According to communication theorists the process of communication consists of three elements: A Sender (encoder), a message (code) and a receiver (decoder). According to the apostle Paul, spiritual communication contains a fourth element: Understanding given by the Lord.
There is a condition, however. The hearer needs to “consider” or, as some translations put it, “think about” the message. Only then will the insight come.
The implications of this verse are quite astounding. Paul is, in fact, prescribing a profound spiritual discipline to the church of Jesus Christ. The Greek word for “consider” literally means “to exercise the mind”. Understanding the Word of God is the conclusion of a deep and serious meditative process, in other words.
The New Testament uses the metaphors of meat and milk to distinguish between the nutrition of mature and immature Christians. When we consider that one of the primary differences between drinking milk and eating meat has to do with the respective digestive processes associated with it, Paul’s advice makes a lot of sense. Milk requires no digestion as it is pre-digested. For meat to be absorbed, however, it needs to be broken down by the body, and this takes time. It is therefore not farfetched to suspect that one of the fundamental differences between the mature and the immature believer lies in their ability, or inability, to digest the meat of the word – to consider, think about and meditate on it.
We are a culture who has lost their ability to reflect, many believe. We prefer soap operas, not Shakespeare. If this is true, then Paul’s challenge is all the more relevant.