Giving Honest Answers to Honest Questions — Matthew 12

Francis Schaeffer often spoke of giving honest answers to honest questions, which was one of his goals. But what is an honest question and what is a dishonest question?

I would define an honest question as one where the questioner really wants to know the answer to a question. Perhaps they are looking for information or want an area of confusion explained. For example, when Jesus explained His parables to His disciples, they had honest questions about their meaning and He was happy to explain His meaning and clear up any of their confusions. As teachers, we can prayerfully pray for the Holy Spirit to help us answer honest questions using the Bible as our authority: that was the approach of Francis Schaeffer.

I would define a dishonest question as one where the questioner really wants to trick or entrap the teacher by asking a question that they either know the answer to or want to ask in a way that will embarrass the teacher or get them in trouble with someone or group. Many of the Pharisees asked these types of questions because they were looking for a way to kill Jesus.

In Matthew 12, when the Pharisees accused Jesus and His disciples of breaking the law, Jesus told the Pharisees how to apply the Law of God regarding the Sabbath observance. He did so because they had accused His disciples and Him of sin for disregarding their interpretations of the law. He defended them and their actions and declared His authority to interpret the laws of God. He also told them what they did not understand. They had accused innocent men because they did not understand the Scriptures, and they needed to learn what “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” meant. Jesus confronted them in a way that might have made some of them think about the Scriptures and repent, while others still wanted to entrap Him and plot to kill Him.

Later, when they asked Him for a sign, He refused to give them a sign and told them what kind of people they were; then, He told them a true sign that He knew they would not understand because their hearts were not right; a sign people would not understand and believe until after His crucifixion and resurrection (see Matthew 12:38-45). As teachers, we can pray for the Holy Spirit to help us answer dishonest questions in a way that may challenge someone to become honest with their questions, or we may simply refuse to answer the dishonest questioner in the best way we know how.

Thinking about your experiences as a teacher or a student, in what ways have you tried to answer both honest and dishonest questions? Or what do you think you could say or what do you say, if anything, when you hear some other student in a class or study ask a dishonest question? Why might someone today ask a Bible teacher a dishonest question?

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