The WWJD bracelet may be out of style but its purpose remains relevant. “What would Jesus do?” is the only question worth considering for the Christian. What else does it mean to be a Christ follower than to do what he would do?
How we answer “What would Jesus do?” encapsulates all that Christians should be doing, really. In my circles, we ask it another way: “What does the Bible say about…?” We arrive at an answer and then carry out our honest interpretation.
For example, in almost every IFWE article, the author considers a contemporary concern—socialism, menial tasks, difficult coworkers, technology, new jobs—with a biblical worldview. They’re all asking, “What would Jesus do…in this situation/about this topic/if he were in my shoes?” In this, my fellow authors and I remember that “a biblical worldview” is shorthand for our most sincere interpretation of how Jesus might view the issue, not the definitive perspective on behalf of all Christians.
Trying to see the world as Jesus would (and does) is the Christian’s task. It’s living out the wisdom we gain as our hearts and lives are transformed through the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2).
In His Steps
Charles Sheldon’s 1897 novel In His Steps radicalized me to start asking myself “What would Jesus do?” It also inspired the WWJD bracelets. In the story, an uninvited pauper at an upper-middle class church in Raymond, Kansas persuaded the Reverend Henry Maxwell to ask himself that famous acronym. He wrote himself a to-do list, one he envisioned Jesus writing if he was the pastor of the First Church of Raymond.
- “Preach fearlessly to the hypocrites in the church, no matter what their social importance or wealth.”
- “Preach against the saloon in Raymond.”
- Give the money he saved for a trip to Europe to someone who needed a vacation more than he did.
Maxwell shared this challenge with his congregation and fifty committed to asking themselves what Jesus would do at every juncture of their day for a year—no matter the cost.
The newspaper editor in the congregation reoriented his weekly column assessing current events with a partisan spin to promote the goals of the Kingdom of God. He watched subscriptions dwindle as he omitted lurid stories and tobacco and liquor advertisements and stopped the Sunday edition.
A railroad executive in the church sensed that Jesus would resign and testify against his employer if he, like the executive, had come across evidence of embezzlement, though it was outside his department. And First Church’s star choir member dismissed an invitation to perform around the world for a handsome salary, convinced that Jesus would instead sing in the slums of Raymond.
Sheldon didn’t have time to narrate why these members thought Jesus would take the actions they did. If he had, he would have added scenes of the characters studying the Bible. That’d be stale within a fast-paced book. Yet, Bible study is the next logical step for anyone committed to walking in Christ’s steps.
What Would Jesus Do?
If we’re going to live as Jesus would, we can’t place him at our desk and say he’d behave like an Eagle Scout, doing whatever we think is noble. That’s too admirable to the watching world. He’d do things that, as one Raymondite said, “seem strange to others”—even foolish—as does returning to a less reputable job because you resigned from your current one. To know what Jesus would do, we have to know what he did do. We can only know that by reading the Bible.
What Would Jesus Do?
I wrote my own list of, as Sheldon put it, “Jesus’ probable actions” if he worked my job. For each task, I cited a Bible passage as evidence that this action is something Jesus would affirm.
- Be available. I have a flexible job without enough responsibilities to fill forty hours of work. So, I keep in contact with my supervisor to let her know that even when I’m working from home, I’m available. Though I have exploited this freedom before, I now live as if I’m on call. That means though there’s a 95% chance I won’t be called in, I’m home Sunday night from a weekend trip for the 5% chance they need me Monday morning. Jesus wouldn’t falsify his time sheet (Num. 23:19) so neither can I.
- Consider switching jobs. I’ve written before that as long as we are loving and obeying God “we are in the place he wants us to be.” Yet, it may be that in a job with a lot of free time I’m wasting the skills and gifts God’s entrusted to me (Matt. 25:14-30).
- Find ways to help. Understaffing and turnover are common in my field, so someone can always use an extra hand. In my availability, I can take on someone else’s project or offer my assistance another way (Phil. 2:3-4).
- Invest in the spiritual care of coworkers. While helping others, I can follow the example of a couple businessmen from Raymond (following the example of Jesus) who chose to see their employees as souls needing salvation rather than workers turning a profit. Mark 6:34 tells us that Jesus saw the spiritual need of the crowd of more than 5000 people he was about to feed. And many times, he forgave people of their sins before healing their physical situation, signifying that the state of their heart was his immediate concern.
Reverend Maxwell’s challenge started with fifty people but their pledge spread to other churches, then cities, until it put Raymond on the map. How would your workplace change if you joined me in this pledge? Write your own list. Commit to it for a week, then a month, and by the year’s end, it’ll be second nature to live as if Jesus were working your job.