I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord . . . that I may gain Christ and be found in him. Philippians 3:8–9
In a poem that begins, “I’m nobody! Who are you?” Emily Dickinson playfully challenges all the effort people tend to put into being “somebody,” advocating instead for the joyful freedom of blissful anonymity. For “How dreary – to be – Somebody! How public – like a Frog – / To tell one’s name – the livelong June / To an admiring Bog!”
Finding freedom in letting go of the need to be “somebody” in some ways echoes the testimony of the apostle Paul. Before he met Christ, Paul had a long list of seemingly impressive religious credentials, apparent “reasons to put confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:4).
But encountering Jesus changed everything. When Paul saw how hollow his religious achievements were in light of Christ’s sacrificial love, he confessed, “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord . . . . I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (v. 8). His only remaining ambition was “to know Christ . . . the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (v. 10).
It’s dreary, indeed, to attempt on our own to become “somebody.” But, to know Jesus, to lose ourselves in His self-giving love and life, is to find ourselves again (v. 9), finally free and whole.
When have you experienced freedom from seeking self-worth in achievement or from others? How can finding yourself “in Christ” free you from both pride and self-rejection?
Loving God, thank You that I don’t need to try to be “somebody” to be loved and accepted by You.
Discover your true personality and how you can be used in the church.
In Philippians 3, Paul passionately argues that it’s futile to seek “confidence in the flesh” (v. 3). “In the flesh” alludes to circumcision, which some teachers were arguing was required to be part of God’s people. More broadly, “confidence in the flesh” references relying on any human status or achievement to be right with God—such as adherence to Jewish law (v. 9)—instead of relying on Christ (see also Romans 8:5–9). Encountering Jesus made Paul realize that relying on human strength or achievement was “garbage” (Philippians 3:8)—a word that can also be translated “dung.”