“Whatever” Does that Mean?

My Father founded International Teams www.iteams.org/us in 1961 to send trained missionary teams to plant churches around the world.  Today the President and CEO of International Teams is Scott Olson.  I have appreciated Scott’s notes and musings about the Christian life.  Please enjoy this guest post from Scott.

When did “whatever” become a bad word?

The first hint I got of this was when my boys were in Junior High School a few years ago. “Whatever” somehow wound up feeling like a term of disrespect pointed directly at me (likely during one of the profoundly well-deserved parental lectures I would give them). “Whatever…”

It pretty much disappeared when the boys moved out, but it has recently resurfaced in a rather unexpected way. I hear it between 5 and 10 times every Sunday afternoon on my weekly phone call with my aging mother. The way she says “whatever” is different though. Rather than using it as a term of disrespect she uses it to project a sense of despair over her circumstances, like there’s no hope when her car breaks down or when her gas or electric bill goes up. “Whatever…”

The simplest definition I could find for the word “whatever” (dictionary.com) was “no matter what.” A word search on the Olive Tree NIV Bible on my iPhone turned up 173 results for the word “whatever.” Never once did I see a definition that hinted at disrespect or despair. Instead, in almost every situation the word whatever indicated some kind of “no holds barred” profound determination. “Whatever…”

Here are a handful of greatest hits…

John 14:13-14 – “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Corinthians 10:31 – “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Philippians 4:8-9 – “Finally brothers, 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

A final thought…

If you have an iTunes account or a pile of old CDs (or dare I say tapes) see if you can find Steve Camp’s song “Whatever You Ask.” This phrase (below) still speaks to me just like it did a hundred years ago…

“…I never want to live a day that I can’t say to you, Lord whatever you ask I want to obey you, to let my life beat with a servant’s heart. Lord whatever you ask I know that you can give me wisdom and courage to equal the task, whatever you ask.”

Scott Olson www.iteams.org/us

About C.H. Dyer

I am the CEO of Bright Hope. I am dedicated to helping those who earn less than $1.00 a day. There are one billion people in my target market (the extreme poor) and I could use some help. I am a Christian, father of three (two are internationally adopted), entrepreneur, speaker, improving writer and amateur photographer.

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