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. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.
In this passage from the letter to the Philippians, Paul sure knows how to state his qualifications. This first part almost reads like a resume - look at who I am, where I come from, what I have accomplished. Most of all it says look at all these things the world deems important - I have them.
Most of could make a list like this about ourselves as well - stating our family lineage, how many generations we have been members of a particular church, where we went to college and what degrees we earned, what jobs we have held that have gradually become more prestigious. We know how to make ourselves look good and take pride in all of these things. So much of our society is centered around gaining things so that we can show who we are to the world - degrees, homes, cars, clothes, and accessories. Sometimes we run the risk of placing too high of an importance on all or any of these things.
Paul reminds us that even though he had all this that the world said was important, that all changed when he encountered Christ. Now he regards all these things as loss, even more, he calls them rubbish. None of it is important compared to what he found in Christ - faith, forgiveness, the power of resurrection, the knowledge that he is loved by God. This, he tells his readers, is what is really important in life. Not the things of the world, but faith in Christ.
In the hustle and bustle of our lives - the rush to accumulate, to accomplish - sometimes we can lose sight of what should really be our goal. Lent is the perfect time of year to stop, to slow down, and to realize what in our lives is righteousness in Christ, and what should be counted as rubbish.
Oh God of righteousness, help us to see our lives with clear eyes and a clear heart. Help us to discern what we should be prioritizing, and what we should learn to count as loss. Help us to see our value in Christ, and not in the things of this world. In Jesus' name, we pray, Amen.