Wednesday, March 21, 2012

When Treasure Becomes Trash

Pastor Jake Magee

“Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ (Philippians 3:7).” 

In this passage does Paul mean that he had to give up a bunch of really good things in order to follow Jesus?  As if those “gains” were truly worthy competitors for Paul’s pursuit, genuine “profits” that Paul must forfeit if he was to gain Christ.

It’s not uncommon for people to regard repentance of sin and faith in Jesus as giving up something really good for something that is either a little better or something that will eventually become better. Or sometimes repentance of sin and faith in Jesus are the “necessary evils” that must be done in order to avoid the terrible consequences that will result from the things in life that are really good but are unfortunately labeled as taboo by God.  As such, the transition from faithlessness to faith in Jesus can be viewed more as a lateral move than anything; worse yet it is viewed as a step down.     

So, is Paul saying, “I had to give up a bunch of good stuff and now am suffering this depravation for Jesus’ sake” (Like a wife who sacrifices and goes without for the sake of her less than adequate husband)?  Or, is Paul saying that all so-called “profits” (or “gains” or “treasures”), when placed next to Jesus, come to be viewed as they really are – big time losses?  So, when earthly gains are presented as “competitors” to Jesus, the contest is over before it begins.  To get Jesus, and as a result end up losing the greatest earthly profit, is in fact to lose nothing.  How can you lose anything when you have everything in Christ?

Paul’s intention is clearly the latter.  Paul explains in verse 8 what grounds his evaluation of both his prestigious past and difficult present.  “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  The worth of Jesus, given the backdrop of other supposed gains, is not a comparable worth, or a competitive worth.  Jesus’ value “surpasses” (is super eminent over) other gains.  How much does Jesus surpass other gains?  Look at the following clause.  Paul says I count them the treasures of this world as trash, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…”   “Trash” or “Rubbish” is the translators’ gentle way of not saying “excrement.”  "Excrement" is the word that Paul felt best described the best the world offers when compared to the best heaven offers.  This means that the value of Jesus is so massive…so great…so unimaginable that when he is placed against any and all the greatest competitors in our life that we could ever imagine having and enjoying, all these so-called gains, all these so-called treasures, are at their best just a big steaming pile of….”


“I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

Than to be the king of a vast domain
And be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy name

He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs;
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead.”
                                                                        -Rhea F. Miller