Another Life Gone Up in Smoke

Another Life Gone Up in Smoke
Robert Wurtz II

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind. (Ephesians 4:17)*

It is interesting that the Greek word here for vanity is a thoroughly Biblical word. It comes from a root that carries the idea of an unsuccessful search (μάτην matēn). Like the fairytale pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, vanity is anything a person seeks to find fulfillment in other than God. Paul said that they are alienated from the life of God (Ephesians 4:18a), the only thing that could bring real fulfillment. Their understanding is darkened and their heart and mind are hardened until they are past feeling. This wording means to be so callous that you no longer are sensitive in your heart to things that ought to pain you. He then goes on to say, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. (Ephesians 5:19) This is unbridled lust and greed for money. The renowned late Greek scholar A.T. Robertson comments, one who always wants more whether money or sexual indulgence as here. The two vices are often connected in the N.T.

Destructive vanity

We live in an age in the cross hairs of this passage. People are building their lives and families for years and then suddenly they get a wild hair to go after vanity and destroy all of their lives. Men and women, no matter what certain popular Christian Family ministries say, are giving themselves over to unbridled lust until they are broke, busted and disgusted. I think of Paul in Romans, “…for even their women gave themselves up…” I dare say that today the women are just as bad as the men, looking into the eyes of their crying little babies and then hooking up with some guy they just met off Craiglist or some other website. In fact, sexuality is being used as a weapon. The one gets bitter or ‘fed up’ so in order to retaliate they go have an affair. Or, at least that is the excuse they give. The truth is people are walking in the vanity of their mind- going after false hopes and dreams. It is never so worse than when a person starts to see their youth fading away and they think they have a short window of time to ‘get their groove on again.’ So they get all dolled up, lose 30 pounds (that ought to be your signal right there that trouble is coming), and start making up all kinds of weird stories as to where they are going alone at night. These people are prepared to destroy their little babies lives, their spouses, their reputation, their broader family, and anything else for a moment of fleeting pleasure. 

The after effects

There is one common thing I have heard from the many people I have counseled that have gone after vanity and now their life is a crisis; they wish they could take it back. The stories I have had to endure over the years have been at times so vile that God has had to protect my mind. Since all the parties involved in what I am about to share have passed from the stage of life, I will tell you of a once godly woman that decided to fall in love with a paroled convict that no doubt had a deadly reputation. She left her husband that loved her and her children. Less than a year later she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given six-months to live. She went back to the man she divorced and confessed to him on her death bed that, “the grass was not greener on the other side.” Mysteriously she never lived but less than 1/3 of the time the doctors gave her, having died under questionable circumstances. Her family was destroyed and one of her children died of the effects of drugs and prostitution. You see, the devil never showed this woman what sin was going to ultimately cause; but their family was serving God when she went astray and now what is left is total annihilation. 

All I ever needed was for you to be faithful

All I ever needed was for you to be faithful. If you have to leave- leave, but while you’re with me I need you to be faithful. –Para. Elizabeth Edwards (1949-2010) former wife of Senator John Edwards  

I had a man tell me once than when he was out fooling around with women when it was all over he would lie there and think about his little kids at home. But this is the side of sin that everyone seems to want to sweep under the rug and keep it hush-hush. The time would fail me to vent just 10% of the vexation I have endured in hearing stories such of these. One man gave me a great word of wisdom at the age of 16, “Robert, understand that if you ever run off with another woman and leave your wife it will never be better- it will only be different.” That was experience talking.

Rather she died…

I was listening to an elderly minister last week tell of how devastated people are that find out that their spouse has been cheating on them. He said that he believed it was “the most painful thing a person could experience on an emotional level.” You could characterize it as a perpetual emotional kidney stone. My experience with talking to people wholly concurs. A man told me back in 1985 that his wife left him for his boss (not her boss his boss). He was so vexed out that he got into his car, drove from New Orleans to Kansas City pulled over and put in an application at the mechanic shop I worked at. He was totally devastated. But I will never forget what he said, “Robert, I would have rather she died than to do what she did to me; at least I would have known where I stood with her.” 

It reminds me of my 6th Grade teacher that was a dear man who suffered from polio as a child and had only partial use of his arm. This allowed him to hunt deer in our state at different times than the normal seasons as I recall. He told us children of a terrible story of shooting a doe and loading it into the vehicle only to see her little fawns come out to see their dead momma. He did not know she had those little ones until it was too late. They followed him as he pulled off until he went out of sight. A strange thing happens in these days when men and women leave their spouse for another man or woman, they tend to want to follow after them as did those fawns for their mother. If that doesn’t sober your mind, nothing will. 

Wiping the mouth

Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness. (Proverbs 30:20)

I recently heard of a woman calling to apologize to her husband for an affair she was having. My mind immediately referenced the passage above as counsel for what to and not to do under the circumstances. If you have cheated on your spouse don’t expect things to go easy. In fact, Proverbs tells you in effect that you should be thankful to be alive, For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. (Proverbs 6:34) Adultery in the Old Testament leveled the death penalty. It is a damnable sin according to Paul’s writing. So you need to stop and recognize the severity of what has happened. Don’t just eat and wipe your mouth as if it is business as usual. You have broken trust and confidence in the worst of ways and it is time to be humble and sober. A good study of Psalm 51 would be in order. 

Understand that your spouse is going to have questions. A whorish woman will have an attitude like this, “Just forgive me and get over it! Don’t be throwing this in my face!” You may as well brace yourself to total destruction with that attitude. You have caused a serious problem, and now you must face the music. I am not saying you have to be abused, but I guarantee you it is not going to be pleasant and probably for some significant amount of time. By God’s grace you can survive these things, but understand that your marriage has got a gunshot wound to vital organs now. Does that put it in perspective? You will need to care for your marriage figuratively in the same way. An ounce of prevention, you will realize, would be worth a thousand pounds of cure.

The King of vanity 

If we are going to truly prevent such things, we need to stop and learn from people who know what they are talking about. When I think about the word vanity, I think of king Solomon. Here is a man that had maxed out the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life and still saw life as utterly pointless. He had all the power, possessions, and pleasure that anyone could ever hope to have. All the things that the world seeks after, he had at a cartoonish level. He was used to people complementing him and flattering him for his great wisdom. No telling how many times in a given day someone said something to stoke his ego. As if people were standing in line to give him props. He was so filled with the worlds junk that he was pressed down, shaken together and running over with worldly pleasures. He could not squeeze in another drop if he had to. Yet he penned these words with a resounding bitterness that echoes through the ages; vanity, vanity, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. (Eccl. 1:1ff) Let him put the megaphone to our ears, pull the trigger and shout these words into our minds, vanity, vanity, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. Did you hear that? The word vanity actually means futility. When the Hebrews double up words they do so for emphasis. Vanity, vanity means the epitome of emptiness and futility. Maximum worldliness = maximum emptiness! Simply put, it was all for nothing. It was a total waste of time and efforts. It did not produce the desired results. Ephesians 4:17 tells us that the ungodly walk in a state of mind that is emptiness. The thoughts are a worthless, pointless, waste. 

Vain thinking

The enemy always makes promises he cannot deliver on. This is why he is called a liar and the father of it. He is a great salesman and trafficker of vanity. I recall as a child watching TV adverts for liquor where the men were heading for the mountains talking about, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” They loved to give the impression that drinking beer would carry a person away to snow capped mountains and crystal streams. Talk about propaganda. Try to contrast that with an alcoholic that married the daughter of a Pentecostal preacher, sitting on a couch with his belly protruding as if 9 months pregnant dying with cirrhosis of the liver. Somebody lied some place. But the ungodly believe the lies and walk in vanity of the mind. They are never fulfilled, never satisfied, and never joyful. They just keep chasing the pipe dream like a mouse on a treadmill.  

*Paul uses the word ethnos to describe non-Jews according to the flesh, having made plain that these to whom are called Gentiles (ethnos) we only Gentiles in times past (Eph. 2:11). From the unbelieving Jews perspective these Saints that are in Christ are still Gentiles; however, Paul makes a clear distinction between Gentiles (nations) that do and do not know God and Jews that do or do not know God (Romans 2:28, 29). In fact, the most important aspect of any persons life, regardless of nationality, is whether or not they know God and do His will. For God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34ff) Everything else is a distant second. 


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