That word may be the least favorite word heard by the parents of many teenagers. It usually comes with a certain sarcastic inflection, rolled eyes, and a turned back. There may not be a single word that causes more feelings of disrespect and anger. Those feelings are very understandable though they often cause an overreaction by parents. However, I’d like to try to redeem the word whatever at least spiritually.
It occurs to me that the “whatever” is a key word spiritually, and one that can perhaps help prepare us for the year ahead. For example, Colossians 3:23-24, gives us instruction regarding our work in 2019. God tells us there to work “willingly at whatever” we do as though we were working for God instead of people. He even included the slaves of the day in the scope of this command. (By the way, it is a command, not a suggestion.) So, if God was our supervisor, our boss, how might that change our attitude regarding the mundane and even seemingly idiotic things the boss tells us to do sometimes. Would we still grumble and complain? Would we still say derogatory things about the boss to coworkers and friends? Please note that the verse does not say your boss is God. It just tells us to work “as though” we were working for God. The fact is, and the Bible never contradicts the facts, that there are some terrible bosses out there who have no idea how to effectively manage people. Here’s the catch and the point. As believers, we would all agree that God is our boss, and we report directly to Him. And in these verses, our boss tells us to work as though we are working for Him, even when we have one of those terrible bosses. Why? Because, it’s not about us or our human bosses. It’s about glorifying God by the way we conduct ourselves day to day in our jobs. Far more important than what we do for a living, is who we are while doing it.
What about outside of work? 1 Corinthians 10:18-33 gives instruction regarding eating meat that may or may not have been offered to idols. That’s one problem that we are not likely to face in the new year. However, the principle clearly stated is that we should live according to our own conscience before God with a sensitivity to others’ conscience also. The purpose of the principle is to allow us to do “whatever” we feel is okay to do, not letting others control us, but being sensitive to their beliefs also. It’s about our personal freedom to do what we want. Right? Wrong! Later in the chapter verse 31 clarifies the purpose by saying, “… whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Once again, it’s not about us. Just as in our work, our attitudes and actions outside of work are important because they will either glorify God or not.
Another helpful use of our theme word is found in Philippians 4:10-11. Here Paul gives us his “secret” to a right perspective on material needs and wealth. In the context of praising the Philippians for their concern for him, Paul says that he has “… learned to be content with whatever…” he has. Nothing in our society and certainly no advertisement in any form of media will help us to be content with what we have. Is contentment even the right goal? Some might argue that contentment is the key to happiness. I don’t think those are the same things, and I don’t think that’s the point of this passage. I think our contentment, more closely related to peace, reflects an ultimate trust in God’s provision for us and His purpose in our current state. And guess what? When we reflect this attitude toward material possessions and money, we glorify God! Even our contentment is not about us.
I’d like to consider one final scripture that contains our theme word. This one has to do with our attitude toward the future. It seems attitudes toward the future range from unfounded optimism to an Eeyore-like doom and gloom attitude to out an out fear. All of these and more are ways we try to compensate for the big problem with the future. It is unknown and uncertain. We hate that! We are all familiar with the incredible tragedies that befell Job in rapid succession and during a period of his life when he could not have anticipated it. This reflects our worst fears about the future. In the middle of the book of Job, while arguing with his friends and still struggling to understand what had happened in his life, Job said in Job 23:13-14 that God “will do to me whatever he has planned.” At this point in the book, that idea was not comforting to Job. But by the end of the book, Job’s attitude had changed. Even though he had not gained any understanding as to why the bad things had happened in his life, he had come to understand and accept that he could completely trust God and His purposes. That trust and acceptance glorified God and lead to God blessing the last part of Job’s life even more than the first (Job 42:12). So, even the bad, or good, things that may happen to us in 2019 are not about us.
I pray that 2019 will bring many blessings to you and your family. But more than that, I pray that in 2019 whatever God brings into our lives that our attitudes and actions in our work, outside of work, toward our possessions, and toward the uncertain future will always glorify God. That’s what it is about.
GBU – Philippians 4:10-11