God spoke about this passion of vainglory clearly. Even if a person’s conscience is in deep sleep, God’s words are capable of waking it up.
“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in Heaven”
This is how Christ spoke concerning almsgiving. With respect to prayer and fasting, He stated that people who pray or fast in order to appear virtuous before others will receive no other reward, other than the praise of men:
“Assuredly, I say to you, they have received their reward” (Mt. 1:16).
If God had only made reference to this sin with the above words, these verses would certainly have
sufficed and adequately informed every person to
remain distanced from vainglory, so that one is not deprived of the heavenly payment. However, God
issued additional frightening and dreadful decisions against them who are vainglorious. The God-inspired prophet David calls them who are
vainglorious man-pleasers because they do everything for show, only desiring to be admired by others:
“For God has scattered the bones of man-pleasers”
Bones represent the strength, means, and ways that we utilize in order to receive praise from others. When we use our beauty, or wealth, or wisdom, or virtue in order to receive recognition and glory from others, then God scatters and strips these goods from us, and, subsequently, we remain
naked and humiliated:“They have been put to shame because God has destroyed them” (Ps.52:6) Do you hear what vainglory’s punishment is?
Scattering and destruction of bones; shame and destruction from God.
But why, you may ask, is there so much condemnation and punishment for such a small vain desire for glory, which doesn’t bother anyone? Why? Because the vainglorious person
wrongs himself, he wrongs his fellow man, and he even attempts to wrong God.
First, he wrongs himself because he sells an eternal kingdom and exchanges it for temporary smoke; because he toils pointlessly sowing tears,
only to reap sorrow and shame. Second, he wrongs his fellow man because he fools him, and he
cunningly snatches and steals esteem, respect, and praise from others. Third, he even attempts to wrong God Himself because he prefers the glory of men instead of the glory of God; because he
delegates the rewarding of virtue to man, in place of God; because he transfers the time and place that God has appointed for the rewards to the present; because he seizes the glory that is due to God for virtue. God deserves to receive the glory
associated with the accomplishments of virtue,
“for it is God Who works in you both the desire
and the ability to do what is good” (Phl. 2:13). The
vainglorious manusurps this glory, desiring and seeking praise from others.
What value do the works of the vainglorious man have?
Such a person’s works resemble “whitewashed tombs which appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all
uncleanness”(Mt. 23:27). They resemble fruits that
appear shiny and colorful externally but are
rotten and full of worms internally. Virtue consists of a soul and a body, just as the human being who carries out the virtue. The soul of virtue is the purpose for which man carries it out; the body of virtue is the actual good deed. Man’s soul defines his bodily actions; the incentive behind virtue determines the value of virtue.
If the soul is good, then the body’s actions are good. If the soul is evil, the body’s physical actions will be evil as well. If the intention is holy, then the virtuous work will be holy. If the ambition is evil, then the virtuous deed will also
Examine the intent of a vainglorious person’s virtuous deeds. What does he aim to achieve
through his virtue? Nothing other than personal gain, self-profit, empty praise and vain compliments from others. Thus, his intent negates
the grace of virtue, it disperses the holiness of virtue, and transforms virtue into sin. God is a spirit (Jn. 4:24); thus, He desires us to worship Him with our soul: this constitutes a holy objective. On the contrary, when our intent is evil, God turns His face away from our sacrifice,just as He did not accept Cain’s offering.
Then He becomes displeased with us, just as he
became displeased with Cain.
“For God has scattered the bones of man-pleasers.
They have been put to shame because God has destroyed them” (Ps. 52:6).
Bishop Nikiforos Theotokis