Ralph Waldo Emerson, the 19th century essayist, poet and philospher, wrote a great deal about the importance of thinking for one’s self. He once lamented that “the problem with men today is that they don’t think.”
The inventor,Thomas Edison, echoed this sentiment when he opined, “Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
And then it was Helen Keller who spoke an uncomfortable truth when she said, “People don’t like to think, if one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant.”
Our word of the week, “think,” is a Bible principle, often issued in various commands.
Jesus frequently asked people in response to his teaching, “What do you think?” (Matt 17:25; 18:12; 22:42). His goal was to challenge their preconceived ideas, their misconceptions, and their shallow thinking. He wanted people to open their eyes to different possibilities. New ideas. And a different life.
To think is to reflect. To consider. To conceive. To analyze. To evaluate. To employ one’s mind in a rational way. Thinking connects us to the Divine nature. And elevates us above the animal kingdom.
Good thinking begins with God. His Word. And His revelation. Man’s thoughts void of God and godliness become futile. The wise man wrote, “The thoughts of the righteous are right (Prov. 12:5). Evil thoughts can only produce evil deeds (Mt. 15:19)
Our thinking ultimately results in the kind of person we become. It was also Emerson who wrote, “A man is what he thinks about all day long.” However, this wasn’t a new thought. The second century Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, said “A man’s life is what his thoughts make of it.” But even 1,000 years prior to that the Bible simply stated, “As a man thinks in his heart so is he” (Prov. 23:7).
Twenty-nine centuries later an obscure author, James A. Allen, would write a book based on Solomon’s declaration, As A Man Thinketh. In it he stated, “thought and character are one.” He further developed the connection between thought and character in these words:
“Man is made or unmade by himself. In the armory of thought, he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself. He also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace. By right choice and true application of thought, man ascends to divine perfection. By the abuse and wrong application of thought, he descends below the level of beast. Between these two are all the grades of character, and man in their maker and master.”
Indeed our thoughts determine our character. They always precede our actions. And often foretell our circumstances. In fact, Allen also observed, “The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors; that which it loves; and also that which it fears.”
It is important to realize that God cares about what we think. Good thinking is more than just improving our lives. It is also pleasing God. And it must begin and end in His Book.
I heard Ed Harrell once relate about a young man who was prone to some speculative religious thinking justify it by saying he was “thinking outside the box.” Ed quipped, “Before you can think outside the box, you need to know what’s inside the box.”
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil 4:8)
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman