Colossians 3:2, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

I crumble a piece of paper in my hand and throw it toward the trash can several feet away. I almost never name the shot on the first (or second or third) try. Usually, I’m too flustered by not being able to articulate a particular idea in writing (hence the crumbling and tossing) or too distracted to pay attention. I don’t point my eyes where my fist is aiming, so I miss my target.

In Colossians 3:2, Paul tells the Colossians where to focus their attention. What exactly does Paul mean when he tells them to set their minds on things that are above? Knowing what we know of the apostle Paul, we can assume he’s saying to keep our thoughts on what is important. But does that mean everyday things aren’t? What about laundry, taxes, groceries? A business lunch to discuss the new project or the PTA meeting to assess a child’s difficulty at school? What about those earthly things?

Set Your Minds on Things That Are Above

A closer look at the wording of Colossians 3:2 sheds some light. We use three words, “set your minds to translate the verb Phroneō used by Paul in Greek when he wrote the letter to the believers in Colossae. It means “to interest oneself in (with concern or obedience):—set the affection on.”[1]

In other words, this setting of our minds has a lot to do with what we submit to (obedience) and hold dear (set our affection on). The exhortation is not merely to think about the things above. Written in the present tense, the verse is an imperative. In other words, it’s not just good advice. Our life depends on it. It’s a call to feed our thoughts, place our hope, and treasure our deepest attachment beyond the here and now.

Not on Things That Are on Earth

Laundry, taxes, business projects, and PTA meetings, they all matter to God. The apostle Paul isn’t advocating for an ethereal life devoted exclusively to spirituality, but explaining how to live as a follower of Jesus made new in Christ.

So often, I swim in a deep ocean of questions, plans, fears, and hopes. I’m not talking about the anxiety-driven by what-ifs, although I’m sure I entertain those as well. I’m referring to aspirations and plans that draw a map of steps and drive my decisions accordingly. Why? Because I have so much at stake pending on a certain outcome. In plain English, this I love and obey with all my heart. And this can be mundane or extraordinary. Whether it’s laundry or a -million-dollar project, I am often tempted to be interested in, have concern for, and set my heart on something other than God. Profound change begins in our minds. What we think determines so much of our behavior.

We Submit to What We Believe

To set our minds on things above is to rest on more than outcomes tangible right now. It comes down to where we make our dwelling, our safety. In these moments, I have to ask, am I finding my hope in what I can accomplish or in what I can make happen in myself, or in the sovereign Lord?  The temporal and the eternal, God knows both.

Real-life requires real faith grounded in the Word of God. Because sometimes we leave the laundry in the washer, we’re late with our taxes, and business deals and meetings go sour. To set our minds on things above is to live believing our dwelling place, our peace is always going to be found in Jesus.

[1] https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=G5426

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