This short article has been suggested by the nature of the inquiries we often receive from correspondents.
We welcome questions of a practical character, which evince a desire for a closer walking with God; but those which savor of mere intellectual inquisitiveness, we disfavor. The Scriptures were not written for the purpose of gratifying curiosityóbut to enlighten and direct conscience, to nourish the soul, and to bring our lives into conformity with God's will.
The very first chapter of the Bible is sufficient to evidence that. A score of questions might be asked on its opening versesóbut it is more than doubtful if any spiritual edification would result, even if satisfactory answers were obtainable. "In the beginning God created" (Genesis 1:1) is addressed unto faith; and the very terseness of that declaration is an intimation that any prying attempt to go behind it would be presumptuous. No explanations are made, and we must be content with what God has been pleased to reveal, and curb our curiosity.
There is a spirit of inquiry which is legitimate and praiseworthy; and there is one which is to be deprecated.
A drowsy indifference is the mark of an indolent mindóbut an inquisitiveness which is directed by carnality is vain and profitless. A careful reading of the four Gospels will at once reveal that the Lord Jesus nowhere set a premium on mental inertiaóbut rather did He ever seek to stimulate the minds of those around Him. How frequently did He ask His hearers questions, and how often did He condescend to answer theirs! Yet it will be found that He never gave the slightest encouragement to idle curiosity, nor did He deign to furnish answers to queries of no practical importance. When He paid any attention to those who asked vain questions, He at once directed their minds unto matters of more pressing importance. In other words, He rebuked an idle curiosity.
"At that time, some people came and reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices" (Luke 13:1). Various conjectures have been made by the commentators as to the reason or motive of that statement; and no doubt, there is room for legitimate difference of opinion concerning it. But in the light of what immediately follows, it seems to us that a prying spirit was at least one of the elements which prompted it, that it was tantamount to asking, "Why did such a doom overtake those Galileans? Was it because they had been guilty of some heinous crime and were greater sinners before God than others?" In His answer, the Savior at once revealed that He read their hearts and knew their secret thoughtsóbut pressed upon them their responsibility: "Unless you repentóyou shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:2-3). Instead of concerning yourselves about the fate of othersólook well to yourselves and make sure that you have that godly sorrow which "works repentance to salvation" (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Again and again, we find our Lord checking the spirit of presumptuous inquiry. When the Pharisees came unto Him saying, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You" (Matthew 12:38), and when Herod "hoped to have seen some miracle done by him" (Luke 23:8), He refused to gratify either the one or the other. When one asked Him, Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" we are told that "He said unto them: Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to." (Luke 13:23-25). Look to yourself, instead of speculating about others. As Matthew Henry (1662-1714) pointed out, "Many are more inquisitive respecting who shall be saved, and who notóthan respecting what they shall do to be saved." "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12) is a word which many need to attend unto.
"When they found Him on the other side of the lake, they asked Him: Rabbi, how did You get here?" (John 6:25). That was the language of vain curiosity, its force being, "How did you get here?" In the immediate context, it will be seen that on the previous day, Christ had miraculously fed the multitude, after which He departed alone into a mountain, while His disciples entered a ship and crossed over to Capernaum. The people saw there was no other boat there. When they found Christ there, they were puzzled, wondering how He had crossed the sea, and hence, their question. Instead of pandering to their inquisitiveness, the Lord said, "You are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you" (John 6:26-27).
The risen Redeemer announced unto Peter, "'When you were young, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don't want to go.' He said this to signify by what kind of death he would glorify God. After saying this, He told him, 'Follow Me!' So Peter turned around and saw the disciple Jesus loved following them. When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, 'Lordówhat about him?' 'If I want him to remain until I come,' Jesus answered, 'what is that to you? As for you, follow Me.'" (John 21:18-22). That was manifestly a rebuking of the spirit which had prompted the apostle's inquiry, being the equivalent of saying, "That is none of your business!" Instead of wanting to know what should befall his brotherólet him attend to the performance of duty. If he gave due heed to all that was involved in that precept, "follow me," he would have no time to waste upon useless speculations.
On the very eve of Christ's ascension, after bidding the apostles to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father, they asked Him, "Lord, will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6). To which He gave the blunt rejoinder, "It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:7-8).
How prone we are to pry into that which is none of our business! How ready to engage to idle speculations, instead of the more practical things. The Lord had already given those apostles their ordersólet them attend unto the same and not inquire after times and seasons. How pertinent is this incident to our own day! Many now are possessed of a similar spirit, puzzling over what is yet to take place on this earth. The future is in the hands of God, who will assuredly accomplish His eternal purpose. Our concern should be to be endued with the Spirit and to be faithful witnesses for Christ!