Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase often touted as wisdom: “You do you” which means, “be more like yourself.”
When we look at ourselves, improve ourselves, refine ourselves and modify ourselves, we may become better than our neighbour, but we will never reach our true potential. In fact, on its own, self-improvement can only make us more like ourselves. It doesn’t buff out our mistakes and bad habits. If we want to become better than ourselves, we must look outside of ourselves. We are not the hero in our own story.
Far too much is said about the need to be a leader. The most important choice you’ll make in your entire life is not who you lead but who you choose to follow. I’ve got a suggestion that’s worked for me: follow Jesus. You’ll never make a better choice! The author of New Testament book Hebrews wrote, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1,2).
The list Jesus offers for what a Christian must do to live a fruitful life is remarkably different from what you’d expect. He has high expectations, though you may be surprised what they are.
He tells a story that describes Himself as the victorious King who returns to Earth and separates His people from the rest. Both groups of people are surprised by what the King says. First, He gives His list of expectations: it includes feeding the hungry, giving thirsty people something to drink, inviting strangers to stay in our home, giving clothes to people who need them and visiting sick people and prisoners. The ones who He describes as living a fruitful Christian life which follow’s God’s word and instructions are the ones who followed these instructions and did good works. The ones who are not His people are those who ignored the Father’s commandments.
Did you notice the list Jesus gave? It wasn’t a list of what to eat, drink, wear or any other self-focused habits. The list of actions Jesus gave was to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, help the sick and visit the prisoner. None of them are about the ways to better the individual and make them live their best life— they are all about improving other people’s lives.
Both groups are astonished and want to know when the King asked them to do these things, and Jesus responds, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did [or did not do] for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did [or didn’t do] for me” (Matthew 25:40).
As we progress in meeting the needs of others, we learn to move from actions to hearts. It’s much easier to see someone’s physical needs than to read their intentions. The two wisest men in the Bible demonstrated this ability to look into the heart.
King Solomon, called the wisest man who ever lived, was often brought tough cases to decide. God had offered young King Solomon the golden ticket: Ask for anything you want and I will grant it to you! In humility, Solomon asked for wisdom.
In one particularly memorable case, two women were brought before King Solomon. They had one baby they both claimed as their own. How was Solomon supposed to decide who the real mother was? Understanding the ways of the heart, Solomon called for a sword which was brought to him. Then he commanded that the child be cut in two and half given to each woman.
Instantly, the child’s real mother cried out in shock: “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” The other woman also revealed her heart by instantly replying, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!” (1 Kings 3:26)
By creating a situation which caused each woman to speak from her heart, Solomon’s decision was easy. He gave the child to the woman who loved the baby.
The same wisdom granted to Solomon can be ours if we also humble ourselves before God and others and ask Him for the wisdom to serve with an understanding heart. And then, with a heart of both humility and wisdom, we will see the needs of those around us and act with love and compassion toward them.
The heart of forgiveness
The other Man in the Bible who demonstrated God’s wisdom didn’t need to ask for it! Jesus was God in human flesh. He came to Earth to live among us as a human being, and He had an overarching purpose: to show us God’s heart. He did this through both His life and His death. Jesus spent many hours with people just getting to know them. He loved people and loved to be with them!
The Bible declares on multiple occasions that Jesus’ death provided a way out of death and brokenness for every human being. However, He didn’t wait until His death to demonstrate forgiveness or the freedom He can offer.
Early one morning, Jesus revealed the wisdom of God in the way He offered forgiveness to a broken woman. Caught in the act of adultery, she was cast in front of Jesus as He taught morning worship on the temple steps.
The men who brought her to Him were religious leaders. “Teacher,” they said, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (John 8:4,5). Their hope was to trap Jesus by getting Him to say something they could use against Him. If He had said that she was not worthy of death for such an act, they would have accused Him of breaking their law, however, if He had recommended punishment, He would have gone against what He had been teaching and demonstrating. Jesus paused, then stooping down He wrote in the dust on the temple steps.
This obviously was not what they expected Him to do, so they continued to demand an answer. Finally, Jesus stood up and said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (verse 7). Then He stooped down again and continued writing in the dust. None of the men picked up a stone. Instead, they all turned and left, one by one—from oldest to youngest. We don’t know what He wrote as the Bible doesn’t record it, however Christian tradition suggests He was writing their own wrongdoings in the dirt!
Jesus looked into the hearts of everyone there that morning, judging and forgiving the right person!
Once her accusers were gone, Jesus told the woman that He didn’t condemn her either. He sent her off, forgiven and empowered to “go and sin no more” (verse 11).
Jesus Christ modelled God’s wisdom in both word and action. Rather than let the accusers set the agenda, Jesus searched the heart of each person for their motivation. Faced with a situation designed to put Him at risk, Jesus didn’t put Himself first. Instead, by expanding the boundaries of His accusers’ question to include their own hearts, Jesus showed compassion even for them—sending them away with a private call to repentance. He protected the weakness revealed in each person while safely drawing them toward holiness. Jesus taught the woman, the accusers, the crowd and us how to act toward both sin and sinners.
The wisdom of God revealed in Jesus can be ours if, like Jesus, we put God first and then place the needs of others above our own. If we follow Jesus’ lead, when treated rudely we will seek first to understand the heart of our accuser. And then, with selfless love, we will act like Jesus in humility and righteousness.
People who follow Jesus today are easy to spot. They are the humble people running soup kitchens, smiling at strangers, providing a room for a traveller and then doing it all again—not because it’s on a list of things to do but because it’s in their hearts. There’s a good chance they don’t even know it’s getting them anywhere, because, after all, they are doing it for others.
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Dave Edgren is a freelance writer who lives in Melbourne, Australia.