“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.” (Philippians 4:8)
Lately, I’ve been using the Verse of the Day for this column (M-F), and I groaned a bit when this came up. In the conservative circles that have heavily influenced me in my walk with Christ, this verse is most often mentioned in the context of disapproving of the media our brother chooses to consume. We would generally be wiser to take heed to what media we feed ourselves, as it does have a way of negatively affecting us spiritually if we’re not at least paying attention to what is being said and discerning whether it is error. I don’t find that particularly entertaining, so I am picky about my own media.
Of course, if someone does observe an actual degeneration into sin that is clearly a result of their brother’s viewing habits, it might be appropriate to gently point this out. But it occurred to me Paul probably wasn’t thinking of the Philippians’ viewing habits when he wrote today’s verse.
So I looked at the verses surrounding it:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 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. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
See what happens when we take verses out of context? This whole time, we’ve been bludgeoning our brother with a scrap from the middle of the Apostle Paul’s recipe for trading anxiety for peace. These are all very powerful weapons for overcoming several variants of one of the devil’s favorite weapons, all of which are rooted in negative, ugly thoughts.
Paul said think, not watch, and for a reason. This passage is first and foremost about defeating the negative thought patterns associated with not only fear and anxiety, but depression, past trauma, and more.
First we pray, give our negative thoughts and feelings to god, and thank him for what he has done and is doing (taking them away.) Next (or “finally” as the translators put it) Paul instructs us to maintain the peace God gives us by replacing those negative thoughts with the list of good things mentioned, and by continuing in the teachings of the apostles. Why does he end with “behave” basically? Because sin will rob us of our peace even if the original problem was the result of the fall (i.e chemical) or someone else’s sin.
Lord, deliver us from fear and anxiety today, and all negative, destructive thought patterns. Instead bring to our minds what is true, what is honorable, what is just, what is pure, what is lovely. Show us what is commendable, what is excellent, and what is worthy of praise. Give us the discipline we need to meditate instead on these things. In Jesus’ name, amen.