As long as the answer is right, who cares if the question is wrong?

Older computer users who are familiar with Unix (or Linux) may well remember a program called “fortune” which would display a short, randomly chosen message as a logon greeting for users. It was usually a humorous or profound one-line quote.

I have a modern version of this on my desktop – it changes the quote every 10 minutes or so. I just happened to look at it a few minutes ago and the quote it had chosen was the title of this article; “As long as the answer is right, who cares if the question is wrong?”

At first glance, most people I know would respond, “Yes, that’s true. The most important thing is to come up with the right answer”, which is a typical western, “Greek” response. In our society, knowledge is all-important. One’s value in the workplace is often (especially in certain professions) determined by the piece of paper one can produce to validate one’s learning. The more “degrees” one has, the more respect can be commanded. We study in order to work. We seek knowledge in order to gain employment or promotion and attain a higher station in life.

The Hebrew thinker sees life very differently. In this world view, the question is far more important than the answer. There may be no right answers, or there may be more than one. Rather than studying in order to work, one works in order to be able to study (God’s word). Relationship is far more important than knowledge. What one does and how one lives is worth far more than what one knows. Life is spent figuring out the questions rather than the answers.

The answer may not be “42” (1), but we are supposed to figure out the question. What is the primary question that we should be asking?

I believe that the most important question one can ask is, “What does God require of me?”

The answer to pretty much all of life’s situations can be found in the answer(s) to that question. “I’m faced with a specific situation and I’m not sure what to do or which way to go. What does God require of me?”

The answers, my friend, are not blowing in the wind (as suggested by John Denver) – they’re written in the Word. They’re the “good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do”, as the apostle wrote.

The point is that the questions that we ask are dependent on our world-view. The answers we arrive at are dependent on the questions and the questions are framed by the presuppositions and assumptions, the paradigm if you like, that we start from. If we alter our starting paradigm, we alter the question, and this necessarily leads to a different answer.

By the way, Judaism has a fairly standard answer for the question, “What does God require of me?” – prayer, study of Torah (God’s instructions for living) and giving alms (having compassion for my fellow man). It seems to me that Jesus (Yeshua), who was Jewish Himself, would not disagree with this answer (based on the evidence presented in the Gospels). He spent time in prayer daily, taught and lived Torah as it was originally delivered to Moses (Moshe) and really gave it to those of the Pharisees who neglected the “weightier matters of the Torah” (compassion and kindness), instead concentrating on their own oral law traditions and insisting on everyone following their decrees and rulings to the letter. He showed compassion to the downtrodden and less fortunate, even to the point of doing so on Shabbat. What more appropriate day could there be for being compassionate but the day God set apart from all other days and blessed?

What does God require of me? That is the question. We should be asking that question every day, every hour, in every situation we find ourselves in. The answer(s) could change the direction of your life. For good!


(1) A reference to Douglas Adams’ “Hitch Hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy” for those not familiar with it.

Rodney posted at כ״א במרחשון ה׳תשע״א (October 29, 2010) Category: Torah, Uncategorized, World Views