But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17).
My husband and I stood in line to confirm our flight schedule at the airport. A native of that country cut ahead of us without a word. Perhaps it was their custom or he had good reason, so we kept quiet. Various countries have different views about what being considerate means. Other cultures, as we have found, are not bound by schedules but wisely put people above timeliness.
What It Means to Be Considerate
The writer of Proverbs repeated three words throughout the book, not always in the same order: knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Before understanding a concept we need to know the facts. The application of knowledge and understanding is wisdom. James indicated that being considerate is an aspect of wisdom, not worldly wisdom but heavenly and pure. James listed several attributes of the wisdom that comes from God. Being considerate should mark a Christian’s life. But many outside the faith also value being considerate.
I asked two acquaintances to give me examples of what it means to be considerate. One is a Christian young adult; the other has drifted away from the faith. Their answers, however, were similar. Keeping a promise ranked high on their lists, then such things as being on time and honoring a request. The conversation turned to examples associated with driving, like not cutting others off in a line of traffic and allowing another driver to take the first available parking space.
Both spoke about punctuality, citing friends who don’t consider it important and who repeatedly arrive later than the arranged time. They also mentioned people who get in a rush and focus only on their own schedules.
Why Should Christians Be Considerate?
We expect a Christian to be considerate. Why is that? It must be the motivation behind the action, the reason for one’s good behavior. As we examine the connection, let’s look at the perfect example, Jesus Christ.
Jesus put others’ needs before his own. Even coming from a season of prayer Jesus took time to teach, heal, and feed people. The feeding of the 5,000 (Matthew 14:13-21) became a touchstone of his ministry. Jesus reminded his disciples of this experience when their faith was lacking (16:9-10). In his story about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35), Jesus told of a man who took care of someone even when it meant sacrifice and a delay in his own journey. Samaritans would have been the least likely to show compassion to a Jew. When Jesus talked with the woman in Samaria (John 4:4-26), he requested that she assist him, thus showing regard for her. Jesus was considerate of others, even the least and the unlovely.
As Jesus suffered on the cross he thought of his mother’s needs. “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, ‛Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‛Here is your mother.’” (John 19:26, 27). When we’re considerate we’re being like Christ.
Putting Others First at Home
The apostle Paul instructed the church at Philippi to imitate Christ. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interest of others” (Philippians 2:3, 4). Some translations render it, “not only looking to your own interests,” but several ancient Greek manuscripts do not include the word only, thus the NIV translation has adopted this as a more pointed command. We see this injunction lived out in marriage and family.
In The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck wrote, “I have defined love as the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” Peck goes on to indicate that to love someone, you put that person’s interest above your own. Such biblical wisdom leads us to be considerate.
Jesus’ love, agape love, showed his obedience to the Father’s will as he emptied himself and became a servant. He “did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather he made himself nothing” (Philippians 2:6, 7).
Our love for others will be reflected in our consideration of them, putting their interests above our own. During my preteen years my dad and I took frequent walks around our neighborhood in the evenings. Those precious times gave me a better understanding of my parents’ relationship, for Dad would encourage me to help Mother around the house. I learned to love my mother more because of my dad’s love for her.
I shall never cease to be grateful for the union I have with my husband who demonstrates unconditional love. He considers me above his own feelings. He’s ready at once to forgive and show affection. As we taught values to our children, they learned early how to share and take turns, cultivating the way for being considerate of others when they reached adulthood. Values are caught as much as taught.
As we now live in a three-generation home, each family member respects the privacy of others, paying attention to space, noise, and time. It’s important to communicate. For example, one evening, knowing that I was in charge of dinner, my grandson texted me to say he would be late and not to wait dinner on him. I appreciated his simple message.
Cultivating a Considerate Spirit
In his spiritual classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan described how the pilgrims were bathed and dressed for the remainder of their journey. Christiana, her four sons, and their friend Mercy entered the Bath. They not only washed away the filth of their travels, but they also felt energized. Afterward, their host clothed them in fresh white linen garments, and their vision surprisingly cleared. They saw others as better than themselves. How considerate is that!
Paul used the imagery of clothing when writing to the Colossian church. “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And over all these virtues put on love” (Colossians 3:12, 14). It would suit each of us to make a practice of getting dressed each morning with the qualities found in the third chapters of James and Colossians, reciting each virtue and mentally clothing ourselves with Christ’s goodness.
While this dressing requires some effort on our part—the deeds of faith as James instructs us—there is one important lesson we cannot ignore. We need the Holy Spirit’s help to grow as considerate Christians. Before we can put on the character of Christ we must acknowledge Christ as Savior and Lord, surrendering to his way within our lives. This is where the character of Christ meets the mission of the church.
Ann L. Coker lives in a three-generation home in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she writes devotional literature and is completing her first book related to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Connect with Ann on her blog: abcoker.wordpress.com.