Socrates used to ask a lot of questions. The Greek philosopher believed that asking questions was the best way to teach; it inspired critical thinking about a subject to the end that the one being questioned would have a firmer and more grounded understanding of his or her position. Apparently, he was right, because people have been practicing (with great success) the Socratic method of teaching for centuries. While it’s great in a teaching atmosphere, there comes a point when you have to stop asking questions and start moving forward. But, what do we do with our questions?
“What is God’s will for my life?”
“Should I move here or there?”
“Should I go on that first date?”
“Should I take this job or not?”
All valid questions; all valid issues. They’re all questions that need to be asked, because you aren’t going to open your Bible this morning and find the specific answer to those issues written in the margin. The danger comes when our questions become the end in themselves. I get it, though—I understand the appeal. The idea of intellectual leisure seems great; a bunch of guys sitting in a circle simply discussing what may or may not happen, what may or may not come next. But, at some point, there must be some implementation; there must be some action. This kind of endless series of discussion and questioning is what Paul warned his young disciple Timothy against:
“As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach different doctrine or pay attention to myths and endless genealogies. These promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith. Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Some have deviated from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion. They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on” (1 Timothy 1:3-7).
Paul saw the appeal, too. We love our questions; we love our discussions. Conversely, we actually don’t want the answers we claim to seek—for two reasons. First of all, the answers force us into commitment (which we don’t like) and makes us walk by faith, or answers make us confront the fact that our plans for our lives don’t really align with God’s revealed will. In either case, it’s a lot more fun to put on the face of angst and sit around discussing and diagnosing, pontificating and pondering.
This is where wisdom enters the picture.
Wisdom is not an endless series of unanswered questions; it’s not found in that circle of discussion. Real wisdom is in real life. It’s in making real decisions based on the information at hand. Wisdom is taking a step forward, even if you don’t see the entire path laid out ahead of you. We can actually do this, not because we know all the answers to the questions, but because we know enough.
True, the answers might not be written in the margin of the Bible, but there are a lot of other things written in there. And, the stuff that is in there gives us the ability to take the next step. Furthermore, the next step we need to take often isn’t a spectacular step. It’s probably something simple like apologizing to a loved one, extending forgiveness, making the smart financial decision, or exercising patience. God may not have revealed everything, but He’s revealed enough for us to take the next step.
So, I would propose that you and I today ask the questions, but don’t do so as an end in itself. Ask the questions with an open Bible and an open will to do the next thing in our path. The questions will take care of themselves.
Michael Kelley lives in Nashville, TN, with his wife, Jana, and three children: Joshua, Andi, and Christian. He serves as Senior Vice President of Church Ministries for Lifeway Christian Resources. Find him on Twitter: @_MichaelKelley.