Discerning Hearts Through Questions

questionmark_fullOften, as servant leaders, we try to be nice. And that’s a good thing. But, there are some nasty people in our lives, and they don’t all come with signs around their necks saying, “I’m nasty!” or “I’m out to get you!”

So, what is a good way to discern between the genuine and the malicious?

Questions Clarify Motives

When Jesus was trying to gather what was in the heart of the questioner, he simply asked them questions. This is a great method for all of us. Notice …

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”” (Mark 10:35–37, ESV)

And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”” (Mark 10:51, ESV)

I have discovered that questions to me have different motivations and I need to clarify what is being asked OF me before they are responded to. Using Jesus’ response, “What do you want me to do for you?” is a great way to hear the heart of another (Mark 10.36, 51).

Questions Reveal Motives

In another encounter, Jesus was being challenged (as he often was by so-called, “religious authorities” … if you’ve been in ministry for long, you know the type). In order to expose the true nature of their request,

Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Mark 11:29, ESV)

The wisdom of this method allowed everyone around (hypocrites love to “test” the servant leader in public so as to expose them to ridicule) to see that the question wasn’t genuine. It was a trap.

In my experience answering those who pose questions to us with focusing questions allows us to discern motives and see teach ability (or lack thereof) in the questioner (Mark 11.27-33).

As you lead like a servant today, remember: Not everyone is pleased with you. Motives and suspicions can be exposed. However, many just need something to make their lives work. Clarifying questions can help us get them exactly what they need.

Serve well today. Follow the model Jesus gave us.

What say you?

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2 Responses to Discerning Hearts Through Questions

  1. Althea Granberry says:

    Good Morning Doc, thanks for that much ended guidance. I have experienced answering a question without really knowing what was being asked or needed. It was embarrassing. Now on I restate the question to verify if what I heard was what I heard, then pray before I open my mouth.

    Thanks Doc!

  2. Hi Dr. Smith,
    So glad you included me in your email list.
    I am in full agreement with this post. I also believe that the questions, just as Jesus’ questions were, need to be open-ended. If not, the person “out to get you” can twist your question into something you never intended. Open-ended questions make the person think and sometimes that shows them the error in their ways.
    I believe the motivations behind church ministries need to be examined also. Not verbally, but with discernment.

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