Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count 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 that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. (Philippians 3:8-10 ESV).Paul is talking about all the things he had before he came to Christ-how he was highly regarded by all of his peers and well on his way to "making it". However he concludes his list with these verses. He lost everything that he had in order to follow Christ counting it "rubbish". The King James renders this word "dung" which got me to thinking -- about dung beetles.
At the zoo where I worked, there was a pinup about dung beetles. It seems these little bugs spend their whole life gathering not only because it provides nourishment to them but also because, if the dung ball is large enough, it really impresses the lady beetles.How many times are we like those little beetles? We work to get a bigger and better house, a better name, a better position. But in reality as Paul says, they are really dung compared to the all surpassing greatness of God.
Are we just building bigger dung balls, hoping to impress people, when we really ought to be losing all for the sake of the gospel? I often hear sermons in which they say that we shouldn't focus on getting bigger houses, better cars, or more money, but then they usually follow it by saying that these things are not bad in and of themselves. I'm not so sure. What if they are not what we should be working on at all? What if by improving our lifestyle we are doing nothing more than building bigger dung balls? Do we really think God is going to be impressed?
We tend to hold up the rich people in the early church who didn't seem to feel the need to give up their stuff as our example. However, we don't really know much about them or what they did. Most of our arguments are based on conjecture. Those people we do know a lot about gave up all or much of their stuff to help others--Matthew, Zacchaeus, Paul, Peter, and Barnabas.
Then there are the words of the early church fathers. Justin the Martyr was quoted:
We who used to value the acquisition of wealth and possessions more than anything else now bring what we have into a common fund and share it with anyone who needs it.Clement said this:
He impoverishes himself out of love, so that he is certain he may never overlook a brother in need, especially if he knows he can bear poverty better than his brother. He likewise considers the pain of another as his own pain. And if he suffers any hardship because of having given out of his own poverty, he does not complain
As further confirmation that the early church did, in fact, give so much of themselves, there was a Roman who was criticizing the church by saying.
See, many of you-in fact, by your own admission, the majority of you-are in want, are cold, are hungry, and are laboring in hard work....In the meantime, living in suspense and anxiety, you abstain from respectable pleasures. You do not attend sporting events. You have no interest in public amusements. You reject the public banquets, and abhor the sacred games.There is also Jesus' own words:
"Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:23-24 & 26 ESV)James adds:
"And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life." (Matthew 19:29 ESV)
Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:31-34 ESV)
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. (James 5:1-3 ESV)So again I ask: are we building up dung balls when God is asking us to wash ourselves and start building His kingdom?
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)