Wednesday’s Word of the Day: Vainglory

19 10 2011

Today’s word is vainglory. The word has multiple definitions; the first is excessive elation or pride in one’s own achievements.  The other is empty pomp or show.  Fall is my favorite season because  professional football is in full swing.  As with most major sports, the NFL provides a lot of opportunities to see vainglory.  In recent years, touchdown celebrations got so out-of-hand that the league implemented rules preventing players from “using props” or “going to the ground” during their celebrations.The word’s roots are in Latin.  Vain comes from the Latin vanum which means “to no effect”, and gloria which means “great praise or honor.”  After rearranging the roots, you would get the phrase “great praise to no effect” as a definition for vainglory.  Interesting, considering what I mentioned earlier about the touchdown celebrations in the NFL.  You have multi-millionaires grabbing sharpies, cell phones, doing dances, and all other sorts of ridiculous things to celebrate a touchdown.  (Note: I see the hypocrisy in pointing out vainglorious activities in such a vainglorious pursuit, i.e. being a sports fan(and really which is MORE vainglorious?))

“Great praise to no effect” With this definition in mind, I began to think of its opposite “great praise to great effect.”  While I could continue to delve into the proclivities of sports heroes and villains, I thought it best to look at the One who is indeed worthy of praise.  One, who, receiving praise, can cause great change.  For those who have followed this blog a while, you know that I am speaking of the Holy Trinity in the bible.  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Before we look at the Trinity, I want to share about my own vainglory.  I have a seven-year-old son who has been challenging my authority (as most kids do from time-to-time), and I have been very angry with him for these challenges.  Now, according to scripture children are to respect their parents, and my boy definitely does.  BUT he has his moments.  He bows his 50-pound body, sets a scowl on his face (think pro-“wrestler”), and declares that he “is not going to do a-n-y-THING!”  At that point, my blood has turns to lava, and I am like, “oh, no he didn’t!”  Then it hits me, my son has held a mirror up to my face, and basically (without knowing it) shows me the example that I have set for him.  He sees all the ways I act and react.  Every short word towards his mother, angry look toward him, and every other vainglorious thing that I do.  I believe the reason that I get so upset is not because he’s acting OUT toward me, but that he is acting LIKE me.  I believe that my attitude with those around me is part of what James meant when he wrote, “for the anger of man does not achieve righteousness of God.”  For in those moments, my relationships are hindered with my wife, my two sons, or any other person who has experienced my anger (their righteousness is not encouraged).  My relationship (my own righteousness is not encouraged) with my heavenly Father is hindered until those relationships are made right.  At this point, I would like to look at the names of God to better understand how His glory brings change into our lives.

God, the Father, goes by many names in Hebrew.  He is called Elohim, Yahweh, Adonai, and JehovahElohim is the name of God given in Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God…”  It is a name of power, and after all, He is the Creator.  Yahweh is the name God gave himself in Exodus 3:14 “I AM that I AM…” and again the name is one of power, but also of closeness to humanity.  After all,  Yahweh is talking to a man named Moses in that passage.   Adonai is what Jews would say instead of Yahweh, it means LORD.  Finally, Jehovah, which also means LORD. has been paired with eight other words to create the “redemptive names” of God, and each word describes a different characteristic of Jehovah, jireh– our provider, nissi– our banner, shalom- our peace, tsid-kenu- our righteousness, shammah- the omnipresent, or all present, saboath– our protector, raah– our shepherd, and rapha– our healer.

Jehovah Rapha: God our healer. God heals us for His own glory.  It is without vainglory that He jealously lives for His own Glory.  The Father actually sent His Son to bring Him this glory.  Jesus said in John 14:13, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”  God’s redemptive plan meant that He sent his Son into the world to save it (see John 3:16).  Therefore, when we seek Jesus, through studying God’s word and prayer, and find Him, He brings  us into new life and brings His Father more glory.  It is through seeking Jesus that we get to see all of the redemptive characteristics of God, especially Jehovah-rapha, God the healer.  And there is no vainglory in that pursuit.

Have you encountered your vainglorious self?  What was your initial response?  How do you connect with God the healer? 

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