Minding Our Walk
Robert Wurtz II
For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, who mind earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:18-20).
One of the many delights of traveling to the United Kingdom is hearing words and phrases used that are peculiar to a Midwestern American. So when I boarded the subway for the first time in London and heard the electronic announcement, “mind the gap” I had to think for a minute. Later I saw a sign at my feet between the dock and the train with the same message. I quickly realized that the phrase meant, “pay attention to the gap between where you are standing and where you are stepping.” Nobody wants to lose a leg (or worse).
As a child my grandmother was what friends in the UK might call a “childminder” — only we were the ones expected to “mind.” She used to say, “boy, you better mind me” or “you are being punished because you don’t mind.” That didn’t mean I didn’t care about the punishment or “mind” that I was being disciplined. It meant that I wasn’t listening and hearkening to her instructions. The old-timers had a way of making sure the children “mind” and it was usually with a weeping willow tree switch (rod) or something similar.
Satan has always sought to turn man’s attention to his/her physical needs and pleasures and away from our obligation to obey God. He wants all of us to “makes stones into bread” (so to speak). Paul speaks of people who “mind earthly things” or as the ESV renders the text, “minds (are) set on earthly things.” Their minds are set on present, earthly things; that is, they have abandoned a lifestyle marked by the cross and have given up altogether on the future glory of the Saints in exchange for temporal pleasures. Paul weeps telling the Philippians about it. Since Paul was incarcerated at this time, he could be referring to those who abandoned him for love of this present world (as Demas later will).
Paul counseled the Philippian saints to “mind” his walk with the Lord and imitate it. Paul’s testimony was that he desired to depart and be with Christ which is far better than living in this world. He suffered much for the Gospel and the cross life that he preached and was frequently hungry, thirsty, in pain, in the cold, or lonely facing hostility for the cause of Christ. Jesus walked this way and told His disciples to expect the same treatment from the world. Nevertheless, Paul identified a troubling attitude among some professing Christians who emphasized a life of pleasure rather than the way of the cross.
Paul writes, I “now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, who mind earthly things.” The verb “walk,” repeated from Philippians 3:17, is used primarily by Paul in this figurative way—to describe both positively and negatively how believers are to live as Christians (NICNT). Satan plants people in churches to influence the people to walk contrary to what they have seen in Paul and the other faithful leaders. Their lifestyle is the embodiment of the Serpents question to Eve, “Hath God said?”
Ancient Evil Influence
There is no new thing under the sun. The time would fail me to list all the times throughout my Christian life when people who “walked in their shame” undermined good Christian examples by suggesting that it’s not necessary to “live like _____ lives” or that they had taken serving Christ too far. Really? What would Paul have said of such people? What would he have objected to regarding their behavior or “walk”? Christians don’t go looking for persecution or suffering, but they must be prepared to endure it for the Gospel’s sake.
Heavenly-mindedness is a virtue. Earthly mindedness is sin. For a person’s belly (lit. Stomach) to be their god is to suggest that they worship their own fleshly appetites. The closest analogy to this in ancient writings is found in Euripides (Cyclops, 334, 335), where Cyclops, with the words δαιμών and γαστήρ, says, “I offer sacrifice to no god but myself, and to this belly of mine.” The “stomach” (usually γαστήρ) is used variously by Greco-Roman writers as a metonymy for gluttony and the like: Seneca refers to people who are “slaves of their bellies” (Ben. 7.26; cf. Xenophon Mem. 1.6.8; 2.1.2), and in another place of seeking “the good of man, not that of his belly” (Vit. Beat. 9.4); whereas Lucian (Patr. Laud. 10) uses “stomach” in a context of “people measuring happiness by their appetites.” (NICNT)
Paul spoke of widows who lived in pleasure and were “dead while they lived” (1 Timothy 5:6), while James spoke of those who “lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; had nourished their hearts, as in a day of slaughter” (James 5:5 KJV). What is the problem? They were earthbound (as Leonard Ravenhill used to say). Their focus was earthly or earth-ward (if you like). Yet even today believers are given over to the “stomach” as their deity and respond to it like a slave to his or her master. Jesus said, “my food is to do the will of Him that sent me” (John 4:34). But these professing Christians, rather than finding meaning and fulfillment in God and doing His will, were finding happiness in what Paris Reidhead called “the exercise of their glands.” Hedonism (living solely for pleasure) is perhaps one way to describe their outlook.
God doesn’t condemn us for enjoying the blessing of life. He wants us to enjoy our food and the many human pleasures of life. But when those pleasures supplant God and we neglect Him and His purposes to indulge in earth’s pleasures, we are in error. It is evidence that our minds have shifted from a heavenly focus to an earthly focus. The enemy plants people to encourage this condition so Paul warned the Philippians. We will never be on fire for God if we are burning for the pleasures of this life.
Minding our walk with God means that we recognize when we are substituting the temporal pleasures of this life for the glory of God. Gluttony is one sin that is rarely identified but can be a sign of subtle idolatry. Fasting is one way to bring our fleshly appetites into subjection to us and the Holy Spirit. Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that is proceeding from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4). This is what we must “mind” in order to “mind our walk” in this present evil world.