Philippians 3:18-19 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.
I do not enjoy writing on passages like this, because they are heart-breaking. As Paul himself says here, thinking about such things brings tears to the eyes. Tragically, the situation is no better today than it was in the 1st Century. Where the NIV says “stomach,” the Japanese is a little broader with “appetite/desire.” How many church members today live governed by their physical bodies/desires? To be blunt, obesity is a national epidemic in the US, with others becoming obsessed with “health foods” and the like in reaction. Neither side of that is “seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33) Then there are those who are consumed with, and so define themselves by, sexuality. As Paul says here, their glory is their shame. It all boils down to the last sentence: “Their mind is set on earthly things.” We all get distracted from time to time by earthly things, but our focus must be on Christ and His kingdom. We tend to think of Jesus’ statement in Matthew as simply relating to provision, when actually it is defining a lifestyle. This isn’t about “being so heavenly minded you’re no earthly good,” it’s about living every moment in the kingdom of God, serving our Lord even as we are on this earth. We are accountable for our stewardship of all that is in our hands, which includes not only our finances but also our bodies and our dreams. We tend to think of stewardship strictly in terms of tithing! We are to be active as agents of Christ and His kingdom, His Lordship. To do that, we’ve got to keep our connection to our Lord as our absolute first priority.
This hits me as much as it does anyone else. I can indeed think of several people about whom I care deeply who fit into the category Paul is talking about here, and at the same time I am aware of how much room I personally have to grow in being totally focused on and committed to my Lord. The things of this earth can be very shiny and tempting! Just recently I had a direct challenge to my priorities when I was asked to do two weddings (read, make money) on the same day I had already been asked to give a testimony about our church vision at an interdenominational meeting. I’m sorry to say that I really hesitated before turning down the weddings. As a pastor, I am very aware that Paul was not at all being holier-than-thou in what he says here. I too grieve, even as I ask God’s grace on us all. I am to keep speaking the truth in love, seeking to apply that truth in my own life even as I proclaim it to others, so that indeed God’s name may be acknowledged as holy and His kingdom come as His will is done, in and through me, even, for His glory.
Father, thank You for this reminder. There is much going on. Help me rest, relax, and rejoice in You even in the middle of it all, so that You will be free to use me however You please, for Your kingdom and the body of Christ. Thank You. Praise God!