One of the most valuable tools the human race has been given is its ability and urge to question. This instinct – this compulsion draws our noses so deeply into the dirt of space, spirit, time, and matter that excavation is inevitable. In Latin, “quaerere” (ask, seek ) suggests that questions are personalized invitations to embark upon a quest.
I thrill that the Christ of Scripture in Matthew 7 invites us to accept the quest:
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
Sometimes I look into the eyes of a friend whom I think I know pretty well, only to discover, through listening to her answer of a question, that she is not at all as I had believed her to be. People take on strange and wonderful forms as you endeavour to chip away at them in the dark mines of your ignorance. They emerge like diamonds and take on even more intricate and complex forms when you hold them up to the light of day.
It is the same with everything – animals, vegetation, weather systems, numbers. Where do the fractals end? I suppose, I hear God in the question.
Satan’s questions are often mouthfuls of assumption. See what He said to Eve in the Garden: “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3)
But Christ’s questions – they invite more searching, more admitting that we don’t know everything. His questions throughout the New Testament force us to get humble enough to honestly state the human assertion hiding behind the question:
-What did you go out into the desert to see? (Matthew 11:7)
-Why are you so afraid? (Matthew 8:26)
-Who do you say I am? (Matthew 16:15)
-What is it you want? (Matthew 20:21)
-Why are you trying to trap me? (Matthew 22:18)
-When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up? (Mark 8:19)
Check out 135 Questions Jesus Asked.
Jesus appeals to the very nature of what His Father has created in man: our hunger to know. And, simultaneously, our limitation to know everything all at once, our inability to know everything, our need for some kind of revelation, our desire for answers to align with what we suspect or hope.
So, you ask, what does any of this have to do with the theme of “Stewardship”? Well, it was Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” The exploitation of people, animals and the planet happens because of pride and a stubborn, self-deluded worldview of ignorance.
That’s why the Christian God astounds me. He defies a human’s self-congratulatory, “know-it-all” mindset. While also being perfectly comfortable with my asking, he summons my humility by forcing me to grapple with my own limitations. It’s like He’s saying that for me to know anything is to first surrender my self-guided assertions. I’m confronted with the beauty of my brain’s boundaries and the compulsion to ever push them. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Knowledge is knowing that we cannot know.” and Leo Tolstoy too, “We cannot know everything on earth.” My own experience tells me I cannot know everything there is to know, so that leads me to admit my lack and need for truth.
That’s why Proverbs 1:7-9 makes so much sense for the Steward. James Faust writes, “A leader must be a good listener. He must be willing to take counsel. He must show a genuine concern and love for those under his stewardship.” If we cannot but bend our ear to knowledge that outranks ours, if we cannot put our assumptions aside long enough to test their validity, we are doomed to sit undeveloped in the dark room of our own ignorance; and, consequently, also the work of our intelligence and the planet we are to steward.
I truly believe that, as Stewards, the minute we dare to side with the narcissist in thinking we know everything there is to know, we immediately stop up our ability to learn and cultivate this planet. Satan waves around assertions, telling us that we know best, while the Christian God confronts us with our limitations, asking us to push past ourselves into greater revelation.