Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.”
On first blush, this seems to be a good biblical plug for the power of positive thinking. Don’t dwell on the negative. Shut off the news, turn away from negative campaign ads, and keep forwarding those heart-warming stories and cute pictures that float around the internet. And that has some merit. Focusing on what is good certainly makes us feel better, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it actually had some tangible health benefits.
But for those of us reading through the Bible in a year as part of the Daily Walk program, we read the above words from Paul at the same time that we are reading the agonizing, dire predictions and accusations of the prophet Jeremiah. I can hear the question at our next Bible study now, “How can I focus on what is lovely and praiseworthy with Jeremiah shouting doom and destruction in my ears? Are we supposed to stop reading the prophets?” Good point.
think Paul is trying to be Norman Vincent Peale here. All Scripture is written to a particular
audience in a particular time and place.
Any universal applications need to be drawn from an understanding of
what was going on at the time. From Paul’s
letter to the church in
After pleading with those two women to resolve their differences, Paul redirects the focus to rejoicing, not being anxious, and thinking about the good and praiseworthy things. It is Paul speaking as a pastor, reminding a church that has been distracted by a conflict between two leaders that they are really a great church and should focus on all the positive things they have going for them rather than on the differences of two good people. So the universal meaning to draw from that is not to let one bad thing take away from a multitude of good things.
first word, however, is to focus on what is true. Jeremiah finds himself in the unenviable
position of being called to bring God’s message to a completely corrupt
society. When Jeremiah focuses on what
is true in
does have to do with hopeful thinking. Whether
it is the small conflict between a couple of people in a good church or whether
it is the large-scale corruption of a nation, both Paul and Jeremiah speak
their words with the hope of change. Euodia and Syntyche can be
reconciled if they will it.
Help us to focus on your truth, O God, and to restore the harmony of your peace. Amen.
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