A few days ago I was reading the lectionary readings for this Sunday and the passage from Philippians 3:4-14 struck me with particular force.
What hit me so hard was,
If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…. I regard them as rubbish…
Paul gives a litany of things he “boasted” about. Things that in his thinking were worth being proud of and that made up a substantial part of this identity. Maybe it even constituted his entire identity for a time.
Yet, here, he can call them “rubbish.” And if we look at a few other translations, we might think, “rubbish” is too weak a word.
Why? The simple answer is, he found what was most important and what gave his entire life a different orientation. Everything became judged in terms of “the surpassing value of knowing Christ.”
Paul’s words challenge me. They challenge me to ask “what matters most to me?” What do I value and what do I let determine my identity? And to go a step further, what have I given up and what can I give up for that of “surpassing value.”
Maybe as we consider “giving something up for Lent” we need to hear Paul tell us once again, that what he had once valued, he came to regard as worthless.
What are you learning about “surpassing value” this Lent?