Berean cogitations

Sunday, October 07, 2007

WWJD? I think that's the wrong question.

When faced with a thorny problem, Christians often ask, “What would Jesus do?” While I applaud their intent, I think this is the wrong question to ask. Here’s why.

First, what Jesus would do isn’t necessarily what we should do. To use a trivial example, would Jesus get married? Surely not; after all, his mission was to sacrifice himself at a young age, and marriage would have surely been a hindrance to that mission. Yet few would claim that we must all live celibate lives, simply because Jesus would (and did). Less trivially, would Jesus accept a high-paying corporate job? Probably not, but does that mean that none of us should accept any lucrative job offers? I think that’s going far beyond both the Biblical mandates and common sense.

Second—and I think this is the more serious objection—this approach encourages people to feel out the answer instead of pursuing it logically. That is, when we ask ourselves what Jesus would do, the vast majority of us will tend to look inwardly, trying to feel the answer out in our hearts. This is dangerous; after all, human beings have a tremendous capacity for self-deception. As the Book of Proverbs says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (Prov. 16:2). When we seek to know God’s will through emotional means, we are headed down a dangerous path.

There’s only one way we can truly know what Jesus would do, and that’s to consult God’s Word. The Bible often provides us with direct commands, such as telling us not to steal, commit adultery, or be yoked with non-believers. In matters that the Bible does not address—such as decided which school to attend or which house to buy—it provides us with general principles, such as urging us to seek the counsel of godly people in the church (Prov 12:15, Prov 15:22).

Instead of asking “What would Jesus do?” I think we should be asking ourselves “What does Jesus teach?” This approach might not sound as catchy – indeed, it would surely discourage many, especially since modern Christians tend to seek easy answers, rather than taking the effort to study God’s Word. It’s the more logical and sound approach, however, and it cuts directly to the heart of how we should make decisions in life.