For our culture today, a dog is a highly loved animal. We were just down to Indy this past weekend and we got to see Jeff and Jeanine, Bounder and Caruso. Jeff and Jeanine are longtime friends – Jeff was a college roommate of mine and the best man at our wedding. Bounder and Caruso are chocolate labs – very friendly and always a pleasure to see.
But dogs were not well loved in the time Paul was writing – they were known as pariah dogs…roaming the streets in packs amid the garbage and rubbish. In the Bible, the dog is never viewed positively. In Philippians 3, Paul says, “Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort…” Who are the dogs?
For Paul, “the dogs” are the ones who identify their faith by what they do or do not do. They often compare others with themselves…often providing evidence of their own superior spirituality or morality. Paul says to look out for these individuals. These individuals focus on “I do…I don’t…I have…I never…” – focused on their accomplishments. One current day example might be, “I go to church every Sunday…what about you?” Now, I am an advocate of going to church – don’t get me wrong…but it is knowing Jesus that is more important. Does Jesus influence your life?
Paul was able to say all this because he was once a “dog” as well…the best of the best “dogs” if you read on a little further in chapter 3. But in the end Paul talks about his faith and not his religion…Paul is telling us that in the end, it doesn’t matter how good you look, or how great you sound, how much you have, or how great you act unless all of it is because of the one who humbled himself for all…Jesus.