What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ . . .
– Philippians 3:8
At the end of yesterday’s reading, Paul provided his religious résumé, listing seven special qualities about himself. These were things that would have distinguished him in the Jewish community. He was “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless” (Philippians 3:5-6). Paul’s reason for providing his résumé was to show that none of the Judaizers who presented a threat to the Philippian Christians could stand to benefit more than he from the works-based religion they promoted. Whatever attributes or achievements they claimed for themselves couldn’t measure up to his (Philippians 3:4).
In today’s reading, Paul continues this discussion, but we learn that Paul didn’t provide his résumé simply to boast. He provided his résumé to show that he had learned just how worthless human works are in God’s economy. He writes in verse 7, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” Here, Paul talks about his achievements as though they are assets. What he discovered is that the things he previously thought were valuable are actually just the opposite. They are like sinking investments. By this, Paul doesn’t mean that human works are intrinsically wrong and worthless. What he means is that when our attributes and achievements are viewed as assets that bring spiritual gain, they actually result in a net loss because they blind us to the one and only thing that can bring us true spiritual gain, Jesus Christ.
Paul goes further. He writes in verse 8, “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” Here, Paul expands his argument. It’s not just the qualities he listed in verses 5-6 that are losses. “Everything” is loss when compared to the supreme value of knowing Christ! Paul also extends his metaphor: everything is not just “loss.” Everything is “garbage.” The Greek word translated here as “garbage” appears nowhere else in Scripture, but outside the Bible it refers to human excrement or kitchen scraps (like what dogs eat [Philippians 3:2]). By using this vulgar and uncommon word, Paul is expressing in the strongest possible terms that anything in our lives that competes with or distracts us from Jesus should be regarded as waste and sent away.
This message is just as relevant for us today. We live in a culture that puts incredible stock in our status and accomplishments. We treasure the things we do and the things we own. Paul’s challenge is for us to know what has true worth and what is just waste. Nothing in this world can make us right before God but Christ, and nothing in this world compares to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ. Spending your time, thoughts, and energies on your relationship with Him is the most rewarding investment you will ever make.
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.