My late father-in-law, Henry Plona, was a great storyteller. His life was full of adventures, mishaps, and other things that made for quite entertaining tales. In the years that I knew him, I heard many of those stories, some more than once! One of the stories that I heard many times was about a time he went clamming. On that day, Henry went into the water with a belt around his waist to which he had attached the bags in which he would collect the clams. He waded into the water and would reach down to the ocean floor, grab the clams and put them in the bags, gradually moving deeper and deeper into the water as he collected the clams. This continued for a while and soon he had quite a haul of clams. And then it happened. His belt weighed down with clams, Henry took a step and realized that the heavy clams were about to cause him to go under. Thinking quickly, he undid the belt and let the clams go to keep himself from possibly drowning. He lost the clams, but gained life! He knew that staying alive far outweighed the value of a clam dinner.
In Philippians 3, the apostle Paul outlines why he, more than most of those he was writing to, had reason to be confident in himself. In accordance with Jewish law, he had been circumcised at eight days old. He was a pure-blooded citizen of Israel, a member of the tribe of Benjamin, and a Pharisee. He lived in strict obedience to the Law of the Jews, obeying it to the letter. His zealousness for the Law led him to persecute the early church (Philippians 3:4-6 NLT). But, after coming to truly know Christ, Paul realized that the things he had considered as valuable were worthless when compared to the value of knowing the One who went to the cross to save him from his sin. And, in realizing that, Paul chose to discard all of the things he once considered valuable. Looking at those things through the lens of his new life in Christ, Paul now saw them as nothing more than garbage. And so, he willing discarded them in order to gain Christ and become one with Him (Philippians (3:7-8 NLT).
In the beloved hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Isaac Watts wrote:
When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
The cross of Christ represents life for all who choose to follow Him. When we choose to turn away from the ways and the desires of the flesh and turn to Christ, we, like Paul, are discarding the things of this world which, in comparison to what we gain from knowing Christ, are nothing more than garbage. Gaining the eternal life that is available through Christ is something far more valuable than anything the world has to offer.