“The Puritans wisely sought to connect all of life to its source in God, bringing the two worlds together rather than dividing them into sacred and secular. They had a saying, ‘God loveth adverbs; and careth not how good, but how well.’ Adverbs describe verbs—our words of action and activity. The proverb implies that God cares more about the spirit in which we live than the concrete results.”*

This tongue-in-cheek quote from the Puritans and Philip Yancey gives us food for thought about how to act as a Christian. Adverbs add information to words which describe actions, answering these questions: when (tomorrow), where (here), how (carefully), to what extent (quite). The Bible uses adverbs sparingly compared to adjectives, but when we spot one, we definitely recognize the added meaning to the verb. Let’s look briefly at some examples:

“‘I will plant Israel in their own land,

never again to be uprooted

from the land I have given them,’”

says the Lord your God.” Amos 9:15

Not only never, but never again! Thank You, God!

“He has showed you, O man, what is good.

And what does the Lord require of you?

But to act justly and to love mercy

And to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 5:8

Not only walking with God, but doing so humbly

(And a different word like righteously wouldn’t fit into the song!) 

“The king said to Daniel, ’May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!’” Daniel 6:16b

The king witnessed Daniel’s absolutely amazing testimony!

“The wicked will not go unpunished…” Proverbs 11:21

The Psalms and Proverbs use many negative adverbs such as not, never, no. 

In the New Testament we find hundreds of examples of adverbs, but taking perhaps the most often  quoted verse will demonstrate the very important place of adverbs:

“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.” John 3:16

God doesn’t just love us – He does it to the extreme.

How assuredly definite is the statement that we will not die!

Surely the Puritans had the secret to obedience – to follow the spirit of the words and to leave results up to God. John 14:23a states, “Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word.” Let us focus on obeying all of the Words of God, fully and cheerfully for His glory.

*Philip Yancey

Barb Lewis was a teacher at LCA for over 20 years. She lives in Laconia with her husband and dog. Her passion for God’s Word and grammar has shaped the lives of many LCA students over the years.

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