Question: "Is 'what would Jesus do?' (WWJD) something we should seek to live by?"

Answer: In the 1990s and early 2000s, the initials WWJD were frequently seen on bracelets, necklaces, T-shirts, etc., as religious people asked, “What would Jesus do?” to help guide their decisions in life. The slogan is not seen as commonly today, but it is still in circulation. The idea behind WWJD is that, to know the right thing to do, we should ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” and then model His behavior.

Some question the benefit of asking “What would Jesus do?” and wonder if WWJD is really something Christians should seek to live by. In answer to that, we would say that of course there is nothing wrong with emulating Jesus Christ. We are to follow in Jesus’ steps (1 Peter 2:21), and many passages of Scripture advise us to look to Christ as our example (e.g., John 13:15; Romans 15:7; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 4:32; 5:25). So there is nothing wrong with the idea behind WWJD or sporting WWJD merchandise.

However, there are some cautions in using the WWJD approach to decision-making. First, we must make sure that our answer to the question “What would Jesus do?” is based on the objective truth of Scripture and not subjective opinion. If you were to ask ten people what Jesus would do in a given situation, you would probably receive eight or nine different answers. People tend to conjure up their own images of who Jesus is and what He would do. We need to focus on the Jesus of the Bible.

We cannot really know what Jesus would do if we do not know what Jesus did do. Fortunately, the Bible often sheds light on the hypothetical what Jesus would do because it shows us what He, in reality, did. For example, if we are faced with the choice of showing compassion versus ignoring a need, we can look to Jesus’ behavior in the Gospels and see that He would show compassion (see Matthew 14:14). If we are tempted to skirt the truth, we can see Jesus’ example in the Gospels that He always told the truth (see John 8:45). His actions in the past guide us today. Scripture must be what informs us. The idea of WWJD must be properly grounded in a familiarity with Scripture.

Second, we must resist the temptation to use WWJD as a cover for doing what we want. The heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), and we should be careful not to lie to ourselves. WWJD cannot be allowed to become WDIWTD (“What Do I Want To Do?”). Sinful behavior cannot be justified simply by falsely imagining that Jesus would agree with us.

Third, we should not use the WWJD formula as a replacement for prayer. Along with asking “What would Jesus do?” we should be praying, “Jesus, what should I do?” JWSID may not be as catchy as WWJD, but it’s important that we seek the Lord’s guidance directly (see James 1:5).

WWJD can be a good reminder that we are to follow Jesus and seek to emulate Him. But asking, “What would Jesus do?” is not a standalone method of decision-making. We must also study the Word and seek God’s wisdom in prayer.