We Should Avoid The Hard Questions


Matt. 22: 15-22

Introd.  There are some questions in life that are just plain difficult to know.  Some are trivial. Why sleep? Have you ever asked God that question? You made life so short to begin with, God, why isn't sleep a design defect? You want us to spend one-third of our life dead to the world?

Is there life on other planets?  If we evolved from apes, how come we still have apes?  How can an ADD person sit and watch six hours of football?

Then some are serious questions: In our honesty as we journey through this life of faith, we have lots and lots of questions that don’t seem to have an easy answer.  

            Why did my love one die when I prayed for them?

            Why did I lose my job when I tithe to the Lord?

            Why are some Christians so mean spirited?

            How can I know the will of God?

            How can I live a Christian life in the midst of such a pagan society especially at work?

 Questions that challenge your belief system?  Values?  Questions that boggle the mind and strain the brain and lead to endless argument.

 As Christians sometimes we avoid the hard questions.  When they are asked we brush them aside with a clichés that makes people ashamed they even asked.  If asked with the right spirit, we should never avoid the hard questions.

Asking questions is part of the heritage of the church. The disciples spent their days in dialog with Jesus, asking questions and discussing his answers. Creeds were formulated by the church as answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

Questions are good. In every area including spiritually,  progress is impossible without asking questions?  How can I do this better?  Why doesn’t this work?  What does this mean? Questions aren’t the fear of the church, they are the lifeblood of the church.  For those who live in a very black and white world where everything has to have a definite answer, these questions can be intimidating.

Asking questions--of ourselves, of our lives, of our faith, of our God—enables us to formulate a value system around which we can build a life. The church should be a place to ask questions, to open the door to dialogue about tough issues.

What kind of questions did they ask Jesus? In Matthew 22 we find the Pharisees asking Jesus a question: Jesus was no stranger to hard questions.  The Pharisees were constantly trying to trip him up:  

Matthew 22: 15-22         

15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not?” 18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” 21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.    Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”  22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away. (NIV)

Vs. 15 says It was a trap question. Vs. 17 Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar? The problem with the question that the Pharisees posed to Jesus is that it was a question designed not to clarify but to trap. Their intent was evil.

They are trying to get Jesus to discredit himself.  If Jesus said no, they would report him to the Roman government to be arrested as a lawbreaker. If he said you should pay taxes, it would anger the Jews who chafed at the thought of taxation without representation. To pay tax to an earthly king like Caesar was to insult God.

Jesus asks to see a coin which was minted with the head of the current emperor as a sign of his authority. Answers in verse 21. “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”  don’t you hate it when people answer the question and you still don’t know what they mean.  I believe Jesus is implying that every Christian has a dual citizenship – one in the world and one in God’s kingdom. We are to be responsible citizens in both environments. Jesus doesn’t deal with the issue of what happens when these systems collide, but simply live honorable in both kingdoms.

Trick questions vs. 28 Trick Questions are usually designed to back you into a corner.  Sometimes the only answer is a bad one. Have you stopped beating your wife yet?

Trick questions are designed so the only answer is one that they want to hear?  Salesman asks:  would it be better for me to see you on Tuesday or Wednesday?  You don’t want to see them at all but when you answer the question – you commit yourself.

Vs. 28  whose wife will she be?  Why did they ask that question – because they wanted an answer – no because they didn’t believe in the resurrection so they were trying to trick Jesus into answering to prove there couldn’t be a resurrection.

Test questions  vs. 36  what is the greatest commandment?  Expecting Jesus to comment on the 10 given my Moses, Jesus throws them off by saying really there is only two:  all the law and prophets hang on these two – do these two – the others will follow.

Test questions are biopsies of the soul, assessments of where you are on your spiritual journey. Do you believe the Bible is true? "Is Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior?", "If you were to die tonight, are you certain you'd go to heaven?" Those questions are designed to find out where you are in relation to God?

Test questions aren’t bad questions – but they can become judgmental as we put people in categories by their answer.

We may not say it but we are thinking are you the same kind of Christian that I am?  do you speak in tongues?  Do you baptize infants or believers?  Do you allow women to teach? What’s your view of eschatology? The danger is we make these secondary issues a test of fellowship – you don’t believe like I do; then your not really a Christian.  

Jesus asked a different type of question – weren’t trick, trap, or test questions, they were:

Trip questions Trip questions send you on a journey. A trip question is one that leads to a quest for something.  A trip question says:  you should investigate this more because the way you have been thinking about it may be wrong. A trip question is designed to make you think.

if Jesus were alive today, and you were to encounter him on the street, would he be more likely to ask you something than to tell you anything.

As you read through the gospels, you will be amazed at the number of times Jesus asked a question: at the end of this chapter he asks In VS. 42  What do you think about the Christ?   Whose son is he? On other occasions he asked:  Who really is your neighbor? To Peter on his water walking skills: Why did you doubt? After giving parables about the kingdom he asked: do you understand these things?

Jesus wants us to take a trip with us down the journey of faith.  Investigating, questioning, seeking, discussing, dialoguing, and understanding who He is and how we live our lives in response to Him. Jesus never said "Don't ask," Wants us to ask  But Jesus wants to turn every question into an unveiling of truth.

As Christians, we aren’t really interested in responding to those who are trying to trap us or trick us but what about those who are sincere in wanting to know answers to the difficult questions in life. We need to respond.

How do we answer the hard questions?

Times when we have to say:  I don’t know. Job 40:4-5

Where did Cain get his wife?  The land of Nod – where did they come from?  Why did God choose some of the people in the Bible to share His word?  Why did Paul write so many books of the NT?

One of the great questions is why do the righteous suffer just like the unrighteous.  Sometimes we feel when we become a Christian we get coated in a special glaze that deflects all harm from us and are surprised when we have troubles like others.  

After all of Job’s troubles, finally God shows up and in a blistering rebuke to Him basically says:  Job don’t worry about it – I have everything under control – who are you to question me?  Who put the world in place – it wasn’t you Job.  Never fully answers Job’s question of why? Some things we will never know til we get to heaven.

Times when we have to say:  I know in part  I Cor. 13:12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully even as I am fully known.

What is heaven like?  Some indications – new spiritual bodies – no pain, sorrow, or death, ultimate beauty – we will know those who are there – but there are a lot of other things about heaven, we don’t know.  Will there be dogs in heaven?  Will I have hair on my new head? Will we need to sleep?  What kind of food will we eat if any at all? so once again we have to trust that God is perfect and will provide everything we need.

One of the most difficult questions to answer especially by non Christians is what about those who have never heard?  At least four categories:  born before Christ, those with mental handicaps, infants and children; and those in lands where they have never heard of Jesus. The Bible is clear that those who reject Jesus will be lost forever and those who accept him will enter his heaven but what about those who have never heard. The Bible gives us some indications but there are still some things we aren’t sure about?

God is love – also just – can’t allow the guilty to go free.  Part of the answer is found in Romans that even if we haven’t heard, we are without excuse because we see the handiwork of God all around is His nature and within us in our conscience. In OT we are told they were justified by their faith –their belief in God. There are many other theories about this question but ultimately we must come to the understanding that God will be perfectly fair and just in dealing with everyone – it is not a matter of our goodness but a matter of our confidence in God that settles the issue.

Salvation is always because of God’s mercy and we must believe that he is fair in all his judgments. Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right? Gen. 18:25

He is the Rock; his works are perfect. All his ways are just. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is! Dt. 32:4

The answer to that question for you is irrelevant because you have heard – you do know about Jesus – you will be held responsible for what you know.  Most importantly – When you stand before God, the subject won’t be about the people who’ve never heard – it will be about you.

Times when we have certainty of truth.  John 20:31 these things have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

What must I do to be saved?  Nicodemus asks in John 3 – be born again – how is that possible – not a physical but a spiritual birth – believe the gospel story that God loves us so much that he sent his son Jesus to die for us and forgive us our sins and if repent of our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us and accept us into his family.

Many times in several different ways, that message is presented to us in the NT.  Its clear, concise, and perfectly knowable.

We can’t allow the questions we don’t know to derail our Christian experience.  We always deal with the questions we don’t know by comparing them with the ones we do know.