Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Why?"

I remember well that age when my children began asking "Why?"

Now, I'm not referring to that cute and occasionally annoying toddler stage that little ones go through as soon as they learn that a "Why?" guarantees some kind of response.  At that age, I'm not even sure they understand what they are asking.  I do believe, however, such repeated questioning lays the foundation for understanding logic, and for future decision-making.  It also represents the early stages of understanding that other people are, well, other people. These are the innocent beginnings of a quest for understanding.

No, the asking "Why?" I have in mind comes later, and is less innocent.  This "Why?" is asked not to gain understanding so much as to gain an advantage.  This "Why?" is asked with the intent of getting around the will of other person - usually a parent, teacher, or other authority figure.

"It's time to do your homework,"  Mommy says.

"Why?" replies Precious One.

"Because it's not going to do itself," chirps Mommy.

"But, why can't I do it later?"

"Because if you don't do it now, you'll be too tired later, or you may not have enough time to finish before bedtime," answers Mommy.

"But I'm not at all tired, and I know it's easy work.  It'll only take a little while...."

You get the idea. The point of the child's questioning here is not to gain understanding, per se.  The point is that the child does not want to do homework. The question is a tool to get out of doing it, to draw out reasons which can then be shot down, undermining the position of the authority, and hopefully weakening their resolve. Any understanding gained will only be used to further the argument and hopefully gain the upper hand.

It's been a while since I've had little ones at home, but I still hear my share of this kind of questioning.  Sadly, I now hear it all too often from Christians, and it is usually directed at God, and His Word.  The questions are asked to undermine His character, or the reliability of His word and so to justify disregarding or disobeying it.

There is an innocent "Why?"  It is the "Why?" of belief.  There is a sinful  "Why?" It is the "Why?" of unbelief.  The "Why?" of belief seeks understanding. It wants to know God better. It also respects his authority. It is willing to accept His response and, if it is a directive, obey it.  It is also willing to accept when God does not, for whatever reason, see fit to offer an explanation.  The "Why?" of unbelief seeks reasons and excuses to disregard God and His word.

Do you have a "Why?" for God today?  Which kind of "Why?" is it?

2 comments:

John Child said...

An insightful exposition of 'Why?' Will be useful in your counselling & my preaching, when the appropriate application comes along.
Thank you.

Laurie M. said...

I hope so, John. As I was writing, I also had in mind two very different "How?" questions, one from Zacharias and the other from the virgin Mary upon the announcement that they would soon be parents. One "How?" was unbelieving, and reprimanded. The other believed but genuinely sought understanding, and was rewarded with a soft answer.

And, so, you could replace the "Why?" with other types of questions. There is a faithful way to question God, and an unfaithful way.