Questions are important when you interview people and write stories for a living.
You can ask a legitimate question the wrong way and offend someone.
But you can ask a tough question — and get an honest, heartfelt answer — if you preface it with compassion and a desire to understand.
I’ve learned some things about asking questions during my 37 years with the Tribune.
Yet some of the most interesting questions I’ve ever found are in the Bible.
Peruse the pages of Scripture and you can find an intriguing array of inquiries.
Stop by the Garden of Eden.
There, the devil himself, disguised as a snake, posed one of the most deceptive, leading queries of all time when he asked an unsuspecting Eve this question:
“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’”
Satan lured that garden girl right into a conversation with a question he knew she couldn’t resist answering.
After all, who doesn’t like to set the record straight?
God didn’t say she couldn’t eat from any tree — just the one in the middle of the garden.
And the serpent knew that, but he had set the trap.
When Eve tried to explain that eating fruit from just that one tree would lead to death, the snake told her that wasn’t true.
“You certainly will not die,” the snake lied. “For God knows that when you eat from it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Oh, she’d know good from evil all right, but she wouldn’t be like God and she’d face death.
So don’t you wish the all-too-trusting woman would have told the snake to wait a minute, while she did a fact-check with God?
But the poor woman didn’t have centuries of life experiences in a book we know as the Bible.
And, honestly, if we were in her place, would we have done any differently?
Somehow, I don’t think so.
I’ve found other fascinating questions in the Bible.
For instance, before his crucifixion — when Christ was brought before Pontius Pilate — the Roman governor asked if Jesus was king of the Jews.
Jesus answered by saying he came into the world to testify to the truth.
“What is truth?” Pilate snapped.
Pilate apparently didn’t wait for an answer.
Instead, he went out and asked an angry crowd if they’d rather have him release Jesus or a murderer named Barabbas.
I think it’s sad that Pilate had truth — in the form of Jesus — standing right in front of him and didn’t recognize it.
One ruler, who did have his question answered, lived long before Pilate ever turned Jesus over to be crucified.
That man ruled over Babylon and his name was Nebuchadnezzar — the most powerful monarch of the neo-Babylonian empire.
At this point in Bible history, Nebuchadnezzar has had a 90-foot-tall golden statue of himself put up in Babylon.
And he’s ordered everyone to bow down and worship it.
Three young Hebrew men, who’ve been brought as captives from Judah to Babylon, just can’t do that.
When Nebuchadnezzar hears this, he is furious and has the men, called Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, brought before him.
He says if they don’t bow down, he’ll have them thrown into a fiery furnace.
“Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” he asks.
And the Hebrew men have an answer.
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from your Majesty’s hand.
“But even if he does not, we want you to know, your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
It’s God-fueled courage at its finest.
Nebuchadnezzar is not impressed.
He’s just mad.
And he orders that the furnace be heated seven times hotter.
It’s so hot that it kills the soldiers who take the men up to be thrown into the furnace and the Hebrews fall into it.
Then Nebuchadnezzar jumps up and asks another question.
“Weren’t there three men we tied up and threw into the fire?” he asks.
Everyone agrees the king’s math is correct.
“Look, I see four men walking around in the fire — unbound and unharmed — and the fourth looks like a son of the gods,” he says.
Nebuchadnezzar goes to the furnace’s opening and orders the three men to come out.
Don’t you love how he doesn’t try to tell the fourth man what to do?
Anyway, the three Hebrew men come out. Everyone who gathers around them can see that not even a hair on the men’s heads is singed. Their garments aren’t harmed and they don’t even smell like smoke.
Nebuchadnezzar gets his answer.
What god was able to rescue these men from the king’s hand?
The only one true God — the one served by those three men with the fire-proof faith.
I don’t know if Nebuchadnezzar did a happy dance, but he sure seemed pleased when he said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.”
Clearly, the king is impressed now.
“Therefore, I make a decree,” the king says, “Any people, nation or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”
Personally, I think the “torn limb from limb” might have been a bit severe, but I’m glad the king’s question was answered.
Centuries later, the Apostle Paul asked a very heartfelt question.
In a letter to the Romans, Paul began by saying how he wanted to do things right — but still did the wrong things.
Who would rescue him?
Paul knew the answer: Jesus.
As Christians today, we know Jesus is the best answer to questions we have about how we’re going to make it in this life.
And how we can spend eternity with God in heaven.
If we believe Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins and rose again, repent (turn from) our sins and ask Christ to come into our hearts than we can go to heaven.
It must be a heart transformation. As we rely on God for life-changing help, we need to pray, read the Bible and get involved in a church where we can learn and grow.
Christianity is a process and a lifetime journey, not a one-time prayer we pray and then go live whatever way we feel like.
Jesus said those who want to be his disciples need to deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow him.
I think that can mean shutting a mental door on angry, judgmental thoughts.
Or being kind and helpful when we don’t feel like it.
Or fleeing from temptations.
It’s not easy, but when I have questions about how I’m going to do something, survive something, understand something — I know where to get the best answers: our Heavenly Father; our Savior, the Lord Jesus; the Holy Spirit, our helper and guide; and the word of God.
It’s true that we may not find all the answers to our questions here on earth, but God can give us the peace we need until we reach our eternal home — where I doubt we’ll have any more questions at all.
Tammy McKeighan is the news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly faith column.