Passing Through Vanity Fair

John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is a wonderful, allegorical tale of Christian living. Christian, the main character, and Faithful come to the town of Vanity where there is a yearlong fair. The fair is named Vanity Fair because all is lighter than vanity. All that come there and all that is sold there is vanity.

Therefore, at this fair are all such merchandise sold as houses, lands, trades, places, honors, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures; and delights of all sorts, as harlots, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and what not.

And moreover, at this fair there is at all times to be seen jugglings, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind.

Here are to be seen, too, and that for nothing, thefts, murders, adulteries, false-swearers, and that of a blood-red color.

The Prince of princes himself, when here, went through this town to his own country, and that upon a fair-day too; yea, and, as I think, it was Beelzebub, the chief lord of this fair, that invited him to buy of his vanities, yea, would have made him lord of the fair, would he but have done him reverence as he went through the town.

It was Bunyan’s way of warning about worldliness. It was his colorful way of picturing the warning of 1 John.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17, ESV

The desires (lust) of the flesh is the fulfillment of physical desires in wrong ways. This desires of the eyes is covetousness. Covetousness is an unreasonable desire for what we do not possess. Pride in possessions is arrogance, arrogance that forgets dependence on God.

The town of Vanity is no lasting city. All that it contains is temporary and fleeting. We must be pilgrims to the Celestial City (heaven) and not linger or be caught up in Vanity Fair. The danger is real. It takes prayer, stewardship, and discernment not to be charmed by Vanity Fair.

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