Be careful for nothing. This word “careful” doesn’t carry the modern day meaning that we are all accustomed to, and therefor loses some of it’s power and instruction because of our lack of understanding of the original wording. We tend to think of the word “careful” as a synonym for “cautious”, because that is the meaning it carries today. However, this meaning brings a bit of confusion as we know that God encourages us to be cautious in other passages, telling us in 1 John 4:1 not to trust every spirit that claims to be of God, but to test them and see if they truly are. Jesus also tells us in Matthew 7 not to trust every person that claims to be of God, but to watch for wolves in sheep’s clothing, cautiously judging people by their fruits to determine whether or not they truly are what they say they are. Furthermore, we are continually warned throughout scripture to be cautious of false prophets, teachers, preachers, evangelists, and so on.
So if the bible is clear that we as Christians are encouraged, if not commanded, to be diligent, watchful, and cautious; then why does this verse say for us to be careful of nothing? The answer can be found by a simple word study. The meanings of words change over time, if we look it up, the word “careful” in the old 1828 edition of the Webster’s Dictionary we see that it didn’t mean cautious at all, it meant exactly what it says, “careful” meant “to be full of cares“, “anxiously troubled,” or “worried“. So what is really being said here is, “do not be controlled by fear“. Yes be cautious and yes seek for truth, but do not be troubled by it. Instead, take your findings and questions (or supplications) to The Lord with gratitude for both His helping you to come to this understanding and in advance of His help to conclude the issue. Seek truth in faith and trust, not in fear and control.
This leads us to our next point. If we continue our word study, taking it a bit deeper, we can go all the way back to the original Greek word that was translated into the word “careful” in this text to see an all the more encompassing and convicting message being laid out here. The original Greek word used here was “merimnáō“, which meant “to be anxious or troubled with cares” but also “to seek to promote one’s interest“. So not only are we being told not to worry or be troubled by fear but also, not to let it control us and cause us to try to manipulate situations to our advantage or perceived goal. When we do this, it is not only a showing of a lack of faith, but also of an abundance of pride, and selfishness. Despite what we say with our lips, our actions reveal our heart, and these actions reveal a heart that has more faith in its own self then in God. It does not truly trust God, it does not grant Him sovereign rule over it’s circumstances, and it wants what it thinks is best for itself in the fastest and easiest way possible. It is not submitted, it is not humble, it is not subservient, it is not selfless, and it is not Godly. A life of faith is a life without pride, manipulation, or a need for control, dominance, or recognition. It’s a life of trust, obedience, humility, and peace of mind and spirit. No matter the circumstance.
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7
“Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.” – Proverbs 3:3-8
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” – Proverbs 14:12
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.” – Psalms 37:23