Here's some of what the Lord's been showing me lately:
"For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation 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 the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in the view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for (because of) whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them dung in order that I might gain Christ…" (Philippians 3:3-8)
The upshot here is that the Apostle Paul is regarding as dung all the qualities of his person, his life and his achievements that might make him a celebrity in human eyes. And the word he uses, skubalon, does indeed refer to animal excrement. Thayer's definition is 1) any refuse, as the excrement of animals, offscourings, rubbish, dregs; 1a) of things worthless and detestable. It's a pretty strong word, and Paul uses it deliberately to communicate the depth of his revulsion for all those things. Things which, says Luke 16:15, many use to justify themselves in the sight of others; things which are highly esteemed among men, but detestable in the sight of God.
That's a hard verse and concept to get one's mind around, especially in our day when the lust for human celebrityship is running rampant -- in the writing field, as much as any other. It's even in the Christian writing field, just more cleverly masked. As people strive to get their names before the public (to establish their brand = to become famous, at least to some degree), to get their books known and out there so that sales will be good (successful in human eyes), they might even say it's not themselves they're trying to promote but God, or the message God has given them. I don't buy that anymore. I think God can promote His own message and bring us along for the ride if that's His will. (And if we have developed the capacity -- or should I say, He's developed that capacity in us, over time through the inculcation and increased application of His word.)
Years ago, my pastor, R.B. Thieme, Jr, had this to say on the subject: "The believer is responsible for the values he establishes in post-salvation experience. You'll either establish those values on the basis of the word of God or on the basis of the arrogance sins, which include inordinate ambition and inordinate competition. When you regard celebrityship (human success, fame, wealth, etc.) as dung, you are fulfilling the plan of God. If you are negative to the spiritual life, you move in your ambitions toward success or celebrityship and you get to the principle of glorification of self: 'Look what I'm doing!'"
I've had that quote in my little booklet of selected notes for years. More than ten, at least. It never meant so much as it did to me this last week, when I came to see its elements at play in my own life more clearly than I ever had before...