Reality and Vanity

Tom Burke

October 2003
© 2003 Scriptural Study Groups.  All Rights Reserved.

Man was originally created by God as a three-fold being, having a body, a soul, and a spirit. This made man unique among all of God’s creation: a being capable of dwelling in and perceiving the natural realm and the spiritual realm simultaneously.

As a creature of body and soul, Adam could inhabit and enjoy the entirety of the earth that God had brought into being and pronounced to be “very good.” He could see the beauties of the Garden, feel the warmth of its sunshine, and taste its good fruit.

At the same time, the spirit in man enabled him to be in constant and intimate contact with God, Who is spirit. It was the spirit in man that also enabled him to exercise dominion over all life on the earth [see Genesis 1:27, 28]. This awareness of spiritual reality separated man from animal. It gave man meaning and purpose beyond the limitations of earthly time and space.

When Adam chose to disobey God, he immediately suffered the consequences of which God had warned him. He died. Yes, he continued to move and breathe, but merely as a creature of body and soul. What a calamity! From that point onward, man was completely incapable of fulfilling the one purpose for which he had been created.

All of Adam’s descendants inherited this disability, being born ignorant of and incapable of reaching the realm in which they were meant to flourish. Thank God for the Lord Jesus Christ, whose completed work now allows man to regain his destiny.

All we who have believed on him have regained the spirit once lost. We still dwell in this senses world, but now, as three-fold beings, we are no longer dominated and overwhelmed by that world. We are able to both understand it and reign in it.

Here’s our challenge, however. Though today we stand as complete, whole, spiritual beings, we were not born that way. We were born spiritually naked and sightless. Up until the moment of the new birth, we remained that way. We learned to live as senses-oriented, time-limited beings in a senses, temporal world. The thought of a higher, greater reality did not occur to us, and all too often did not occur to those who trained us.

The habits developed in such a life do not disappear automatically. For this reason, many Christians continue to live their lives as little more than educated animals, longing for a higher purpose but ignorant to the truth that what they long for is already theirs in the new birth. They continue to pursue the shortsighted goals and long for the evanescent pleasures of the world, unaware of anything more substantial.

If they would only read God’s Word! For it is in His Word that God reveals the shallowness of a life without Him and the bountifulness of the life that He has prepared for His people. For those of us who sometimes forget (which would be all of us), it is beneficial to read about God’s estimation of the life that the world offers.

Psalm 144:3, 4
LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! Or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!

Man is like to vanity [breath, vapor]: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.

Few men today give a thought to God, and yet God gives much thought to man. Man, who thinks he reigns supreme, is, from God’s point of view, like a breath or a shadow. How substantial are these? Yet God loved us enough to give His only begotten son for us that we might become something more.

Psalm 62:9
Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.

Here, God forgoes the simile. Rather than comparing man to vanity, He states it simply: man IS vanity! Those of high degree (by man’s standards) may attempt to evade this judgment. Surely, their trophies, their riches, their achievements, must weigh in for some recognition. Not on the scales of eternity. Such a man is still vanity; he’s simply better at lying about it.

Man without God, even at his best, is still vanity.

Psalm 39:5, 6
Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah.

Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted [make loud noises] in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.

Note that the word “riches” is in italics, indicating that it was not in the original text. Man may heap up many things to his own glory, but these things are only a dream in light of eternity.

Psalm 39:7
And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in thee.

God has graciously given us many things to enjoy in this life, but without Him, that life is still hopeless. As His sons and daughters, all spiritual blessings are ours in the heavenly realm, now and for all eternity.

We are not among those who have no hope. Why share in their desperation? Let us fully walk in our heritage as men and women of body, soul, and spirit.