Collins Bible Companion…all is vanity’ says the Preacher. (Ecclesiastes)

Took delivery yesterday of a shiny new book – the Collins Bible Companion  It is a beautifully produced, lavishly illustrated and thoughtfully edited collection of all things Bible – from historical background to contemporary application and back again.  I was privileged to contribute to it as one of many authors.  Here’s the thing though. When I unwrapped my first copy from the brown paper in the box – would you like to hazard a guess as to where I turned first?  Yes – the contributors’ page, to ‘check’ if they had got my details right! Why? I know who I am and the reader doesn’t really need to. Vanity, vanity…

Preachers are more prone to vanity than they let on, don’t you think?  All too often we crave the approval which our calling prevents us from seeking. A prophetic edge sits uncomfortably with a popularity poll, and so we promote the one and ignore the other.  Or at least we think we ignore the other.  This particular preacher knows how easy it is to lean towards the approval of others, like a gangly plant seeking out the light. Being winsome is an asset, surely, in the pulpit – but we mustn’t give in to the thirst for popularity as an end in itself.

The other week  I was taught a lesson on all this by a teenage musician.  To his enormous surprise he was asked if he and his band would play a Christmas carol concert at a Christian Conference centre.  Clearly flattered, he nonetheless deflected the invitation by declaring that ‘I might not be free that day – I think I am polishing my ego’!  There you have it – good humour, charm and self-awareness all rolled into one. Preachers, take note!