Curiosity is often seen as a virtue but it is a mixed one at best. Curious for what their lives might be like apart from the constraints God had placed upon them, Adam and Eve found the hidden to be something less than salutary when they found it. From Babel to the Ark of Noah, curiosity even with respect to God has not turned out well for man. Curiosity can be a definite vice when it is a relentless rejection of the way things are in pursuit of something new and different. Curiosity has brought invasive species to places where they have overgrown and taken over in the absence of natural enemies. Curiosity has led us to create all sorts of things that proved to be more than we could handle or contain. This is no less true when it comes to Scripture.
I admit to have mixed feelings about some of what goes on in Bible study. Some are determined to treat the Scriptures as details and trivia about which there is no lack of curiosity. Not satisfied for what the text says, they dig like Gnostics to find hidden meanings and treat the Bible as if it must be decoded (and not simply by faith!). Not satisfied with what they eye sees or the ear hears, we dig into the words of God as if they did not mean what they say or do what they promise. We end up with divine suggestions instead of commands and promises from a beneficent God. There is only one purpose to Bible study -- to know Christ -- and it does not strengthen our faith or equip us for His purpose to treat the things of God as details about which we are curious or have a passing interest.
Herod was curious about the things of God and a possible miracle sighting. Great numbers of those who followed Christ were less than interested in Him as Messiah but they were certainly curious about miracle food or healing or a possible resurrection. We, like them, seem very interested in new things God might be doing but seem to shrug our shoulders at the work of God of old that led to the supreme revelation of Christ upon the cross. In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets but now, in these last ages, He has spoken through His Son -- but don't stop looking cause He just might add something to Christ or do something different. Could our curiosity be borne of our own flightiness and fickle character? What do we do with a God who is yesterday, today, and forever the same?
Even when people are curious about the faith, it does not necessarily translate into an openness to believing. Faith comes by hearing, as St. Paul said, but the hearing as well as the speaking are under the power of the Holy Spirit. Apart from the Spirit, curiosity is just, well, curiosity. I am ever so glad people are curious about the church or the faith but it is ever so disappointing when it is only curiosity and when the accumulation of knowledge leads them nowhere. But that is exactly how we treat knowledge today -- curiosity to be satisfied. The ever present internet and our portable screens mean that we can seemingly satisfy our curiosity endlessly. But, as St. Augustine reminds us, such curiosity is an endless pursuit until it rests in Christ. Christ is the end to our curiosity and the beginning of our true learning from the Lord of truth whose Word is truth. Sanctify us in this truth, we pray. Don't just fill our minds with tidbits of facts and information but use this truth to make us holy.
I would contrast longing with curiosity. Curiosity and longing are both self focused on fulfillment. However, curiosity wants to know simply to know. Knowledge is power, and I am as guilty as anyone else of enjoying the superiority feelings that come from besting another with acquired knowledge. Longing is different. It seeks self fulfillment, but also has an object that is loved.
In Bible study, we should have a longing not to just know information, but to know Christ. I also am guilty of not desiring Christ and the knowledge of Him as I should, but I think that somewhere inside this sinful self, there is a desire to desire.
Because we only have one vehicle, and I am the cook for the two of us, when my husband has to work, we both bemoan the fact we have to ‘skip out’ on study time. We are very thankful we are able to attend Divine Service for Word and Sacrament, but missing study time creates a hole in our life.
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