Stupid Question

October 25, 2010

by Lance Johnson

The saying goes that there are no stupid questions. That may be true in some sense, but anyone who really thinks there is no stupid question doesn’t live in the same world as the rest of us, or at least has never worked at the same places I have worked.

As proof of my premise that stupid questions do exist, I point you to the Scriptures. A prime example of a stupid question is found in the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. We all know the story. A lawyer, known as a scribe in first century Palestine, asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life. That is not the stupid question. That is a very sensible question that all of us ask at some time or another and should be taken more seriously than it often is. The stupid question was the next one from the scribe’s mouth. Jesus responded to the scribe with a question of his own, asking the scribe what was written in the Law. He knew the scribe would know what was in the Law, and that the scribe would think about the issue of eternal life from a legal point-of-view. The scribe answered like any good scribe and most six year old children of the time would:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus affirmed that this was correct, and at this point that the scribe asked his stupid question, “Who is my neighbor?” Do we really believe this scribe, this educated man, did not know what a neighbor was? Of course he knew who his neighbor was. So, if he knew who his neighbor was, why did he ask such a stupid question?

Luke 10:29 says he asked the question “desiring to justify himself.” In other words, he asked such a stupid question because he wanted eternal life on his own terms rather than on God’s terms. He was trying to play legal semantics as lawyers often do. He wanted to play with words and define words to suit his purposes. Ultimately, he wanted to do the absolute minimum required to get to heaven. Jesus responded to this with the Parable of the Good Samaritan, in which he taught that loving one’s neighbor has no limits and that being involved in religious activities does not justify anyone. Through this parable Jesus told the scribe that the minimum was not enough. Loving God and loving one’s neighbor is an all or nothing proposition.

Sadly, that first-century scribe is not the only one to ask that type of question. It is asked every day by contemporary lawyers, doctors, waiters, mechanics, pastors, elders, and others from all walks of life. Our inclination is not self-denial, but self-indulgence. We naturally look for technicalities that will allow us to have eternal life while still holding on to as much of the world as possible. We paint a spiritual facade on our worldliness, as the priest and the Levite did in the parable, and use that to justify our carnal hearts, but ultimately God’s children do not look for spiritual excuses or technicalities, they look for opportunities to glorify God in the highest, most energetic way possible. The heart of the one that will have eternal life doesn’t seek to just get by, but goes the extra mile for the sake of the glory of God.

By the way, any question that seeks to justify one’s self is a very stupid question.

One Response to “Stupid Question”

  1. Bill Brown said

    The person who seeks to do the minimum necessary to have eternal life fails on two points. 1. He thinks eternal life is something to be earned. 2. He displays the evidence of an unregenerate heart that is devoid of the love of Christ.

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