Whatever is Honorable: Philippians 4:8, Part 2

Philippians 4:8 “…Whatever is honorable…think on these things.”

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 in.  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 second in this list:  honorable.

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I’ll be honest.  The first image that pops into my mind when I hear the word “honorable” is of a judge with a long, black robe and gray, curly wig walking into a courtroom with the words, “Honorable Judge So-and-so presiding” echoing through the hallowed hall. 

But that’s not the image that Paul had when he wrote this 2,000 years ago.  The closest idea was of a hero who had sacrificed everything to benefit someone else, with no reward for himself.  When a soldier is awarded the Medal of Honor, that idea is more closely linked to this word “honorable.”

Remember the summarization of Merriam-Webster’s definition of honorable*: deserves respect or high regard; illustrious (famous); characterized by integrity, a reputation that is not tarnished or sullied.  This is the definition of the English word.

However, this is a hard word to translate directly from the Greek into English.  “Honorable” is the closest single word we have—it has the idea of “venerable” or “majestic,” inspiring veneration, even worship.  Of course, the only one who is worthy of worship is the Lord. 

So when the Bible here tells us to think on honorable things, I think it means to think about things and people that have good reputations; the ultimate would of course always be God.  It’s always good to think about God and His Word. 

The Bible also tells us how to live honorably with good reputations.

James 3:13 “If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.”  The way to live an honorable life is by doing good works with humility. 

Good Deeds + Humble Attitude = Honor

Ephesians 4:1-3:  Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, [as an ambassador] for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21:  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Ephesians 6:1-3:  Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.”  Honoring goes back to the over-arching theme of submitting to each other (5:21). 

Proverbs 22:1: A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, Favor is better than silver and gold (NASB).

Ecclesiastes 7:1: A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume. And the day you die is better than the day you are born (NLT).

The way we live impacts how others see us and Christ, because we are His representatives.  We are to act, speak, and live out the attitude of humble service with integrity; not only to be honorable ourselves, but also to draw honor to Him who has enabled us to act, speak, and live this way.

We are also to admire those who have gone before us that have lived honorable lives, as examples to follow.  We must always consider, though, that every person is fallen and not perfect.  We must be aware that admiration can go too far.  As long as we don’t revere them to the point of worship, we can admire what they have done and try to emulate that honorable quality. 

Who is someone you look up to as honorable?  What have they done, what have they said, or what characteristic have they radiated that you admire?  Please comment below!

Stay tuned for the next in the series about Philippians 4:8: "Whatever is Just."


*The full Merriam-Webster definition of honorable is: 1. deserving of respect or high regard: deserving of honor •an honorable profession.  2. a: of great renown: illustrious •”the college's long and honorable history.”  b: entitled to honor or respect —used as a title for the children of certain British noblemen and for various government officials •”the Honorable Judge Smith” •”the Honorable Senator from California.”  3. performed or accompanied with marks of honor or respect.  4. a: attesting to creditable conduct •”honorable wounds.”  b: consistent with a reputation that is not tarnished or sullied •”an honorable withdrawal” •”received an honorable discharge from the army.”  5: characterized by integrity: guided by a keen sense of duty and ethical conduct •”Brutus is an honorable man” — William Shakespeare •”assured her that his intentions were honorable”