What does it mean that we should not have our minds set on earthly things?

Asked by jack

In phillippians 3 verse 19 it syas we shouldn’t have our minds on earthly things. So does that mean i shouldn’t have my mind on earthly stuff all the time and only sometimes?


Hi Jack,

Although you’ve pointed to Philippians 3:19 in your question, it might be more helpful to start answering this question by looking at Colossians 3:1-5. Paul discusses the same thing in this passage, a little more fully. His idea here is that once you become a Christian, you live in a new reality:

“If you have been raised with Christ…” (v1)

In the Bible, Christianity isn’t really about doing good things - it is about trusting God’s goodness. We are, however, often encouraged to do good things. But when this happens it is because we change when we become Christians. We have been ‘raised with Christ’ and we are called on to live like it.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on earthly things, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (v2-3)

Paul’s thinking here is, why would you continue doing ‘earthly’ things - why would you even continue thinking about them - if you have died and are now joined to Christ?! It just doesn’t make any sense! What Paul means by ‘earthly’ things is clarified in the next few verses:

‘Put to death therefore whatever is in you that is earthly: sexual immorality, unhelpful thoughts, uncontrollable passions, evil desires, greed…” (v5)

Paul doesn’t ordinarily use the term ‘earthly’ to mean everyday things that we do or find in this world (as opposed to heaven): football, computer games, friends and family all have their place. What Paul means by ‘earthly’ is sinful things - things that are contrary to your new nature as someone who has died to sin and been raised with Christ. Sometimes ordinary things which are good in their own right can become sinful if we let them get in the road of our relationship with God. If we, say, value football over church or if we play computer games when we never read the Bible. In this case these ‘earthly’ things really are sinful.

It is the same in Philippians 3:19. To ‘set your mind on earthly things’ means to desire above everything else something other than your relationship with God. Paul reminds us in the very next verse of the same truth that we learned from Colossians. We are to value our relationship with God above everything else because ‘our citizenship is in heaven’ - we have changed. If we are Christians we no longer belong to the earth, we belong to heaven.

I think you will now see the answer to your question. Paul means all the time. Every second, of every day all of your life. You are a citizen of heaven, you are raised with Christ - thats the wonderful truth. Now live like it!

Answers are kindly provided by our friends at Christianity.net.au

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