I hate plumbing. Dark spaces, pipes conveniently located just where they’re impossible to reach, and a body never intended to contort like that. But the worst part, the thing that makes me dread plumbing, is that sound. You know the one: the inevitable, excruciating, sanctification-challenging sound of water dripping from that just-fixed pipe. It doesn’t matter how minute the crack, water will find a way through. And its incessant dripping is impossible to ignore.
A good question functions much the same way. If I tell you something you don’t like, you can just dismiss it. We ignore inconvenient facts all the time, impervious behind our wall of preconceived beliefs. But powerful questions are like water, slowly working through the cracks and crevices before sending their incessant “drip, drip, drip” into the quite recesses of our minds. A good question is hard to ignore.
Jesus asked really good questions. Here are just a few:
- Do you really think it’s that impressive if you’re nice to people who are just like you?
- Why are you anxious about little things like clothing?
- Why do you spend so much time considering the flaws of other people and ignoring your own?
- Why are you afraid?
- Why do you think about evil things all the time?
- Do you believe that I can do this?
- Who is truly a part of my family?
- Why did you doubt?
- Who do people say that I am?
- What could you possibly give in exchange for your life?
- Can you endure what I will have to endure?
- What do you want me to do for you?
Those are all great questions. Any one of them could spark some fascinating discussions about important issues. And those are just a few of the questions Jesus asks in a single book (Matthew).
Do you notice what’s missing though? Jesus rarely (if ever) asked the one question that some have called the single most important question you can ask yourself: “Do you know where will you go when you die?”
Like me, you’ve probably run into this question a time or two. I’ve heard it in many evangelism training classes. And I’ve even been asked it on occasion, though I’d already been through the training classes so I knew the proper response, the one that would get the nice people at the door to leave me alone so I could get back to my book: “I’m going to heaven because I have a personal relationship with Jesus.”
Even though this might be an important question, it still seems interesting that Jesus’ questions focused almost entirely on living faithfully in response to the gospel now. As far as I can tell, in the entire book, Jesus only once asks a question about a person’s eternal destiny (Matthew 23:33). Instead, he focuses almost exclusively on making people think about what they are doing today.
Jesus mastered the art of the powerful question. But he directed most of his questions at the shape of our lives now, not our lives to come.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about the future. The gospel has obvious implications for eternity, and we’d mess up the story just as much if we thought that it was only about the here and now. Paul was certainly right to say that if there is no resurrection, this is all in vain (1 Cor. 15:13-14). The future matters, but so does the present. Indeed, obvious as it may seem, the future flows out of the present. So it should come as no surprise that Jesus focused much more attention on what we are doing with the now that we already have than the then that we hope someday to receive.
Jesus asked powerful questions, the kind that continue to drip in a way that force people to pay attention. Contrary to much evangelism training, though, the drippiest questions aren’t about the future. The questions that really penetrate our defenses and force us to face the reality of truth are the ones that ask about today.
What’s the most important question that you can ask? It’s not, “Where will you go when you die?” That’s a fine question. And, it’s one that’s worth discussing. But, the most important question? I don’t think so. A far better question is, “Who will you follow while you live?” Answer that question, and the other will take care of itself.