The Curse Word Isn’t the Most Shocking Part of Philippians 3

In Philippians 3, the Apostle Paul declares that everything he once held tightly to in his life to be “skubalon” compared to knowing Christ. If you look up how the famous Greek word is used in the culture, you discover it was dung or animal excrement. Paul was making a very explicit point— everything is nothing compared to the joy of knowing Christ. Jesus is so great that everything is “skubalon” in comparison. While this is totally true and told in attention-grabbing language, for me the most shocking part of Philippians 3 is Paul’s insistence that everything he once considered profit has now been moved over to the loss column. If you have ever managed a P&L statement, you probably find this language jaw-dropping.

First, Paul lists things that were in the profit column of this life:

…If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:4-6)

  • Legacy and heritage: Being circumcised on the eighth day according to Jewish practice shows his family’s legacy.
  • Community: When Israel was divided into two kingdoms back in the day, the faithful tribes were Judah and Benjamin. Paul was in the elite group.
  • Reputation: He was a Pharisee and was respected as religious and sophisticated.
  • Passion: He lived with zeal as he was persecuting the C
  • Morality: He was really good at obeying the rules.

Many would say that is a valuable and profitable life. That if you mapped out a personal P&L statement for your life, and it looked like that, then it would be a great P&L, a great life. But then Paul writes:

But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord(Philippians 3:7-8)

Wait, all these good things get moved to the loss column on his life’s P&L statement? Massive. Everything that was once in the profit column, he now puts in the loss column. When I think back to when I led a P&L in the marketplace, we knew the big profit items in our portfolio and we never would have considered them losses. Yet the Apostle Paul moves all these good things all to the loss column…

In view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Philippians 3:8)

Paul does not declare a list of disappointments or failures to be losses. He gives a list of all his accomplishments and says they are now in the loss column—all because Jesus is in the profit column of his life. And Jesus being in the profit column means Paul has received His righteousness. Everything is nothing compared to Christ for our salvation and our satisfaction.

For our salvation: All the good things we do are nothing compared to Christ and His perfection. To be made right with God, we need to be perfect. And because we never will be, it does not matter how many good things we have done. James Montgomery Boice wrote that trying to stand before God in our own goodness is like trying to buy something at a store with monopoly money. It does not matter how much you have because monopoly money is not how you pay. It is a different economy. God’s economy is different. You need His righteousness, not your own. Your righteousness is nothing compared to His. Thankfully, on the cross Jesus traded our sin for His righteousness, and when we believe in Jesus, He declares us to be perfect because His righteousness goes in the profit side of our life P&L statement.

For our satisfaction: All the blessings in this life are nothing compared to the value of knowing Jesus. Paul was willing to give up everything to follow Jesus, but then found it was nothing in comparison. Yes, Jesus is better than our losses—but Jesus is also better than all our victories. Even our victories are losses compared to Him.