The Apostle Paul’s Media Pyramid

Applying Philippians 4:8 to our media intake

There is much good in everyday life that should be acknowledged and appreciated, regardless of whether it is done or said by a Christian or not. Whether it’s a good product, a helpful service, a wise insight, a superb article, or a beautiful photograph, praise and celebrate it. Don’t look first for what you can critique, look for what you can admire. As Paul summed up: “If there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

 
A food pyramid is a graphic way of displaying the recommended daily intake of different kinds of healthy food. The Apostle Paul drew a media food pyramid for us in Philippians 4:8, breaking down our media intake into six healthy categories:

Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever thingsare pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

1. True not false: “Whatever things are true”
Media lies are found on both the left and the right. Christians will often rightly protest at the bias of the mainstream media, and yet be completely blind to the bias that comes from the more conservative media outlets. But lies are lies regardless of whether they come from the left or the right.

We also have to be careful that we don’t over-expose ourselves to journalists who spend most of their time exposing the lies of “the other team.” Again this over-emphasis on falsehood only breeds cynicism, suspicion, and mistrust.

2. Noble not base: “Whatever things are noble”
The media tend to publicize the vile and sordid side of life. Some of the most popular books over the past years have been childhood memoirs that describe the most horrific abuse and cruelty. 50 Shades of Grey, a trilogy of books that celebrate sadistic sex, has occupied the bestsellers list for months and months, drawing massive media attention and debasing old and young minds alike.

“Don’t do this to yourself!” appealed Paul. Bin the base and nourish the noble in your life. “Noble” means “majestic, awe-inspiring, worthy, and elevating.” It’s the word used to describe deacons in 1 Tim 3:8 and old men in Titus 2:2. It can be translated “gravity” and is the opposite of what is cheap, tawdry, and frivolous.

3. Right not wrong: “Whatever things are just”
“Just” means what conforms to God’s law and standards, and describes right conduct in the whole of life. Does that sound like most sit-coms, soap-operas, and news features? Do the media celebrate right acts? Quite the reverse; they usually focus on sinful acts. Moral people don’t make the news and if they do ever appear in TV or on film, they are caricatured as out-of-touch or irrelevant.

4. Purity not filth: “Whatever things are pure”
When was the last time you saw a film that celebrated chastity and modesty, or showed the beauty of Christian marriage, or that portrayed a normal functioning family. Immorality, abuse, fighting, murder, and weirdness rules the day. Filth floats to the surface while purity sinks without trace.

5. Beautiful not ugly: “Whatever things are lovely”
“Lovely” things call and compel admiration and affection. It’s literally “towards love” and means whatever produces love, whatever moves towards love. Perhaps the best modern word would be “beautiful” or “winsome.” That’s hardly a word that comes to mind when surveying most TV listings or movie premieres. The ugly side of life seems to win the day as so many are fatally drawn to the darkness (John 3:19). Notice how many millions of views that “Fail” videos have on Youtube! See if you can find many viral videos that showcase the beautiful and the lovely.

6. Praise not complaint: “Whatever things are of good report”
Focus on what is constructive rather than destructive, on whatever makes people exclaim, “Well done!” rather than what makes you and others say, “That’s terrible.”

As you sit at your dinner table, do you suggest topics that will show people up in a good light or in a bad light? Do you tell stories that will make your family praise God and others or in a way that will make them doubt God and criticize others.

Whatever x 6
There is much good in everyday life that should be acknowledged and appreciated, regardless of whether it is done or said by a Christian or not. Whether it’s a good product, a helpful service, a wise insight, a superb article, or a beautiful photograph, praise and celebrate it. Don’t look first for what you can critique, look for what you can admire. As Paul summed up: “If there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

And his emphasis is not on the “not.” He’s not saying so much, “Don’t watch that, don’t listen to this, don’t think about that, don’t, don’t, don’t…” Rather it’s positive, “Do think, do focus, do fill your minds with the true, the good, the lovely, etc.” And let’s help our children to do the same. That’s a daily duty and a daily battle for which we need daily grace.

What old and new media sources and resources have you found that help you eat healthy?

David Murray is Professor of Old Testament & Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on his blog and is used with permission.

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