Some will say that there are no stupid questions. (Yes, I’m aware of the corollary about stupid people asking questions, but let’s be nicer than that!) Even if we accept this premise, though, there are definitely a lot of questions that don’t add value. There are baiting questions, meant to create a quarrel. There are trick questions, meant to humiliate anyone bold enough to try and answer them. There are diversion questions, meant to pull the subject of a conversation away from something important (and often uncomfortable). And, there are useless questions, whose answers don’t actually benefit anyone (neither individually nor corporately).
While I won’t suggest examples of these “bad questions”, I think that there is value in learning some “good questions”, and in listening to (or pursuing) their answers earnestly and honestly.
Let’s take a look at a couple of questions in a discourse between Jesus and another man:
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
Luke 10:25-26 NIV
I don’t know the heart of this “expert in the law”, but from the sound of it, this seems to be a fair question. My understanding of religious dialogue in that day among rabbis and experts was that it included a lot of questions and answers. (For another viewpoint, the Lookout – cited below – suggests that this test was inappropriate because we shouldn’t test God, and that the premise of having to do something in order to inherit eternal life was the wrong place to start. I can appreciate those points, as well.)
If this wasn’t a test meant to trick Jesus into failing or saying something that would get Him into trouble with others, what if it was a question – like a quiz, sort of – to evaluate the integrity of Jesus’ teachings with respect to the Scriptures? Or, maybe this expert was genuinely interested in hearing how Jesus interpreted what had been written before. Perhaps, since Jesus spoke “because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (per Matthew 7:28-29; see also Mark 1:21-28, Luke 4:31-37), and not just as someone reciting what had been written or said before, the expert might have been looking for a new insight into an old question.
And, after all, how much can we really learn about eternal life from the Old Testament scriptures? Sure, it’s easy to see indications and prophecies about Jesus once we know what to look for (since we now know about His life, ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection). But, if we didn’t have Jesus to explain things to us, the question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life” seems like a pretty reasonable thing to ask. This is the first of two good questions that we find in this passage.
If you haven’t actually asked yourself, “What does it take to receive everlasting life?”, and honestly pursued the correct answer to that question, I’d suggest that this doing so is a pretty good place to start. (Having said that, perhaps you believe that this mortal life is all that there is, and might need to ask, “Is there any more to life than this?”. That’s a fair question, too, but it must precedes the other, not replace it.)
In addition to the first question, Jesus’ question is another great question for us to ask – of ourselves and of others – when we are discussing topics that the Bible talks about (which includes a lot of what we deal with on a regular basis). Rather than debating what we think, or what a preacher says, or what popular opinion suggests, what if we asked, “What does the Bible say about that?”, or “What have you found in the Bible on this subject, from your own study?”
Now, if you know that the other person doesn’t read or know the Bible, asking this latter question might be a little mean-spirited. In that case, you could share what you have learned from the Bible, instead. However, when two Christians are respectfully discussing an important topic, maybe we should go back to what we claim to be our primary source of truth more often.
So, I hope that you are asking both of these questions today. In fact, they are good questions to ask together: “What does it take to receive everlasting life?” and “What does the Bible say about that?” After all, searching for answers to less-important questions isn’t particularly useful until we have answered these two.
Let’s look at the answer in the next article (or you can just go ahead and read Luke 10:25-37).
From Sunday School lesson prepared for May 1, 2022
- The Lookout, May 1, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Luke, by Mark C. Black. College Press Publishing Company, © 1996.