“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” Philippians 4:8-9, The Message
When I was a little girl, my third grade Sunday school teacher taught us a song to memorize Philippians 4:8: “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8” And while it was a catchy little jingle that continues to get stuck in my head today, I’m so glad she taught it to us, because these words are GOOD for my heart to remember!
I am by no means opposed to watching a good TV show on Netflix or listening to secular music, but I have learned the older that I get the more careful I want to be about what I see and listen to. If I watch something dark or scary or really sad, I tend to see it over and over in my mind. I can still be thinking about a scene from a movie I watched months later, and I have to work really hard to get it out of my mind (usually through lots of prayer). What Paul suggests in Philippians 4:8 and 9 is to think about what we are ingesting and make sure it is good.
What are we spending our time looking at and listening to? Is all of that time scrolling social media, seeing things we want and ways we want to be, really making us feel good? Is checking the news impulsively really making us more informed, or is it robbing us of our peace? Is reading someone’s angry, hateful post stirring anger into our hearts as well? Does watching that scary or disturbing show or movie make us dwell on bad things? It’s hard to create boundaries around things that other people watch, read, and listen to, but using Philippians 4 as a measuring tool has helped me decide what is worth spending my time on.
We all have our own limits, but what most helps me decide what to spend my time on is one question: Does watching/reading/listening to this bring my heart closer to God or draw me away? As I ask this question, I’m able to better decide where to spend my time, and ultimately am able to choose the things that fill my heart with joy, peace, wonder, and connection to God and others.
What would happen if we started asking that question more? Where could we turn our hearts towards good and lovely things, and what would that do for us? Whatever you decide, my prayer is that we all learn to grow more and more towards these good and better things, and become more and more like Christ in the process!