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Shall and Will

Shall and Will

written by Mary Jane Wilkie



I have often pondered the difference between “shall” and “will,” and of course most of us rarely or never use “shall,” except to express determination, or in phrases such as “Shall I call a taxi?”


As a child, I learned (Matthew 7:7) “Seek and ye shall find,” but most modern Bibles render it as “Seek and you will find.” It appears that we have cast aside the distinction between shall and will. I think this reflects a change in mindset, and while I have not researched the matter, I believe there is food for thought here.


Once, when I was looking for a job, my finances were not healthy. As most of us have experienced, rejection is common in job searches, and maintaining a positive spirit is challenging.  One day, however, walking across a parking lot, I ran into a former colleague, who was then a professor at a major university. We brought one another up to date and a few weeks later, he called to advise me of an opening there. An adjunct position, it paid me well enough to face my financial difficulties, and even save some money in the process. I was much more than I had imagined earning.


Recalling the biblical passage helps me remember that my part of the bargain is to seek and that God will provide what I need. I also should remember that God’s imagination is greater than mine and that God might have something better in store for me than what I am seeking. This was the case with this opportunity, and it came from an unexpected place, not at all where I was looking.


Will refers to what we can accomplish through our own actions; shall refers to results beyond our control, i.e., what comes from God. Perhaps we have stopped making this distinction because we think we are in control of everything, that we can get what we want without God’s help. What would happen if we re-instated the distinction?




Mary Jane Wilkie is an independent contractor, living and working in New York City. She has been self-employed for much of her professional life, and often stumbled into opportunities that were not part of her plan.



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