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Treasure or Trash?

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.
–Philippians 3:1

William Rathje was a man who loved garbage. This Harvard-educated researcher was a garbologist–somebody who studies garbage for a living. Through his research, Rathje discovered some interesting things about the trash we generate. For example, did you know the average American generates a half a pound of trash every day? Or did you know that the largest landfill in America is big enough to fill the Panama Canal? But I think what is really interesting about William Rathje’s research is this: he discovered that trash decomposes a lot less quickly than we once thought. In his research, Rathje came across a fifty-year-old newspaper from the Truman presidency that was still readable. He also discovered a steak from 1973 that was fully intact. He had a plaque in his office that said, “There is gold in garbage.”

Now with all due respect to Dr. Rathje, I’m afraid he was mistaking what is valuable with what is interesting. Let’s face it, a forty-year-old steak may be interesting, but you wouldn’t want a steady diet of that kind of steak. In fact, knowing the difference between what is treasure and what is trash is crucial to your physical health. And the same thing is true about our spiritual life. Being able to tell the difference between treasure and trash is vital to our spiritual well-being.

This week, we are going to look at the words of another garbologist who lived in the first century. His name is the apostle Paul. And in Philippians 3, Paul showed us how to distinguish between treasure and trash. Unlike William Rathje, who called trash treasure, Paul said that what most people consider treasure is really trash in the eyes of God.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul revealed how to live above our circumstances. He showed us how to maintain our joy in life in spite of what is happening around us. In chapter 1, Paul explained that difficult circumstances can rob us of joy. Then in chapter 2, Paul talked about how difficult people can steal our joy. And in chapter 3, Paul began to talk about another joy robber: things. Later in the chapter, Paul looked at how material things can rob us of joy. But the things Paul began talking about in verses 1-11 are spiritual things. Specifically, Paul said that good works can rob us of eternal life.

Now, that may seem strange to you. But do you know that most people think that good works–such as going to church, getting baptized, tithing, keeping the Ten Commandments–are stepping stones that lead them into heaven? In Philippians 3, Paul explained that good works can actually be stumbling blocks that keep you out of heaven.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Treasure or Trash?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2007.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


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