I did an in depth study of Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (NKJV, bold emphasis mine). I happened to do my study in the New King James version. Typically, my posts are in the English Standard Version (ESV) because this is the translation our church uses. As you can see in my picture, I also read the NIV. However, for this verse, the NKJV used “meditate” instead of “think on”, and it really impacted me and how I read the verse as did reading it in the context of the surrounding verses. The entire passage is:
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
I see Phillippians 4:8 used as a point of spiritual snobbery. “I don’t watch or read [insert controversial show, genre, etc.]” but studying it word-by-word and within the context, I came away with something much deeper than “read Christian fiction and watch G-rated movies”. It’s about meditating (NKJV) on things that are good and true. Surrounded by peace-themed verses, it’s a matter of heart. Are you focused on the truth or what is popular, palatable, and comfortable? Are you seeing good in this world or are you seeing divisiveness? Do you love your Christian brothers and sisters and build them up or do you resent them and gossip about them?
Are your thoughts on the truth? Do you wrestle with what seem to be changes in morality? Read the Bible. It’s the inerrant word of God. Are your thoughts on the noble? Focus on the good things and people in this world, not the petty and divisive. Find commonality with fellow believers not arguing fine points of doctrine. On the just? What is right, true, and God-honoring not what is popular or will give you greatest advantage. On things of purity? This part here is probably the best defense for watching “Anne of Green Gables” (1980s Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie version, of course) versus binging “Game of Thrones” but that is hardly the extent of the verse, only an aspect. And onward: “whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report”. Do you focus on the ugly stories in the news or have a tendency to gossip and/or think the worst of people? Instead, focus on uplifting stories that remind us of the good in the world.
And finally “if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
See where I’m going with this? It’s a heart attitude sandwiched between two verses on having peace. Read your Bible, meditate on God’s truth, focus on the good in fellow believers, and trust God to give you peace. And most important of all focus on Who is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy; that is think on Christ.
Have you ever been challenged to study a common verse or passage and gained new insight? If so, please share! Or let me know how you live out this verse.