Verbs and nouns play a huge role in understanding the meaning of any writing. It is common for the same word to be used either way. Furthermore, there is a tendency to focus on the nouns and pass over the verbs. Thus, to fully grasp the intent of the writer, one needs to know the difference between verbs and nouns. The simple difference is that a verb denotes action, whereas a noun denotes a name or an object. When we read the Bible, our intent should be to search for clarity from our God. While nouns, names, and objects may make us smarter, it will be the verbs that get us on our feet and change our lives. Let us look at a few examples:
A popular Bible verse is Micah 6:8
Micah 6:8 – “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”1NIV New International Version Translations
Our noun (He) tells us that the words are directly from God. Therefore, they are worth reading. God is answering the proverbial question, What does God expect of us? Who are the “us” in this statement? We are the mortals, those with finite lives on this earth, and that is a very important noun to always remember. This question is a search for significance and is part of the age-long pursuit of mankind. Here we also get the answers. Our nouns (justly, mercy, and humbly) tell us that God expects justice, mercy, and humility. All three are worthy attributes. However, the verbs tell us that the verbs are not necessarily God’s to act out but ours to take on, and we have the responsibility to “act,” love,” and “walk.”
To rephrase this, God is asking each of us to be active and involved in providing justice in our dealings with others. While it is OK to expect to be treated justly, God is calling us to set the bar high and show the world what a just and meaningful life looks like. Loving justice cannot be done in church alone but is done in our homes, businesses, and communities. This type of acting must always be visible for others to see through us. Acting changes other people because it is a comparative action. We are to follow God’s actions because God has shown us how to act.
John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Mercy is something everyone wants and needs. A just God without mercy would be a heavy burden to deal with because we all fall short of God’s expectations. However, that is not what we are being asked to do. Instead, you and I are asked by God to love. To love mercy is something that benefits others, as we benefit from Christ’s love for us. God does not tell us how to be merciful. God tells us how to love. All forms of love are verbs, requiring action on our part.
Eros (pronounced AIR-ohs) is the Greek word for sensual or romantic love. It defines the proper relationship between husband and wife. A good marriage mirrors justice every day because it is truly the sharing of one’s very soul. A just relationship is pleasing to God based on fairness and equality.
Storge (pronounced: STOR-jay) is the Greek word that describes family love, the affectionate bond that develops naturally between parents and children and brothers and sisters. In a world where there are so many single-parented families or dysfunctional families, it reminds us that there is an expectation God places on how family relationships are to be maintained. God’s visitation requirements are 24 by 7.
Philia (pronounced: FILL-ee-uh) is the Greek term that describes the powerful emotional bond seen in deep friendships. Justice becomes much easier when friendship and respect are present. It was Aristotle who said that “friendship” is when two souls become one.”
Agape (pronounced Uh-GAH-pay) is the highest of the four types of love in the Bible. It describes God’s immeasurable, incomparable love for humankind. It is the divine love that comes from God. Agape love is perfect, unconditional, sacrificial, and pure. It is the love that Christ calls us to when he says:
John 13:34 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
The verb “walk” comes with a condition: humility. This may be the hardest of all things for humans to do. The good news here is that God did not say, “Run and keep up with me!” We are only called to walk with God. I often imagine what a walk with God would be like—slowly through a beautiful world filled with the glory of His creations. When we walk with someone, there is time to talk to them. We can lean on them if we stumble, learn from them, and get to know them. It is not possible to love someone in a hurry, either. God expects us to get to know Him and know Him well, to love Him, and to love Him well. When two people walk together, they can become the deepest of friends. Two people running against each other are no more than competitors; one wins and the other loses. Why race with God? Do you think you can win? He only asks us to walk with Him, so enjoy yourself and walk slowly. There are no losers with God!
Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
There is one more verb that is worth noting, one that is often confused as a noun, and that is the verb “worship.” Yes, it is both a noun and a verb. Which one do you think God would like us to focus on? If we believe in one Creator, in God, we are called to the act of worshiping in “spirit and in truth.” That is, true worship takes place on the inside, in the heart or spirit of the worshiper. If we worship on the outside, worship is nothing more than a presentation, a show, or a theatrical performance. Worship is the verb of all verbs, kicking our heart and soul off the pews and into the world around us.
Psalm 45:1 – “My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.”
Psalm 103:1-2 – “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”
Psalm 24:3-4 – “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.”
Isaiah 66:2 – “Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the Lord. “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.”
Worship “in truth” connects the heart or spirit of worship with the truth about God and His work of redemption as revealed in the person of Christ. David, our psalm writer, understood the importance of worshiping in truth and the necessary linkage between “truth” and the Word of God when he wrote, “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11). The true worship of God is essentially internal, a matter of the heart. It is an action word, requiring a humble but active spirit rooted in the knowledge of and obedience to God. Worship is meant to change people into disciples of Christ.
Do you know what your purpose is in your life?
Ideas to Explore: Are you pleased with your existence and accomplishments? Are your treasures earthly or heavenly? What brings you the most joy, grace, or justice?
What is the difference between justice and being just?
Ideas to Explore: Is it about laws or love? Does true justice bring true peace? Is being right a requirement in every disagreement?
What is the difference between mercy and you being merciful?
Ideas to Explore: The Role of Forgiveness in Mercy. The recognition of repentance and its importance to knowing God.
How does someone get to know God well?
Ideas to Explore: Church and Bible Study are the obvious ones. Is life and death making more sense? Are books, movies, and events that focus on one’s faith walk appealing? Do you think you could recognize Christ if He walked into a room?
How do we know if we are running against God?
Ideas to Explore: Is life getting easier or harder? Does the concept of death bring fear or promise? Are your goals based on earthly objectives? Are your family and friends in line with your direction in life?
We live in a world that seems to generally believe there is a God, but it doesn’t seem to ever get better. Why do you think that is?
Ideas to Explore: Misunderstanding of God’s Word. Poor understanding of who Jesus Christ is and why He came to earth. Weak faith. Too much human ego. People don’t care. Too busy with life.
1NIV New International Version Translations