A nearby water tower recently went through a makeover. The city leaders originally designed a water tower that looked better on paper than in reality. No one considered what this pure white tower would look like after a few years of birds doing their thing on top of it. The white turned brown and green and became a local embarrassment, visible to the whole city.
It’s now painted a darker color, much to our relief. This is the sense of “whatever is honorable”—one of the eight categories of renewed thinking highlighted in Philippians 4. Is it lovely when lifted high? Is it beautiful when put on display?
Is it lovely when lifted high? Is it beautiful when put on display?
Most of us would be appalled and embarrassed if all our thoughts were made public. John Milton, a 17th-century writer and thinker, wrote an apt description of the human mind’s inner workings in his classic poem Paradise Lost: “the mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
As Milton inferred, our thoughts are like water; they easily flow downward. This kind of thinking hollows us out by degrading our moral selves. As Proverbs 23:7 (NASB) reminds, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” How easily sinful thoughts spiral in a gravitational pull toward that which is dishonorable. Mentally, we start in the Sea of Galilee but end up stuck in the Dead Sea.
While our minds may often seem like an out-of-control inferno, Scripture urges us to renew them by governing our thoughts. It requires us to think about our thoughts. This thoughtful and directed thinking the Bible calls a renewed mind. It is a mental consciousness that strives to harmonize with God’s truth as found in Scripture and Christ. It transforms the content and habits of our thinking by aligning our values with God’s will. When our minds are renewed, our desires agree with God that his will is good, pleasing, and perfect (Rom. 12:2).
“Honorable” is a word found elsewhere in the New Testament to describe the character of the deacon and elder in 1 Timothy 3. It is an aspirational life quality for older men in the faith in Titus 2. The root word is “revere” or “worship,” and the sense is worthy of being lifted high and put on display. If somebody exposed our thoughts, would they earn higher respect for their virtue and nobility?
“Whatever is honorable” provides a grid by which to evaluate my thoughts and raises the question, “Honorable to whom?” Our world often honors the dishonorable, as the glittering honors of any significant media award show verify. The biblical measure of what is honorable is that which is honorable to God. We are horrified at the prospect of others knowing our thoughts and ignorant that God knows them all.
The biblical measure of what is honorable is that which is honorable to God.
The command to think honorably is a grace. As our contemplations marinate in what is true, beautiful, and excellent in God’s eyes, our hearts and lives increasingly reflect nobility, purity, and charity. As our inner selves think like Christ, our outer selves look increasingly like him too. When we fail and our thoughts disappoint us, it is another occasion to marvel at Jesus. He never had a dishonorable thought, and his every contemplation is worthy of our adoration.
This article is part of a series on Philippians 4:8: “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.”