“Whatever”…Or Truly Thankful For Everything?

For the November 2011 Prairie Preacher:

Phil. 4 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

It’s often sad what we do to the meaning of words. The term “gay” used to refer to a state of gladness or happiness. Now, of course, it has been taken over and can no longer be used but in a context of which the Bible does not approve.

Even interrogative pronouns can change in meaning. An interrogative pronoun is a pronoun which starts a question (who, what, where, when, why). In this case, it is the term “whatever.” The term is now used by many to dismiss another person’s concern, be that concern valid or invalid. It has become all too easy to dismiss someone else with a quick “whatever!”

Paul keeps coming back to the term “whatever” in the text above and he is using it in a much more positive way than its contemporary usage. He uses it in an all-encompassing, yet profoundly thoughtful, way. The term encourages us to consider all options under each adjective, “whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable,” etc. As we come up with such things, we are then encouraged by Paul to “think about [them].”

This is more than a simplistic appeal to “think happy thoughts.” It is an exercise in taking stock of everything we have from God’s good and gracious hand, contemplating the benefit they are to our lives, and being thankful in all things. V. 4 just prior encourages us to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” V.6 teaches us to pray for more good things “in everything with thanksgiving.” Paul’s “whatevers” cover all the things in life for which we should thank and praise our God. These “whatevers” could fill all our days and make them days of thanksgiving. Sadly, too often we fail to be thankful, saying “whatever!” to blessings for which we should be praising God.

Ultimately, as I meditate on this text, I prefer to embody all those adjectives (true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable) in one person: Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Christ, the Son of God, crucified and risen again, is the embodiment, the incarnation of whatever is true, honorable, etc. In Him, we have all things necessary for both body and soul. In Him, we have salvation, forgiveness, eternal life. In Him, we have life and that life is the light of men. In Christ, light is shone on all the blessings of life. It only makes sense that a God who loves us enough to save us in Christ would provide all the other true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and commendable blessings of life as well.

I recall my college choir director would often begin rehearsals with prayer with the following statement. “Heavenly Father, we come before your throne of grace with thanksgiving…” and then he would continue in the prayer. We have much to be thankful for, not only on Thanksgiving Day. Every day, the Lord fills our lives with all things true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and commendable. Every day, He fills our lives with Christ, His salvation, His comfort, His life.

Praying that you be thankful for “whatever!”
Pastor Torkelson