The next meditation point in Philippians 4:8 is virtue. Virtue can be hard to find in a world full of selfishness and sin, but it is there and we must find it.
By examining each meditation point Paul included in Philippians 4:8, we can deduce a list of things we should avoid meditating on: lies, dishonor, impurity, partiality, hypocrisy and so forth.
The next meditation point in this blog series truly encapsulates the direct opposite of all of those things: virtue.
When surrounded by greed and selfishness, with everyone looking out for No. 1, where can we find virtue to meditate on?
What does virtue mean?
Thayer’s and Strong’s describe the Greek word translated “virtue” in these ways: doing something properly, a gracious act, valor, moral excellence or goodness. Virtue is essentially choosing to do what is right, regardless of difficult situations and pressures. We could also call it integrity.
Christians are expected to escape the lusts of the world by adding virtue to faith and adding knowledge to virtue (2 Peter 1:2-5). The value of being virtuous is far above rubies (Proverbs 31:10). Virtuous people will garner a positive reputation, even among people they have never met (Ruth 3:11).
Virtue can be displayed in many different areas of life, but it is usually brought out by an opportunity or temptation. For example, virtue is shown by:
Virtue is choosing to do what is right, regardless of difficult situations and pressures.Sitting at home alone writing a kind email to someone when there is a temptation to watch pornography or to type an angry rant on Twitter.
- Doing acts of kindness for others when we don’t have to.
- Holding to our faith and convictions when pressure or a difficult situation is tempting us to compromise.
So, virtue can happen when one is alone in a room, talking with friends or in highly stressful or tempting situations. Integrity is often described as doing the right thing when no one is watching. But more could be added to that. We could say that integrity is thinking, speaking and doing the right thing no matter what stress or temptation arises.
True virtue is shown when we are tested to do otherwise. Virtue is not just an academic exercise, but what we choose to do when the rubber meets the road.
Let’s look at some ways to think and speak what is virtuous.
1. Thinking what is of virtue
To think what is of virtue, strive to avoid:
- Perversity, or allowing thoughts of what is wrong and unhealthy to live in our heads. There are so many dark corners of the Internet and the entertainment world (including music, movies and TV shows) that exist to celebrate the opposite of virtue. Engaging in these areas for entertainment can lead to a warped perspective that tries to relabel perversity as virtue (Romans 1:20-31).
- Elaborate plotting and scheming to achieve goals (Proverbs 6:16-19). Patience, hard work, support from others, God’s blessing, and time and chance are all normal factors in striving to achieve goals in our lives. However, there is no virtue in selfish ambition (Philippians 2:3) or doing things for dishonest gain (Titus 1:11).
To think what is of virtue, strive to embrace:
- Jesus Christ’s life, which was the perfect example of virtue. Christ felt the full weight of the temptations, situations and life circumstances that often lead people to compromise virtue. He set the perfect example of how to stay virtuous throughout anything (Hebrews 4:15), while also showing compassion and empathy to others.
- The biblical examples of ordinary people demonstrating virtuous behavior. We could meditate on how Moses gave up the passing pleasure of sin to be virtuous (Hebrews 11:25). Or how God’s prophets virtuously spoke God’s message at risk of their own lives, like Micaiah (1 Kings 22:1-28) or Zechariah (2 Chronicles 24:20-22). Another excellent example is the patriarch Joseph.
You can learn more about his example in our blog post “Lessons From the Life of Joseph.”
- Modern examples and encouraging stories of virtuous behavior in the midst of pressures. We need to combat the anxious and irrational thoughts that bombard our minds, telling us that we can’t afford to be virtuous or that it won’t benefit us. Having a mental library of examples of ordinary people showing virtue can help us combat that thinking.
You can read about good examples in our “Men of Faith” and “Women of Faith” sections of Life, Hope & Truth.
2. Speaking what is virtuous
To speak what is virtuous, avoid:
- Complaining and arguing about small and insignificant matters (Philippians 2:14). When we complain and argue frequently, virtue is the last thing being communicated. Virtuous speech is what elevates a conversation and gets people laughing or encouraged. How often does a complaint fest or petty argument do this?
- Talking all about ourselves. Pride and arrogance (which are not virtuous) can come in many forms, but the most noticeable is publicly blowing our own horn (Proverbs 27:2). If every story we tell is about how accomplished or knowledgeable we are, that is a problem. Being humble is a major attribute of virtuousness. Do we boast, brag or dominate conversation because deep down we feel our words are more important than what others have to say?
For more insight on the need for humility, read “What Does God Require of You? Walk Humbly.”
To speak what is virtuous, embrace:
- Sticking up for what is right, when confronted with what is wrong. When someone in a group makes an inappropriate joke or comment, don’t laugh or nod in agreement. Say, “I don’t agree” or politely excuse yourself. Or, perhaps, talk to the person privately and, with gentleness, let him or her know your concerns about what was said.
Being virtuous in our speech means speaking up for what’s right instead of remaining silent in the face of wrong. It takes wisdom, discernment and courage—which God will give us if we ask Him (James 1:5).
- The mind-set and goal of building others up (in biblical terms, edification). Our conversation will be virtuous if we commit to speaking encouragement or favorable words toward others (Ephesians 4:29). Our words should be used to help and encourage others to do what is right.
Imagine a caring friend who shows empathy and resourcefulness in helping a person who is neck-deep in a harmful addiction—as opposed to a self-righteous know-it-all berating and insulting him or her.
The difference is virtue.
Do what is virtuous
The Bible contains several lists of virtuous behavior so that we can know what to do (Ephesians 4:17-32; Colossians 3:12-17; 2 Peter 1:5-7) and replace what not to do (Galatians 5:19-21). We need to be very familiar with the character traits in these lists so we can put them into practice in our daily life. (To explore one of these lists, read “2 Peter 1:5-7: Spiritual Maturity Explained in Three Verses.”)
With adequate situational awareness, we can work to foresee the temptations and challenges to our virtue before it’s too late. We can plan ahead to avoid situations that will put our integrity under attack.
Meditate on what is of any virtue
The final concept in Paul’s meditation list in Philippians 4:8 is “anything praiseworthy,” which solidifies the positive impact all of these concepts can have on our mental and spiritual health.
Here are the links to the rest of this series:
- Meditate on These Things: “Whatever Things Are True”
- Meditate on These Things: “Whatever Things Are Noble”
- Meditate on These Things: “Whatever Things Are Just”
- Meditate on These Things: “Whatever Things Are Pure”
- Meditate on These Things: “Whatever Things Are Lovely”
- Meditate on These Things: “Whatever Things Are of Good Report”
- Meditate on These Things: “If There Is Any Virtue”
- Meditate on These Things: “If There Is Anything Praiseworthy”