Watch Your Thoughts, Not Just Your Actions

You probably think about your spiritual health a lot. But, the spirit isn’t in a vacuum—it works with the mind. Praying at night and being careless about what you see and hear during the day is like watering a rose only to hit it with the lawn mower.

In The Power of a Praying Parent, Stormie Omartian writes, “What goes into [your] mind becomes part of [you], so weigh carefully what [you] see and hear.” It’s a powerful thought, and it’s backed up by several passages in scripture.

Love the Lord With All Your Mind

The Bible tells us that we are judged not just on our spiritual health, but on our mental cleanliness. In the Psalms, God is said to “try our minds and hearts” (7:9, 26:2). 

Indeed, all synoptic Gospels say the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your hearts and with all your soul and with all your minds.” (Mt 22:37, Mk 12:30, Lk 10:27)

However, loving God with all your heart might be impossible if you don’t love God with all your mind.

The Mind Set on the Flesh Is Hostile to God

St. Paul warns us that everyday life is a battle between the spirit and the flesh. For St. Paul, loving God through a chaste mind isn’t a matter of God’s jealousy; it’s a matter of human ability:

“Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on things of the flesh but those who live according to the spirit set their minds on things of the spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death but to set the mind on the spirit is life and peace, for the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s laws, indeed it cannot.

(Romans, 8:65-7)

St. Paul reiterates elsewhere that keeping the mind free from temptation isn’t enough. The mind needs to be actively applied to what is holy:

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

(Philippians 4:8-9)

Be Transformed by the Renewal of Your Mind

Saints Paul and Peter both write that the importance of the application of our minds is that it influences our actions. As Christians called to right action, St. Paul tells us that we are called to right thought:

“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

(Romans 12:2)

This passage should also offer consolation when we find our minds straying where they don’t belong. The natural state of our human minds is to be focused on worldly things. St. Peter writes that applying our minds to what is holy is meant to be an active process:

“Gird your minds, be sober, set your sight fully on the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be confined to the passion of your former ignorance.”

(1 Peter, 1:13-14)

Like children, we must gradually learn to apply our minds to the study of God, even or especially when other applications seem more fun or immediately gratifying. If you find your mind straying into unholy areas, try to redirect them, potentially through a short prayer.

First, try to find out where the thoughts are coming from. Is a person in your life or a television program you’ve been watching putting bad ideas in your head? This might be something to prayerfully address.

Also like children, we must remember that harmful thoughts can impact those around us. 

Think of times when you have been hurt by something someone said or did in anger. You’ve probably made someone feel the same way. That’s a pain you can prevent, not simply by not saying anything when you have nothing nice to say, but by cultivating holy thoughts—thoughts that do not judge and that “seek to be understood as to understand.” 

Gird Your Minds

We should safeguard the contents of our minds as we safeguard the contents of our souls. Scripture tells us that both the mind and the soul are judged, and with unclean minds we can not live clean lives as we are called to do.

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