‘But shun profane and vain babblings; for they will increase unto more ungodliness’ ~ 2 Timothy 2:16
Vain babblings are spoken in insincerity. ‘And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men’ (Matthew 6:9). The God who ‘weighs the heart’ (Proverbs 21:2) knows why one says what they say and do what they do. No matter what good one says and what good one does, the intention matters most to God. Jesus knew that the Pharisees do what they do to be seen by men, and not to earnestly commune with God. Jesus says of them, ‘for they loved praise from men more than praise from God’ (John 12:43). Thus, their words became vain before God.
In all we say and do, we ought to ask ourselves this; ‘Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ’ (Galatians 1:10). Any servant of Christ must follow in His example because Jesus Himself says, ‘I do not accept praise from men’ (John 5:41). We too in following our Master’s footsteps should not accept praise from men, only from God. So when we offer up prayers, we do it according to the will of God and not of man. In turn, God lends ear for we sincerely approach Him out of love, worship, communion and need. It is not for us to be seen as righteous or religious by fellow men but they are sincere words. They are not vain babblings.
Vain babblings are spoken in unbelief. ‘And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words’ (Matthew 6:7). The prophets of Baal ‘called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “O Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered’ (1 Kings 18:26). Such frantic and prolonged babblings point to unbelief. Length is not a factor while offering petitions to God but the level of belief. As for Elijah, he trusted in the true God and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again” (v36-37). ‘Then the fire of the Lord fell and burnt up the sacrifice’ (v38).
Elijah did not keep on babbling using vain repetitions like the pagan prophets. Likewise, while offering petitions to God, we ought to do it in belief and not just length. Jesus admonishes, ‘Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe you have received it, and it will be yours’ (Mark 11:24). This belief in God will keep us from vain babblings which cause one to use their might, power and oratory abilities while petitioning God. Since Christ followers’ possess faith, we petition God in belief for we know that, ‘without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him’ (Hebrews 11:6).
Vain babblings are spoken in pride and boasting. They are spoken by those ‘who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight’ (Isaiah 5:21). When God uses them or blesses them, instead of thanking and acknowledging God, they boast and say like the King of Assyria, ‘By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding’ (Isaiah 10:12). The King further boasts with many words and ‘when words are many, sin is not absent’ (Proverbs 10:19). With pride, he says, ‘Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?’ (2 Kings 18:35). God sees the pride in his heart and hears the boasting, and says, ‘those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Listen! I am going to put such a spirit in him that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword’ (19:v6-7). Truly, ‘pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall’ (Proverbs 16:8).
Those in Christ only have one reason to boast. Like Paul, we say, ‘May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world’ (Galatians 6:14). This is because we know that ‘every good and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning’ (James 1:17). There are those who boast outside of Christ, in their abilities, wisdom or wealth, ‘but her boasts are empty’ (Isaiah 16:6) and are only vain babblings.
Vain babblings are spoken without knowledge and understanding. ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men’ (Isaiah 29:13). They are those who do not search the Scriptures, those who are taught of men and not taught of God. ‘Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition’ (Matthew 15:6). These people only catch rumours of God and use that in their worship. Repeating what they hear, whether it aligns with the Word of God or not, they do not know. And so they end up offering vain babblings, for they do not know what they say. God says, ‘For this is a people without understanding; so their Maker has no compassion on them, and their Creator shows them no favour’ (Isaiah 27:11).
The true believer, ‘worships the Father in Spirit and truth’ (John 4:23). They are not ‘carried away by all kinds of strange teachings’ (Hebrews 13:9) because they ‘do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world’ (1 John 4:1). How then can one test if they have no knowledge and understanding of God’s Word? Paul writes to the Galatians, ‘I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- which is really no gospel at all’ (Galatians 1:6-7). Jesus cautions, ‘Take heed that no man deceive you’ (Matthew 24:4). Those who speak vainly by misconstruing God’s Word only ‘exploit you with stories they have made up’ (2 Peter 2:3). Therefore, we should watch out not to utter things we hear that are contrary to God’s Word and Spirit- for they are without knowledge and understanding. They are vain babblings.