Vanity vs. Reality

The Philadelphia Trumpet, in conjunction with the Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course, presents this brief excursion into the fascinating study of the Bible. Simply turn to and read in your Bible each verse given in answer to the questions. You will be amazed at the new understanding gained from this short study!

Do you know someone whose self-esteem just does not match reality? Someone with an inflated sense of his own abilities? Such people can be difficult to be around.

Have you ever searched your own mind for this same attitude?

We all have a natural tendency to think more of ourselves than we should. It manifests itself differently in different people. Many of us think we are smarter, righter, better than we really are. On the other hand, many are absorbed with negative thoughts about themselves. That is actually a different form of the same problem: being self-absorbed and not seeing reality.

The Bible goes right to the core of this universal human malady. It proves the nature of these mental traps and reveals how to build a healthy, balanced, positive and realistic perspective on yourself.

Pride Leads to …

1. What will happen to the person full of pride and pomposity, puffed up about his or her own accomplishments? Proverbs 11:2; 16:18; 29:23.

God repeatedly warns that such attitudes create negative kickbacks. People who have unrealistic ideas about themselves will smack headfirst into reality sooner or later—and the more out-of-whack their opinions of themselves are, the more painful reality will be. 1 Corinthians 10:12 warns, “[L]et him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

2. Some may say, “But I actually, objectively am the best. I do deserve praise. Isn’t it ‘false humility’ to pretend otherwise?” How does the Bible answer? Proverbs 27:2.

That is excellent advice. Praising your own accomplishments is unbecoming, no matter who you are. Let your accomplishments speak for themselves. If someone else thinks your deeds are praiseworthy, that is their opinion. Accept the compliment and leave it at that.

3. Did the Apostle Paul also warn against self-importance? Romans 12:3.

4. Jesus Christ spoke a parable about this subject. What did He say would happen to the person who believes he is worthy of the greatest honor and goes ahead and takes it? Luke 14:7-11.

5. What did Jesus tell His disciples when they were arguing among themselves about who should have the highest office in God’s Kingdom? Matthew 18:1-4.

It is common for human beings, for philosophies, for religions to teach that praise and honor are good and that obtaining them is an end unto itself. The God of the Old Testament, who became Jesus Christ, brought a revolutionary way of thinking. Jesus said human beings must have a humble, childlike attitude. We will see why as we continue this study.

Now let’s understand the real basis for true humility.

A True Basis of Comparison

Long ago, there was a rich man. He was a great builder, a successful businessman. He commanded thousands of workers and owned thousands of livestock on a great plot of land. He was a family man, with 10 children! He was also a righteous man. His name was Job.

The problem was, Job had a terrible flaw. He had too high an opinion of himself—of his awesome building projects, his large and happy family, his own good deeds. He had great accomplishments—and he was impressed by them, as almost any of us would be if we had such achievements. But his perspective was wrong.

1. What happened to Job? Job 1:6-22; 2:1-7.

God allowed Satan to severely attack Job. So the devil destroyed everything this man had built up: his cattle, his servants—even his family and his very own health. This was a trial more terrible than any of us have had to endure, yet God specifically allowed it. It was serving an important purpose.

After all these tragedies, Job’s friends came to grieve with him. Then they turned on him, reasoning that he must have committed a great sin for God to be cursing him so badly. Much of the book of Job is devoted to Job’s response to their accusations, justifying himself and maintaining his high opinion of himself.

2. Did one of Job’s friends pinpoint his weakness? Job 35:1-3.

Elihu saw the situation much more accurately. He tried to get Job to compare himself to the great God. But Job still didn’t quite see himself truthfully.

3. Did God finally speak to Job personally—and firmly—before he got the message? Job 38:1-3; 40:3-5.

God had a high opinion of Job too (Job 1:8). But Job was not nearly as great as he thought he was. It took God’s words to move him to see his human insignificance compared to God’s greatness!

4. How did God illustrate His point? Job 38-39.

No human can match God’s accomplishments. The greatest architectural projects in the world are child’s play compared to the enormous Earth we live on and the vast universe around us. No matter how large a man’s family, that achievement is nothing compared to the God who created that man, his children and the entire human race—along with the angels and every other living thing!

After reading Job 38 and 39, compare yourself to God’s greatness, His power, His wisdom. God created us mortal, weak human beings out of dirt (Genesis 2:7). He wants us to have an appropriate opinion of ourselves, and to realize how much we need Him. He wants us to learn how weak we are without Him, so that we will rely on Him. Man needs His Creator.

Seek God’s Help

The way to get the right perspective on yourself is to get to know God. Your perspective becomes skewed when you forget the One who created you and absorb yourself in yourself.

1. Did Job finally get the picture? Job 42:1-6. Once he realized this, how did God respond? Verses 10, 12.

2. How much do we actually need God? Can human beings not simply reason out all the answers we need in life? Proverbs 3:5-8.

No one is smart enough to figure out all the answers. In fact, the biggest problems in this world are created by people who are too confident in their own opinions and ways of doing things.

Let’s look at another biblical example of someone who really approached God with this understanding.

3. At the end of his life, Israel’s greatest king, David, passed the rulership of the nation on to his son Solomon. How did Solomon regard his abilities? 1 Kings 3:5-9. What was the result of Solomon’s attitude? Verses 10-13.

Solomon’s prayer is a beautiful example of the kind of mindset we should have every day with whatever our jobs may be. God wants us to rely on Him for all our needs. He wants us to make daily contact with Him through prayer about those needs. Having that contact helps you maintain a humble perspective on yourself. Scripture shows that if we have this humility, God will bless us as He blessed Solomon!

4. Does God really want us to “bother Him” with the everyday issues and problems we face in life? 1 Peter 5:7.

The Blessings of Humility

1. 1 Peter 5:7 says that God wants us to cast all our cares upon Him. But, according to that same passage, what must we do first? Verse 6.

If we are humble before God, not only will He take care of all our needs, He will exalt us! If we draw upon Him for help, and have the humility to make Him a part of our decision-making, our life will begin to amount to something special.

2. Does becoming humble mean going around like a sad sack all the time? Or will God inject a new kind of confidence into you? Isaiah 57:15.

Having a proper opinion of yourself doesn’t mean having a low opinion of yourself. It doesn’t mean beating yourself up emotionally. It means having a clear, balanced perspective. It means conquering negative feelings about yourself—a self-absorption that is actually a type of vanity! God wants you to be balanced, happy and confident! He can fill you with that right kind of godly confidence—confidence that is grounded in the right perspective.

3. What other promises does God make to those who humble themselves before Him? Proverbs 22:4; James 4:10.

Life will be much smoother and more successful if you can learn this lesson now. God doesn’t want us to have to experience what Job went through. Such examples are in the Bible so we can learn from them by reading them.

If you develop a humble attitude, God will respond mightily in your life! If you can develop a close relationship with Him, you will have the right opinion of yourself. You will be confident, strong, energetic—yes! But you will also learn to receive your power from God. You will understand how you stack up with God. You will learn that you don’t know it all.

But with God dwelling in your life, you can develop true wisdom. You can receive answers and understanding. You can use this temporary life for lasting achievements—to develop character that will lead to your incredible human potential: eternal life in God’s Family. This is the way to real success—success in this life and the next!