Sunday, February 13, 2011

"A Penny For Your Thoughts"

People do not say this little phrase much any more. There may be a few reasons for this. For one, we so rarely have to guess what someone is thinking these days, because they will tell you every little thought that runs through their head and/or every minute detail of their private life with or without your solicitation. Secondly, in this tough economy the value of most thoughts are hardly worth the penny. So, what are our thoughts worth, and how can we know?

In Ernest Dimnet's classic work The Art of Thinking, he dedicates a whole chapter to estimating thoughts. He writes that, "Introspection can be supplemented and controlled by two sources of information which we can hardly hold in suspicion: our private letters (now we might say our emails, texts, and Facebook posts), and above all our talk...What are we hearing ourselves say? Are we satisfied with merely speaking the exterior or interior cinema?...In the same way, are not our letter full of small talk and cheap details...If so, we cannot help escaping the self-pronounced verdict: ORDINARY" (p.26).

I believe he raises some excellent points. As Christians are we conforming our minds to Christ or the world's philosophies? We can take a mental inventory very easily: read through our emails, Facebook comments, text messages, journals (if we have any), and notice what we write about. We can also listen to the things we talk about with friends, family, and acquaintances. Are we discussing anything that we would want others to remember us for? Will our words benefit future generations? Or are they just ordinary (if not silly or crass) thoughts about our likes, dislikes, worries, appetites, etc?

It is surprising how many of the Proverbs discuss the relationship between our words and our thoughts. 

"When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but the prudent are restrained in speech." (10:19)

"One who is clever conceals knowledge, but the mind of a fool broadcasts folly." (12:23) 

"Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not find knowledge." (14:7) 

"The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly." (15:2) 

"The mind of one who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly." (15:14) 

These are just a sampling, but they convey my point adequately. According to the Scriptures, the quality of a person's thoughts--and even their true character--can be judged be what they say.

I am going to be honest and say that this scares me. I often catch myself saying utter nonsense for the sake of a laugh...or just for no reason at all. This is a good indicator of my heart and my thoughts. In Luke 6:43-45, Jesus puts it this way: "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the the abundance of 
the heart that the mouth speaks."

So if we see bad fruit in the words we write and hear bad fruit in the words we say, then how do we begin the change? How do we become more Christianly Intellectual? That will be the topic of the next post, entitled "The Metamorphosis--Why Gregor Samsa Became a Roach and So Can You". In the mean time, take some time to evaluate the quality or the nature of your thoughts by thinking through what you talk about and what you write. You may be just as convicted as me and discover that most of your thoughts aren't worth a penny.


  1. That's so true. I have also been convicted of that lately - in addition to my thoughts/words, though, is the conviction of what is going in (such as what TV shows I'm watching, the content of the movies I watch, etc.). If we pollute our mind with garbage going in, it fuels the likelihood of garbage coming out.

  2. Then I believe you will enjoy the next post. I look forward to your thoughts.

  3. Nick, one verse that runs through my mind daily is 2 Corinthians 10:5...We pull down every proud obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ (Good News Bible) Guess, for me that's where the Christian intellect begins....belief determines behavior. Great blog...great writer! We are so proud of you!

  4. I like this. You've made some good points that made me think.

  5. Auntie Momo, good point. There are really so many Scriptures that speak to this issue that it would take a book rather than a blog to note them all with the attention they deserve...unless we all get a long comment section going with everyone's input : D

    Wes, thanks for being a part of the discussion.

  6. i agree with Will...Garbage in, garbage out. We have to be careful with what we are filling our minds with, because it will quickly take over.