Why “What Would Jesus Do?” Is the Wrong Question

I can’t make one more decision. My Friday errands threaten to overtake me as I drive from store to store. There should be combat pay for Decision Fatigue.

As I approach a sign-toting young man asking for money, I’m conflicted. I’m not opposed to sharing my good fortune with others, but

  • Does it do any good?
  • Or are the funds used for drugs?
  • Will the money provide a needed meal or medical care?
  • Or is it an avenue to perpetual dependence?
  • Which action is kindest?

I get closer to the young man and see the tell-tale numbers: 420. Relief washes over me and I stop grasping for the wallet in my oversized purse. The marijuana code eliminates the conflict in my mind.

But as I drive away, the question lingers: Why is it so difficult for me to decide what to do?

I recall a bracelet-wearing trend that reminded Christians to keep their lives Christ-centered. Youth adorned their wrists with colorful plastic bands bearing the letters WWJD: What Would Jesus Do? .

  • Want to go to the big party this weekend? — What Would Jesus Do?
  • Is it okay to copy my friend’s homework this one time? — What Would Jesus Do?
  • What if I don’t want to spend time with my elderly relative? — What Would Jesus Do?

I like the idea of it. What Christian doesn’t want to model his behavior after Christ?

But it’s the wrong question.

At least, it gives us an incomplete picture.

Because when I ask ‘what would Jesus do?’ sometimes I don’t know the answer.

And I’m not alone.

Many current controversies are the result of individuals trying to discern Jesus’ viewpoint.

  • Abortion.
  • Same-sex marriage.
  • Homelessness.
  • Drug addiction.

We can argue points from the Bible verse-for-verse, but it doesn’t always get us anywhere because we’re human.

So human.

And sometimes when I ask ‘what would Jesus do?’ it’s easy to respond with, “but I’m not Jesus.”

Jesus was perfect and he followed God’s will perfectly. Although I try to be Christ-like, I admit I fall far short of the goal.

After staying up too late watching little-known British comedies, I drag my bleary-eyed self to my son’s room to say goodnight. A teenager with off-kilter circadian rhythms, he instead initiates the most interesting theological discussion.

Noooo! Don’t talk about God at this hour!

What would Jesus do?  Jesus would start up a conversation about God and spend all day, way past dinnertime, answering questions about His Father.

But the human part of me says, I’m beyond tired. And didn’t Jesus go away alone to pray and rest sometimes, too?

Don’t get me wrong. It’s fine to ask “What would Jesus do?” In fact, it convicts me in my core.

Should I watch this movie? What would Jesus do?

But I have to be careful with it.

Because, like Eve in the garden, I can talk my way into believing all sorts of things.

Sure, Jesus probably wouldn’t watch this movie. But it’s a way to spend time with my husband and wouldn’t Jesus focus on relationship and want me to strengthen my marriage?

It’s a slippery slope.

A Better Question

So I’ve begun asking myself “What does Satan want?”

I may have difficulty discerning what Jesus would do, but I can easily determine what Satan wants.

A fellow Christian confronts me on Facebook about a contested piece of theology. Do I set her straight or let it go?

What would Jesus do?

  • He was forthright — even dogmatic — about the Pharisees’ misinterpretations of God’s viewpoint.
  • But he also offered grace without condemnation to those who sinned the most.

I’m not certain what Jesus would do in this situation.

What does Satan want?

  • Would he love it if I spewed self-righteousness all over my Facebook page? Yes!
  • Does he enjoy seeing God’s children arguing and not showing love among themselves? Yes!
  • On the other hand, would he be ecstatic if I kept my mouth shut about God’s truth? Yes!
  • Or even fudged it a little to make it more palatable? Yes!

Certainly, Jesus would not shy away from proclaiming the truth, and we shouldn’t either. But are we proclaiming it in a way that makes Satan happy? Then we need to rethink our approach.

A Game-Changer

Prayerfully ask this simple question — What does Satan want in this situation? — to spur processing of the issue at a deeper level.

Not sure whether to say yes or no to a new opportunity?

Does Satan want you so focused on your current worldly activities that you think you have no time to help others? Or does he want your schedule so jam-packed (even with ministry activities) that you grump and grouch at your family?

Your circumstances are unique and may lead to a different answer to the question than someone else’s. But we know what Satan wants.

  • He wants disharmony and hatred.
  • He wants us to gloss over God’s truth.
  • He wants us to make our decisions independent of God.
  • He wants us to value our selves over our marriages.
  • He wants us to downplay evil as often as we can.

Although I sometimes don’t know what Jesus would do, asking what Satan wants adds perspective.

It reminds my tired self to patiently talk with my son about some of his questions, but also to reintroduce the conversation the next day when I’m rested.

It tells me that Satan is the one who thinks watching violent or inappropriate movies together strengthens a marriage, not God.

It helps me tone down my social media responses, when I remember to ask the question.

And most important, it prompts me to avoid black-and-white thinking on controversial topics. Should I give money to the young man begging on the street corner? What does Satan want? He wants to keep that man in ruins, and he wants to harden my heart.

Perhaps it’s not about the money. Maybe I’ve been asking the wrong question all along.

Spend the next two days asking yourself, What does Satan want? I bet you’ll be surprised how your perspective changes!



  1. Katerina O

    This is excellent. I’ve often wondered how a person could be expected to do some of the things Jesus did when we do not possess divine abilities. Yes, there are many things He did that we can do, such as love one another and care for the poor and forgotten, but only He could die to save us. I’m going to print this and share it.

  2. Ruth

    Love this article. It sounds like such a game changer….and
    I am going to put it into action! Thanks so much… <3

    • Kendra Burrows

      Glad it’s helpful, Ruth!

  3. Dawn Tartaglia

    Hi Kendra – I am glad you gave permission to For Every Mom because that is where I saw this post. We are studying the Armor of God in Bible Study and this fits so perfectly. I am sharing it with my table next Tuesday. Thank you so much.

    • Kendra Burrows

      Great! I’m glad you enjoyed it, Dawn! 😉

  4. Mary Carver

    Hi, Kendra! I’m a fellow Hope*Writer, and I also work for ForEveryMom.com, a Christian parenting site. I love this post – and I think our readers would, too! Would you allow us to republish this post on our site? We would give you full credit as author, link back here to the original post, and include your bio and head shot. What do you think? 🙂 Please let me know if you have any questions, and if you’re interested. Thank you!

    • Kendra Burrows

      Thanks for the offer! I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I’ll contact you through Facebook. 😉


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Hi, I’m Kendra

I help bright, successful over-thinkers change their negative thoughts using Scripture and the science of how God made you.

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