Preaching Vanity?

“You discover a tricky thing about fiction writing; a certain amount of vanity is necessary to be able to do it all, but any vanity above that certain amount is lethal.” – David Foster Wallace

I did not preach this past Sunday and it was a good respite, but I am already eager to get back up. I do not deny that vanity has a strong role, the vanity to hear myself speak, and see myself in youtube on Sunday evening. But such vanity to have my ego stroked is never too far from the desire to fulfill one’s calling. They are related, even if one might want to deny the relationship as estranged siblings might.

For one is usually called to do things that one is good at, and what one is good at, one tends towards self-inflation.God’s will is not diametrically opposed to the will of a person, as often assumed. God’s will is usually our ambitions needing tinkering.

Abraham was not a couch potato when God called him to a far away land. He was a herdsman. Picking-up-tent was in his blood. So when his father settled down with old age, he was probably unsettled and that is when God says to “go.” Abraham was ready to go anywhere but here, so he folded his tent.

Or take Moses, he always had political ambition. It was that ambition that led him as a to murder. The call he got from the burning bush was the rekindling of that ambition, more purified.

I do not think God begrudges us doing what we want to do, and doing it well, well enough to be proud of. But that pride from a job well done can easily rot into arrogance. So God had to wait a little bit with both Abraham and Moses, so they would not get proud with their pride in their work. The challenge of the call was not God asking Abraham and Moses to do what they never desired to do on their own, but that they would do what they desire to do for God. To do what one wants to do, vanity. To do things for God, humility. To do what one wants to do for God, vanity is a brother of humility.

And that might be the best way to deal with vanity in the work of God, to accept it, that in the time when I am most forgetful and humble in doing what I love to do for God, I am always singing vanity’s tune. And recognition of that struggle will make me engage the practice of humility more diligently: the discipline to recall that what I love to do is a gift and a privilege.

So yes, I love to preach, for how it honors God, but also because I get recorded.

One Reply to “Preaching Vanity?”

  1. Humility in serving God can be called love of God. Vanity, on the other hand, is action derived from human pride. Although taking pride (in serving God) can result in “good feeling”, we have to question if “WE” are doing it for that very purpose. Center God , instead of “US/I”. And centering God in our service, we should feel good. But this “feel good” is derived from humility rather than vanity or pride. Although I agree with you, instead of using word “vanity” I would prefer to use self esteem. Self esteem does not have all the bells of the word “vanity”, it seems to capture the nature of of faith, service and our view of self.

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