I’VE JUST been reminded that at the end of this month is a very important date that I need to start preparing for.
It’s not my wedding anniversary or Halloween, but the deadline for submitting tax returns.
I know some people who are super-organised and have their returns done by the middle of July, but I find that every year I’m scrambling to find payslips and receipts, totalling expenses and tallying deductions in time.
As I do that yet again, it strikes me as funny that this is probably the only time in our lives when we try to minimise our profits and maximise our losses.
So often we look not just at our finances, but also all of our lives the other way.
I’ve yet to hear a eulogy that catalogues a person’s failures!
If we think about our everyday lives in terms of profit and loss, it’s understandable we can also fall into the trap of thinking about our eternal fate, our salvation in this way.
We hope that when the books are balanced, we’ll come out in the black.
We hope that when God weighs the good that we’ve done against the bad, the scales will be tipped in our favour.
It might be because we want to retain a sense of control or pride or a reluctance to be dependent upon anyone or anything, even God’s grace.
In his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul addresses this kind of thinking.
Paul says he had more reason than almost any other person to be confident he could come close to God.
He ticked all the right ‘religious’ boxes according to the Old Testament.
He was a Jew, ‘done’ on the eighth day as was proper.
He was devoted to the law, observing every commandment and regulation, down to the last dot.
He even took things so far that in his early life he persecuted the church in his passion for righteousness under the law.
If you tallied it all up, Paul had a huge stockpile of credit, had more reason than anybody to be confident of his salvation, if it were according to our works.
But now Paul writes he has taken all that credit, all those gains, and he’s put a red line through them.
They’ve been transferred to the other side of the ledger.
He counts them all as a loss, as rubbish.
It all amounts to a pile of crap.
Instead, in the profit column, Paul writes a single word – Christ.
Everything else he said, he knew, was considered a loss compared to the gain that comes from knowing Jesus.
He calls us to view our lives in the same way.
There is great assurance in knowing that our salvation doesn’t rest in us, but in Christ.
We can be confident of our standing before God, not on the basis of who we are or what we’ve done, but because of Christ and what he has accomplished.
So just as we do at tax time, let’s see our lives as loss so that we might gain Christ.
Christ Church Anglican