A devotional from Fred Carpenter…
It is the most annoying word in the English language,
but one of the most powerful in the Bible!
Every year, Marist College in New York conducts an opinion poll to determine what word or phrase Americans consider to be the most annoying*. For the past six years, “whatever” has topped the list.
Of course, inflection and context affect the meaning of “whatever”. But when this word is used as a holophrase (a single word sentence), the result is never edifying. It may be spoken in an argument to admit that you are wrong without admitting it, thus ending the argument. It may be said to convey and an attitude of indifference, apathy or disrespect. It is one sure way to kill a conversation, or perhaps escalate the tension in the room.
Use of the word, “whatever” can also be an indication of frustration. A person using this word may not see the value of being understood or understanding the other person. Or perhaps the path to achieve this goal just seems too difficult, if not impossible, or even painful. Communication is hard work!
In a culture where apathy, disrespect and the inability to communicate effectively and authentically is pervasive, it is easy to understand why the word “whatever” has become so commonplace. But what about a different context, one in which purpose, respect and meaningful communication are held as high values? Is there a higher purpose for this word?
Depending on the translation, the Bible uses the word “whatever” about 148 times. Never is it used with the meaning that has secured its place as the most annoying word in America. Often, it is used in God’s Word to describe something without limits.
For instance, in 1 Samuel 20:4, Jonathan expresses his total commitment to his friend, David, by saying “Whatever you say, I will do for you.” In other words, anything. Nothing is too much.
In John 15:7, Jesus says “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” What an invitation. You can almost picture Jesus with His arms open and outstretched saying, come, try me. You won’t be disappointed.
In Philippians 4:8, Paul wrote, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Paul is not using the using the word, “whatever” to communicate ambiguity. He is not saying we should dwell on just anything. He is saying we should dwell on these things, any and all of them.
A simple dictionary definition for the word “whatever” is “no matter what.”** Think about it. Words have power. “Whatever” could be the most annoying word in the English language, or it could be the simplest, most profound response to God that anyone could ever have. Whatever you ask Lord! Whatever it takes Lord! Whatever!