Whenever I hear the word “vain,” I think of Carly Simon’s song “You’re so Vain” about a self obsessed person. I rarely think about its other meaning: useless. I am surprised at how often vain or vanity appear in the Bible. Last week, I opened the Bible to Ecclesiastes where we are told all is vanity. Today the Bible opened to Psalm 127:
Unless the LORD build the house, they labor in vain who build.
Unless the LORD guard the city, in vain does the guard keep watch.
It is vain for you to rise early and put off your rest at night, To eat bread earned by hard toil—all this God gives to his beloved in sleep.
I have built a house (or actually paid to have it built). It was one of the worst experiences of my life and also one of the best. It caused significant stress on me and my family. There was financial stress, marital stress, weather stress and overall building stress. I did not know what I was doing. And I did not know what I wanted. I did not have God involved. The stress became too much and I reached a breaking point in my life. And in the darkness of the breaking point, I found God, and my life was saved. My life was renewed. I openly welcomed God into my house. To this day, the only thing hung on the walls of the first floor are two crosses. The house itself is not perfect, but the home inside is much better.
This Psalm reminds me of the struggles we had building our home. Whatever we try to build, whatever we try to create is useless unless the Lord is involved. It is also useless to try to guard or protect whatever we have unless the Lord is involved. I cannot help but think of the multi-million dollar homes in L.A. that were destroyed by fire and mudslides or our cities that are riddled with violence. Everything we have, everything we accomplish is a tribute to God. When we forget that — when we become self obsessed, when we become vain, then our labor is in vain, and everything is useless.
Lord, Thank you for pulling me out of the darkness. Help me to recognize the vanity in human treasures. Help me to keep from becoming self-obsessed. I want my focus on you. I want to be God-obsessed. I know that only through you will I find happiness and rest.