Friday, February 22, 2013

holy sh!t

Philippians 3:8

More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ

This word translated here as "filth" is from the Greek skubalon
It is only used this one time in the entire Biblical texts. 

It means refuse, dung, filth, garbage, good-for-nothing, etc...

It's bad.

But is it a "bad" word?

Some would say the emphasis of what Paul is saying and the shock value intended by listing off his entire Hebrew resume' in the verses prior only to imply after having done so that it means jack-squat warrants an expletive.  He spent 4 verses prior tooting his own horn only to conclude that his horn and his toots mean absolutely nothing and condemn him before God if not for Jesus.

That is shocking.

To fit the occasion, did the apostle grab a word that would have shocked his hearers? 

We should use bad words for bad things.

What I mean is that we should say adultery and not "affair," lie and not "fib," hate and not "dislike," gossip and not "news," etc..

It unnecessarily softens the seriousness of the sin underneath it when we punt semantically.

Paul speaks on many occasions regarding our mouths being used for the purposes of building others up and not using crude language or vulgar talk.

So, maybe skubalon is more in the family of crap than sh!t.

I don't know.

If you were going to drop it one time, the context and climax of his persuasion in Philippians 3:8 would be a good place to use it.  It would be a clever literary device.  To build a case for himself through his resume', only then to pull the rug out from your nodding head to show you, the reader, the religious bent of the human spirit by comparing said resume' to poop when compared to Jesus.

The closest we can get in self-effort, will power, exertion and man-made righteousness is considered sh!t when offered to God.

Paul was not the first to use a violent metaphor to flesh out this phenomenon.

Isaiah 64:6

All of us have become like something unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like a polluted[a] garment;
all of us wither like a leaf,
and our iniquities carry us away like the wind.

  1. Isaiah 64:6 Lit menstrual
Yeah, the translators let the footnote do the heavy-lifting on this one.  Kudos to them for at least making the footnote to confirm the severity of Isaiah's intentions.

All of our righteous acts are like bloody tampons.

That is a more contemporary way of saying what Isaiah said and gets you closer to hearing the severity of what Isaiah's original audience would have heard.

"He said what?"

It's hard to ignore the guy shouting about tampons (take note also that he was doing so in a culture that was even more discreet about "lady times" than we are with our commercials and ads openly discussing the matter.)  How crude would it have sounded for him to use such a filthy metaphor? 

We don't talk about tampons at all, let alone in public forum, let alone in religious contexts, let alone in comparison to our good works. 

Isaiah's point is Paul's point: if you're hung up on the metaphor being too bloody/too poopy, you do not yet understand the depth of your own depravity or the holiness of God OR the infinite gap that exists between them without grace, mercy and faith.

The undeniable point (in the midst of the debate as to the proper translation of skubalon) is that our righteousness is the best we can do by human effort and it falls tragically short of God's righteousness revealed in Jesus.  Not just "falls short," but is a different thing altogether.  It's not like human righteousness is pretty good, just not good enough.  It may be our best, but on a scale of perfection (1 being perfect and all other numbers being meaningless) we score ZERO.

Think of it like mad libs.

All of our __(best works the human race can offer)__
are __(worst thing you've ever seen in a public trash can)__.


I consider __(best things you have ever done)__
to be __(worst thing you have ever smelled)__
when compared to knowing Christ Jesus, our Lord.

What mad libs did you come up with?


  1. Todd, I think this was one of your very best posts ever! It was engaging, informative, instructive, and convicting. It brought in some Greek but used it very effectively. Way to go!

    I saw a cool science story the other day about how they can now do biological 3D printing and can create replacement ears. I thought "how cool" until I remembered that when Peter cut off a guy's ear, all Jesus had to do was reach out and touch him!

    1. Travis, you are very kind to take the time to encourage me. It means so much. Particularly coming from someone I respect as much as you.

      Tuesdays with Travinci will always be etched on my heart as some of the most fun time spent losing sleep and sipping Joe!