Worth Nothing by Comparison (Philippians 3:7-8)
[But] whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. ⁸Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ –Philippians 3:7-8
When I wrote my first book, I printed out lots of drafts. As I marked the pages with edits and made corrections, I crumpled them up and tossed them into the trash. They counted for nothing compared to the final book. I thought of this when I was meditating on this passage. Still, the question arises: How could God’s good gifts of husband, children, home, food, clothing, work, church, and more ever be to me like rubbish–something I throw in the trash bin?
Paul doesn’t say his gain is trash, but that in comparison to knowing Christ, everything else is counted as rubbish. Paul’s faith in the risen Christ–who humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross, and covered Paul with His righteousness, giving him the certain hope of eternal life–outweighs everything. Nothing even comes close to the worth of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord.
Paul is not in denial, as if trading all of his worldly goods meant nothing to him. He says he “suffered the loss of all things.” We know from the verses right before our passage that Paul had much gain by worldly and religious standards:
If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. (3:4-6)
Giving up position, honor, wealth, titles–everything of gain–is not easy. In fact, it’s so hard that there is only one way it’s possible: in the strength God supplies. Paul is reporting his change of heart. These verses aren’t a to-do list–God did this in him. He transformed Paul’s affections, He changed what Paul treasured.
When the Holy Spirit regenerates a heart, He awakens someone who was dead to the things of God to the infinite value of Christ. Suddenly, supernaturally, the One who once seemed unremarkable, or even unnoticed, has more value than anything they used to prize. This sounds like Jesus’ parable of the man who found a treasure buried in a field and sold everything he had in order to buy that field (Matthew 13:44). It makes me wonder, what do I prize in my life? Do I count Jesus as of more value–so much more–that by comparison, they are like those crumpled sheets of paper that went out in the garbage?
The comparison in Philippians 3 doesn’t suggest that good gifts are, in themselves, garbage. A.W. Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy may help here. In his chapter on God’s infinitude, he says, “God’s gifts in nature have their limitations. They are finite because they have been created, but the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus is as limitless as God” (p. 47).
We know from Jesus’ own words that God delights to meet our needs and give us good gifts (Matthew 7:11). He is a generous, loving Father. James tells us that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).
Paul’s comparison depends on a miraculously transformed heart. Compared to knowing Christ, everything else counts as nothing. It’s not that the goods of this life are themselves garbage, far from it. But when compared to Christ, they are nothing. Gaining Christ and eternity with the Savior is everything. There is no greater gain.
What things do you hold most tightly in this life?
How might meditating on the surpassing worth of Christ help you entrust them to God?
Does Jesus seem most precious to you? If not, ask God to rightly align your affections and priorities by showing you the infinite worth of knowing Jesus.
Candice Watters is the FighterVerses editor. She is married to Steve Watters, Truth78's director of marketing and resource development. She is mom to Harrison, Zoe, Churchill, and Teddy and co-author with Steve of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. The Watterses love helping parents learn how to disciple their children.