You’re So Vain, I Bet You Think This Devotional Is About You
by Hannah Kazim
[Jesus said]: “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions. . . .” Mark 7:6-7
[Jesus] went on: “. . . it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” Mark 7:15 ff
There is an inherent irony in writing a public devotional about fighting against vanity. How can I possibly choose words without thinking about how they, and I, will be received?
In this Lenten season, I felt led to focus on fighting the sin and temptation of vanity. Some spiritual mentors helped me identify markers of vanity in my life—places I go, and things I do to “show off.” In foregoing those things, I thought I was spending 40 days trying to be less vain. But of course, God has used this season, in the way that only He can, to gift me grace and blessings so much more significant.
What is vanity? I’m learning that I actually make most of my decisions based on how people will see me: how I will look, sound, or seem. So much brain space and heart energy wasted! When I give in to vanity, not only is my heart far from God, but I suffer needlessly in being anxious about what others think about me.
Jesus said that the arrogance and the vanity that come out of my heart defile me. They desecrate me. They profane me. They spoil, or ruin me. They take who and what I was created to be, and turn me into a lesser, less fruitful version of myself. Praise God that as we strive to follow His commands, we can be free from the consequences and the suffering that result from sinful choices. “Do not be anxious” is a command, and it is also a gift.
But I have also received an even more unexpected grace. As I have focused on the sin of vanity, God has also helped me to better distinguish between choosing to be anxious and living with anxiety.
The curse of sin means that there is sickness in the world. Vanity is a sinful choice that I make, and being anxious its sinful result. But my anxiety—intrusive thoughts, hormonal and chemical imbalance, brain abnormalities, genetic predisposition—my anxiety is a sickness. In revealing the ways that I choose to be anxious, God has also cleared my view of the places of sickness where He wants to bring healing, compassion, and grace.
Praise God almighty, my Father, my redeemer, my healer, and my friend—he is making ALL things new. My sin, AND my sickness.
The incredible grace and gift here is that I get to praise God if he heals me, and I get to praise God if He doesn’t. And in the meantime, I get to focus on fighting my sin, and trusting my doctors.
God our Father calls us to fight against the evil that defiles our hearts. He calls us to not be anxious—to trust him, like the lilies and the birds do. He even calls us to suffer, and to take up a cross, like he did.
But he does NOT call us to bondage.
Not bondage to sin.
Not bondage to disease.
In this season, may we remember that Jesus was tempted, suffered, and died in order to call us OUT of bondage.
In this season, may we sit in and realize just what is the height, the length, the breadth, and the depth of what He has done for us.
- Are there places you go, or things you do to “show off”?
- What do you spend time being anxious about?
- What areas of suffering and bondage does God want to free you from?
- What steps do you need to take to allow God to bring you to a place of wholeness in this?