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.
Meditate on these things. Other versions translate this word as “dwell” or “think.” This word in the Greek is an accounting term which means to “take an inventory.” It is translated throughout the New Testament in such ways as: “take into account,” “credited,” “counted,” “numbered.” God is asking you to do an accounting, a numbering of things that are true, holy, lovely, pure, etc.
This is really silly, but do you remember the Count on Sesame Street? That is the picture that came to my mind. One apple…two bananas. He just loved to count anything. So, what do you love to count? Paul is instructing us through the Holy Spirit to take an inventory of some very special things.
- Noble, Honorable
- Just, Right
- Of good report, good repute
- Virtue, Excellence
For a moment, think of the opposites (antonyms) of these words:
- Defiled, dirty
- Lousy, awful, terrible
- Ill-repute, bad report, bad news
- Without virtue, failure, inferiority, imperfection
- Worthy of condemnation (criticism), worthy of fixing
Let me ask you, and answer honestly for yourself, which of the above lists is the one upon which you meditate the most?
Let me also ask you, how do you feel after meditating on things that are false, dishonorable, wrong and terrible?
You see, the context of this passage written by Paul is about having joy in the Lord, a peace that passes comprehension, and being content in no matter which condition we find ourselves. Bad things happen. Evil surrounds us. Worries plague us on every side and from within. That is precisely why we must turn our attention and focus our minds on praiseworthy things.
It is not that we avoid thinking about the bad things that happen in life, but we have to take time to meditate on holy and excellent things so that we can have the proper mental foundation to deal with the all the other junk that occurs. Paul was in prison in Rome when he wrote this! He had been treated shamefully and was falsely accused. On the way to Rome he suffered through a violent storm and was shipwrecked. He now he was awaiting a trial before Caesar. He had learned by experience to focus his attention on praiseworthy things so that he could deal with the trials he was facing.
Lately this has proved very helpful for me when I am finding myself getting anxious about things or dwelling on negativity. I personally have to muscle my mind into Philippians 4:8 and say, “Okay, Aaron, think about something that is true…now think about something that is honorable…now think about something that is lovely.” It might sound simplistic, but it helps me, and I believe it will help you also.
One final thought: This same word translated “meditate” is also used in 1 Corinthians 13:11. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. The word “reason” here is the same word for “meditate” in Philippians 4:8. When Paul was a child, he took an accounting like a child, but now he is a man, and he does not “count” the same way. In order for us to have the peace, joy and contentment of the Lord, we must put away our previous ways of mental accounting, and begin taking inventory of better and higher things.