Reading through the Bible together
This is truly a chapter about comparisons. Paul’s accomplishments in the flesh were what many Jews were seeking at the time, such as circumcision, national pride, spiritual leadership privileges, and being blameless in the law (vs. 4-6). But when Paul compares such things to the surpassing value of having Christ, humanity’s accomplishments seem worthless (v.7). It is important to shift our values from what others deem important to what Christ sees as important, counting our own gains and losses as rubbish.
Most of us put a high priority on what is relational – a healthy relationship with family and loved ones, and a strong relationship with God. At the time of death, it is those relationships that we will all desire.
In verse 13 one sees the value of comparisons. While it is true that “comparison kills contentment,” It is also true that “we will never know until we compare.” Paul reflects on his own life wherein he changed from the past as Saul to the present as Paul. He then reminds the church to forget the past because the past can make one a prisoner. He told his readers to rather focus on the future because therein lies all hope. While we must never forget where we came from and what events shaped us, we must also never let the past take away our focus from where our citizenship lies – in heaven (v.20). This is indeed the attitude one must have to obtain the prize in Christ Jesus (v.15).
May we press on towards that goal wherever we work for God today.
Edward A. Appollis