Monday, June 4, 2007

Philippians 4:8—“Think about such things”

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

To effectively build guidelines, we need to lay a firm Biblical foundation. Philippians 4:8 can provide such a foundation, but first we must take it apart word by word.

Last week, we considered the opening—“Finally, brothers”—which provides the verse’s context and readership. This week I want to look at the last words to bookend the list in the middle.

Think about such things: Simple enough command to interpret, right? After all, it’s not like thinking is uncommon or hard to do. We do it all the time.

But not all thinking is alike.

When you daydream, your thinking flit here and there and back again, scampering down rabbit trails and making large leaps of logic, the topics of thought lacking any cohesiveness.

But try to plan a party the way you daydream. You’d be liable to have an August wedding with birthday cake, presents wrapped in Christmas paper, and Thanksgiving turkeys decorating the reception hall—if you remember the decorations at all!

No, when you plan, your thinking is orderly and on one topic, full of lists (cake, present, decorations, invitations) and time sequencing (bake the cake, hang decorations, cool the cake, wrap presents, ice the cake). Random thoughts may occur during this process, but they are quickly discarded.

Now consider when you memorize math facts, Bible verses, and grocery lists. Totally different, isn’t it? Here your thinking is neither random nor progressive; it’s repetitive.

That’s only three types of thinking—and the Greek has fifteen different verbs for “to think”! So what kind of thinking did Paul have in mind when he penned Philippians 4:8?

This think (the Greek verb logizomai) “primarily signifies ‘to reckon,’ whether by calculation or imputation” and thus it also means to make something the subject of your thoughtful consideration or “to think upon a matter by way of taking account of its character.” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary)

In short, Paul has in mind a separation of wheat and chaff—the good and the bad—by consideration of character. Then when we have the wheat separated, we are to ingest it like a cud-chewing cow—to make the good ours through continuous meditation.

And what are “such things” we are to ingest? That’s where the list sandwiched between comes in.

Feet on the ground, head in the clouds,
Chawna Schroeder

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