July 2, 2013

What Does 'Whatever is Right' Really Mean?


Paul’s third word in his list of what we should dwell on is fairly vague. He calls us to think on what’s right. But what does that mean, exactly? What is “right”?

Paul has already given us some direction by instructing us to think about things that are true and things that are noble. His third category is things that are right.

My first impression was that this is the opposite of things that are wrong, and while that leans in the right direction, it doesn’t fully grasp the meaning of this word.

Looking at other translations, the word “right” is replaced with the word “just.” But, that word is somewhat hard to define as well.

Just what does Paul mean when he says that we are to think about what is right?

In the Greek, the word in question is dikaios. Its most basic definition is a sense of being straight, describing something that is just or righteous, being in accordance with God’s compelling standards.

But how do we fit that into our daily lives?

The idea of justice underlies this entire concept. We are called to be upright, just and righteous, conforming to the laws of God and man, and living in accordance with them. This is the same word Paul used in Titus 1:8, referring to the overseers or elders in a church.

We are called to lives that are respectful of authority, both of God and of man, unless of course, man’s law contradicts God’s law.

Since Paul is instructing us how to direct our thoughts, here we can see that this concept is closely tied in with the ideas of “noble” and “true” that he has already mentioned.

As with the concept of “noble,” it may be easier to understand this based on what it is not, instead of what it is.

Here are three things to avoid when thinking right things.

Avoid thinking of things that are wrong.

Often, when we are trapped by a particular sin, we find ourselves dwelling upon it all day long. Sometimes, we might not have even experienced it, we are just caught by the allure. When you find yourself with thoughts like these running through your head, that’s a good indication that you thoughts are on the wrong path.

Avoid thinking of things that are unfair.

In our American culture, and other cultures around the world as well, we have an overgrown sense of entitlement. We tend to only think of what’s best for us, even when it isn’t. Over the years, that sense of entitlement has grown into a vicious monster. Rather than just looking out for our own interests, we seem to have transitioned to rejoicing in the failures of others, especially if it helps us get ahead of them. If you find your thoughts running in this direction, that’s a good indication that you have missed the point of “right.”

Avoid thinking of things that are ungodly.

When we find ourselves thinking things that completely oppose the characteristics of God, we aren’t thinking right. Dwelling upon ungodly things will lead us further down the path away from God. That’s something few of us really desire.

So how do we change this? How do we stop thinking of the things that are not right and begin thinking of the things that are?

I believe it starts with the Word of God. The more we invest it into our lives, the more our thinking becomes “right.” It’s as simple as that.

What is the best example of “right” that you know of?

Image • JeffRandleman.com
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