“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 (NIV) (bold mine)
What do you think about when you try to think about pure things?
As the daughter of a woman who loved – and was able to buy – very fine things, I tend to think about pure gold earrings (preferably in a Tiffany-blue box) and authentic Gucci bags.
But maybe the more to-the-point (read: convicting) question is, what do you try really hard to NOT think about when you’re “supposed to be” thinking about pure things?
As that same daughter who cannot necessarily afford the very fine things I grew up with, I struggle with some seriously un-pure thoughts. I try really hard to NOT think, “Hey, how did so-and-so-friend buy those stunning Tiffany earrings that she just posted on social?” I usually fail at NOT thinking, “Why can’t I just drop a handful of Ben Franklins on a new Gucci bag?” (Side truth: While my mom’s favorite bag designer was Gucci, I prefer Coach – still a handful of Franklins!)
Talk about an entitled attitude (#raiseshand). Talk about covetousness (as I try to hide my heart under a giant fig leaf somewhere). And talk about the miserable, anxious feelings that well up from there. It’s anxious feelings like these that Apostle Paul urges us, two verses prior, to replace – by thinking about his list of “such things.” (See Philippians 4:6 and the overview article for this entire series on Paul’s favorite things to think about to release anxious feelings.)
Let’s talk about the need – and some how-to’s – for replacing these anxious feelings by replacing the un-pure thoughts with “whatever is pure.”
Whatever IS pure?
We’ll start with a Biblical definition of the word “pure.”
My favorite definition of the word “pure” as used in this verse comes from gotquestions.org. In this article, they define “pure” as meaning “holy.”
Hmmm, now we’ve got to define “holy.”
My favorite way of defining “holy” actually comes from an animated depiction. I recently discovered a wonderful platform called The Bible Project, and they use intelligent, gorgeous animation to properly teach the Bible. (And I do not receive any kickbacks from them – I simply love their work!) Whenever they depict the concept of “holy,” they draw and animate a circle around the spot where God is in that moment of the story. Yes, it’s a physical circle. Here’s an example, in their video overview of Leviticus. Especially if you’re a visual learner like I am, this could be a major “aha moment” for you.
OK, then, whatever is holy?
The wonderfully simple definition of holy, according to The Bible Project, is “set apart” or “unique.”
If we return to the unique Tiffany-blue box, I think we can agree that if we were to set such a box on a table to be discovered by some lucky recipient (#jumpsupanddown), we would allow for some space around it. Unless we were purposely hiding it, we would not just plunk it down haphazardly among the bills in the mail and dirty dishes left out since breakfast. No, we would center it just so. Maybe surround it with fresh flowers – but without crowding it! We would allow the box to be the focal point, the center of attention.
We would set it apart.
It’s the same with God and His holiness. He centers Himself just so. Maybe we surround Him with fresh flowers or deep thanks to give Him some glory. But never crowd Him with junky stuff. And always make Him the focal point, our center of attention.
He is set apart.
So, what can I think about?
Ah, well, if you were to walk into a room and see a table with a Tiffany-blue box (and don’t forget that telltale white satin ribbon) – especially if it had, perhaps, a card with your name on it – what would you think?
I know I would think, “Ooh, for me?! What could it be? Who could this be from? And oh, goody, I wonder what’s inside!”
We could think the same things when we acknowledge God as our Tiffany-blue box, Jesus as our card with our name on it, and the Holy Spirit as our ribbon tying it all together.
Reflective Response: Pure things to think about
Here are just a few questions and answers we could fill our heads with. If we also read and contemplate these relevant verses, what have we got? God’s pure thoughts instead of anxious ones! Thanks, Apostle Paul!
- “Ohh, for me?!” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)
- “What/Who IS God?” (Exodus 3:14 NIV)
- “Who sent Jesus to me? How did Jesus know my name? Do I cherish the moment when Jesus called me by name?” (Isaiah 43:1 NIV)
- “When did the Holy Spirit arrive inside me? Do I keep in mind how He arrived – what people and places and circumstances were involved? Do I acknowledge the masterful way everything was put into place in God’s perfect timing?” (Luke 3:22 NIV, John 20:22 NIV, Acts 2:4 NIV)