“At our college, you’ll learn how to ask a better question!” touted a prospective college’s admissions campaign. I remember snickering at that. I’m going to attend a college that costs $50,000 a year so I can learn to ask a better question? Yeah, right! Not gonna happen.

But funnily enough, with a few more years behind me now, that slogan doesn’t make me snicker, it makes me think, “That college is on to something.”

The reason I’ve come to gain a deeper respect for those who not only ask questions but for those who ask good ones, is because questions can be deeply significant indicators of a person’s humility or lack thereof. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you can ask a bad question. And it’s a question that stems from a place of feeling you know it all already, and you have nothing to learn or to hear from anyone but yourself or the people you already agree with. Think of the truly dumb questions your classmates asked in school–weren’t they the questions asked out of arrogance?

Take the Pharisees rolling their eyes at Jesus, for example. Right after Jesus said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come,” they quip back with, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?” At first glance this might look like they’re actually confused (Jesus is undoubtedly being cryptic), and at worst, just plain clueless, but I think the fact that they asked “Where will he go that we can’t follow?” instead of “Why can’t we follow him?” tells us something very significant about the Pharisees.

We can give the average Jew a pass for being confused by Jesus’ words, but these extremely educated men should have picked up on the layers of meaning Jesus was putting down for them, and yet they utterly failed to grasp his meaning. The next possibility to consider is they weren’t clueless, but refusing to listen.

Ah, now the confusing pieces start to fall into place. The Pharisees don’t really want to know what Jesus means, because they’re already determined to hear nothing but nonsense from him. Why? Because he offends them. “We’re right, he’s wrong.” They had already decided to believe this before Jesus opened his mouth.

How many of us refuse to listen and so miss out on asking the questions that will bring us to further growth, life, and the fullness of what God has for us? Only Jesus has a corner on the market for truth, not us. So let us not be like the Pharisees by closing off our ears, and instead, cultivate an ability to listen well, knowing we have more to learn. And then maybe, just maybe, we’ll learn how to ask a better question.

Ashley Carr

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