“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:20).
Here is the attempt of the religious to fill the spiritual void of life with a mere intellectual faith. Such only makes man empty. The Scriptures are filled with passages that address things that are vain (i.e. being empty and/or unproductive). There is an entire book in the Old Testament that addresses living life without fearing God and keeping his commandments; namely, Ecclesiastes. Solomon wrote, “I have seen the travail which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised therewith. He hath made everything beautiful in its time: also he hath set eternity in their heart, yet so that man cannot find out the work that God hath done from the beginning even to the end” (Eccl. 3:10-11, ASV). Mankind will always long for things eternal. It is that part of man made in the image of God that thinks in those terms. Such makes him unique among all of God’s creation. One must properly fill the spiritual void of life just as man fills the physical, emotional and mental sides. Consider three areas that fill the spiritual.
- The Truth About God. Life is empty without God. Paul wrote in Romans, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in the imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,” (Rom. 1:21-22). Luke records of words to the Galatians, “Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:” (Acts 14:15). Man may manufacture his own version of God and still be empty. The real God is the God revealed in the Scriptures, not man’s imaginative creation visible or invisible. There is no substitute for the true God. Life becomes a life of false hope otherwise.
- The Truth in the Gospel. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:” (1 Thess. 2:1). That entrance is tied to the gospel that they brought. “But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention” (1 Thess. 2:2). Again, “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (1 Thess. 2:5). Paul exhorted Timothy to rightly divide the word of truth and shun profane and vain babbling (cf. 2 Tim. 2:15-16). Vain talk is specifically warned throughout (cf. Eph. 5:6; 1 Tim. 1:6; Titus 1:10). The gospel is God’s power to save (cf. Rom. 1:16) and that fills the spiritual need for the saving of the soul.
- The Truth About Good Works. One’s walk of life can be a “vain conversation” (1 Peter 1:18), a walk “in the vanity of their mind” (Eph. 4:17) and “vainglory” (Phil. 2:3). One’s life must be a walk with God being “careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men” (Titus 3:8). Warnings are given to avoid activities that do produce vanity (cf. Titus 3:9; 1 Tim. 6:20). While there will always be pursuits in life that may fill up time, there is only one pursuit in life that is not in vain (cf. 1 Cor. 15:58 – “your labor is not in vain in the Lord”). A working faith is truly a happy and fulfilled life.