As I was growing up in Jamaica, my parents raised my sister and me to be “good people.” In our home, good meant obeying our parents, telling the truth, being successful in school and work, and going to church . . . at least Easter and Christmas. I imagine this definition of being a good person is familiar to many people, regardless of culture. In fact, the apostle Paul, in Philippians 3, used his culture’s definition of being good to make a greater point.
Paul, being a devout first-century Jew, followed the letter of the moral law in his culture. He was born into the “right” family, had the “right” education, and practiced the “right” religion. He was the real deal in terms of being a good person according to Jewish custom. In verse 4, Paul writes that he could boast in all of his goodness if he wanted to. But, as good as he was, Paul told his readers (and us) that there is something more than being good. He knew that being good, while good, was not the same as pleasing God.
Pleasing God, Paul writes in verses 7–8, involves knowing Jesus. Paul considered his own goodness as “garbage” when compared to “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.” We are good—and we please God—when our hope and faith are in Christ alone, not in our goodness.
Dear God, as I seek to live a good life, help me remember that knowing Jesus is the way to ultimate goodness.
Our Daily Bread welcomes writer Karen Wolfe! Meet Karen and all our authors at odb.org/all-authors.
We are good—and we please God—when our hope and faith are in Christ alone, not in our goodness.
It can be easy to miss the phenomenal change of perspective Paul states in today’s passage. His claims of righteousness were not empty boasts; he had followed God-given laws meticulously—literally to the letter. For Paul to say that all of that was worthless signifies change at a fundamental level. He changed from outward performance—doing (vv. 4–7)—to knowing Christ and what He had done (v. 8).
For more on knowing Christ read, The Mind of Christ at discoveryseries.org/q0209. J.R. Hudberg
At the beginning of each new year, experts give their predictions about the economy, politics, weather, and a host of other topics. Will there be war or peace? Poverty or prosperity? Progress or stagnation? People everywhere are hoping that this year will be better than last, but no one knows what will happen.
There is, however, something we can be certain about. A guest speaker at my church suggested that when we ask if the world will get better or worse, the answer is “Yes, to both!”
Paul told Timothy, “In the last days perilous times will come; . . . evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them” (2 Tim. 3:1,13-14).
The inspired Word of God instructs, corrects, and encourages us as we follow God’s path (vv.16-17). J. B. Phillips described the Scriptures as our “comprehensive equipment” that prepares us fully for all branches of God’s work.
As the spiritual darkness of our world grows deeper, the light of Christ shines more brightly through all those who know and love Him. Jesus is our joy and hope—today, tomorrow, and forever!
Heavenly Father, the trouble in this world can
divert our eyes from You. Thank You for Your Word
that helps us stay focused. May we find our delight
in Your love and share it with others today.
The powers of evil around you are no match for the power of Jesus within you.By David C. McCasland | See Other Authors
In 2 Timothy, Paul is mentoring Timothy who is serving with the church at Ephesus. Having spent 3 years there himself, Paul was familiar with the Ephesian church and this would have helped him identify with the challenges that Timothy was facing.