Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, February 26, 2018
Consider Everything Loss
I am afraid I haven’t been the best at following the Lenten scripture readings for this past week. Yes, I managed to do a couple, but I did not read every day. God knows, I have struggled with Lenten disciplines and spiritual disciplines in general, for years. That is no excuse, I know. But, I don’t want to cover up the problem and just ignore it, either. Dear Lord, what do I do?
What is available to me is to dig in to the readings for today. (Actually, the bible reading for two days ago, Saturday, and the reflections for Sunday.) Some years ago, I used to really dig in to the letter to the Philippians as well as the life of the apostle Paul. Being interested in the subject material is no problem, in other words.
Paul had lots of reasons to boast, and to be such a puffed-up so-and-so. Hebrew of the Hebrews, he knew his Jewish lineage and high position. His pedigree was without a single black or negative mark. As a Pharisee, Saul knew he had beaten everyone (or almost everyone), and demonstrated his religious “super-power,” spiritually speaking.
And yet…from Philippians chapter 3, Paul says “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.” After delineating his impressive religious pedigree, he makes a statement like what I just quoted. Wow! I keep shaking my head at words like these. But, wait! There’s more.
Paul uses a crude word in the next verse. He says, in brief: “I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” The New International Version translates the word “garbage.” Other translations have “rubbish,” “dung” and “refuse.” The original Greek word is skubala. I don’t know how much Paul was given to humor in his personal interactions, but I can definitely read this as wry humor—while being perfectly serious in his communicating of this deep concept. It is as if all of the worldly and earthly attainments or privileges that Paul—and the rest of us—have painstakingly put together or scratched and clawed for are measured and found wanting before the amazing, glory-producing magnificence of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Rowan Williams follows this up with a thought-provoking question. “Paul recognized that he followed a King who surrendered his privileges, became a slave and died a shameful death. What privileges do we enjoy? Can we, like Paul, ‘count them as loss?’” 
Dear Lord, what a series of statements by Paul. Help me not to get puffed up or too proud of myself or my accomplishments. Keep me right-sized. Help me keep my eyes on the prize of the upward calling. Let me focus on Christ only, remembering His glory on the mountain of Transfiguration. Gracious God, with Your help, I can do all things through Jesus Christ my Lord.
Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.
 Meeting God in Paul: Reflections for the Season of Lent, Rowan Williams (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 88.