The Apostle Paul may have picked up some business knowledge from his time as a tent-maker. A good businessman always keeps his books up-to-date and has a good idea of his profits and losses. Since being confronted on the road to Damascus by the living Christ, Paul was forced to check his spiritual inventory and balance sheets. The numbers simply didn’t add up.
Paul thought that all the good works of being a pious Jew were piling up to his credit. What a shock to discover they have been recorded as a liability in God’s ledger. Not only was he losing money, but he was spiritually bankrupt with no hope of ever getting out of debt. Whatever he thought was profitable for him in the past, he now considers as having no value at all compared to knowing Christ.
“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 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 and is by faith.” (Philippians 3:7-9)
A track and field athlete had trained for several years to become a state champion pole-vaulter. Upon arriving at practice, the head coach pulls him aside and says, “I am looking forward to coaching you in the high jump this season.” “What!” he cries. “I have been training hard these past several years to become a state champion pole-vaulter, and now you are telling me I have to be a high jumper!” “What do you mean?” replies the coach. “They are practically the same thing. You have a bar to go over and there are big pads to land on.”
The coach had it all wrong. The two events couldn’t be any more different. All the training he had as a pole-vaulter will add up to nothing. He will have to start all over again.
Even though Paul trained to be an outstanding Jew, it had no value in his new relationship with God as a Christian. Even though Judaism and Christianity are similar in appearance — they worship the same God — they couldn’t be more different. Paul had to relearn and train himself to be in Christ in order to receive any value in God’s eyes.
Paul needed time to grow in grace and knowledge of the truth. The greatness of knowing Jesus has transformed Paul’s life where anything else on earth pales in significance. Paul even uses the term “rubbish” to describe his previous attempts of becoming righteous on his own efforts.
The Greek word for rubbish means “something to be thrown out or disposed of” because it’s worthless. This term could be used for table scraps, garbage, or even human waste. Not only is rubbish worthless, but its something you don’t even want lying around the house. Think of the smell and all the filthy things it would attract like rats and insects.
Paul is shuddering at the thought that people would actually want the Judaizer’s rubbish around their house or church. Get rid of it! Throw it out! Anybody who says you must do something to earn favor with God or achieve salvation is teaching you to keep the rubbish!
The Christian faith is more than a religion; it is a relationship with God – relationship made possible through Christ Jesus. In Christ, we gain everything that is unseen. Only through Christ, does our spiritual account add up to a profit, because we have Christ’s righteousness instead of our own.