As we grow through life, different things call our attention. When we were children, we loved to play. We loved toys, ice cream; we loved for adults to watch us do things. As we became teenagers, we became fixated on friends, sports, and instead of wanting adults to watch, we wanted secrecy. As we became adults ourselves, we were overjoyed with our freedom but them came to realize that what we really wanted was security. These are all worldly desires, and Jesus tells us to watch out for them; they are vanity. (see scripture readings)
Teresa de Jesus of Avila Spain tells us of the greatest temptations toward vanity, that of self-honor. Whom do we want to be loved by? Is it God or is it people? To be loved by people, to be worshiped as if we were a God, this is a great temptation. Teresa tells us that very rarely do we need to defend our reputation, very rarely do we need to demand respect. She says that we must defend our honor sometimes, when otherwise it would hurt someone else or cause a great scandal. But normally, it is good for us to experience some false presumptions or accusations. Our Lord did not defend himself from every insult. He endured them. This also is a way to show others what’s truly important. Protecting our name when it doesn’t really matter is vanity, let us wait and apply our energies to defending God’s name.
As adults, there are other things that call our attention away from God, Teresa says, such as comforting our body. Once we start guarding against every form of pain, once we start trying to enjoy every form of pleasure; our bodies demand more and more from us, they become our God. God asks us to intentionally fast from time to time, so that the desires of our bodies never become stronger than the desires of our souls. Let us endure some pain and discomfort in our own bodies for the sake of the body of Christ.
So why did God make the world so attractive that it calls our attention away from heaven? Perhaps it is so that you and I may learn to exercise our freedom strongly. If nothing was calling our attention away from God, we wouldn’t learn to have a strong will. Instead of being vain and weak, he is calling us to be wise and strong. It is better to protect God’s honor instead of our own. It is better to minister to the body of Christ instead of our own. We can enjoy some of the things of this world, but they should never come before the things of heaven. Let us be wise and strong, instead of vain and weak, and put first in our lives God and the treasures of heaven.