Wisdom: The Gift of the Church for the World

By Uli Chi

April 24, 2024

Scripture — Matthew 25:36 (NRSV)

I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.


The gift of the church for the world is a different vision of being human.


In 2019, I had the privilege of becoming the board chair of the Franciscan Health System in the Pacific Northwest. On the day I became chair, two of the Sisters of St. Francis presented me with the statue pictured here. As she handed it to me, Sister Jude Connelley said: “Uli, this is so you will remember why you are here. Remember why you are board chair.”

Photo of When I Was Sick by Timothy Schmalz (C) 2024 Uli Chi

That was profoundly wise counsel.

The original “When I Was Sick” statue was created by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz in 2016 and is located at the Ospedale di Santo Spirito (Hospital of the Holy Spirit) in Rome. My replica sits on my desk in my office. Every day, I’m reminded of the Franciscan mission to care for the most vulnerable and marginalized. And every day, I’m reminded of my mission as board chair and why I am in that role.

Jesus tells us that the Franciscan commitment to care for the least and the most vulnerable is central not only to the work of healthcare but to the mission of every human being. One day, we will each have to account for our lives. And our lives will be evaluated by how we treat the least among us. That’s a remarkable revelation and a startling challenge. One might think that our fame and reputation, our accomplishments in business, science, and the arts, or how we’ve treated our families might merit more consideration. But Jesus points to how we treat those on the margins as the acid test of our humanity. “As you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40 NRSVUE).

Remember why you are here.

It’s easy to underestimate (or perhaps to forget) the contribution Jesus and his followers have made to the trajectory of human history. As theologians and historians N. T. Wright and Michael Bird have argued:

Most people in today’s world recognise as noble the ideas that we should love our enemies, that the strong should protect the weak, and that it is better to suffer evil than to do evil. People in the West treat such things as self-evident moral facts. Yet such values were certainly not self-evident to the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Vikings, Ottomans, Mongols or Aztecs. The reason why most people today accept those ideals as axiomatic is that we are products of the Christian revolution (Jesus and the Powers, p. 28).

The gift of the church for the world is a different vision of being human. Jesus reminded us that all human beings are made in the image of God, not just those who are privileged and powerful. And how we treat those who are vulnerable is how we treat God. In Jesus’ own words, “As you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.” Jesus also modeled service as the way to exercise power and leadership for the sake of the world. Rather than adopting arrogance and violence as the means of leadership, genuinely human leaders embody humility and self-sacrifice.

Of course, knowing how to do all that well is a complicated business. As I wrote last month, wisdom is needed to navigate the complexities, the paradoxes, and even the mysteries of contributing to our world’s flourishing. That’s why wisdom is a journey, not a destination.

Sister Jude knew this when she gave me the statue. And her words are a profound reminder of the gift of the church for the world:

Remember why you are here. 

So, how are we to live out our calling to serve the vulnerable and the least among us? Jesus’ words in today’s text suggest three practices. In reverse order, we need to show up, to care, and to be generous.

First, we need to show up. As the modern saying goes, “Half of life is simply showing up.” Being present with the vulnerable is a good place to start.

Second, we need to care for those who are “in our care.” The pace and demands of modern life can quickly turn people into mere statistics. That’s especially true when we are responsible for large organizations. I find that visiting and spending time with people on the front lines of our healthcare system is one of the most helpful practices for me as a board member. That experience keeps me grounded in the reality of caring for our patients and our staff.

Finally, we need to be generous. Generosity should be the ultimate fruit of our being present and caring. In its infinite possibilities, generosity is what being human (and being made in the image of God) is all about. After all, in the most famous line of the Christian tradition: “God so loved the world that he gave…” (John 3:16, italics mine). Being present and caring for those on the frontlines of healthcare naturally motivates me to be more generous with my time and financial resources.

As a practical example, Jesus tells the story of a Samaritan who practiced all three of these virtues toward someone who had been wounded and left for dead. The Samaritan showed up, cared for the wounded man, and generously provided for his recovery (Luke 10:30-37). The fact that it was a Samaritan and not a Jew featured in Jesus’ story tells us something important about the nature of wisdom and where it can sometimes be found. We’ll explore that more tomorrow.


For now, take some time to reflect on N. T. Wright and Michael Bird’s quote above. In what ways has “the Christian revolution” successfully transformed people’s ideals? How have you seen that in your life and work?


Find someone in your circle of influence or responsibility who is vulnerable or in a precarious state. This coming week, find a way to show up for them, to care for them, and to be generous toward them.


Lord Jesus Christ,

We confess that we often fail to see you in those on the margins of society and in those who find themselves wounded. Help us to see them and to see you in them. And having seen them and you in them, give us the courage to respond in wisdom with generosity.

We ask in your name,


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. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25:31-46).

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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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