All the vain things

I’ll admit it – I am easily charmed.

Fluffy bunnies, smooth advertising slogans, a well-made slice of cake, a fabulous shade of lipstick – it really doesn’t take much to win me over. If it is shiny and wonderful then I would like a piece of it.

Neither am I one for self-discipline and so I will readily capitulate to a variety of these temptations on an almost daily basis.

I remember when fragranced ironing water first came on the market. I’m sure there’s a proper name for it, but it’s basically nice smelling water to put in your steam iron instead of the regular stuff from the tap. Watching the tv advert I thought it was utterly absurd. The clothes were already clean from the washing machine, why on earth did they need extra smelly water?!

Fast forward a few days and I found myself wandering past the ‘new product special offer’ section in the supermarket and began to have a different conversation with myself.

You know sometimes the clothes may be clean, but there is still that slightly stale smell when you iron them. Perhaps you should just try it. It might be lovely. Go on, pop the bottle in the trolley. There, that was easy.

I travelled another few aisles before having another, more stern conversation with myself and returned the ironing water back to the shelf.

Please hear me – if you are a person with ironing water in your cupboard, there is no judgement here. This was one tiny luxury that I denied myself on one miraculous day. My home is filled with many other charming and unnecessary things that I have scooped up and brought home, and if you ever came and inspected my belongings (please promise me you won’t ever do that) you would be horrified by the amount of stuff that I couldn’t possibly resist.

It’s because of these quirks (surely not flaws) in my character that I’ve always found it a challenge to sing the line in the famous hymn, “All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood.”


shoppingI think we’ve established that there are many vain things in my life and I’ll confess right now that they charm me a great deal. And so I would sing that line with a slight grimace and promise the Lord that I would, yes I definitely would (or at least I’d try to) purge myself of these charms and live a more monastic and holy life.

Until recently I had never made a connection between these lines and the first two lines of this same verse.

Forbid it Lord, that I should boast

Save in the death of Christ my God.

All the vain things that charm me most

I sacrifice them to his blood.

Yes indeed forbid it Lord that I should boast, for I am British and that is most unbecoming. What’s more, as a member of a Celtic nation, boasting may see me excommunicated from my people. So Lord, I can sing this line quite easily, because boasting is vulgar and I don’t do it, really.

And then, just recently, the Lord whispered something to me in response.

What about the vain things?

Yes I know, the vain things! I’m sacrificing them.

Ok I’m not. But I’m trying.


They are how you boast.

Not with words, but with things.

Everything you take more pride in, show more joy towards than me. Every time you are more concerned with how you look, or what they’ll think than you are with what I’m saying to you. When you take more care over everything external than you do with the internal, then you are boasting in something other than me.

Ah. I see it now.

I see the time and effort I put into things that have no eternal consequence. The care and attention I give to parts of my life that do not truly matter.

Those things are not necessarily wrong in and of themselves, and many of them bring me delight and pleasure. But when they take up too much space in my life and my thoughts then something is out of balance.

And so from now on I will sing this verse recognising that I boast every day in things other than Jesus and that he asks me to sacrifice my vain and shiny trinkets so that his radiance might be seen more clearly, by me and through me.

Forbid it Lord, that I should boast

Save in the death of Christ my God.

All the vain things that charm me most

I sacrifice them to his blood.

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