Summary: God offers riches to satiate every desire for those who let go of their trash.
Those of us born prior to 1970 will appreciate the article, Math Tests through the Decades in Reader’s Digest:
• 1960s test: “A logger cuts and sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is four-fifths of that amount. What is his profit?”
• 1970s new-math test: “A logger exchanges a set (L) of lumber for a set (M) of money. The cardinality of Set M is 100. The Set C of production costs contains 20 fewer points. What is the cardinality of Set P of profits?”
• 1980s “dumbed down” version: “A logger cuts and sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost is $80, his profit is $20. Find and circle the number 20.”
• 1990s politically correct version: “An unenlightened logger cuts down a beautiful stand of 100 trees in order to make a $20 profit. Write an essay explaining how you feel about this as a way to make money.”
Whether those accurately measured our understanding of profit, today’s text certainly does. It’s all about the bottom line – net gain or loss, and Paul sets his sights on profit worthy of investing his life. May God give us the grace to do the same as we read and consider Philippians 3.3-11.
[Read Philippians 3.3-11. Pray]
Jim Elliott was martyred in 1956 while taking the gospel to the Waodani people of Ecuador. Many of you know what he wrote in his journal six years earlier: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Elliott framed his life goal in terms of net profit: what do I give, and what do I gain, and is the trade to my advantage?
The Bible often challenges us to evaluate choices in this way. In Jeremiah 2.11-12, for example, God expresses shock that his “people changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
“How foolish!” says the Lord, “that you forsake delights for what does not satisfy!”
Jesus also assumed we would be wise enough to choose great gain. Luke 6.35: “Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great….”
Jesus expects us to choose the reward!
Matthew 13.44-47: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. [Looking at the bottom line, the wise man gives up something of small value for great gain.] Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” [To gain Christ and his kingdom is of such great worth that to give up all else leaves you the winner.]
To pay for the war effort, The Confederate States of America began releasing paper money in April, 1861. At first, Southerners accepted the currency as valuable. As the Civil War progressed, however, confidence in the Confederacy waned, the Confederate Congress issued more money, and the redemption dates on the notes were extended further into the future. Inevitably, the $1.7 billion in face value depreciated and prices soared. By the end a cake of soap sold for as much as $50 and an ordinary suit of clothes for as much as $2,700.
If you could have traded your Confederate Dollars for gold before 1864, you would have been wise to do so. By the end of 1865 it was worthless. Some who expected the South to rise again held the currency and lost everything, because at the end war Confederate money was burned as waste paper. Some Christians are like that – tightly holding waste paper with hands we should open to the riches of God.
God asks us to make a balance sheet, look at the bottom line, and chose the greatest gain. Paul does that very thing, and we can learn from him how to do so ourselves.
Two things have to happen. First, we need to know how value is measured, so that we release the waste paper and receive the riches. Spiritual and heavenly gains differ from what we at first expect. If we know how to calculate profit, then we make good choices. Second, we need to what are the pearls and treasures in the kingdom of God so we can decide if the profit is sufficient to move us to sell all else to obtain them.