Sin Is Vanity!!
Alvin 0. Raney
Tucumcari, New Mexico
It is more or less natural to want to destroy that which is hateful to us, or actually or potentially harmful to us, or angers or outrages us. This animal instinct in man underlies almost every instance of murder he commits. Man, because of his capacity to reason, ought to have risen above such instinctive animalism scores of generations ago. He hasn't. Abrogating his recourse to reason, man still kills his fellowman, thinking to solve his problems by destroying him who becomes a problem. This is a vanity because he cannot actually do what he proposes to do. A dog can kill another dog and that dog is destroyed, but when man kills man, the victim is not destroyed. Murder, like all sin, is vain.
If, in anger or hatred, I rise up and slay my brother, WHAT have I accomplished? The fact that he lived is still a fact. The influence of his life, both the good and the ill, lives on and I cannot change it. The memory of him is indelibly written in many minds and I cannot erase it. His marks upon the sands of Time I cannot obliterate. His soul, the REAL man that was, is eternal and I cannot so much as touch it. In every essential, he that was, still is! Then WHAT have I really done?
I have, in my uncomprehending irresponsibility, only destroyed the house in which he lived. I have caused him considerable inconvenience and even pain. I have frustrated his plans, his hopes and his ambitions for whatever more of life he might have had. I have unjustly inflicted sorrow and suffering upon those who loved him. Yet I have not succeeded in my evil design: I have not destroyed him. He lives, even in my own thoughts, more than ever. Then, I am a murderer? Ah, yes! I, who have not the power to destroy my brother, have destroyed myself. I thought to destroy the object of my greatest hate, but only succeeded in destroying the object of my greatest love: myself! I am dead in sin by my own hand. What vanity!
If I, for my pleasure, seduce my brother's wife, WHAT have I accomplished? I have robbed him of something exceeding precious, and have gained nothing worthwhile for myself. A woman who is willing to be touched by a profane hand isn't really fit to be touched. Before I can have her I must first destroy her worth. Of what value a woman without honor, decency or shame? What proud conquest is there in descending to the level of the alley cat to whom one Tom is as welcome as another? And if I must destroy the value of what is coveted in order to possess it, what profit is there in having it? Yet if I am to have her, this is what I must do.
I have reached unlawfully to pluck a beautiful flower, and when I have it, I have only a weed; a very bitter and noxious weed. And for it I have stooped to the gravest moral debasement. I have sinned against both God and nature. I have sullied my own manhood, and have made God's image into a beast. I have wittingly embraced the fires of Hell. After all this I can have her, but she is no longer worth having, and I am unworthy of even her. I have stolen, and left not one man but the whole world poorer, and there is no profit to me. There are so many losers and no one has gainedexcept Satan. And all humanity mourns, "All is vanity and vexation of spirit!"
If I steal my brother's goods, WHAT have I accomplished? I have taken away what he needs, and have gained only that which I cannot keep. I have unjustly deprived him of the lawful fruit of his toil. What God gave him, I took away. That which would have been so sweet in his mouth is bitterness and ashes in mine. The great value I have stolen from him is actually of no worth to me, "For a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things he possesseth," and what was his has made me no richer.
What was God's blessing to him has become God's curse to me. Only the dignity of productivity, the glory of hope, and the satisfaction of harvesting the fruits of industry can give worth to this world's goods. Money is only paper, gold is but base metal and jewels are stones. Simply gaining and possessing gives nothing value. Only when I produce something by my ingenuity and industry, when I sow my plans and hopes and prayers and water them with my tears and sweat and in gladness see them fruit into possessions peculiarly my own, only then can I have a treasure. I can steal objects but I cannot steal value. Therefore, if I steal, I leave my brother poorer, and I am no richer. And, if I barter away my soul for that which I cannot have, is not this the final refinement of vanity?
So it is with the whole catalogue of Sin. The profit of Sin is but a delusion. A delusion of delightful appearance sometimes, and fearfully enticing, but still a delusion. If we can ever come to understand and believe that good comes only from God, maybe we will cease to seek for sweetmeats from the hand of the Devil. Solomon evidently tasted every sin to which man can be tempted, but in his sunset he sadly soliloquized: "Behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit!"
TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 11, pp. 6-7 August 1966