The Word of the Month: "Whatever" — Novella McClung

The word for today is whatever. Dictionaries tend to define whatever as the lack of restriction; surprise or confusion or any kind of emphasis. Whatever even by tone can imply the lack of respect. Whatever once was the favorite word of teenagers, accompanied by rolling of the eyes, but today finds usage in all age groups. Whatever is used one hundred seventy-three times in the New International Version of the Bible. Whatever is not new!

Whatever as the lack of restriction is better recognized in the phrase “do whatever you like.” We tend to use the word when we want to have our own way. Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 8:15 that you might as well enjoy whatever you want to do. Don’t get your hopes up. Eating, drinking and doing your own thing because you will die tomorrow is not the answer. You must read the rest of the story. Chapter 12:14 reminds us that God is going to judge our “whatevers” - good, bad or done in secret.

Go with me to the wedding in Cana? In John 2:5, Mary tells them to “do whatever (emphases added) He (Jesus) tells you to do.” Jesus told the servants to fill the jars with water and give the steward a drink. The servants heard and filled the request. They knew they put water in the jars. Their thoughts might have been “we will do whatever you say as crazy as it seems.” Can you imagine the confusion and surprise of the servants when the water became wine?

Whatever also implies a lack of respect. We find this in the careless words of Jephthah in Judges 11:31. Jephthah was forced from his home (town) because his mother was a prostitute. He was asked later to come back and fight the Ammonites. His mind was on what he could/would gain, not on his words. Jephthah asked God’s help and then made the rash promise – “let me win and whatever comes out of the door of my house I will burn (sacrifice to you).” The first person to come out the door was his young daughter.

The only way whatever should be used is found in Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Do not spend your whatevers looking for no restrictions; in surprise or confusion; in indifference or with lack of respect. Make your whatever count for the LORD.

Remember how angry, frustrated or upset you are when someone uses whatever on you. Why would we want to show the same disrespect to the LORD who in His mercy, made a way for us to have a relationship with Him, and by His love allowing Jesus to take our sins, die on the cross and be resurrected to assure us of this relationship?

Our whatever is far better spent on God’s way than the ways of the world! Society is confused about right and wrong; noble and ignoble; true and false, pure and not pure and lovely and ugly. Isn’t it time to take a stand and use our whatevers to make a difference? There would be no confusion. Respect would return. People’s actions would not surprise you. There would be no restrictions on the Lord’s abundant mercy on us.

Bring honor to the LORD in ”whatever your heart finds to do.” And you don’t even have to roll your eyes!