“Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is commendable…think about these things” (ESV).
If we are to “take every thought captive” (2 Cor. 10:5, NASB), then we need to know what kinds of things deserve to be let into the doors of our minds. Everything else gets entry refused. Philippians 4:8 gives us a checklist of descriptions about things we should be thinking: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, worthy to be repeated, virtuous, and praiseworthy. Today we will be looking at the sixth in this list: worthy to be repeated.
I don’t know about you, but with all the false news stories going around, and rumors of corruption and scandal abounding everywhere it seems, I want to be extra careful about the news I spread. I may not be talkative or extroverted, but that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with gossip. And it can be so subtle that I don’t even realize I’m listening to it, much less doing it. What about you? Do you find yourself listening to news that you found out wasn’t true or repeating something damaging?
Paul knew that this is one thing we all struggle with, whether we realize it or not. The great thing is, he gives us a remedy! He tells us what we’re supposed to replace gossip with: the Greek word euphèmè.
What does this Greek word have to do with gossip, you say? I’m glad you asked. 😉
This is the only occurrence of the Greek word for “worthy to be repeated” (in this particular form) in the entire New Testament (NT)! This word meshes the prefix meaning “good” or “well” (Gr. prefix eu) with the root for “fame” or “rumor” (Gr. root phèmè). The entire word therefore means “well-spoken of” and “reputable.” It’s a person’s or a thing’s reputation. It’s a rumor that is worth repeating—based on truth (first characteristic) but is positive and honorable (second characteristic).
The Greek root phèmè, is used twice in the NT, in Matthew 9:26 and Luke 4:14. The KJV uses the word “fame” in both instances, the NASV uses the word “news” in both instances, and the NLT uses the word “report(s)” in both instances. It’s news or information that spreads.
Is what I’m thinking about worthy to be spread, regardless of who hears it? That’s a sobering thought. But it’s so important to remind ourselves of this every so often, maybe even every time we get ready to open our mouths, because what we think about will eventually come out in our speech. If we can filter it in our thoughts first, we will be less likely to speak hastily or foolishly.
Proverbs 23:7a: “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (King James 2000)
We should limit our speech.
· Proverbs 10:19: “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (ESV).
· Proverbs 13:3: “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin” (ESV).
· Proverbs 21:23: “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (ESV).
· James 1:19: “…let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (ESV).
What we say matters.
· Proverbs 10:32: “The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse” (ESV).
· Proverbs 12:17-19, 22: “Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit. There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment…. Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight” (ESV).
· Proverbs 15:2: “The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly (ESV).”
Gossip is especially prohibited.
· Proverbs 11:13: “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered” (ESV).
· Proverbs 16:28: “A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends” (ESV).
· Proverbs 18:7: “A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul” (ESV).
· Proverbs 20:19: “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler” (ESV).
· Proverbs 26:20-28: “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body. Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel are fervent lips with an evil heart. Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously, believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart; though his hatred be covered with deception, his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly. Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling. A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin” (ESV).
· James 3:2-8: “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (ESV).
Good speech to replace gossip
· Proverbs 15:4: “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit” (ESV).
· Proverbs 16:23-24: “The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (ESV).
· Proverbs 18:21: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (ESV).
· Proverbs 12:25: “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad (ESV).”
So when the Bible here tells us to think on things that are “worthy to be repeated,” I think it means to think about things that are commendable and admirable. It means to spend your time thinking about someone or something that has a good reputation, and then you continue to spread the good reputation, like a favorable review or recommendation; the ultimate would of course always be God. It’s always good to think about God and His Word, and it’s always good to spread His Good News of salvation.
What is one thing you have recommended recently? Was it helpful, honorable, or just fun? Please share in the comments below!
Next in the series on Philippians 4:8: Whatever is Virtuous