The phrase: “What Would Jesus Do?” (Often abbreviated as W.W.J.D.) has experienced varying degrees of popularity during the last century. The movement began in the 1890’s probably reached its peak in the 1990’s but still exists within numerous religious groups. W.W.J.D. has become the motto for thousands of believers (primarily young adults) who use the phrase as their personal criterion for moral decisions. The main idea being that Jesus should be the example to be followed in one’s daily life and one’s actions should be those of which He would approve.
The movement is usually accompanied by sales of a variety of items to remind purchasers of using Jesus as their guide in everyday life. These reminders range from bracelets to dog tags to license plates emblazoned with W.W.J.D. The movement rests on a member having sufficient spiritual knowledge to discern what Jesus would do in our present-day society. Obviously each individual's criterion would therefore vary in accordance with that person’s degree of spiritual awareness. Hence, the sins of commission such as stealing, lying, inappropriate sexual behavior etc. are usually emphasized and the more subtle sins of omission are neglected and these were the focal point of Jesus ministry.
An example of His emphasis is when Jesus was requested to identify the two greatest commandments, the ones cited stressed what we should do, NOT what we should avoid doing!! (Matthew 22:37-40)*.
* Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Even His phrasing of the Golden Rule stressed what we should do whereas most other faiths placed emphasis on what should not be done. Jesus emphasized if we loved our neighbors like ourselves, we would show His love by doing deeds to aid them rather than just avoiding committing harmful acts against them.
He emphasized that although some believers may believe never
breaking God’s commandments is sufficient; He made it very clear through a
number of examples that those who chose to follow Him would be held to much
higher standards. Notice how in the following parable He enunciates this
enhanced obligation: “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord,
when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something
to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give
you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you? ‘And
the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least
of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ (Matthew
25:37-40 NLT) He followed this statement with the potential punishment
for those who did not abide by this example. **
** “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters; you were refusing to help me. And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:41-46 NLT)
Jesus further illustrated this standard through this parable: "A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. In fact, his barns were full to overflowing—he couldn’t get any more in them! He thought about his problem, and finally exclaimed, ’I know—I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones! Then I’ll have room enough. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, "Friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Wine, women, and song for you!" ’ "But God said to him, ’Fool! Tonight you die. Then who will get it all?’ Luke 12:16-21 (TLB). We should note that the farmer was not called a ‘fool’ because he had an overabundance but rather that he had no thought of sharing his bounty with those less fortunate.
Jesus provided another thought provoking example of the sin of omission through the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. It begins: "There was a certain rich man, who was splendidly clothed and lived each day in mirth and luxury. One day Lazarus, a diseased beggar, was laid at the rich man’s door. As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores” Luke 16:19-21 (TLB). The picture painted here is graphic and compelling. The rich man lives in indulgence, yet right outside lay poor Lazarus covered with oozing sores and starving and pleading for a few crumbs of food. The conclusion of the parable reveals the fate of both men: “ Finally the beggar died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham in the place of the righteous dead. The rich man also died and was buried, and his soul went into hell. There, in torment, he saw Lazarus in the far distance with Abraham. ‘Father Abraham,’ he shouted, ’have some pity! Send Lazarus over here if only to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in these flames.’ But Abraham said to him, ’Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted and you are in anguish” Luke 16:22-27 (TLB). It is significant to note that rich man did not physically abuse Lazarus; he simply was indifferent to his plight. His sin was one of omission not commission; the specific type of sin that Jesus stressed and condemned throughout His ministry!
Jesus’ teachings help us to understand that His primary concern was with sins of omission rather than just avoiding committing acts that we think are against His will. There would seem to be two paths we can choose to follow: (1) act on the basis of what W.W.J.D. participants stress trying to visualize what Jesus would do or (2) or to abide His words in Scripture which would guide us in not only avoiding only sins of commission but also more importantly those Jesus stressed. Each us must make a choice as to which path we choose to follow!