“Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.” — Mark Twain
The Look of Joy
Always be full of joy in the. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do (Philippians 4:4-5 NLT).
Last Wednesday, Barbara and I were co-teaching the book of James to a small group. After spending an hour talking about the book, we barely finished James 1:2, which tells us to consider it an opportunity for great joy when troubles come our way. Doesn’t that sound easy and fun?
While Barbara led the group discussion around the question, “What does joy look like?” I meandered over to Philippians 4. I knew it had some good stuff to say about joy, so I found the above passage I wanted and read it to the group. And as soon as I did, I knew it was going to bother me.
Although Paul wrote to the Philippians from prison, he still finds a way to be joyful. I didn’t say he was enjoying his stay in prison, but that he chose joy as his attitude. So far, so good. Paul is a better man than I am, but that is not what struck me. What struck me is what I call “The Look of Joy.” We’ll often ask what love looks like, and there is even a song called, “The Look of Love.” But what about joy? Barbara asked, “What does joy look like?” According to Philippians 4:5, joy looks like “consideration.”
That is when I got bothered. I knew from experience that, when I’m in a good mood and everything is right in the world, I show copious amounts of consideration. I tip the waitress more than she deserves, give more money to the needy and smile for no sane reason. However, when I am not joyful – when I am hurt, angry, disappointed or preoccupied with my own problems, I am not very considerate to others. In other words, I’m joyful and considerate when I feel like it and not joyful when I don’t want to be. If there is a trial, I’m not joyful and considerate and if the trials are minimal, I’m a nice guy.
What an awful way to live like a Christian.
In order to ease my troubled mind, I started to do a word study to see what “consideration” really means in the Greek. I find I do that on the occasions when the Word hits too close to home. I’ll look for ways the translators may have missed a word to justify my own bad attitude. You see, I didn’t always want to be considerate, and I certainly didn’t want my ability to be considerate to people linked with joy, a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). But the more I studied, the more I dug a hole.
It seems that no one word really conveys the idea of “consideration”, or epiekēs in the Greek. Some words come close, like gentle, kind, fair, reasonable, lenient and mild. Furthermore, this word indicates a willingness to yield to another person’s rights while we are gentle and considerate.
See why this bothers me? It is easy to show this consideration to nice people when I’m in just the right mood, but Paul tells us to show this attitude to everyone – Christian friends, difficult family members, ornery co-workers, people we admire and yes, even those church people who “just get on my nerves.”
In the end, I think I answered my wife’s question, “What does joy look like?” Joy looks like a person who is considerate, gentle, kind and fair to everyone, even in the midst of trials, tribulations or a prison cell. I know that my joy doesn’t always show in everything I do, but God still loves me and seems to be helping me work on it every chance He gets. And for that, I choose to be joyful.