Philippians 4:8 (ESV) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Last time we looked at Philippians 4:8 making the point that one of the disciplines of the Christian life is to guard our thought life. Solomon, in Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our hearts and Christ warns us that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Whatever we put into our thought processes will eventually make its way out in our words, actions, and deeds.
So that is why we need to think right. Paul tells us in this passage we are to first think of things that are true – something we need to do in a world given over more and more to political spin, deception, and outright misinformation. As believers, we are not to take part in the world of deception and shadow but think on things that are true because if we do that, then we are way more likely to be people of the truth and exhibit a lifestyle of honesty and truth. What goes in will come out!
Today we come to the next thing we are to think on in Paul’s list - whatever is honorable. The King James translates this as “honest”, and most all of the English translations use this word, or “honorable”, as the translation of the Greek word semnos. At first reading, one would conclude this is talking about things that are honest, that is, without duplicity, the opposite of dishonest. People who are honest are straight-shooting, sincere, and not working an angle.
However, if one traces the other uses of this word in the New Testament a different understanding emerges. This word appears only three other times in the New Testament, 1 Timothy 3:8 and 11, and Titus 2:2. In those three usages the KJV translates it as “grave” in reference to the character of leaders in the church whereas the ESV translates this as “dignified.” No matter how you translate this, whether “grave” or “dignified”, we get an entirely new understanding of what Paul is saying in Philippians 4:8 when we understand what this word really means.
So, what does it mean to be “grave” or “dignified”? It means one is not frivolous, but rather serious in their view of life and speech. Dignified people do not speak folly and foolishness, rather they watch very carefully their words. Another dimension to this meaning could be “august” or “reverent”. One who thinks about serious, reverent things does not fill his or her mind with silly, worthless, meaningless thoughts.
So how can we work this out in our thought life? How can we “think on these things?”
I would suggest we need to take a more serious approach to life. We live in a world given over to frivolity and mindless entertainment. Think of the TV shows and movies we watch. How many of them contribute nothing to a healthy spiritual life but are rather mindless wastes of time! We have television shows that serve no purpose other than distracting us from that which is really important. How many Christians are so caught up in the latest serial TV shows, talk shows, and mind-numbing dramas that any serious thoughts they may have are drowned out by the noise of the TV that never shuts off. Many Christians are more knowledgeable about the latest escapades on Meerkat Manor than they are about the life of Christ.
Now add to that social media – a wasteland where one can wander for hours going nowhere and having no original thoughts other than the sound bites and memes that come their way. Decisions are made more by one’s feelings nowadays than serious thinking and contemplation. Then there are the ubiquitous ear buds, where one can spend hours listening to music, podcasts, and other mindless content on their cell phones.
As believers we need a reset here. We need to turn off the TV, take out the ear buds, take a break from social media, and fill our minds with things that bring us back to the seriousness of our world. If ever there was a need for men and women to be reverent in their speech, dignified in their conduct, and disciplined in their thoughts, now is that time.
So, that is our challenge? Are we putting into our minds and thoughts those things that are serious, or those things that are meaningless? May God help us make some changes!
Whatsoever things…are dignified…think on these things!