This is skubala
Between Ryan’s post, doing a little teaching on church discipline, and our church sermon series getting to Philippians 3 this week, I’ve had a lot things remind me of my seminary days lately. I believe it was my fourth greek class and we were having loads of fun in our small class working through the book of Philippians. We were all becoming a bit more comfortable with the biblical greek. I still remember the giddy child-like joy in a simple realization. Paul said a bad word and it’s in the Bible!
In Philippians 3 Paul takes some time to chastise a little heresy about the requirement of circumcision. Paul decides to take on the Judaizers on their terms and starts listing his very impressive Jewish accomplishments in verses 4-6. Paul then turns and declares that all these things that most people would boast about he considers to be loss. He then goes a step further and calls his accomplishments skubala. Most modern translations wimp out and interpret this word to be something like “garbage,” “rubbish,” or the slightly more appropriate “dung!” The reality is that this a very seldom used word precisely because how offensive of a term it is. It is the kind of thing that you would be embarrassed to say in mixed company. The kind of thing that you are sure will offend somebody if you say it. Even something like “stinking pile of shit” probably doesn’t do it justice.
Reading these words again reminded me of that rush of discovery some 5 or 6 years ago in seminary. It also made me think about the heart of redemption. Isn’t this it? Putting aside those human things that we are prone to take pride in and saying it is all shit so that we can gain Christ. That our success, our money, our intelligence, our degrees, our cars, our homes, our nice family, our trendy neighborhood, need to be put aside so we can come to the foot of the cross as a beggar and put on the righteousness that comes only from faith Christ.