I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.Philippians 3:8
When we see the value of Jesus, we will live in a way that demonstrates it. We are willing to give up everything because it is all worth nothing compared to having Jesus. This mindset requires a serious shift in perspective and values. Paul wrote in Philippians 3:7–8, “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”
The claims to greatness Paul has in his life (and they are many) are considered worthless compared to knowing Christ. These claims are not intrinsically bad things. Paul is not saying they are worthless, because they are great accomplishments. He is saying that if he had to choose between the glory of his claims to greatness and the glory of knowing Christ, knowing Christ wins hands-down.
All the things that would have made Paul a great man in his day—all of his accolades and prestige—do not even compare to knowing and being known by Jesus. He learned that Jesus is of infinite value, which means no earthly achievement or possession or heritage can compare. Paul may be thinking here about the words Jesus spoke in a very short parable about a valuable treasure.
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.Matthew 13:44
Jesus was referring to the tremendous value of gaining the kingdom of heaven. The man in the parable is willing to give up everything he already has, because the treasure is so much more valuable. If we view the kingdom of God in this way, we will not hold on to anything that would risk losing this valuable treasure.
This is not saying we can buy the kingdom if we give up everything, but that losing everything for the sake of gaining the kingdom of God is a good trade-off. All things are considered worthless compared to gaining the kingdom of God. Jesus was not necessarily saying we should give everything away in order to gain the kingdom, but that we have a view of our stuff and of our accomplishments in this life that will allow us to have an inner deep hope and joy, regardless of what gets taken away from us. This shift in thinking is all about perspective, seeing Jesus for what he is truly worth.
If you were to present a bag full of quarters and a $100 bill to a four-year-old, and ask him to choose the bag or the bill, which one would he take? Probably the bag of quarters. Why? Because he understands the value of a quarter. He sees a bag full of quarters and imagines how many candies he can buy from the candy machine. But, chances are, he has not yet learned the value of a $100 bill. He doesn’t know what that banknote can get him. But he knows what a quarter can get him. He can wrap his head around a bag full of quarters; so, that is what he considers worth having.
Our trouble is, we do not automatically know the value and the worth of Jesus. As C.S. Lewis stated in his famous sermon, “The Weight of Glory,” we are “like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
The call of Christ is to be that person who discovers something of tremendous value. We are to be people who have imagined something in Jesus that is worth far more than everything we possess combined. The call of Christ is to consider Him to be that great treasure, and to prove His worth by living in the same manner as one who receives a great inheritance, which will make everything we currently own seem worthless.
It cannot be overstated that we will not gain the kingdom when we give up everything else. It is not a literal trade. We don’t gain the kingdom when we trade everything we have for it. We gain the kingdom when we want the kingdom more than anything else. We gain the kingdom when we see that eternal fellowship with God is that great treasure we consider more valuable than anything else.
The child who considers the quarters to be more valuable makes his choice between the two. He can’t have both. We need to want the kingdom of God more than even the greatest of possessions here on earth. God has made it available to us, but we can’t have the kingdom of God if it takes second place to anything else.
Matthew 6:21 says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Christian maturity includes learning how to count eternal things as having greater value than temporary things. Jesus is the greatest treasure of all, and we need to learn how to count Him as greater than all other things.
The thought you are likely grappling with (and at odds over) is that the treasures we enjoy here on earth seem far more appealing than a relationship with God. We can wrap our heads around what we know. In thinking like that four-year-old, we know that a quarter can buy a gumball from the machine, and we know that a $100 bill cannot. We cannot imagine what a $100 bill can buy, or even if it can buy anything. So, we take the quarters and miss out.
In order to get a grasp of what is on offer with having faith in Jesus, we need to first acknowledge our temptation and tendency to treasure satisfying our fleshly desires more than treasuring a relationship with God. We have a problem with sin; we need to see it as a real problem.
Sin is the reason we cannot wrap our heads around Jesus as the greatest treasure. It is the reason that the beauty of Jesus is distant and dim. In order to get past this problem, we need to focus on two things: simultaneously denying ourselves and worshipping Jesus. It is not enough to only deny ourselves. And we will not get close to worshipping Jesus if we hold on to our sins. Both will result in idolatry and pride.
The way we can both deny ourselves and worship Jesus is by discovering and speaking of the beauty of Jesus. We will increase our vision of Jesus as we discover Him in scripture and through His community of followers. As we talk with God and with others (and to ourselves) in prayer and in conversation about the wonders and the majesty of Jesus and about how thankful we are for the relationship He invites us into, we will be drawn away from our sins and into fellowship with Jesus.
When we begin down this path of exalting someone, and we start looking for ways in which this person is beautiful and wonderful, we will discover all sorts of ways that we love this person, and it turns into joy. Think about when you’ve had relationship trouble with your children, your siblings, your parents, your friends, or your spouse. The best way to bring reconciliation and realize how much you love them is to look at them as being lovely and loveable—see the beauty in them and how much you treasure your relationship with them.
The difference between relationship difficulties and Jesus is that everything about Him is lovely. He has no flaws. He has nothing worthy of being despised. When we lack a vision for the glory of Jesus and the beauty of Jesus, it is not that He has done something to lower His worth. When we lack a vision for the glory of Jesus, it’s because we’ve bought into a lie that He is not as worthy as other things in our life. Some “thing” else has become more important to us, and it has dimmed the glory of God.
The only thing God asks of us is to want what He has to offer. This is where counting the kingdom as being more valuable than anything else comes in. If we consider the pleasures the world has to offer to be of equal value to being accepted into God’s kingdom, we reject Jesus. This is what treasuring Jesus is all about. This is why we need to have the view that Jesus is of infinite value. Without this view—this perspective or mindset—we will continue to worship idols and continue to see ourselves as being able to earn what is on offer in the gospel.