by Scott Springer
“Whatever you do….” That is a phrase that we all have heard (and possibly used) many times in many different ways.
Sometimes we use it for the purpose of warning: “Whatever you do, don’t go in that place!” or “Whatever you do, don’t tell him….”. In instances such as these, we are giving a warning: do not do a certain action or say a certain thing. We often give those kinds of warnings whenever there is a hidden danger or consequence at hand that cannot be seen by the person(s) to whom we are speaking.
Other times, we use the phrase “whatever you do…” to give freedom to someone. We say things like, “Whatever you do, make sure you have fun!” or “I’m sure it will be good, whatever you do!” By saying things like that we are allowing and encouraging the person to whom we are speaking to make his own decision on what he will do.
We even see this phrase, “whatever you do…” in the Bible. Most familiarly, we find it in Colossians 3:17, where the apostle Paul said, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (NKJV, emphasis added). However, in this context, Paul uses the phrase “whatever you do” as both a statement of warning and as an allowance of freedom.
“Whatever you do” in Colossians 3:17 is a statement of warning in that it is a clear command of the necessity of Biblical authority in all that we do “in word or deed”. That is, whether we are speaking something of a spiritual nature (word) or we are performing an act of spiritual significance (deed – i.e., worship, service, etc.) we must have the authority of Jesus in “whatever [we] do”. We must have His consent. Just as children must have a signed “permission slip” from their parents showing that they have their parent’s consent to go on a field trip or do certain other school activities, we must also have a “permission slip” of sorts from Jesus in all matters of spirituality. We must have his authority for whatever we do; that is, for all we do.
At the same time, “whatever you do” in Colossians 3:17 is also an allowance of freedom. While it does demand that we have Jesus’ authority for what we do if we want to be pleasing to Him, it still does give us the freedom to make our own decisions. The Lord does not force us into compliance; but gives us the opportunity and instructions on how to obey and please Him. The Lord has shown great trust in us by offering such great freedom. He knows we are all capable of making the right decisions and staying within His authority. So “whatever you do”, make sure that His trust in you hasn’t been misplaced: “Whatever you do”, listen to Him.