You’ve probably heard the expression, maybe even used it, though they say it isn’t common today. It’s an invitation for one who seems lost in thought to share his or her preoccupation. The phrase is one of the very earliest expressions that existed in English since the language was first recorded on paper. It was apparently first used by Sir Thomas More in A Treatyce upon the last thynges,’ about 1535:
In such wise yt not wtoute som note & reproch of suche vagaraunte mind, other folk say to them: a peny for your thought.
How drastically 400+ years have changed our language! A current translation of the above might be:
“When people notice someone appears disengaged and wish them to rejoin the conversation, they ask ‘a penny for your thoughts.”
It’s just a saying, but it puts value on thoughts, much greater than our current concept of a penny. In 1500, a penny had real value.
And our thoughts have real worth. Or they SHOULD have.
It is a good question to ask ourselves: How much are MY thoughts worth? Do they have real value? or are they like the junk shop, containing a few items of unquestionable value but mixed in with a lot of mental rubbish?
Jesus put value on our thoughts when he cited our HEART as the source of all that defiles us.
Mark 7:21–23 21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
The first listed is evil thoughts, which takes in the hurt feelings, feelings of being slighted, injustices once done and not forgotten or forgiven, and so on and on. Get our thoughts under control, and we close out many another evil.
It is a serious matter, a matter of life or death. During our waking hours, our brain is never still, and it is necessary to our future well-being that we fill our mind with the right kind of thoughts. The prophet Jeremiah pleaded with his people about this long ago:
Jeremiah 4:14 14O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness, That you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you?
The New Jerusalem Bible makes his words even stronger:
Jeremiah 4:14 (NJB) 14Wash your heart clean of wickedness, Jerusalem, and so be saved. How long will you go on harbouring your pernicious thoughts?
Pernicious thoughts, wicked, deceitful, false, untrue, focused on a wicked thing.
Not the kind we want!
Such thoughts can easily be generated by what is outside, but the key lies in keeping them OUT. And keeping them out means not exposing our eyes and ears—and mind—to what is “out there.” The less we allow the outside to get in, the less problem we will have with evil thoughts.
We can’t blame what is outside for what goes on INSIDE our minds. WE are responsible for what we think about!
But few can claim complete purity of thought. In most of us, by nature, the contaminating germ count is heavy. Far back in the history of our race, God saw this problem:
Genesis 6:5 5Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
All of us today have had to adjust many things outside our “normal” mode of life, and are always wondering if our practices are “clean enough” or “safe enough,” even without Covid-19. Inspectors are constantly discovering contaminations in food. If they were looking, they would find the same with the circulating of mental garbage.
A process for keeping our minds clean needs to be added to our daily regimen.
What can we do?
David had a formula: keep God near.
Psalm 16:8–9 8I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. 9Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope.
How much closer could he keep the angel than at his right hand!
God was his ever present helper.
Psalm 46:1 1God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
God was his defense, his shield, his protector, his high tower. How many times he said it in his songbook!
2 Samuel 22:1–3 1Then David spoke to the Lord the words of this song, on the day when the Lord had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. 2And he said: “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; 3The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, My stronghold and my refuge; My Savior, You save me from violence.
David knew that influence from the outside could be his downfall, and he had to guard WARILY against it!
Isaiah offered the same defense against evil. The strength of his confidence is encouraging for us.
Isaiah 26:1–2 1In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: “We have a strong city; God will appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks. 2Open the gates, That the righteous nation which keeps the truth may enter in.
A righteous nation that keeps the truth—all clean, all pure. No contamination there! The result will be inner peace.
Isaiah 26:33You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
A mind fixed on God will be safe! That means NOT exposing our minds to everything that comes along.
The more we think about the things outside, the things around us, the things that are not of God, the more we will have to contend with INSIDE our minds.
Experts say we think between 60,000 and 80,000 thoughts a day. If this is true, that means 2,500 thoughts an hour? 42 thoughts a minute? Pretty fast traveling!
1st Peter says something to this problem: 1st Peter 5:8 what is the devil? It is our own thought chamber, where we are bombarded continually.
Small wonder that our mind is a battleground. During this pandemic, many people have literally been consumed with fear from thoughts that were placed in their mind by unreasoning individuals who made sensational statements without any basis in fact. The result has been needless suffering.
Had Solomon controlled his thoughts and maintained his integrity, the end of his career would have been vastly different than what awaits him when he stands before the judge. The advice of his father David faded from view.
1 Chronicles 28:9 9“As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever.
Solomon forgot. But they are left on record for us to hear and heed, because the Lord is still searching our hearts, and the imaginations of our thoughts. It is still true. If we seek God, we can find Him. If we forsake Him, He will cast us off forever. Remember what Solomon wrote,
Proverbs 23:7 7For as [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he.
Control your thinking, and you control your future.
So let us ask: Do my thoughts lift me up and give me peace of mind, or do they drag me down and leave me disturbed and distressed when something goes wrong? This is when we have to take charge of our minds, and it is not easy.
Our thoughts, even more than our deeds, are the true substructure of our character. Spiritual growth begins with exchanging our thoughts for God’s, so that we can recognize what stands between us and Him.
This is why David prayed,
Psalm 139:23–24 23Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.
Holding the law of God in one hand and our soul in the other should help us to get a picture of how God sees us. Let us ask, what does my conduct indicate about my future?
There is a poem I would like to cite here by an unknown author. It is a short summary of what makes our character.
The camera takes a picture
And the picture cannot lie,
It has to be exactly as
It met the camera’s eye.
But how about the picture we
Present from day to day,
That ought to be a likeness true
Of what we think and say?
Are we as honest and as good
As we appear to be,
Or do we stoop to phony and
To trick photography?
Yes, we can hide our selfishness
And hatred with a smile,
And camouflage in other ways,
But only for a while.
Though we may pass around a print
Of how we seem to live,
Someday it will be known that we
Touched up the negative!
Our character is a sum of our thoughts.
A noble and godly character is the natural result of right thinking. It is the result of wiping our mind clean of all that is defiling and low and disheartening, and filling it with high, pure, exalting thoughts over and over again throughout the day.
The apostle Paul gave the right remedy in Philippians 4:8,
Philippians 4:8 8Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—think on these things.
ESV translation is good.
Philippians 4:8 (ESV) 8Finally, brothers, … if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
That summarizes it all. If there is anything excellent, anything worthy of praise, these are the things to be thinking about.
Thoughts are the most powerful force in the world. They mold the whole course of our lives.
But let us not stop short of Paul’s next piece of advice: translating those thoughts into real LIFE.
Philippians 4:9 9The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
Model your conduct on what you have learned from me, he says, and the God of peace will be with you.
By cherishing the right thoughts, we can rise to the height of divine perfection. By wrong thinking, we can take ourselves below the level of a beast.
If there is to be any virtue, anything worthy of praise, THINK ON THESE THINGS!
Whatsoever things are true,
whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report;
if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
The things you’ve learned, and received
and have seen and heard in me,
practice these things and the God of peace,
the God of peace shall be with you!