Foundations of Christian Wisdom: Personhood

By Uli Chi

May 12, 2024

A Note from Uli Chi, Author of The Wise Leader

Dear Life for Leaders Readers and Friends,

I am delighted to share with you that my book, The Wise Leader, has just been released by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. This week, I have written a series of five Life for Leaders devotionals based on one of the book’s chapters on the foundations of Christian wisdom.

Thank you for being such faithful Life for Leaders readers and for your commitment to embody the wisdom you have discovered in them. I hope you find this week’s devotionals helpful and encouraging in your journey on the way of wisdom.

Yours as a fellow pilgrim,


Scripture — John 14:6 (NIV)

I am the way and the truth and the life.


Christian wisdom is about the art of becoming fully human.


Head of Christ (Rembrandt van Rijn c. 1660)

Wisdom is in short supply in our world. Even as knowledge and technical skills increase exponentially, wisdom seems more elusive.

One of the distinctive claims of the Christian faith is that God has become a human being in Jesus Christ. In doing so, Jesus embodies genuine wisdom unparalleled in human history. As Jesus teaches in today’s text: “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Or, as the Apostle Paul would say to the early church, Jesus is “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24 NIV).

But sadly, Christian wisdom has fallen on hard times. For many, Christian “wisdom” seems arcane and irrelevant, hardly something that would make a difference for people trying to live wisely and well in the 21st century. But like discovering a long-lost Van Gogh painting in our cultural attic, Christian wisdom remains a priceless treasure for all of us today, addressing our most profound and essential questions and longings as human beings: Who are we? Why are we here?

In a phrase, Christian wisdom is about the art of becoming fully human.

So, what might be some elements of a Christian understanding of the art of becoming fully human? In this week’s series, I will explore five foundational insights from the Christian wisdom tradition: personhood, community, embodiment, diversity, and journeying.

For today, let’s consider what it means that human beings are persons. According to Christian wisdom, human beings are not reducible to mere physics, chemistry, and biology, as crucial as those are. In other words, human beings are not merely biological machines. We are biological creatures, but we are more than that. There is a transcendent quality to being human. To put it in a biblical metaphor, human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. That means human beings are spiritual as well as physical creatures, as complex as the word “spiritual” is to define and describe. And, most importantly, like God, we are distinctively persons.

As persons, human beings are the subject of the singular love and attention of the Creator of the Universe. And God’s love creates the context in which human freedom is possible. While God commands a way of life that leads to human flourishing, God never coerces it. God created human beings to freely choose what and whom they will love. Included in that freedom is the ability to choose the opposite of what is intrinsically good—to choose lies rather than truth and to choose death rather than life.

These are startling claims, as startling now as they were millennia ago when they were first made. They have revolutionary implications for how we view and treat each other as human beings. And they provide the ultimate foundation for our cherished notions of human dignity and freedom.

But there is more.

Not only are human beings created with intrinsic value and dignity, they are also made for a particular purpose. Human beings have been entrusted with the stewardship and development of God’s world. Again, to use biblical imagery, we have been given the garden of this world to cultivate and protect. In a nutshell, human beings are intended to be God’s greatest gift to the world, to steward God’s creation in love.

By the way, that’s why God became human, and that is why God in Jesus Christ remains human still.

Given that human beings are intended to be God’s greatest gift to the world, leadership is the call to steward that gift. Leadership is not only about accomplishing specific tasks. It is more fundamentally about serving our people by enabling them to fulfill their potential. We are always at risk of treating people merely as a means to an end. Even our organizational language sometimes betrays us. We have executives who are in charge of “human resources”—as though human beings were mere impersonal resources to manage rather than persons to develop.

There’s much more to be said. But for now, this first insight concerning the human person reminds us that our responsibility as leaders includes a particular accountability for how well we steward the people entrusted to us in our work.


How are you stewarding the people in your life? What might it mean for you to treat them as persons made in the image of God?


Tell someone in your life that you love them. Then, do an intentional act of kindness for them.


O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are humans that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet.
O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
(Psalm 8:1, 3-6, 9 NRSVUE)

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Truthtelling is the Norm in the Bible.

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Uli Chi

Board Member, Senior Fellow, Affiliate Professor

Dr. Uli Chi’s career is a testament to his unique approach to leadership. He has navigated the realms of for-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations, the theological academy, and the local church, gleaning a wealth of wisdom from each. As an award-winning technological entrepreneur, h...

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