Philippians 4:8 - part 3
“…whatever is just…think about these things”
In today’s society, being right, upright, or just seems to be completely subjective. Someone can be right in following their own moral code but break 27 civil laws every day. Someone else might be considered unjust for being wealthy, even if they haven’t broken any law. The culture’s version of “right” comes in many forms. What is the “right” thing to eat on special occasions? What political party is “right”? In these cultural arguments, no one has definitively won the title of “right”. The bible though, has a different and definitive way of calling someone “right”.
How much of our thought life is spent on what is unrighteous, or even blatantly sinful? How eager are we to invite God to examine our thoughts to see if He considers them wicked (Psalm 139:24)? God want our thoughts to be on what is true and honorable, but He also wants our thoughts to be on what He knows to be righteous. The word used for “just” in Philippians 4:8 is “dikaios” and is translated as upright, just, righteous, or right.
“Dikaios” is often used as an adjective to describe people. For example, Mary’s husband – Joseph – was called a “just” man (Matthew 1:19). Being “upright” (Titus 1:8) is a prerequisite for eldership within the church. The prayer of a “righteous” person that has great power (James 5:16). After a brief examination of the verses above, we simply cannot leave the definition of “right” up in the air, or those statements become meaningless. Imagine the contrast between 21st century America and 20th century Nazi-Germany of the concept of a “just man”. See? This is why we must have a definition for right.
To help define “right”, the bible first makes this wide-sweeping definitive statement, “…None is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). Wait a minute…but weren’t we just told that the bible describes people as right? Yes, we were. But this is where we begin to make the first important distinction – people (i.e. you and I) do not define what it means to be right. God Himself is the only One truly right, truly just, and completely upright. God is “the Holy and Righteous One” (Acts 3:14). Jesus – God in the flesh – lived on this earth as a man, and was considered to the point of his death “a righteous man” (Luke 23:47, 1 Peter 3:18). In God’s presence now, Jesus still enjoys the title of “the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
The Gospel is the message that God is just but merciful – Jesus took our place as the sinner, while we were covered in his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). Previously, we were unrighteous, unjust, and wrong in our standing before God. But now, because of what Jesus has accomplished for us, God has cleansed us from all unrighteousness and makes us right before God. We are right and righteous because the righteousness of Jesus has been accounted to us.
Now that we are right before God, we can act and do rightly – not to earn God’s favor, but because we already have God’s favor. Children can obey their parents “in the Lord” because it’s right (Ephesians 6:1). Adults can make judgements about right and wrong without being judgemental (John 7:24). We can imitate God (Ephesians 5:1) and practice righteousness (1 John 3:7). Our life can now be defined by the fact that “the righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). And at the end of our life, we can look forward in hope that we – “the righteous” – will go into eternal life with Jesus (Matthew 25:46).
When you struggle with your thought life, think about how – through Jesus – you will stand before God and be considered righteous.