There is a big difference between the words “whatever” and “only!”
“Whatever” is a word that emphasizes freedom: “You may do WHATEVER you desire”
“Only” stresses limitation: “You may ONLY do this or that”
I’ve got to say it is a tragic thing when we use a liberating word in the Bible in such a way that what we emphasize is limitation and stricture. I would argue that we actually end up distorting the Word of God! Here’s the example that came to mind this morning during my Bible reading…
Philippians 4:8 in the Bible says, “Finally, 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!”
Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, in that verse is not emphasizing limitation – he is emphasizing freedom! It is unfortunate – no more than that – it is tragic when that verse is used in such a way that the result is bondage!
The difference is akin to the popular (but accurate) description between an “optimist” and a “pessimist.” An optimist sees a glass of water as almost full – a pessimist sees it as partially empty. An optimist sees a morning sky as sunny and bright – a pessimist sees it as partly cloudy.
I believe Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:8 is emphasizing all that possible for a devoted, obedient, Christ follower to think about and participate in… “WHATEVER is true, WHATEVER is honorable, WHATEVER is just, WHATEVER is pure, WHATEVER is lovely, WHATEVER is commendable!” He even goes on… “Anything of excellence… anything praiseworthy!”
Wow! That is a lot of things in our world! Oh God, help us get our focus right! If we do, the Christian life will be a lot more attractive to our neighbors who are not Christ followers yet… AND our Christian life personally, with be a lot more enjoyable and fulfilling! Sure, we’ll have to say “NO!” to some destructive, damaging, and life-distracting things… but there is a lot of good, wholesome, wonderful things out there that fit into “WHATEVER!”
Just say’n! And I intend to focus on those things!