Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Inbox: Random Mutterings About Infinite Value

Recently received:

If I said I had a million dollars and I asked you how much I needed to add to that to reach infinity, you’d shortly tell me something like “You can’t get there from here.”

If I said I was completely broke and had zero in the bank — and then asked how much I needed to add to that to reach infinity, you’d answer in precisely the same way.

Surpassing Worth

Now consider this passage:

“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 —”

It’s interesting to see the different attempts to translate the underlying Greek for “surpassing worth” above:

priceless gain
infinite value

The underlying word is something like “held above” or “excelling”. Paul stacked up everything he could muster and it came to ... well, literally excrement in comparison. You can’t get to the value of knowing Christ by piling up anything in the here and now. It’s a nonsense question. It’s trying to figure out what gets added to anything to make it infinite.

But he’s actually saying something more than that — it appears to me at least.

An Analogy

A well-known local veteran officer of the law lives down the street from me. One day she gave me her business card, suggesting that I should slide it over top of my vehicle registration so that when I got stopped and was asked to pull out my paperwork, the officer would not fail to notice her card and name. He might then hold me blameless for my infraction based on my relationship with someone he knew and respected.

Cool. I understand that works sometimes — don’t ask me how.

So, if you asked me what the value is of knowing my neighbor, I could answer with the cost of the speeding ticket — perhaps $100. I could quantify the value of knowing her.

Paul tries to quantify the value of knowing Christ. He can’t do it. He can’t assign a value to the knowledge of sins forgiven or peace with God or hope for eternity. It’s infinite. Fair enough, Paul.

But coming back to my illustration, when I say that knowing a police officer personally is worth about a hundred bucks, you should stop and say, “Hey, wait a minute. You know, she is MUCH more than an employee of the local constabulary. She’s also a mom, a friend, a spouse, a child, a runner, a comedian …”

Well, you get the picture. There is MUCH more to my neighbor than simply the way she saves me from a fine.

Further Up, Further In

Paul speaks of the value of knowing Christ. Cool. It’s infinite. But what is the value of Christ himself?

The answer is that it’s more. Much more. He isn’t (solely) Redeemer, or Savior, or Creator, or brother, or friend, or Lord, or ... well, you get the picture. “Behold these are the fringes of his ways” comes to mind. So too “He is altogether lovely” and “In his presence is fullness of joy.”

Paul talks later about not simply the value of knowing Christ, but the desire to know HIM and the fellowship of his suffering. Interesting bit there too …

You and I don’t have any idea what truly awaits the redeemed. But it’s really, really (indescribably) good.

Infinitely so.

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