Human beings are creatures of rational thought and ideas. We are able to plan, and follow those plans, because of our ability to think concretely. Just over 50 years ago, university professor Dallas Willard said that “we live at the mercy of our ideas” (“Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God,” 1963). A few examples from the pages of Scripture showing the practical application of this statement might be helpful to us in understanding his meaning.
First, Paul warned the Corinthians, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Cor. 15:33). The context of this warning was their danger of being influenced by the erroneous thinking of some who denied the resurrection of the dead. His counsel was for them to “[c]ome back to [their] senses as [they] ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God. ...” (v. 34). Ignorance of God (i.e., wrong ideas and a lack of understanding about God) can lead us to sin against God, both in our thinking and in our actions. It is never good to take God’s revelation about himself and his will lightly.
Second, when we are influenced by the thinking of the world, it is demonstrated in our actions toward God, others and ourselves. In one of his confrontation with the Jews, Jesus rebuked them for their hypocrisy in criticizing his disciples for not washing their hands before eating. Explaining his comments to his disciples later, Jesus told them that “... out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matt. 15:19).
In the third place, a person who disbelieves the existence of God will be inclined to deny spirituality and morality. (Seeming exceptions to this may not be exceptions at all, but rather individuals who simply have sincere questions about the existence of God, and yet see the value of living by moral standards.) Those who don’t believe in the God who created the universe will be prone to devalue human life and a high moral standard. Murder, abortion, euthanasia and other attacks against humanity reveal a mindset that is in conflict with the standards of a loving, caring Creator.
Fourth, greed is a form of idolatry (Col. 3:5), the worship of the physical things of this world, both good and bad. Jesus told a story about a man who was “not rich toward God” (Luke 12). This was the attitude of his mind or thinking. His idea about wealth was that it was more important than God, and everything he did was colored by it. Paul told his disciple Timothy to tell “those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Tim. 6:17). Our “hope in God” is our thinking about God, our confidence in him and his trustworthiness. (Note Heb. 11:6.)
Finally, Paul cautioned the Romans, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Rom. 12:3). In our relationships with others, our thinking — about them, about ourselves and about God — will determine the nature and spiritual value of those relationships.
Let us seek to constantly monitor our thinking, to keep it in line with the thinking of God, expressed in Holy Scripture.