Who or What? (October 2017)
Proverbs 23: 7 - "As he thinketh in his heart, so is he." (KJV)
On a very warm [read “hot”] late September evening, I was standing in the checkout
line at the grocery
store, wearing a Tshirt.
in relatively small letters, had the name “Gracefield Christian Camp
and Retreat Centre" written on it, along with the camp logo. I wasn’t really intending to advertise or call
attention to the camp, but had grabbed the lightest, coolest shirt I could find, before making a very fast trip
across the street to pick up a couple of ingredients needed to complete cooking supper. I was focused on
the “what” of my trip: I needed onions to make spaghetti sauce, and mushrooms would go well, too.
The cashier was a young man, very pleasant and courteous, and after greeting me, immediately remarked,
“Gracefield — my best friend worked there!” The conversation immediately moved to identify his friend,
whom I knew, and went on to talk about how we each knew this friend. Clearly, in a city of million people,
we are not so distant from one another as one might think.
What struck me upon reflection, though, is that for this young man, the focus was not on the “what” — but
on the “who”. His association of Gracefield was with a person, not a place. Even though he noticed the
“what” (my shirt identifying a place), he wanted to focus on the “who” (his best friend).
Reflecting on this encounter (after my cooking and eating were finished), I was motivated to do a little
Bible study. A search for the word “what” in the NIV translation turned up some 2,291 instances — but a
search for the word “who” in the same translation turned up 4,269 instances. Almost twice as many verses
focus on the “who” as focus on the “what”. What might this mean? Who is trying to get (and keep) our
Where is our focus? As a pastor, I am called to minister to people — the “who”. Yet in setting a daily
agenda, so often my focus is all too easily fixed on the tasks at hand — the “what”. I am challenged,
though, both by the unexpected example of the task-oriented cashier (who was very efficient) but who
focused on the “who”, and by the priorities of Scripture (whose principal author, the Holy Spirit, speaks of
the “who” twice as often as the “what”). Is my focus on the “who” rather than the “what”?
Some things — and some people — get lost in translation. The NIV for Proverbs 23:7 reads, in part, “ …
he is the kind of man who is always thinking about the cost …” which rightly relates what the original says
to the context. Yet the old KJV translates the verse, in part “as he thinketh in his heart, so is he …” In fact,
the verb “to be” is not expressed in the original Hebrew, so it is not wrong to read the verse this way: “As
he thinks … so he …” In modern English, we might say, “As one thinks, so one is.”
Jesus went on to teach that rather than what goes into the mouth, it is what comes out of the mouth — and
the heart — that makes one unclean. What we think has a direct impact on what we say and do.
If we are always thinking about the “what”, we will more likely talk about and act upon things — and be
focused on agenda items, and tasks. If, however, we devote our thoughts to the “who”, we will more
likely be focused on the people around us — those whom we are called to serve and love in Jesus’ name.
Let us ponder the apparent two-to-one ratio in
Scripture. The Spirit seems to speak of the
“who” — the people, twice as much as the
“what” — the things. With God’s gracious help,
let us order our thoughts, our prayers, and our
Your pastor, with a heart for whom Jesus lived and died and lives still,