On this day in 1987, a barge named the Mobro began a 6000 mile voyage, searching for a place to dump over 1 ½ tons of garbage. The trash was generated by the Long Island city of Islip, but their overextended landfills couldn’t take in the refuse. Morehead City, N.C. agreed to receive the garbage as fuel for an experimental methane-conversion program. When a rumor spread that the garbage was infected with diapers and infected needles, the state of North Carolina stepped in, refusing the barge.
Thus began a strange odyssey that took the Mobro down the Gulf of Mexico, where it was turned away in Louisiana, Mexico and Belize. Finally, the captain headed back to New York. After months of political wrangling, the garbage was finally hauled to Brooklyn in October, where it was incinerated into 430 pounds of ash. The remains were buried in Islip, where the whole ordeal started.
“Rubbish” is the word the Apostle Paul chose to describe his pre-conversion righteousness—at least, that’s the sanitized translation in many Bibles. In the original Greek, Paul used the word “skubalon,” which literally means “excrement.” Paul saw the surprassing greatness of Christ and realized his prideful, self-righteous credentials were fit only for the sewer.
Saul-turned-Paul was no religious slouch, either. He was a circumcised Benjaminite, the prince of Pharisees, zealous guardian of God’s law. Yet, after his Damascus encounter, he was willing to flush it all away in order to gain the righteousness of God, experience the power of resurrection, and participate in the sufferings of Christ.
It is one thing to look upon our achievements with inner satisfaction and a peaceful sense of accomplishment, quietly giving glory to the Source of our gifts. It is quite another to parade our trophies before the world, expecting accolades from people or divine goodies from God. Our motive is the deciding factor that converts our works into gold or garbage.