In our house, we have a trash container that we keep in the garage. It’s on loan to us from the local trash service. I have a problem with this trash container though — it stinks!
Here is what happens, we cut up meats when we’re cooking and throw away the trimmings… raw chicken skin, bones and fat, beef parts, fish, etc. And over the course of a week, that stuff starts to put off a really disgusting smell. Add on top of that the fact that we have two animals, a cat and dog. In our community, it’s expected of us that we pick up the dog doo and dispose of it ourselves.
So we have this trash container that smells like rotten kitchen scraps and dog crap. And it’s conveniently situated inside our garage. How nice. Hail Lord Putrid.
What am I really writing about? Something boring – the old Greek word: skybalon.
Skybalon means “kitchen scraps, garbage, refuse, excrement, manure, crap”. It’s a rotten word — full of stink. Skybalon is the kind of stuff that stinks so much it makes you turn away as you feel your stomach heave uncontrollably. Skybalon makes you heave…. upchuck… earl… blow chunks… puke.
Nice topic, I know.
But here’s what I’m really, really talking about: The apostle Paul used this word in his letter to the Philippians (see quote below). In paraphrase, he said, “There are people who go around talking about how good they are, about how they follow all the rules perfectly, but I do that too! In fact I’m better than all those people”. Then he goes on to explain how he’s better, by his conformance to the laws of Moses, his nationality, his tribe, his sect, his zeal and finally, his righteousness under the old covenant Mosaic system: he was blameless!
Then he dropped the Skybalon bomb.
Referring back to his righteousness (blamelessness) under the law. He said, “Ya know, whatever good those things did for me, I consider it as not belonging to me anymore”. Then he continued, “Ya know, I’ll even go a step farther and say ‘Not only does it not belong to me anymore, but I consider that stuff as Skybalon in comparison so that I may gain Christ.
In other words, Paul said that stuff made him want to puke. He said it was all crap.
Goodbye Lord Putrid!
But what was it that Paul gained in knowing Christ Jesus as Lord? He continued, “that I am found in Him not having a righteousness of my own derived from Law but that which is through faith in Christ. He even repeats that last clause, “the righteousness (remember, this means ‘blamelessness before God’) that comes from God on the basis of faith”. And then he goes on, “that I may know Him and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of His sufferings, being conformed to his death, so that I may get to the resurrection.
Paul was in dire circumstances and he believed his life was nearing its end, that he would soon be martyred for his faith. He was ready for this and welcomed it because death meant only one thing for him — resurrection! He could not get to the resurrection through obedience to legal commands. He could only get to it via a foreign, alien righteousness that didn’t come from himself… he needed God’s gift of righteousness that is given in faith to those who are united with the Father in Christ – to those who know Jesus.
Not religion. But knowing our Savior. Religion is skybalon.
“Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish (skybalon) so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:2–11, NASB95)