Meditate on These Things: “Whatever Things Are True”
This begins a series on what Philippians 4:8 tells us to meditate on. In this post, we’ll examine what it means to meditate on “whatever things are true.”
When Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, he counseled them on what to spend their time thinking about. He told the Philippians to meditate on eight specific things. These are things to think inwardly and deeply about.
In this series, we’ll take a look at each of these eight things and explore why we should meditate on them today.
The first thing Paul said to meditate on was “whatever things are true” (Philippians 4:8).
Okay, but, what is truth?
After hearing this, Pilate asked, “What is truth?” (verse 38).
Today, there is plenty of “truth” to go around. There is one’s own personal truth, shaped by perceptions and experiences rather than objective observation. There is statistical truth that can be skewed one way or the other to string together an ideological narrative. There are even fake pictures and videos plastered together and considered truth. Benjamin Franklin is credited for saying, “Half a truth is often a great lie.”
But what truth should we meditate on?
What does truth mean?
To begin to answer Pilate’s question, the truth is what’s real. The Greek word translated “true” in Philippians 4:8 refers to what is unhidden or unconcealed.
Lies can be much more popular than meditating and focusing on the complexities of the whole truth. As George Bernard Shaw reportedly mused, “If you’re going to tell people the truth, you better make them laugh; otherwise they’ll kill you.”
For Christians, meditating on God’s revealed truth in the Bible can have a profound impact on their everyday life.The Bible claims to be the Word of God and the source of truth (John 17:17). It even claims that the truth it contains can set us free (John 8:32).
Many around the world would disagree. But for Christians, meditating on God’s revealed truth in the Bible can have a profound impact on their everyday life.
In his book Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, Daniel G. Amen M.D. emphasizes how a spiritual outlook that goes beyond ourselves is vital for overall brain health. In virtually every case study cited, it was found to be imperative for the patient to focus on what is true (fighting back against irrational thoughts or untrue thought patterns) and to have that influenced by finding a deep sense of spiritual purpose.
When we meditate on truth, it should affect what we think, say and do. Here are some suggestions for what to avoid and embrace when it comes to thinking and speaking the truth.
1. Thinking what is true
To think the truth, strive to avoid:
- Conspiracy theories about history or politics that contain just enough fact to hook us into deeper and deeper study, but that end up being only a loop with no real conclusion. Such are often fueled by 24-hour news coverage, podcasts and blogs that provide a limitless supply of murder, crime, greed and “truth” mixed with (at best) unprovable suppositions. These theories usually center on topics that will make us feel depressed, anxious or angry.
- Complete immersion into fantasy worlds of video games, cinematic universes, book series and other fictional entertainment that are closer to obsession than a pastime or interest. It is not healthy to spend vast amounts of our time in fantasy worlds rather than in reality.
- Defining truth by only using our favorite research, biased news sources, personal interpretations of facts or our personal worldview.
To think the truth, strive to embrace:
- Spending adequate time with the Bible to learn about the truth God reveals and wants us to understand (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
- Practicing empathy and looking at things from another’s point of view, so that we can get outside our own biases and prejudices. We have a better chance of understanding truth when we see outside our narrow personal perspective, which is based on our limited experiences and interests.
- Seeking out a variety of sources from different perspectives regarding historical and current events. It is also helpful to realize that the dark view of the world we see on the news is not the full picture.
2. Speaking what is true
To speak the truth, avoid:
- Trying to become a self-made expert on a topic that we really know little about. It helps to recognize that we may only have one particular side of a story.
- Being motivated by our own pride, prejudice or partiality to convince others of things we don’t know to be true. We can cause others to stumble when we feel compelled to spread “our truth” (Mark 9:42).
To speak the truth, embrace:
- Always speaking the truth to our neighbor (Ephesians 4:25). Our speaking will be truthful when we are meditating and thinking about truthful things. We should remember that God views lying and deception as an abomination (Proverbs 6:16-17, 19). This should make us think even more carefully about our words. It should also lead us to quickly apologize or correct ourselves if we catch ourselves stretching or bending the truth.
It is always better to speak truth instead of using flattery or lies to spare people pain. If we do need to speak uncomfortable words of truth to someone, we can always do our best to use tact and gentleness instead of resorting to lies. Sometimes we might say nothing, but whatever we do say should always be truthful.
To learn more about speaking truth, read “Lying vs. Telling the Truth.”
Do the truth
By thinking on and speaking what is true, we guide ourselves into doing what is true. We also live the truth by treating all people with love and compassion and never resorting to dehumanizing or devaluing others.
If we don’t use the Bible’s definition of truth and error, we’ll find ourselves living any “truth”—which will be a mixture of truth and error—and do much damage to ourselves and others.
Meditate on what is true
Thinking on the truth will imbue our minds with hope and encouragement. Truth—as opposed to a fake or cheap counterfeit of the truth—brings peace and fulfillment to our lives.
Truth is only the first in Paul’s list of eight things to meditate on. In our next installment, we’ll examine thinking on “whatever things are noble” (Philippians 4:8).
To learn more about the subject of truth, read “Speak the Truth in Love.”