
Romans 12: 4-6 (MSG)
In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we?
So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
The word vainglory means the need to draw attention to ourselves by manipulating or boasting about our personal lives or something we have thought or achieved. Vainglory is a very current sin. Selfies, Facebook, twitter, tumbler, Instagram all encourage self-promotion. It’s one thing to share news with friends and family; it’s quite another to share every thought and action with the world.
It’s easy to understand why Christians are attracted to vainglory. Many of us have been raised to believe that the more we do, the more our value increases. Accompanying that false narrative is the false narrative that our value is determined by others’ assessment of us. In The Good and Beautiful Life, James Bryan Smith explains that vainglory is a subtle trap for religious people because it needs virtue in order to exist; you can’t be boastful of something you don’t have.
♥ This week watch for these hints of vainglory in your life. In each case you will see that you are seeking to have others think well of you: Did you give a compliment to get someone’s approval or did you really mean it.? Did you take that action so you could tell somebody about it later, or were you motivated by a helpful spirit? Did you check that behavior because someone else was watching or did you realize it was wrong?
♥ One antidote to vainglory is to do “secret service.” Deep down we usually want our good deeds to be noticed; this time try not to draw attention to what you have done. Try to do one act of service to lighten someone’s journey. You might want to ask God to send you a person in need. As far as you are able, try to be of service without their knowledge.
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“Many Christians today serve others in order to be seen and acknowledged. Are you looking for some well-deserved applause for your most recent act of kindness? . . . . Guess what? Give it up! It’s best if you wait no longer . . . . Serving like Jesus means that we are willing to help others for their sake, not our own. His example is not glamorous, but gracious and generous and godly. In your prayers today, invite Jesus to give you a loving heart to serve others in a hidden anonymous, and sacrificial way. (Steven A. Machia)
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