Consider That Monopoly Money Rubbish!

Monopoly is a great game isn't it?  You acquire property, you acquire money and you make your own empire.  I don't know about you, but when I get all the property cards and cash in my hands I feel on top of the world!  I find myself looking over the game board and feeling self-confidence.  "Look at what I have accomplished!  Look at my hard work, my property, my cash, my command of the board game!"

So, what would happen if I went down to my local retail store to buy a brand new sound system valued at $1,000 and I confidently drop a couple of $500 Monopoly bills at the check out stand?  Or what if I went down to the bank and offered up Boardwalk and Park Place as collateral on a conventional home loan for a flashy new house that I wanted to buy?  I would be laughed at!  I would get the response, "that Monopoly money is worthless!"

Too often we tally up our own accomplishments from our own spiritual endeavors as if we are gathering value and merit that we can present and cash in before God.  Daily Devotions; $100.  Evangelism; $200.  Going to Church; $300.  Improving my life through walking the straight and narrow; $400.  Upholding man-made standards and getting others in line; $500. 

The problem with this mentality is that we perceive our good works to be just like Monopoly money.  Sure they look good, seem to have worth but when they are presented before God in order to acquire merit they are considered to be like dung.  

In Philippians chapter 3 the Apostle Paul states,
"though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 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-- "
In Philippians 3 we hear Paul list his credentials.  If anyone has a reason to brag about their spiritual resume, Paul has more.  He lists his accomplishments with a resounding boom as if to drop the weight of his religious zeal and devotion on the reader.  However, as we come to verse 8 we see something profound.  In verse 8 Paul says that everything that he has accomplished, everything that he has acquired and everything he has notched into his spiritual resume is considered rubbish.  The KJV does an even better job translating verse 8 saying that all of Paul's accomplishments are counted as dung.

But why the harsh response to the good works?  Are good works bad?  Certainly not!  The problem arises when we put confidence in our good works.  When we put confidence in our good works, they actually interfere with our justification.  In our justification, Paul is essentially showing us that our good works are not only useless, like Monopoly money, they can also be a hindrance and harmful.  This is not the fault of good works but it is the fault of mankind putting confidence in good works, it is the fault of the old Adam.

Paul's harsh response of calling his own good works 'human waste or dung' is essentially contrast his own self-justifying efforts with the righteousness of Christ.  In other words, he is trying to expose the foolishness of mankind believing that they can cash in their works for salvation.  Wouldn't we try to do the same thing with a person who is convinced that their Monopoly money is actually valuable?  We would exclaim, "That's monopoly money, it doesn't work this way. Sure it looks like money but it is worthless to purchase goods and services!"

The great news is that God has something better than Monopoly money for us.  He has the righteousness of Jesus for us.  It is the real thing!  Jesus' righteousness is what we are gifted; it is counted to us through faith!  We are counted as righteous because of Jesus' righteousness, it is counted as if it was our own!

While I will still rejoice when I conquer the board game of Monopoly this great illustration reminds me of the foolishness of banking on my own accomplishments.  Together with Paul we can count our works as dung in order that we may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a pretend righteousness that comes from our efforts, but the real thing... the righteousness of Jesus that depends on faith.

Illustration Source:  Shared at the CLB Western Region Convention by Dr. Craig Jennings.  Original illustration from James Montgomery Boice.