Are we responsible for our thoughts?

Humans are constantly bombarded with thoughts.  So, sometimes we can’t help what we start thinking, especially in this age of information that is constantly coming in through our senses. But we can choose what to keep thinking about and keep in our brain. Sadly, some Christians dwell on very negative, sinful thoughts rather than on that which is holy, good, and true.

Jesus taught that we can commit theft, murder, and adultery in the mind. He said, “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man” (Matthew 15:18–20). So, to God, sin always begins in the mind.

However, this doesn’t mean that when a tempting thought attacks us it’s automatically a sin. If we quickly decide to reject that evil thought and delete it from our mind, then we haven’t sinned. But when we purposely choose to dwell on it, then it becomes a sin.

Paul counsels, “Finally, brethren, 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” (Philippians 4:8). “Whatsoever things are true” refers to all that is morally and spiritually sound, all that is compatible with allegiance to Him who is “the truth” (John 14:6).  Here, Paul outlines a constructive program of mental activity.

Martin Luther puts it this way: “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” When applied to thoughts, it means that you can’t control every thought that comes to your mind, but you can control what you choose to think about and dwell on.

If we will live right, we must think right. The development of Christian character requires right thinking. Therefore, instead of thinking about negatives in others, or being worried about daily needs, we should dwell on positive virtues. God dwells with those who think holy thoughts and live holy lives, and with Him comes the peace which is His (Philippians 4:7; Romans 15:33).

Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

 

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