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. (Phil 4:8 ESV)
That verse hangs on my dining area wall. As news shouts its messages of discord, dissension, disruption, and despair, I think of this verse and I sometimes ask God to let me understand and find just one of those whatevers. I sigh, I pray, and I know that there are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent things, Godly things, and I need to think about those, seek them out and give praise. I hunger to think about this list of things. Do you?
I am a word person so I decided to see how the dictionary defines true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellence. Where I need to search is in God’s Scripture. I know that. And I shall. But for today, this writer is looking up the definitions a school child would find, not in a printed dictionary but online. I’ll look for the Miriam Webster online. Come along with me as we look at the meaning as posted for our English speaking culture and for those learning English.
True. This should be easy. I am a big believer in truth. Dislike lies, don’t like shades of maybe truth. Here goes the first meaning given: being in accordance with the actual state of affairs. Double sigh. One person sees a state of affairs through the lens of experience; another through a distracted view; another rewrites something to a more comfortable view. Jesus tended to turn things upside down and inside out but I trust Jesus. Reading His spoken words while on earth might provide light on what is true.
Honorable, again I look for any definition that will guide me. I settle on a person consistent with a reputation that is not tarnished or sullied. Wow! Childhood lessons learned at the family table pop into my mind. My parents, especially my dad, really taught us about the importance of right choices and actions and living with honor. I want to admire and model my life on people of honor. Quick glance around the world, hard to find the right kind of person, better to focus on Christ.
Just. I cringe at looking up that word. We have become such a judgmental society. And we cry for justice. I want justice for so many people in so many hard situations. Again, just offers a list of definitions. I decide I like this one: acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good. Of course, I need to grasp, really understand what is morally upright, what is good. Back to the Bible, one more area to read. Probably see what Jesus taught about this.
Pure. Seems like a straightforward task but the list of meanings for the word pure is long. I know this. It is not Ivory soap pure. It is 100%. My bias rises and I copy a third meaning, one that I think might better fit this word research journey. Pure: free from what vitiates, weakens, or pollutes; containing nothing that does not properly belong, free from moral fault or guilt. Not sure what fits that but I know the only human who did was Jesus. Perhaps, I should think more about Jesus.
Lovely, surely I know what is lovely. I rank colors, clothes, art, and on it goes. I must know what is lovely. I can think about that. Let’s check the meaning. This one seems much easier. I select: delightful for beauty, harmony, or grace. This created world is full of things that delight my eyes and my heart, cause me to praise the Creator. I think I won’t dwell on harmony, except in music. Too much abounding disharmony. But grace. I remember walking into the Catholic church across from my childhood home and sitting quietly to study the figure on the cross. I did not know grace then. Did not grasp the Gospel. I do today. Plenty there to think about.
Commendable. Miriam Webster failed me. Defined commend. So I went to the internet and found this, no idea of the source but I like it. Two words: deserving praise. I could easily make a list of people deserving praise and I don’t mean famous movie stars, musicians, artists, although there are commendable people in those groups. I can even find baseball players who deserve praise. If you strive to do well, to do your very best, in many venues, then you might well be deserving of praise. But I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about people like that. I think a good neighbor who looks after people in need is deserving praise. And God is always to be praised.
Excellence I had to go to excellent to get any words to ponder. There I found: very good of its kind, eminently good. I am not too keen on very good of its kind. There are some things I am not interested in learning about very good as in bullies. I don’t want to think about an excellent bully. God is eminently good. Some people might apply eminently good to a favorite flavor and brand of ice cream. I get that. But I would rather spend my thinking time on God as excellent.
Worthy. I know who is worthy of being praised. No definition needed and the one given seems too pale, too weak, not enough. It is having sufficient worth or importance. Jesus is beyond that description. Certainly He is worthy of my thought.
I love this Bible verse and it is worthy of fuller study. For now, when the outside world or even my own world has too much confusion and upset, I’ll open my Bible to Philippians 4:8 and study just one word by chasing that word throughout the Bible. That seems like a worthy, excellent idea.