As followers of the humble Christ, we should put away our innate vainglory—meaning, what we intentionally do to get the attention and acknowledgment of others. Vainglory is distinguished from true glory. If we are good and do good, then there will be a measure of attention and acknowledgement accorded to us. This kind of positive attention is rooted in the goodness that God works in hearts and lives (Galatians 5:22). This “glory” is inevitable, appropriate, and true, ultimately glorifying the Lord who makes us share in his character (2 Peter 1:4). Even Jesus grew in stature before God and men. However, when we are controlled by the craving for recognition, then the glory we seek is vain or empty. We will put ourselves on display is some way in order to deliberately draw the attention of others. Vainglory can stand behind a myriad of common acceptable behaviors. The craving for acclamation is the source buying a lavish car, getting a tan, wearing sports gear, tweeting, posting on Facebook, sporting a lot of bling, bumper stickers, wearing a stylish tee shirt or not, crazy hair color, being the first to get the latest I-phone, subtle and not so subtle bragging about our golf score, talking about our tastes in music, what book we are reading, and on and on it goes.
Christian can boast in the favorite teacher or teaching. Or we can boast in their pastor’s accomplishments, or that of one’s church or denomination. We can compare ourselves with other Christians and come out better. We really think we are somebody.
This is all fleshly conceit and as will all vainglory it gives human acceptance and praise for more credit than it merits. To counter vainglory read Galatian 6:3-5:
3For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For each one shall bear his own load.
Here are three truths that counter our conceit and vainglory.
- Don’t forget who we are in ourselves. We are nothing. Yes, this is harsh, but before God, in and of ourselves each of us is nothing. In Christ, we are sons of God, coheirs with the Son of God. But in ourselves we deserve hell.
- Each must look to his own load. Each of us is individually responsible for our lives and the Lord holds us account for how we live (Matt 25). The Lord has given us gifts, responsibilities, and opportunities. That is our load. We are to truly and carefully scrutinize ourselves as to whether we are carrying our Load. Paul has the final day in view when and where our live and good works will tested by Christ’s judgment. Test yourself now so that your works will passed must then (1 Cor. 3). Thus the question is not how do I fare over against others, but am I faithfully fulfilling my duties? How am I doing with my load? Those areas that you find yourself lacking you are to change by the Spirit of Christ through faith and repentance. Look at each area of your life and carefully scrutinize your current practice. And always remember that the Lord is always testing our heart and showing us our fault that we might be purified (1 Peter 1:5-8).
- Postpone boasting until the last day. If we bear our load faithfully, then we will rejoice in our work in the day of Christ Jesus. Such is Paul meaning when he says and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. So instead of judging ourselves better than other because we have “we have a really great pastor” or because “we have the best catechism” or “my family is better than yours” and the like, we forgo such boasting and wait to boast in heaven. Then I will boast in my good works, which I have done in the Holy Spirit. And such rejoicing will be in the Lord for he works all these things in us.
So forget about all about boasting and vainglory for the present. Just do what God call you to do. Do it well and for his glory. Wait for his approbation then. Yes, if you do good, others from time to time will rightly acknowledge it. So be it. If you receive such, then give thanks to that person and to God. Buy don’t seek the praises of men. Seek the praise of Jesus Christ which he graciously gives to his followers when he comes in glory (Rom 2:29).