July 29, 2017

Curious? Or Devious?

Years ago, there was a television show with a panel of media people who discussed various issues. Whenever the conversation turned to religion, one of them always asked, “If there is a good God, why did he kill all those people, including babies, in a flood?” The details varied, but his questions focused on a god according to his logic, not the God described in the Bible.

This is not a new tactic. The religious people of Jesus’ time on earth also asked Him questions like that, not because they wanted answers, but because they wanted to trap Jesus.

“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’” (Matthew 22:34–40)

Unlike the others on the television show panel or the guest panelists, Jesus always had a strong, biblical answer. He knew the basics of Scripture and the problems in the heart of the Pharisees. They believed they were right with God because they supposedly kept God’s laws. They missed the fact that no one can or does, but also that the purpose of those laws was to show them how far short they fell and how much they needed a Savior. Jesus didn’t not explain that to them though; He just raised the bar. Sometimes He asked them a question, one that they could not answer:

“Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’”? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?’ And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.” (Matthew 22:41–46)

Today’s devotional reading demeans those who do what the Pharisees did — ask questions about religious matters out of curiosity or even out of trying to stump the people they ask. While there are no biblical answers to foolish questions like: “How many angels can stand on the head of a pin?” there are answers to many of these questions. Rather than dismiss them as wasting my time, perhaps I can do what Jesus did — ask them a question to prompt deeper thought, even encourage them to get into the Bible and find out for themselves what it says.

On one episode of that television show, the guest was a pastor. When the panelist asked his usual question about a supposedly good God and the destruction of babies in the flood, the pastor said, “If there is no good God, what would be the matter with it?” For once, the contentious panelist was silenced.

Jesus, there are people who avoid the issues of life, yet still argue over religious matters. It is important to bring them to thoughts of deeper things and prompt them to consider You. It is also important to not disregard them as mockers, or foolish, or people who play games. Even if they are merely trying to trip me up, there is a reason behind their banter. Maybe they see something that bothers them and might be trying to dismiss it by proving I don’t know what I’m talking about. Whatever it is, give me the discernment to see deeper and to have a good response that comes from Your Word and Your heart — one that motivates them to think more deeply about life, themselves, and especially about You.

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