When I think of the phrase “whatever you do”, it usually follows with a warning. “Whatever you do, don’t do _this_.” But the Apostle Paul phrased it in a positive way:
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17 NIV)
Not to be confused with the other Colossians verse in the same chapter that says “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men…” (Col 3:23 NKJV)
Both verses have the phrase, “whatever you do” and “of/for the Lord” in them. What can we make of that?
When I have my devotional time with the Lord, I journal about what I read in Scripture. When I studied Colossians 3:17, I broke the verse down into sections to make it easier to apply:
Whatever I do in “word” – This includes what I say to others, what I say out loud thinking no one is listening, and what I write in texts, messenger, and e-mails
Whatever I do in “deed” – This is my interactions with people I serve with or mentor, my responses to frustrating situations, the moments when I decide between putting my needs or others’ needs first, and even my driving etiquette and greetings to people.
“Do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” – Let’s imagine I choose to say this phrase out loud each time I carry out something in word or deed. My words and deeds would change drastically because I would not want to associate my sinful actions with the name of Christ. As an example, I would be embarrassed if I animatedly expressed my standing-in-line-forever frustrations to the cashier at the grocery store and finish my rant saying “in the name of Jesus.” My angry barrage of words would be a gross misrepresentation of Christ, and I would be rightfully ashamed. Before I say something or do something, I would like to stop and ask myself if what I am about to say or do represents Christ.
“Giving thanks to God the Father through him” – This section of the verse is giving God praise and thanks for Christ’s work on the cross and Christ’s work in ourselves. Why would I give thanks to God after I said or did something in the name of His Son? Because whatever “good” I did in His name was only possible through the power of His Holy Spirit and the transformative, redeeming, sanctifying work in my life. Without God’s work in my life, my sinful nature would choose my selfish desires and unkind reactions each time. When I give thanks to God after I do something, it is because He has given me the power to do whatever I did with His grace, kindness, and love.
So I broke down the verse and wrote down how I could apply. Am I going to take the verse to heart and avoid the warning in James 1:22-24?
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.” (NKJV)
I am going to start asking people who pray for me to keep me accountable in this area of honoring the Lord in my words and deeds.
I leave you with an excerpt of an old Puritan prayer, “Morning Needs”, from Arthur Bennett’s book The Valley of Vision that compliments Colossians 3:17:
O God the author of all good,
I come to You for the grace another day will require
for its duties and events.
I step out into a wicked world;
I carry with me an evil heart.
I know that without You I can do nothing,
that everything with which I shall be concerned,
however harmless in itself,
may prove an occasion of sin or folly,
unless I am kept by Your power.
Hold me up and I shall be safe.
Preserve my understanding from subtle error,
my heart from the love of idols,
my character from the stain of vice,
my mouth from every form of evil.
May I engage in nothing in which I cannot ask Your blessing,
and in which I cannot invite Your inspection.
Do you have any thoughts regarding this verse or ideas on how you could apply it in your life? I would love to hear from you. Comment in the response section below.