The second concept for meditation in Philippians 4:8 can be challenging since nobility is so hard to find today. How do we meditate on what is noble?
In our previous blog post in this series, we learned that meditating on what is true can have great benefit for our overall wellness. However, if we left it at that, we could be in trouble.
“Whatever things are true” can include a lot of very ugly things . . . things that are negative, but technically true. Learning every true detail about mass shootings would be learning the truth, but should we? Learning every true motive and drive of dictators and tyrants would be learning the truth about them, but would it benefit us to focus our meditation on that? Learning every truth about history’s bloody and monstrous genocides could lead us into a dark depression.
The next element Paul tells us to “meditate on” in Philippians 4:8 is “whatever things are noble.” This helps focus our mind on meditating on true things that are also noble.
What does noble mean?
It is interesting that Paul tells the Philippians to meditate on what is noble, immediately after telling them to meditate on the truth. He’s directing our meditation toward the truth—but truth that is noble.
Noble can also be translated honorable or venerable. So, when we meditate on the truth, we should focus most of our thinking on things that deserve respect. If we think about people, we should think of examples of integrity and honor.
This can be as easy as shifting our focus when looking at various examples, such as:
When we meditate on the truth, we should focus most of our thinking on things that deserve respect.Imagine meditating on the bravery of 6-year-old Ruby Bridges, walking into a segregated school in 1960 with angry people spitting on her and calling her horrible names. We can focus on the fortitude and bravery of that little girl instead of the angry and misguided people who taunted and opposed her.
- Imagine meditating on the examples of people sacrificing to help others after natural disasters and other catastrophes instead of the horrific details of the catastrophe itself.
Again, we have to be aware of ugly truths and out of necessity meditate on them sometimes, but we shouldn’t keep our mind there for extended periods of time.
Thinking like that causes us to focus on the worst of everything, instead of on the noble and honorable. This kind of thought can paralyze us with anxiety and depression, rather than imbuing us with hope and godly thinking.
Let’s examine some ways we can think and speak what is noble.
1. Thinking what is noble.
To think what is noble, strive to avoid:
- The 24/7 news. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not advocating for people to be oblivious to the news of the world around us. Christians are instructed to watch the world. But watching the news doesn’t mean being tuned into it every second of the day. Part of the business model of news programs is to provide a steady stream of scary or outrage-inducing stories to keep people hooked.
Researchers working for news networks develop strategies to keep people watching in order to sell advertising. They know that fear and outrage keep people hooked. They have a vested interest in getting us to not see nobility and honor in the news, to the tune of billions of profit a year.
- Deep dives into the depths of depravity of human beings. People can be terribly awful to one another, especially in horrific situations. Once we get the facts that we need, it can be dangerous to dwell on every ghastly act of sin humans commit against each other. These acts are not noble or honorable at all, and they should not be given significant real estate in our minds.
To think what is noble, strive to embrace:
- Inspiring stories of triumphing over adversity, helping others even at personal loss, and doing what is right even in terrible situations throughout history. If we are feeling like the world is awful and unjust, we need to focus our minds on the bright spots in the world that are so easy to forget. Basically, this means looking for the good Samaritans of our world (Luke 10:25-27). The fact is they do exist—in every race and nation of the world.
- Deep dives into the biblical teachings on what it means to live a noble life of integrity and honor. This includes learning how to be sober, reverent and temperate (Titus 2:2; 1 Timothy 3:8, 11). It can be very helpful to read and meditate on the many proverbs that expound on the how and why of doing what is right and noble.
It is also essential to study Jesus Christ’s noble life. This is what we want to be thinking about so that we can use it as a model of nobility and honor for our own lives. To learn lessons from Christ’s life, you might want to check out our ongoing Discern magazine series “Walk as He Walked.”
2. Speaking what is noble.
To speak what is noble, avoid:
- Long discussions with others, rehashing everything that is terrible in our world. Complaint fests where we dump on everything that isn’t right in the world and in our lives rarely do anything to positively change the world or our lives.
The world has much wrong with it, but incessantly discussing and focusing on those wrong things will not help us think like God or radiate positive Christianity. We have to recognize that our world is beyond repair, and endlessly discussing its evils won’t fix it.
Only God can fix it.
- Sharing sad or tragic news stories as a way to start up a conversation. There is nothing that can derail an attitude of motivated hope and nobility faster than hearing some horrific thing that happened that we have no control over. Avoiding this is not keeping our heads in the sand, but it is purposely avoiding using tragedy as entertainment.
Don Henley’s classic ’80s song Dirty Laundry skewers how the news does this, by saying they need to “get the widow on the set” and that anchors can “tell about a plane crash with a gleam in their eyes.” Tragic situations should be taken soberly and not shared and bantered about like the weather. Tragic events of our world should be viewed with sober thought and grief, not shared for likes or discussion fodder.
To speak what is noble, embrace:
- Sharing stories of encouraging and inspiring things, instead of just the difficulties of our life. This doesn’t mean we never share what is bothering us and where we need help or prayers (another necessary thing so others can be given opportunities to be noble and honorable). But it does mean we should have an overall outlook of speaking what is edifying to others (Ephesians 4:29). In other words, we should talk about what builds up and encourages others.
Tell about the neighbors who helped you. Share news stories that highlight people behaving positively and helping others. Talk about the people who help the less fortunate and ways people can help others.
- Talking about others in a noble and honorable way, avoiding gossip and snide attacks on their character or weaknesses. We should make sure we are always the cheerleaders, mentors and coaches of others, instead of being the detractors and whisperers rooting against them. For more insight on overcoming gossip, read “Taming the Tongue: What the Bible Says About Gossip.”
Do what is noble
As we think upon and speak about truth that is noble, we then use that to guide our actions. Living with noble integrity is being like the Ruby Bridges of the world, not the angry, screaming crowds. Living honorable and noble lives means helping others in need, standing up for people who are being bullied, and treating all people the way we want to be treated (Luke 6:31).
Meditate on what is noble
So, what truth do we meditate on the most? Do we spend more time on the ugly truth that can turn our lives into a vortex of negativity—or the functional and motivational truth that will help us live more noble and honorable lives?
One will inevitably lead us to more anxiety and depression, while the other will lead us to hope and positive action.
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”