Second Reading: Philippians 3:17-4:1

Above the Daily Routine

Popular Translation

3:17 Brothers and sisters, all of you should imitate me. Carefully watch those who live their lives, just like the example we’ve given you. 18 For, there are people whom I ‘ve warned you about. I’m crying even now as I tell you about them. They are enemies of the cross Jesus died on. 19 They will suffer complete destruction. Their god is their belly and their glory is really full of shame, because they only think about things on earth. 20 But, we are citizens of heaven! We wait for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, to come from heaven for us. 21 Jesus will change our weak bodies into a glorious one like his. He will do it with the same power that will make everything serve his wishes.

4:1 I love you, my brothers and sisters. Hold onto your faith. You are the ones I love and long for. You are my joy and my crown.

Literal Translation

3:17 Become fellow imitators of me, brothers, and carefully observe (those) thus walking throughout (life), just like you have an example in us. 18 For many walk throughout (life) about whom I often told you, and even now I tell (you) crying, (as) hostile to the cross of Christ, 19 for whom (there is) complete destruction, of whom (their) god is the belly and glory (is) in their shame, (those) perceiving (only) the earthly (things). 20 For, our citizenship is in heaven, from which we eagerly await the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will change our lowly body, conformed to his body of glory, by the (powerful) activity that empowers him and subjects everything to himself.

4:1 So, my brothers, beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, stand thus in the Lord, beloved (ones).

3:17-18 In the context of 3:2, the “enemies of the cross” were Judaizers, Jewish Christians who insisted that Gentiles convert to the mother religion before they could follow Christ. Paul objected to such conversions because, as conduits to life in the chosen assembly, they became more important than the sacrifice of Christ on the cross itself.

In this light, the phrase “(their) god is the belly” was not a reference to a gluttonous life, but to an insistence upon the kosher laws. The phrase “(those) perceiving (only) the earthly (things)” referred to adherence to the duties of the Law. Paul held their insistence upon regulation on diet and focus on the Law would lead to the shame and destruction of the Judaizers.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians has presented some problems to readers. There has been some controversy among biblical scholars about the editing and redaction of the letter. Harsh turns in style and subject have given rise to theories that the letter was actually a composite gleaned from two or three different letters. Nonetheless, most scholars insist Paul did write the sections that compose the present “letter.”

At the heart of the letter, Paul really intended to warn the faithful against a traditional group of Jewish Christians. These “Judaizers” insisted that the way to salvation in Christ lie in circumcision and life under the Jewish Law. As the note above stated, Paul saw such a prerequisite diminishing the power of the cross to save. Since Paul experienced his own salvation outside the Law (in a vision on the road to Damascus), he vehemently opposed those who claimed the way to salvation in Christ was through the Law. What the Gentile Christians had received, Paul insisted, was good enough. The “Judaizers” were concerned with the ways of daily living, but Christians should look to heaven and the source of their salvation. Christ, not the Law, had the power to transform the faithful at the end. In him, the faithful should stand firm.

The Judaizers were focused on the routines of daily duty. Paul was focused upon the Lord Jesus.

The routines of daily living are extremely important. They provide a sense of self-control and practical limitations. So, they can lead to the growth of virtue. Our routines can strengthen, but not replace, our faith. If they do, then, we will assume control over our faith, in the same way we control our routines.

Routines come from the self, as means to live day by day. Faith is a gift from God, that blesses, but ultimately transcends, the daily routine.

Has your faith life ever gotten in a “rut?” Could you blame that rut on a routine? Have good spiritual habits helped you out of a rut? What happened?