Can't, Won't, or Don't?

The difference between "can't", "won't", and "don't" makes a world of difference in our perspective. It's important to think about what we mean we say we "can't" do something because of God and think through the implications of how we perceive this. Let's talk about it...
16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:16-17 NKJV

What is the difference between can(not), will (not), and do (not)? See the definitions below
  1. a: be physically or mentally able to b: know how to
    c—used to indicate possibility
    d: be inherently able or designed to
    e: be enabled by law, agreement, or custom to
    f: be permitted by conscience or feeling to
    g: be made possible or probable by circumstances to
    h: be logically or axiologically able to
  2. : have permission to —used interchangeably with may
  1. —used to express futurity
  2. —used to express desire, choice, willingness, consent, or in negative constructions refusal
  1. : to bring to pass : CARRY OUT
Why is it important?
We should know if we can't do something, won't do something, or don't do something.
  • Can't
    • God gives us a choice in everything. When we surrender to His Holy Spirit, we will want the same things as Him
    • There is usually time between the time we are convicted and the time we can honestly go from feeling like we can't do something and asserting that we don't do that thing
    • However, there are some things we wrestle with and say we "can't" do, that are actually man made traditions (wearing jewelry, cultural definitions of modesty, etc.). The Holy Spirit isn't convicting you, people around you are.
    • Things that we feel like we "can't" do, should be on our "to-study" list. Doing deep-dive studies on these topics can lead to clarity and help us to overcome (or embrace) that particular thing
  • Won't
    • Won't means you can do something, but you simply refuse to.
    • This could be a rebellion against what God is telling us to do, or a rebellion against society—or it could just be a one time thing (like me choosing not to go to the movies with people just because)
    • We should recognize this too
  • Don't
    • There are two types of actions that go here: the actions God has convicted you are wrong and moved in your heart to remove the desire to do it, and actions you simply choose not to do
    • An example of the latter for me is not wearing makeup—there's nothing Biblical about it, just a personal choice
    • Recognizing the latter helps us when we mentor others
Bible verses mentioned in the episode
  • Romans 12:2 (transform yourself
  • Matthew 5:17 (Christ did not come to abolish the law)


  1. "Can". Merriam-Webster; visited April 14, 2020
  2. "Will". Merriam-Webster; visited April 14, 2020
  3. "Do". Merriam-Webster; visited April 14, 2020

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