It was a typical Friday night at the Wilkin house. A spontaneous dinner had collected a growing number of neighbors and friends. As the kitchen swelled with people and chatter, I leaned over to each of my kids and whispered the code they were probably expecting: “FHB.”

Family hold back. Maybe you know this strategy, too. Surveying the food relative to the guests, it became apparent that we needed a nonmiraculous solution for our five loaves and two fishes. My husband prayed over the meal and then, quietly, the Wilkins slipped to the back of the line, serving themselves minimal portions to stretch the food. They knew they wouldn’t go without; it was not a matter of if they would eat but when. Worst case, we’d order a pizza once the guests had gone home.

Nobody wants to be at the end of the line. Given the choice, we want to go first, to get the full portion, to sit in the most comfortable chair. But Christ-followers understand that life is about more than doing what we want. It’s about doing what we wish.

Let me explain.

We can all imagine times when we wanted to be treated better, when we longed for more care, recognition, and grace than we received from others. We may look back and think, I wish my failures would be treated with gentleness. I wish I had received support during a hard season. I wish I had received love instead of rejection. I wish that anniversary had been remembered or that milestone had been acknowledged. I wish I would be made to feel needed, included, significant, treasured.

We are not wrong to hold these wishes. They illustrate the basic human need to be known, loved, and accepted. And what we do with how we feel about our wishes, met and unmet, will shape the course of our lives.

To that end, Jesus invites us to live lives directed by wishful thinking, though not in the way we might anticipate: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12, ESV).

Put simply, Jesus tells us to do what we wish. Thinking about our own wish list, we then act accordingly toward others.

We give the encouragement we wish we had received, and we show the honor we wish we would be shown. We cherish as we wish to be cherished and serve as we wish to be served. We step to the end of the line. We move to the least comfortable chair. We defer what we wish for ourselves and instead secure it for others.

Family hold back. Every day, in moments great and small, we look for ways to do what we wish others would do for us. But we do not do it alone, and we do not do it without hope. It’s easier to move to the back of the line when you do so with your family. It’s easier to take the smaller portion when you know the lack is only temporary.

The world says, “Do what you wish, without regard for others.” Move to the front of the line. Grab what gain you can. If your wishes don’t match your reality, nurse anger and resentment. Jesus says, “Do what you wish, with regard for others.” And he did. He deferred glory for deprivation, that we might receive the abundance of being reconciled to God. In doing so, he fulfilled what his Father wished, and he invited his followers to practice the wishful thinking that imitates his own.

This world is flat-out starving for kindness and decency. It is ravenous for meaning and purpose, and we are just the family to invite them to the table.

Do you wish people were kinder to you? Be the kindest person you can be. Do you wish your hurts were noticed and your wins were cheered? Be attentive to those around you who are hurting. Do you wish you were encouraged more often? Encourage your neighbor.

Do it together; do it for the joy set before you. Any lack in this life is bearable in light of the bounty to come. Do it as Christ did for you. Do whatever you wish.

[ This article is also available in Português. ]

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Beginning of Wisdom
The Beginning of Wisdom offers a Bible teacher's perspective on spiritual growth and scriptural study in our churches, small groups, and families.
Jen Wilkin
Jen Wilkin is a wife, mom, and Bible teacher. She is the author of Women of the Word and None Like Him. She tweets @jenniferwilkin.
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