Some people accuse Christians of being self-righteous. This is irony, pure and simple. Anyone who denies a need for God must necessarily believe righteousness comes from self. As Christians, we know very well there is nothing righteous in us apart from Jesus. And, while there are some things that we can do that are good and right such as loving our neighbor, helping the less fortunate, giving generously etc., not one of these good deeds puts God in the position of indebtedness to us. A righteousness that comes from us falls so short of God’s righteousness that it’s garbage.
This is what Paul is telling us when he declares that his pedigree breeding – a Hebrew of Hebrews – traced back to the tribe of Benjamin, son of Jacob (Israel) is worth no more than garbage. His faultless keeping of the law since circumcision precisely on the 8th day of his life up to the time he met Jesus, is now worthless to him. And his zeal for eliminating all blasphemy from the presence of God’s chosen people is also garbage. What should have made him righteous by all human standards isn’t worth picking up off the floor.
Paul has found Jesus, the source of pure righteousness. Similar to finding a huge vein of absolutely pure gold, there’s no longer any room or desire in his life for iron pyrite (fool’s gold). Now he digs deep, vigorously and passionately mining God’s pure righteousness with great joy. And his joy never fades because he’s in a continuous state of receiving all that comes with it (Matthew 6:33).