One day a rich young man came to Jesus asking how he might obtain eternal life. How he had become rich we are not told, but from the story it appears that he might have obtained his wealth through his inheritance of the family fortune. We all know Christ’s answer to his question and the young man’s response. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me”, Jesus told him. The Bible says that at this “…the man’s face fell and he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” (Mark 10:17-22)
It’s easy to be critical of the young man and see him as someone who was greedy. But perhaps his wealth meant more than just profit. If indeed it was his part of the inheritance, it was also a part of his identity. Being the heir of the family fortune was how he was known by his peers. To give it all away meant not only letting go of his fortune, but also his fame and even his future. Who would he be if he didn’t have his wealth?
The Apostle Paul had to do something very similar.
“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish 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 is through faith in Christ– the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (Philippians 3:7-9)
Paul’s wealth consisted not of the riches of this world, but the righteousness of his effort. Before Paul became a Christian, he was a Pharisee. The Pharisees were known for their strict obedience to the Law of Moses as a means of obtaining salvation. They believed that a man had to work his way to heaven. Therefore, much like the young man, being a Pharisee was who Paul was. It was his personal identity. It was his ticket to happiness. It was his means of obtaining eternal life.
Yet Paul gave it all up. Everything that at one time meant a trophy for Paul was discarded for Christ. This meant that Paul no longer tried to obtain favor with God by means of his good works. It also meant that he no longer considered earthly fame as something that was important. Before Paul came to Christ he was a rising young star in the Jewish world. He was destined to become someone great in the eyes of his peers. But once Paul got a glimpse of Christ and His glory, Paul no longer desired earthly glory. “Whatever was to my profit is rubbish when compared to Christ.”
Is there something standing in the way between you and Christ? Is there something that is keeping you from receiving Him as your Savior? Is there something that is keeping you from following Him as your Lord? Whatever it is will never compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus.