Second Reading: Philippians 4:6-9

The Good Example

Who do you know that shows good example for others? Why are these people admirable?

Popular Translation

6 Don’t worry about anything. Instead, let God know what you need. And when you pray, tell God, “Thank you!” 7 God’s peace cannot be completely understood. But it guards your mind and heart from worry because you are with Christ Jesus.

8 Brothers and sisters, spend the rest of your time thinking about things that are true, honorable, right, and pure. Find out what really pleases God. Speak well of others. Work on a life of virtue. Do things that are worthy of praise. 9 Whatever you learned from me, whatever I gave to you, whatever you heard from me or saw me do, put into practice. Do this, and the God of peace will be with you.

Literal Translation

6 Be anxious (about) nothing, but in every prayer and need, let your requests be known to God with thanksgiving. 7 The peace of God, the (one) surpassing everything (in the) mind, will guard your hearts and thoughts in CHRIST JESUS.

8 The rest, brothers, as much as is true, as much as (is) honorable, as much as (is) right, as much as (is) pure, as much as (is) pleasing (to God), as much as (is) good speech, if (there is) any other virtue or any other (item) worthy of praise, dwell on these (things). 9 Whatever you learned (from) or received (from) or heard (from) or saw in me, do these (things). Then the God of peace will be with you.

5:6 “with thanksgiving” The word “thanksgiving” is “eucharistia” in Greek; while the word referred to a spirit of gratitude, does the word also infer liturgical overtones? (“Your requests” implied a communal prayer, since “your” is second person plural.) If this was the case, 4:8-9 referred to conduct outside the celebration of the assembly.

As Paul ended his letter to the Philippians, he exhorted his audience to prayer and a life focused on virtue. For Paul, prayer should be honest and all inclusive; the petitioner should open his or her heart to the Lord so peace could replace anxiety. Yes, the small community of believers could experience the misunderstanding, prejudice, and abuse of outsiders, but within the assembly, they could know the peace that came from the presence of Christ.

In the culture, however, the Christian should preoccupy themselves with issues that will bring the community honor. Criticizing virtuous living only brings the critic shame. Nothing is lost in living a highly moral life; in fact, everything is gained.

At the end of the passage, Paul offered himself as an example of prayer and solid living. While this might seem a exercise in pride and bravado, Paul actually had a point. Even though he preached to the Gentiles and made himself unclean by socializing with them, he was a highly educated and observant Jew; he knew and obeyed the Law. Greek and Roman society admired Jews for their ethical standards and moral lifestyle, even if the notion of kosher eluded them. In addition, he lived a Christian life on the edge; he was a missionary who faced danger and death. He was proud of the wounds he suffered for Christ. His lifelong dedication to Torah observance and his burning desire to evangelize made Paul the ideal example. He had overcome anxiety when he faced persecution; he knew what it took to live a life that was faithful, pure and virtuous. Paul had what it took to be mentor and model.

Paul’s words should resonance in us. We are to be honest in prayer, honest in lifestyle. For, when we take the title of Christian, we evangelize by our actions. Like Paul, we mentor and model Christian living for others.

What sort of example have you given this week? How can you improve your example? How has your example succeeded in bringing others closer to Christ?