“knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers.”
from your aimless conduct
There are two Greek words for “vain.” The word that does not occur in our passage means the absence of quality. This is the hollowness of anything. It is the absence of what otherwise might be possessed (Mark 12:3; Luke 1:53; 20:10,11; Eph 5:6; Co 2:8; Jas 2:20; 1 Co 15:10; 2 Co 6:1; 1 Co 15:14; 1 Co 15:58; Ga 2:2; Php 2:16; 1 Th 2:1; 3:5). This is void of result. It marks the aimlessness of something. The vain man in James 2:20 is one who is empty of divinely imparted wisdom. This is a vainly of worthlessness.
The word “vain” in our passage means the absence of a useful aim or effect. In James 1:26, vain religion is one that produces nothing profitable. This religion is worthless because it is ineffectual.
“Aimless” implies antithesis to the norm. “Aimless” indicates that we do not measure up to God’s standard. We unsuccessfully attempt to measure up (Romans 3:10,23).
Later Greek thought made little use of “aimless,” perhaps because it raised unsettling questions and involved self-contradiction. The Old Testament, however, did not evade the question. Many Hebrew words pour their negative content into “aimless.”
Human help is vain.
“Give us help from trouble,
For the help of man is useless,” (Psalm 60:11).
Proverbs 31:30 characterizes beauty as vain:
“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”
Controversies and dissension are without purpose:
“But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless,” (Titus 3:9).
Christianity gives aim to life.
One reason some people enter into controversy is they do not have a worthy aim for their lives. They live in a vacuum. They do not carry norms that give boundaries to their lives. Anything is fair game.
The Christian who lives to the glory of God falls heir to His boundaries. This gives definition to His life.