Our world is obsessed with itself (yet “God opposes the proud,” Ja 4:6). Think of how vain we can be when we shamelessly draw attention to ourselves:
Think of how Jesus commanded his followers to pray in secret (Mt 6:5–6), fast without flaunting it (Mt 6:16–18), give in secret (Lk 21:1) and take the less prestigious seats at gatherings (Lk 14:10). Listen to how Jesus described vanity in His own words on the subject of giving to the needy and how seriously he condemns it (Mt 6:1–4):
6 “Beware of practising your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
There is no place for vanity amongst Christ’s followers. We do not make a spectacle of self but live to give all glory to Christ. Let us not live empty lives but full lives that centre upon Him.
 It is not wrong to speak of oneself discretely, but what is our motive? That is always the most important question. We can appropriately share in natural conversation with others about our lives when we’re mutually interested in others and when what we share is in the pursuit of sharing wholesome truths (e.g. come see the birds at my feeder, I think you’ll really be interested vs. I’ve got a new feeder, come see how nice it is).
Why do people pursue vanity? For some it is sheer pride, the desire to be God. For others it comes for competition's sake. Still others do it to meet some unmet need in their life (relational affirmation). On the latter, they ought to find affirmation through knowing the love of Christ through faith in Him, which of course is what all three ultimately need.
In my short life I’ve moved five times prior to being married and eight times since being married. This has meant living in four distinct areas of the province of Ontario and also a five year period overseas.
Two locations, more than the others, helped me to know what it meant to be an exile, and also the Christian’s call not to be of or love the world.
Living in England, as similar as it is to historic Canada, and as much as I fit within its culture, there was also, as a resident, the reminder that I was an exile. Every time I spoke was enough to indicate that I wasn’t from there (though the more time I spent there the more my accent did change, then people thought I was Irish or Botswanan!) and the privileges of a citizen that were not available to a resident meant that no matter how much I felt a part of the culture I didn’t belong.
Second, having spent time overseas and then moving back to my native province, yet after considerable and rapid liberalization, the very province I returned to didn’t feel like the province I had known.
Through these experience I’ve learned a lot about living as an exile and how worldliness is sin.
1 Peter is addressed to the “elect exiles” (v. 1). Election is a reminder to these believers of their assurance in Christ; exile that this world is not their home, their citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3). Christians are aliens, living in this world but not of it, instead ambassadors of Christ’s heavenly kingdom, to be captivated by our allegiance to its King and His values.
The tension we feel between our heavenly values and the world’s values serve as an ever present reminder of our other-worldliness.
All of Scripture resounds with the call for the Christian to fix their eyes on Jesus (Heb 12:2; Mt 5:6, 6:33; Col 3:1–4). We are to cling lightly to this world and highly esteem instead eternal things.
If we love the world we will be sorely disappointed. If we love the world too much we may indeed show we’re not of Christ but it:
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides for ever. (1 Jn 2:15–17).
So, may we remember that we are exiles and aliens and love our Kingdom and King vs the age in which we presently live.
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.