Counting Loss and Avoiding Golden Calves
So the new year has begun, and I’ve begun assessing where I want to go in 2016. I look around and realize that I love my job; I have everything I need and tons of things I don’t; My wife and I are really starting to hit it off with the friends we are making in our new home … Everything seems to be just the way I want it to be. And now it’s got me thinking: what does it mean to count everything as loss?
You see, I’ve been reading through Philippians as a part of my church’s 2016 reading plan, and Paul wrote in Phil. 3:7-11:
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
I realized that I always read this passage and do an internal switcheroo so that the verse says “I count everything as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ.” I want this passage to say “Stuff is awesome! But, ya, know … Jesus is better.”
I’m not sure that’s the whole story. In fact, I’m wondering if Paul may have been getting at the idea that our earthly things, human accomplishments, and fleeting accolades are actually holding us back. Paul didn’t write “I count them as rubbish compared to Christ.” Paul wrote that he counted them as worthless to gain Christ and be found in Christ.
This is where the Holy Spirit really laid the conviction on thick for me. The more I have to hang my hat on, the less readily I rely on Christ. When I count as gain all the good gifts God has provided me, what I’m really doing is crowding out the place that rightfully belongs to Jesus. Before I even realize what my heart and mind have done, I’m worshiping the modicum of success that I’ve experienced, instead of the God who has given it to me.
Now to come full circle and tie us back to this week’s session: the Israelites had finally gotten to the point where they were kind of comfortable. Sure, they were in the desert, but they had mana, they had quail, and they had water. Heck, the only thing they didn’t seem to have anymore was a spokesperson from God. Moses had been MIA for weeks! It was high time they move on and figure it out on their own. Aaron had spoken for God too, right? Surely he was qualified to point them in the right direction so they could keep worshiping God without Moses’ leadership. Maybe they could even get Aaron to cut out the middleman.
Suddenly, it all feels too familiar, and it’s not so easy to mock the Israelites for their obvious sin. Praise God that we can repent and turn to Jesus!
As we come up on this difficult-to-teach lesson, let us keep in mind the subtle ways that idols may crop up in our lives. As you familiarize yourself with the text, ask God to reveal ways you are relying on your own strength. Ask God to help you learn to count things as loss when they prevent you from trusting Christ fully. And of course, pray for the kids you will minister to, that God would begin preparing their hearts for big truth!
Did something in this post resonate with you? Do you have questions or comments about how to teach this session to kids? Post a comment below!
Sam O’Neil is a Content Editor for The Gospel Project for Kids. Prior to working at LifeWay, he worked as a Family Resources Resident for The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. He now lives with his wife and dog in Nashville, TN and serves in the children’s ministry at Redemption City Church in Franklin, TN.