Pride, Popularity and the Pursuit of Ourselves
“Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice. For he went from prison to the throne, though in his own kingdom he had been born poor. I saw all the living who move about under the sun, along with that youth who was to stand in the king’s place. There was no end of all the people, all of whom he led. Yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and a striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:13-16
I look at my kids and can’t help but smile at God’s creativity.
The same two sets of genetics.
Four distinct personalities.
I have an inquisitive academic who finds joy in learning, creating, and in the loyalty of one-on-one friendships. There’s the energetic, always-on-the-move athlete: a passionate gatherer of people and owner of incredible dance moves. One bears a tender heart: a perfectionist who is constantly moved by the needs of the world and the difficult, blessed desire to do right. And that girl. Who can forget the hilarious, spunky one who writes notes about how much she loves her family and her Jesus, and by the grace of God, is learning to channel those spirited leadership skills for the greater good. Heh.
Can I be honest with you?
As a parent, it’s tempting to set huge worldly goals for my tribe. That’s hard to admit but it’s true. I long for them to maximize these unique personal attributes that – in spite of their shortcomings – have huge potential for greatness. I’m a goal person, this gig has me invested, and the world is shouting in my face at ever corner that popularity, position, and provision will get you far. If I’m not careful, in a culture that’s found a million ways to measure human achievement, it would be easy for me to fall into this trap of guiding them into personal pursuit or foolishly placing these narrowed identities on them as an end-all, as if that’s the depth of all God has made them to be.
But for those of us in Christ, our identities are about so.much.more.
Personalities, strengths, goals, purpose, and influence aren’t the enemies here. We are. God has created each of us with amazing, unique giftings designed for His purposes, and that is absolutely something to celebrate. But when we use these gifts to pursue advancing our own kingdoms instead of exalting Christ in us, we’re on a fast track to vanity and striving after the wind.
Vanity. Aaahhh… there’s that word again.
Have you ever heard that when the Bible repeats something over and over, you’d better stop and take a good listen? Well, I thought I’d dive a little deeper into the meaning of Solomon’s favorite repetition to see if there might be something more to it. Check out these two definitions listed for “vanity”:
You guys, even Webster’s Dictionary gets it: excessive pride and admiration of oneself… leads to a worthless and futile life.
Did you follow that? The problem here isn’t something or someone else’s fault. The problem lies within us.
The ugliness of our sinful pride – the very thing that we thought would give us worth – leads to uselessness, pointlessness, worthlessness, fruitlessness in the end. So simple, and yet it’s so profound the way these two definitions intermingle in their cause and effect. I’m pretty sure Webster and Solomon would have been good friends.
So how do we combat the temptation to give into pride, popularity, and the pursuit of ourselves?
One way is to tune our ears to the teachings of Jesus found in Matthew 5, where He defines meaningful life done His way…
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.