Curiosity is the Key to Learning Well

Curiosity killed the cat, or so the old proverb goes. No doubt there are times when being overly curious can lead someone into a tight spot. If you’ve read your share of Curious George books, you know all about the problems George gets himself into because of his curiosity. We’ve been taught from a very young age that being curious is a bad thing . . . something to be avoided.

But where we would be if it weren’t for curiosity? Is it possible that curiosity is actually a good thing, something that we should cherish and cultivate? Lindsay Olesberg, in her book The Bible Study Handbook, writes that curiosity is an asset that can be developed by anyone. She shares four benefits of curiosity:

  1. It makes your mind active instead of passive.
  2. It makes your mind observant of new ideas.
  3. It opens up new worlds and possibilities.
  4. It fuels creativity.

Curiosity is what leads us to discover new places, new things, and new strategies for solving life’s problems. Curiosity helps lead us to invent new machines and technologies that improve our quality of life. Curiosity enables us to learn and to grow. As Walt Disney once said, “We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things because we’re curious . . . and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Curiosity is what leads us to discover new places, new things, and new strategies for solving life’s problems. Curiosity enables us to learn and to grow. Curiosity also is an indispensable quality when it comes to studying the Bible.

Curiosity also is an indispensable quality when it comes to studying the Bible. When we come to the Scriptures with open hearts and open minds, curiosity is what enables us to look deeply into the text and to see all that we can see. Curiosity is what keeps us looking for the “clues” that will lead us to a correct understanding of the author’s intended meaning. Just as a detective curiously probes the crime scene, wanting to see everything and miss nothing, the wise student of Scripture curiously investigates every nook and cranny of the passage, not satisfied with just a cursory reading or a superficial study. Curiosity keeps the student of Scripture moving forward, opening up new doors and discovering new insights. Without a healthy dose of curiosity, our study of Scripture would quickly become stale and lifeless.

Too many times I have studied passages of the Bible and have landed on an interpretation that seemed to be the correct one only to discover that I needed to be more curious. When I looked again, I saw that I had missed something—a key observation in the text or a piece of historical or cultural background—and with the new information, my understanding of the author’s meaning totally changed.

When I first studied Luke 11:5-8, I initially thought Jesus was teaching his disciples that persistence is what moves God to answer our prayers. After all, the word, “persistence” is used. But curiosity drove me to look more closely at the text, and I noticed that the petitioner is not really persistent at all. He never knocks, and he only calls out one time! As I dug deeper into the historical and cultural context, I learned that the word translated “persistence” actually means “shamelessness.” I also learned that preserving the honor of the individual and the community was and still is a very important feature of Palestinian culture.

I realized that Jesus’ parable is more about God’s sense of honor. He answers our prayers not so much because we persist in asking but because he will not allow his name to be dishonored. My understanding of what Jesus is teaching in this parable shifted dramatically.

Curiosity is something to be celebrated, rather than discouraged, because curiosity is a key to learning well. At Urbana 18, we will study portions of Revelation using an inductive method called manuscript study. During these manuscript study times, we will encourage you to become curious learners—people who investigate every nook and cranny of the passage seeking the clues that will help them understand the meaning of the text. We invite you to embrace curiosity and to see it as a positive quality in your life.

Curiosity may not be so good for cats, but for students of God’s Word, it’s absolutely necessary.     

Take the Revelation Challenge.             

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These blogs are the words of the writers and do not represent InterVarsity or Urbana. The same is true of any comments which may be posted about any blog entries. Submitted comments may or may not be posted within the blog, at the blogger's discretion.