“And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?'” (Luke 1:34 ESV).
As a pastor, I get a lot of “God questions.” Yet, people are often apologetic in asking them. It’s as if they fear offending me, or worse yet, that they might offend God. I try to put them at ease.
“God isn’t afraid of your questions.” I often reply when questioners express concern.
I tell questioners this to keep the conversation going. After all, how can you learn if you don’t ask questions? However, I’ve noticed that some aren’t really interested in learning. Their questions are actually agnostic arguments. They are more like intellectual barrages of skepticism that they throw out to avoid trusting God. They aren’t really seeking understanding. They are expressing unbelief.
These two kinds of questioners can be found in the first chapter of the gospel of Luke. The first questioner was an older man named Zechariah and the second was a young woman named Mary. At first glance, their questions look very similar, yet upon closer examination, it becomes clear that the first was motivated by unbelief and the second by a desire for understanding.
Zechariah and his wife were advanced in years and had no children. When God sent the angel Gabriel to Zechariah to announce that his wife would soon give birth to a son, Zechariah questioned God’s Word. He asked, “How shall I know this?” Zechariah wasn’t asking for an explanation. He was asking for a sign. God’s Word wasn’t enough. He needed proof to believe. So, God gave it to him. He made old Zach a mute for nine months. It’s like God said, “Here’s your sign, Zechariah. You won’t be able to ask any more questions until you learn to trust Me.”
The second questioner was Mary. She was a young girl who had never been with a man and here was this angel telling her that she was about to conceive and bear a son who would be the Messiah. So, like Zechariah, she had a question. And at first, her question doesn’t sound that different from Zechariah’s. But the motivation for her question couldn’t be more opposite. While Zechariah’s question clearly expressed his heart of unbelief, Mary’s revealed her desire for understanding. She asked, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
Mary didn’t ask for a sign, or for proof. She didn’t doubt that God was going to give her a son. She didn’t express unbelief that she would be the mother of the Messiah. No, she just wanted to understand how a virgin could have a child. And so, God answered her with an explanation that she could understand. And then, she uttered one of the most profound faith statements in the Bible, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
I still try to put questioners at ease by telling them, “God isn’t afraid of your questions.” But lately I’ve been adding the instruction, “But be aware, He knows your heart. Does your question come from a heart of unbelief or a desire for understanding? Because how God answers your questions has more to do with your heart than your head.”
What motivates your God questions?