You Are What You Want

By Jim Tune

Jesus twice asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” It seems an odd question.

The first time Jesus asks it, he’s talking to disciples James and John. Their answer isn’t good. They want prominent places in God’s kingdom. “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory,” they say (Mark 10:37*). Jesus knows they still don’t get it. I sigh, because I know I’m infected with the same desire sometimes. Who among us isn’t tempted by prominence and glory?

A short time later, Jesus asks this question of a blind man. This time, the answer’s different. “Rabbi, let me receive my sight,” he says (Mark 10:51). Jesus instantly responds. The man recovers his sight and begins to follow Jesus.

I think Jesus continues to ask us, “What do you want me to do for you?” It’s an important question, because we are what we want.

I used to think that following Jesus was all about having the right beliefs (orthodoxy) and the right actions (orthopraxy). Jesus’ question helps me understand that following him is actually about something much deeper. It’s about the right desires.

James K.A. Smith writes in You Are What You Love,

What do you want?

That’s the question. It is the first, last, and most fundamental question of Christian discipleship.

. . . This is the most incisive, piercing question Jesus can ask of us precisely because we are what we want. Our wants and longings and desires are at the core of our identity, the wellspring from which our actions and behavior flow. Our wants reverberate from our heart, the epicenter of the human person. . . . Discipleship, we might say, is a way to curate your heart, to be attentive to and intentional about what you love.

So discipleship is more a matter of hungering and thirsting than of knowing and believing.

Or, as Jen Pollock Michel puts it, “The business of following Christ, then, is about reorienting our loves and desires toward his kingdom.”

Praying at sunriseHere’s the good news: God wants to satisfy our desires. He is very interested in our happiness and joy. God is generous, and he loves giving to his children.

Here’s the bad news: We desire the wrong things. Our “wanters” are broken. We desire prominence, wealth, glory, and pleasure, rather than desiring God’s kingdom.

We are what we want, which is why I’m praying Psalm 37:4 for me and for you: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Delight in God, and he promises to satisfy our deepest desires, because then our desires will finally be right.

Christianity isn’t only about believing or behaving. It’s about desiring and loving the right things and the right One. My prayer for me and for you: Lord, teach us to want.


*All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

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