New Thought Editorials > What Jesus Wouldn't Do


Summer 2011

What Jesus Wouldn't Do

Much attention has been given to the question, "What Would Jesus Do?" Everything from bracelets to lunch boxes is available with WWJD printed on it as a reminder to ask oneself this question. It’s a good and useful question, but creative breakthroughs can often come from asking oneself the opposite question; in this case, "What wouldn’t Jesus do?"

Although Jesus was a devout Jew, he specialized in thinking outside the box and pushing the envelope. He sought continuous improvement, and he frequently kicked a discussion to a higher level than where it started. He wouldn’t single out one of the Ten Commandments as the greatest, but chose a broader commandment that encompassed them all: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself". He had a whole series of exhortations to a higher standard: "You have heard...but I say unto you...." Yet he showed patience and kindness in the face of human foibles. The only group he ever teed off on was the ruling class, the ones who thought they had all the answers and wanted to prescribe for everyone else. He called them "whited sepulchres" for their hypocrisy. They were the folks who could see the toothpick in their brother’s eye but not the two-by-four in their own. He wouldn’t accept punctilious adherence to the law ("ye tithe mint and rue") as a substitute for a genuine desire to love and serve God. He upheld every jot and tittle of the law, but he did not allow it to entrap him: when he and his followers were criticized for husking corn to eat on the Sabbath, he stated, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath". He also wouldn’t refrain from healing people on the Sabbath, saying that since one would not hesitate to rescue an ox that had fallen into a pit on the Sabbath, surely a person was at least as valuable as an ox.

Jesus wouldn’t go around in sackcloth and ashes even when times were tough. He advised his followers to wash their faces and not "appear to men to fast" just for the sake of making a good impression. He wouldn’t bawl people out as sinners because they were sick; he just healed them, warning them to "sin no more, lest a worse thing befall thee" because sin (missing the mark in some way) was the cause of their illness. At the same time, he wouldn’t advocate constant cheerfulness, for he got annoyed at times and even downcast over human shortcomings and corruption, weeping over the city of Jerusalem as he contemplated its fate. He was courteous to the despised Samaritans, but he wouldn’t condone bad behavior or illegal activity such as not honoring a nation’s laws: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s."

Jesus would rescue the lost sheep and bring it home rejoicing, sparing it the "Bad Sheep!" lecture, but he wouldn’t judge other people, because the standard you use for judging is the standard that will be used in judging you. He advocated turning the other cheek (choosing a more positive outlook on a situation), but he wouldn’t meekly submit to outrageous conduct on the part of others: when the soldiers arresting him struck him on the cheek, he firmly pointed out that they had no cause to do so. In his parable of the Prodigal Son, he wouldn’t sympathize with the elder brother who complained because he never got a dinner and that wasn’t fair. When he made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, he wouldn’t ride on a war horse like a conquering king, but chose the donkey that symbolized peace, disappointing his Zealot followers who wanted to start a riot.

Although Jesus lived an existence of true prosperity, getting rich gifts at his birth, wearing a rare and expensive seamless robe, and hobnobbing with the rich and famous, he wouldn’t accept people’s trusting in riches instead of God. He wouldn’t accept limitation but turned five loaves and two fishes into enough food for 5,000 people. And in his parable of the talents, he doesn’t accept the excuses of the servant who buries his talent in the ground and doesn’t even try to increase it, giving the money instead to the servant who had multiplied tenfold what was given to him. In other words, he rewarded entrepreneurship, not idleness. He wouldn’t frown on prosperity, but he insisted that we "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides". And he wouldn’t put new wine into old, worn-out wineskins that couldn’t hold it, but he would turn water into not just wine, but good wine, even after people had drunk enough not to notice, in order to keep the party going.

In today’s challenging world, there are many temptations to do things that Jesus wouldn’t do. Nobody ever said that the way was easy, just that "his yoke is easy and his burden light" for those of sincere heart.