Curiosity is an interesting quality. It’s defined as a desire to know something. That sounds good, and in fact, most people would say agree that curiosity is a positive trait. Curiosity is at the heart of the scientific method, we nurture it in preschoolers and are sad when we see it dwindle in school years.
A hint in the classic storybook Curious George suggests that curiosity isn’t always a good trait, however. We know that children and teenagers often try things they shouldn’t, merely because they were curious about what it is like. We’re told it’s bad manners to peek into a host’s bathroom cabinets, and we’re indignant at the thought of someone peeking in ours. We don’t read other people’s mail. We don’t peer into lighted household windows (or feel somewhat guilty when we do).
I’ve been thinking about curiosity and how to discuss it in relationship with God’s Word. Are there any Bible words that define curiosity? I can’t think of any. I can think of some examples, though.
- The Bereans come close. They searched the Scriptures to see if the things Paul said were true. I like that a lot.
- Mary’s question to Gabriel seems curious. She wasn’t doubting God’s ability to do what He said (as did her cousin’s husband Zechariah did). She just wanted to know how those things were going to happen.This example tells me that a desire to know isn’t necessarily reflective of a rebellious heart.
- When Solomon says, “It is the glory of kings to search out a matter” it would seem that searching for answers is a good and positive trait. God actually intends for us to desire to know things he has hidden. The search is his idea.
It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter. Proverbs 25:2
Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out. Proverbs 20:5
Perhaps curiosity is a problem when it is purposeless and characterized by a lack of discernment. All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient.
Growing up, my curiosity typically was word based. If it was written, I wanted to read it. I had to learn that just because it was written didn’t mean that I needed to read it. Even today, I want to click on every news story when I visit a news website, but some stories are not edifying. I’ve told my children that curiosity must always be controlled by the Holy Spirit, emphasizing temperance (I usually use the phrase tempered by the HS– if we say “self control” that’s kind of the wrong emphasis. So I like the old KJV word here.
What do you think?
Diane Heeney says
Did the whole issue in the garden of Eden stem from curiosity? It kinda has the same feel as the “wet paint” sign on the park bench. KWIM? And, esp. with kids, if you want them to do something, just tell them they can’t! I think they call that “reverse psychology”. =)
What about David’s housetop experience? My husband says there’s often a “double-take” where you see what you saw, and then you feel you need to look again just to check and make sure you actually did see what you saw.
Curiosity is a gift, but every good and perfect gift has its corrupt counterfeit.
Probably with small kids, it’s important to differentiate between curiosity and downright nosiness. (Thinking here of Sarah eavesdropping from her tent! lol) As ours have been getting older, it’s a continual tempering of natural curiosity and good manners. Especially in the middle of adults’ dinner conversations…oh my. “But, WHY?” lol