On Stupid Questions with Obvious Answers
One morning, my seven year old daughter and I were at her oncology appointment. The oncologist was wrapping up the appointment as she always does by asking, “do you have any questions?” Meredith asked her, “do monkeys…?” Her oncologist laughed, said she didn’t know, and asked her what she thought. It was a rather hilarious conversation. Her oncologist engaged with her. She didn’t chide her for wasting her time with an irrelevant question.
Recently assemblyHUB published an article in answer to a question we had received concerning Christians and sexting. This resulted in a bit of flak. Many commenters objected because the answer to the question should have been obvious. Why are we wasting space on this topic?
Interestingly enough…less than a week later, the Wall Street Journal took up a very similar question. “What should parents do about sexting?” They considered this a culturally relevant topic deserving consideration. However, they are not answering questions from the same world view that we are.
To remain relevant we must be willing to answer any and all questions. It’s foolish to hand the conversation over to the world.
Just answer the question
One of my favorite lines from the Declaration of Independence is, “we hold these truths to be self-evident.” Unfortunately, many truths are not as self-evident as we think. They aren’t just “caught”; rather they need to be taught.
At the most basic level a question reveals a lack of knowledge.
If someone is asking a question, no matter how obvious we might think the answer, our first assumption should be that they don’t know the answer. We should not immediately assume something nefarious. The inquirer might possibly not like the answer they’ve already been given, but that isn’t necessarily so.
In either case, and in questions of life or assembly principles, questions need answered with Biblical answers. Our thoughts and opinions hold little weight in this culture of moral relativity. Unless we go back to scripture, our answers are based on a shaky foundation. God’s words stand firm and unchanging and are the vehicle the Holy Spirit uses to change hearts and lives.
Jesus used questions as a teaching tool while also revealing hearts. Multiple examples immediately come to mind. There was the question about the coin, to answer the question about paying taxes.
In another instance Jesus asked the disciples if they would also leave. Their answer revealed what they believed. He asked Peter who men thought He was.
Many, many questions. Some Christ answered. Some others answered. Some questions were left hanging, their answers apparent or needing to be answered in someone’s own heart.
People in the Bible asked questions. And God encouraged questions…
Trust in the Lord at all times, O people, pour out your heart before Him. God is a refuge for us. (Psalm 62:8)
Questions can reveal to us what we really think or believe. God already knows our hearts. Questions allow us to be honest with ourselves. What do we know or not know? What do we know that we haven’t yet obeyed?
Questions can reveal our ignorance. Which isn’t a bad thing. We don’t know everything. But, we know someone who does. And He never scolds us for asking stupid questions.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)
God is so patient with our questions. And so generous with His answers. As those who answer questions, we should follow His example of patience, and plumb the boundless well of His wisdom.
God’s caveat wasn’t to not ask a dumb question. The caveat is to ask in faith. (James 1:6) Faith is intrinsically tied to obedience. We are responsible to obey the answer.
Questions are not an excuse for disobedience. Intriguingly, Zechariah and Mary asked the same question in Luke 1. God knew both hearts. Zechariah’s question was asked in skepticism while Mary’s was asked in faith.
Mary was given further clarification. Zechariah was struck dumb for more than 9 months. Moses also asked questions (Exodus 3-4). The progression was from genuine ignorance to stalling and disobedience.
Sometimes we get frustrated with people’s questions because we feel they already know the answer, but are unwilling to accept it. That may very well be. As question answerers, our job is to answer questions from scripture no matter how obvious we may think the answer. No matter if we think they should already know it. Answer and then allow the Holy Spirit to convict and move in the heart.
Once we’ve actually answered a question, if the same person brings it up again, we can discern whether they need clarification or whether they are using the question as a stall tactic to obedience. But we certainly should never reproach someone for originally asking a question.
Because that question means that they are engaging with truth. That they care. Questions are vastly superior to apathy.
Until truth is striven for, it is just surface. Acceptance and conformity do not equal truth, or even obedience to truth. Truth works its way down into our hearts and then out through our living, changing lives.
Which is why sometimes we answer questions here on the HUB, that you yourself may think are stupid questions. You may think that the answer is obvious. But, someone else was vulnerable enough to ask that question, and we need to humbly create an atmosphere where questions are allowed and even cultivated.
- Questions reveal the heart.
- Questions are a teaching tool.
- Questions are not “stupid.”
- Questions show engagement.
- Questions do not fluster or threaten God.
- Questions must be answered Biblically.