by Pastor Kolawole Ola Joseph
As many of us observed in our remarks after reading Luke 20 yesterday, it was one chapter where we find the WISDOM of God in maximal manifestation. Whether He was dealing with Pharisees (law experts) or Sadducees (who don’t believe in resurrection), Jesus rendered them speechless and/or powerless. As I read the passage, however, my attention is drawn to two tools which Jesus uses predominantly in this chapter which are available to us, too. While James 1:5 encourages us to ask God for wisdom if we are lacking in it, the answer to that prayer will sometimes look like simply using these two tools. In fact, many unbelievers out there have used these tools to advance in their expression of worldly wisdom, how much more we can accomplish with them if we employ them to expand our capacity for r godly wisdom! Wondering what tools I’m talking about? They are QUESTIONS and STORIES.
1. THE TOOL OF QUESTIONS
— Verses 3-4: “Jesus responded, “First, let me ask you a question . . . Did John baptize because he had a commission from heaven or merely from men?”
— Verse 15: “…“I ask you, what do you think the owner of the vineyard will do to his son’s murderers?”
— Verse 17: “Jesus looked straight at the people and their leaders and said, “What do you think this verse means?…”
— Verses 23-24: “Jesus saw right through their cunning ploy and said, “Why are you testing me? Show me one of the Roman coins. Whose head is on the coin? Whose title is stamped on it?””
— Verse 38: “Don’t you agree that God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living?”
— Verse 41,44: “Jesus then posed this question to the people: “How can the experts of the law say that Messiah is David’s son?” . . . “If David calls this one ‘my Lord,’ how can he be his son?”
Question upon question . . . and by each question, the wisdom of God personified in Jesus kept manifesting Himself.
I don’t know if it is a personal thing or if it’s common with Africans in the majority, but I’ve never been the type of person that is quick to verbalize my questions. When I’m in class, I will have a question in mind but also rationalize what the answer could be or tell myself that I will go and read it up later . . . and then one precocious student will raise up his/her hand and ask exactly the same question and the teacher’s answer will be very helpful. “I had the same question!” I will think to myself, but having questions and asking them are two different things.
And of course, when it comes to growing in godly wisdom, there is no place where our need to use questions comes more alive than when we engage with God’s Word. I was in London a while back with my brother’s family and something interesting happened the other day during the family devotion. After one of my nieces — a 12-year-old — finished reading the passage for the day from the Open Heavens devotional and her dad was trying to do an exposition on the text, her hand shot up. “I’ve got a question” she said. Her dad gave her the permission to ask, and she spewed out 3 questions. By the way, the text she had just read was about the story of how God blessed Obed-Edom in just 3 months after the ark of Covenant was more-or-less dumped in his apartment. So after reading the text, and listening to the background story that led to that text as her dad spoke, my niece asked:
a. Did Obed-Edom become poor again after the ark was taken from his house to the City of David?
b. You said Uzzah was struck dead by God because he tried to reach out to the ark of Covenant; wasn’t he just trying to help?
c. Anyways, did Uzzah go to heaven afterwards?
While those questions may crack you up and make you want to flaunt your Bible Knowledge, they rather made me stand back and ask myself — “when last did I ask such (dumb) questions while studying God’s Word?” (And for the records, no question is dumb!) I discovered that if I was going to be sincere with myself, I read the majority of the Bible text now as though I know what that passage is really saying—but, really, do I? Do we? I’m persuaded that the Holy Spirit has limitless things to show us each time we study…if only we will approach The Word of God like an inquisitive child.
2. THE TOOL OF STORIES
— Verse 9: “Jesus taught the people using this story…”
— Verse 16: “…When the people heard this story, they all agreed, “This should never happen!””
— Verse 19: “When the high priests and experts of the law realized that this story was about them, they wanted to have Jesus arrested that very moment, but they were afraid of all the people.”
Again, we all know that Jesus, in His earthly ministry, was a Master storyteller. We call His stories ‘parables.’ And till tomorrow, both sincere everyday Christians, preachers of God’s Word and critical Bible scholars continue to unpack timeless and timely ever-relevant lessons from his parables. The Holy Spirit is able to teach us a lot through a really good story!
Last week, by the grace of God, I celebrated two graduations. One of them was for my second Master’s Degree which, by God’s grace, I finished with a distinction. At the end of that programme, I did a research on Nigerian Christian Millennials (folks between 18 and 35) wanting to explore the issue of identity — how they see themselves in light of their cultural and religious background. Part of that research involves asking some fundamental questions about the factors that contribute to the faith of young people. (If you are interested in the findings from that research, I discussed it at a Youth Group event and the recording is available as a podcast episode here)
I found out that one of the major factors influencing the faith development of young Nigerian Christians are Christian literatures. But interestingly, in the question where I probed to know which kind of specific books/authors these folks are reading, I found something surprising. Because of the way I constructed my online questionnaire, it was possible for respondents to add their own answers and their answers will become part of the options for whoever will fill the questionnaire next. That’s why this kind of finding was possible. What was the finding? I found that the highest-ranking ‘book’ (supposedly) on the chart is, in fact, not a book but a Christian movie ministry based in Nigeria called “The Mount Zion Faith Ministries International” (MZFMI). Somebody added Mount Zion movies as part of the ‘books’ that had influenced his/her faith the most and before we knew it, almost 200 others attested to the same observation. Indeed, we all love a good story!
However, where better do we encounter wisdom-birthing stories that will take forever for us to unpack than in God’s Word? In a sense, the Bible is one giant story book! You will find romance, as well as thrillers. You will even find ‘horror’ — if that’s your thing. (Imagine the story of the man who butchered his wife into 12 pieces and sent a piece to each tribe of Israel in the book of Judges? lol.)
My point in both points I’m highlighting from Luke 20 is that we should place the Bible on a new pedestal — the highest — and come to it with a fresh perspective — as the reservoir of all the wisdom we need for all of life.
May God help and bless us as we do so.