Recently I was in an automobile accident. Two vehicles, one trying to make a left turn as the light was turning yellow and the other trying to get through the light from the other direction, collided with a thunderous crash and then, impelled by their combined inertia, plowed into the front of my minivan with a sickening thud.
After talking to a police officer, I found myself speaking to an insurance agent. The agent pulled up my account and asked me several questions. At last she said, “my system is predicting that this will be a total loss.”
A total loss means it will cost more to fix than the car is worth. But as the car was towed away, I realized that it also meant that the minivan was no longer an object of my concern. It was now just a hunk of metal that had no purpose for me and no further role in my life.
This thought is akin to what Paul felt about his earlier religiosity, his righteousness in the eyes of the Jewish law. All of the things that were a source of spiritual pride and confidence for Paul he now regards as junk, as worthless, as meaningless to him.
His source of confidence has changed from something located within himself to something outside, something alien to himself, a righteousness whose source is God and not the law and its observance. His religious practice and the holiness he obtained under the law are no longer objects of concern for him. The only thing Paul values now is what Christ has done for him rather than what he himself has done or can do.
Let us pray. Righteous and merciful God, too often we sinfully place our trust not in you but in our own pious efforts to be “good people,” to be morally and spiritually excellent. In the waters of Baptism, daily drown us so that we cling to Christ’s alien righteousness, the righteousness that comes from Christ alone, the righteousness that can not be achieved but only received in dying with Him to sin. In the name of Christ Jesus we pray. Amen.