When some says, “whatever,” to you as their full response or just to be silly, do you make a “W” with your thumbs and forefinger? Maybe you’re not as big of a dork as I am, but Paul in the New Testament is the one who continually says, “whatever,” to us.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable – if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy – dwell on these things.” – Philippians 4:8
The word, “whatever,” is used to reference the measure of quantity that doesn’t contain a limit. Infinite possibilities are encompassed in the use of this word. So then, we can measure all that we dwell on against the commendable list Paul gives us and if it is indeed excellent and praiseworthy, it is a-okay to continue thinking about.
But, what if what we are thinking about isn’t true in accordance to God’s Word or honorable to God our Father or justly agreeing with God’s character or purifying of ourselves to be more like Christ or lovely in the eyes of our Creator or commendable to the worthy King Jesus?
I’m sure you and I don’t have to search deep into our memory bank to recall a thought that would buzz a wrong answer against this list. We are exposed daily by our current culture with what we see and hear with whatever is not excellence and whatever is not praiseworthy. We don’t cancel culture and cut ourselves out of life because of these things though, but we do actively participate in the Word of God by not choosing things for ourselves that cause us to not dwell on what is praiseworthy to God.
We get a choice to not participate in speaking crude language just because no one around me will be offended by it, sexually explicit shows just because they are trendy, or casually listening to music that doesn’t make me delight in the beauty and character of God. These are just some examples I know to give because these are ways that I have had to guard my own thoughts to keep my mind dwelling on whatever is excellent to God, not just whatever is excellent to myself.
Why is this so important that Paul had to repeat the word, “whatever,” before each praiseworthy thought? Because God is immeasurably worthy of all honor in our lives.
God’s immeasurable worthiness also brings us immeasurable mercy and grace. So, let us not dwell on our mistakes and sins, for each day dawns dwellings of praiseworthy thoughts from us to our good Father, as does one moment to the next.
We must remind ourselves daily of the testimony of grace that Jesus Christ has given us so that when we approach a tempting situation, or even while dwelling on something and we find ourselves thinking, “this doesn’t feel praiseworthy to God,” we can pray and thank God for his grace to move into the light of the truth of his word and choose to praise him instead of remaining in the muck of our thoughts.
Just to paraphrase Paul with some throwback flair, let us make that “W” with our thumbs and forefingers and say, “whatever,” to the things that aren’t excellent and praiseworthy to God.