In pleasing God, we find grace, but if we displease Him we find ourselves laboring for others. Yes, there is work to be done to live, but how we do it and our reasons why determine its fruits.
"For what profit comes to mortals from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which ...they toil under the sun? Every day sorrow and grief are their occupation; even at night their hearts are not at rest. This also is vanity.
There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink and provide themselves with good things from their toil. Even this, I saw, is from the hand of God. For who can eat or drink apart from God? For to the one who pleases God, he gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the one who displeases, God gives the task of gathering possessions for the one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a chase after wind."
I have been pondering this awhile, while I groom my home with draperies and gardens. Where is the point where you deny yourself comforts? Where do simple pleasures become vanities? How can we determine if our happiness is fruits of grace from our hard work and good deeds? The answers have been given so beautifully in the Bible - Seek and you shall find!
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.'"
― Augustine of Hippo,
Mark 12:41-44 The Widow's Offering
He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Have you been chosen to work for the Lord in any aspect of your life? What are we owed for our works and laboring? Nothing. God owes humanity nothing - yet he freely gives us the gifts of grace, mercy and love. Grace saves us and blesses us, but is given to those who have faith AND live a life exemplifying that faith with good works.
Genesis 3:16-19 Punishment of Adam and Eve
To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
What can be our reward, if not in this life?
Matthew 5:1-12 The Beatitudes
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Not everyone catches on and becomes a Christian or Disciple right away. What of them? Is there hope for the stragglers?
Matthew 20:1-16 The Laborers in the Vineyard
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
What if I'm not ready to give up my treasures, my pleasures, my vanity?
What is Vanity?
"Or vainglory, an inordinate desire to manifest one's own excellence. It differs from pride, which is the uncontrolled esrie for self-esteem, in that vanity primarily seeks to show others what a person has or has achieved. A vain person looks for praise from others and may go to great lengths to obtain it. More commonly, vanity is associated with an exaggerated importance attached to multiple details, especially external appearances, which in no way contain the value attributed to them. It is ostentation in fashion, wealth, or power regarded as an occasion of empty pride. thus where pride, though sinful, may have some foundation in fact for whatever one prides oneself on being or having done, vanity is the idle effort to obtain recognition or respect for what a person does not have a rightful claim to. Vanity is attributed to shams, which lack substance and are deceitful (like human praise); or to things without solidity and permanence (such as physical beauty); or to means that fail in their purpose (such as vaunting one's own reputation). It is an inflated pride and, as such, is venially sinful. " - by Catholic Culture
It is desirable to attribute all success to the Glory of God!
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Is there anything in your life that holds you down?
Does it put your family into deep debt?
Does it place a façade over who you really are?
Can you live without it?
Does it prevent you from being charitable or available to others?
Will it help you become the person God wants you to be?
Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
In conclusion, vanity is when we need our possessions and pride in order to live. Vanity seeks to make tangible things gods - which is against God's commandments. It consumes our days, taking us away from Godly tasks and holy relationships. We'd be willing to sin or make life difficult to have these things. Vanity can destroy our path to holiness! However, grace is finding the beauty in our humility, our blessings, our sacrifices, and ourselves. Grace is a gift given to us that opens our eyes to see as God sees. With grace, the things we possess enhance our livelihood and God's creation. Grace is forgiving, fruitful, and selfless. Who wouldn't want grace!?