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The Value of a Riddle

The Riddle

It’s been around for awhile. You may have heard it and know the answer. But I hadn’t, and instead of mulling it over for a day or even ten minutes, I cheated and went to the answer page to get the solution… to:

What is greater than God, more evil than the devil? The poor have it. The rich need it, and if you eat it you will die?

Just in case you haven’t heard it, and want to give it a try,  I’ll wait for one of you to break the spell of what stumped me– and hopefully at least one other person to keep me company. :-)

In any case it’s an excuse to think about something that intrigued the strongest and wisest people in the world (Judges 14:12-14) (Prov 1:6 NIV).

A riddle can be a game of wits played for a smile; a disturbing challenge to showcase ones own cleverness; or an educator’s device to provoke fresh thought. Many  of the proverbs of Solomon have such a purpose  (Prov 26:3-5). Then there was Jesus who spoke in parables which sounded like riddles to those who didn’t understand his heart.

So what is the value of a riddle? Sometimes, as in the case of the example I began with, it’s to help us see the obvious—that we’ve lost in the details and distractions of the moment.

In some ways, the cross on which Christ died might be the greatest riddle of all—which while achieving his mission of rescue—is also designed to help us think inside and outside of our own personal universes about what and who is far more important than what we are so inclined to live, die, and kill for.

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44 Responses to “The Value of a Riddle”

  1. narrowpathseeker says:

    I believe the answer would have to be “NOTHING”. I knew it instantly, but I think I may have heard it before and may not have so readily known the answer the first time.

  2. mct000 says:

    I believe the answer is “nothing”.

  3. remarutho says:

    Good Morning Mart & Friends —

    Holy Week rolls along, everyone is super busy and distracted. How easy it is to rush through a devotion, or a reading — without pausing to allow my heart to savor the moment — pray longer — praise and thank God for the piled up blessings on every side.

    We say “don’t sweat the small stuff,” but distraction is a condition that can steal our joy. It is too easy to remain unfocused and miss the most vital thing. It is not hard to see the greatest thing, but as you said, Mart, distraction, “multi-tasking” and worry can blind us to:

    “…what and who is far more important than what we are so inclined to live, die, and kill for.”

    Two minute’s perspective and consideration tells us that “national honor” and “righting a wrong” and “seeking justice” for ourselves all lead to evil outcomes. Riddles have value because they can focus the mind on seeking a solution – the one thing that meets all the criteria – solving the dilemma. In the quiet of this sort of paralysis, a single important realization can penetrate our fog and give us understanding.

    Lenten Blessings,

  4. SFDBWV says:

    Mankind has wrestled with the greatest riddle of all time forever and even those among us who have accepted Jesus as our *religion* also still have not the definitive answer.

    “What is life all about”?

    “Why are we here”?

    “Is there a God”?

    “Why won’t He talk to me”?

    “Why does God allow such suffering”?

    Is the answer not to contend with an answer, but rather be content that God is in control and we are not?

    4.2 inches of new snow, 8 on the ground, snowing hard as I write.


  5. BruceC says:


    I read that through once and thought…”Oh man; I am not good at these. Then I read it one part at a time and it was obvious.

    My answer to your last paragraph about “what and who” is:

    God’s truth and following it and Jesus Christ.

    Soli Deo Gloria!

  6. BruceC says:


    Sorry to hear about all your snow this year. I know from your past posts that it has you bummed out. My area has had two mild winters in a row and that we will pay for. We usually get quite a bit. I have had my snowblower out only twice this year and not at all last year. Several years ago we received 39+ inches in under 24 hours. And we don’t get much sunshine during the winter either. So I know how you feel. By the way, my wife and I saw our first Robin of the spring on our way home from church this past Sunday.

    Those five questions you posted are very true about the unbelieving world. We could add one more:

    Why doesn’t everything happen right? Or maybe “happen the way I think it should”?

    As long as man sees the world and his existence through his own tunnel vision he will never get his questions answered. I think many us really miss the meaning of the destructive power of human pride.

    Soli Deo Gloria!

  7. BruceC says:

    I think one could look at the word pride and come up with a riddle to fit it.

    What can’t be seen?
    What can’t be heard?
    What can’t be tasted or smelled?
    What is deeply hidden and yet is before our eyes all the time?
    What can destroy a person down without making a sound?

  8. SFDBWV says:

    Good thoughts this morning Bruce. I have, as have you, had to deal with the public in all too often a stressful and negative atmosphere and like you I am sure can tell many stories about the nature and personality of people.

    Written for all of posterity are the “Seven deadly sins”; when examined it is easy to see why whomever it was came up with the list.

    Sadly they are not contained just to worldly people. All too often they get to the best of us.

    As I read Marts comments and then the couple of comments that followed, I was already given an answer that seemed to fit, so in a way like Mart I looked at an answer before even trying to solve the riddle he put forth.

    I just came in from plowing off the road and cleaning up the backyard again. It still is snowing hard, 28 degrees and the western sky is dark gray.

    So far for March we have over 50 inches of snow. It was the same story last month and the one before. I think the real disgust is that this all started with a horrible situation on October 31st and most of us were through with snow too early in the season.

    The robins thank me with their songs as they flock to the plowed areas to look for nits, bug, and worms which somehow God provides for them.


  9. billystan454 says:

    I have never heard this riddle, and like you, Mart do not know the answer. I do believe the anwer to the whole riddle to be, as some have already said nothing.
    No thing is Greater than God.
    No thing holds a greater evil than Satan.
    Eating no thing is deadly.
    We only need take a quick at other countries, or right here in America to know that across the planet there is living proof of no thing being greater than God, no thing being of greater evil than the master of lies, and no thing being deadlier than no food.

  10. poohpity says:

    When I first heard that one I was stumped too Mart until someone was kind enough to clue me in. That seems to be the point isn’t it but not many will even will open their minds further even after being clued in. When attempts are made to promote thought most usually get offended which turns into defensiveness and hostility. I think that was why Jesus used parables to broaden one’s thinking without causing defensiveness because they thought they already knew it all (pride) to be open to learning more.

    In the OT the Kings surrounded themselves with prophets who thought as they thought and told them what they wanted to hear, like yes men. Things have not changed much in today’s times. Most usually hang around with people who always agree with them and heaven forbid if you don’t then you are the worst thing there is.

    Jesus challenged the status quo of His time by saying things like, you say this or that but I tell you, which was normally the exact opposite of what they had come to believe and hang on to. Tunnel vision as Bruce said but many do not even realize that is what they have because the minute you may bring something different to think about, up comes the defenses and anger. And as Jesus did it would be nice if we walked away from that angry person and leave them to their little world of tunnel vision.

    How can you understand other people unless you listen to their experiences without getting angry if they do not agree with how you see things. Most people put God in a box because they live in a box themselves. You can promote fresh thinking without it causing personal attacks from closed minded people. How sad it is not to want to be stretched outside of our little itty bitty world we exist in.

  11. poohpity says:

    Excellent topic after the heart revealing reactions to yesterday’s post about Marwa.

  12. phpatato says:

    Morning everyone

    Steve I am so sorry to hear of the snow you are getting. We got more snow this year than last but not near the amount you have I’m sure. I’m thinking your total snowfall count will be double ours. I heard a couple of weeks ago our tally so far is 223cm but a far cry from our record breaking snowfall in 1970/71 of 4446cm. Of course with the January thaw and other mild days, the snow has melted so that much isn’t on the ground. I see large grassy patches under the trees now. This weekend they are forecasting a high of 10c so that should help BUT I have seen some nasty snowstorms the first part of April so I’m not calling winter over yet.

    Narrow and MCT000 I’m thinking “nothing” is the answer I will go with. When I read “What is greater than God”, I immediately thought nothing!…period.

    It must be riddle day because a blog site that comes into my email has one posted today as well.

    There is a preacher of the old school, but he speaks as boldly as ever. He is not popular though the world is his parish, and he travels every part of the globe and speaks in every language. He visits the poor, calls upon the rich, preaches to people of every religion and no religion, and the subject of his sermon is always the same. He is an eloquent preacher, often stirring feelings which no other preacher could in bringing tears to eyes that never weep. His arguments none are able to refute, nor is there any heart that has remained unmoved by the force of his appeals. He shatters life with his message. Most people hate him; everyone fears him.”

  13. phpatato says:

    Sorry that was 444.6 cm. Amazing what a missed dot will do. lol

    Deb you are so right when you said: “How can you understand other people unless you listen to their experiences without getting angry if they do not agree with how you see things. Most people put God in a box because they live in a box themselves. You can promote fresh thinking without it causing personal attacks from closed minded people.”

    This blog has unfortunately been a place where this exact same thing happened on several occasions. I for one have been guilty in some of my posts. Dear friends, please forgive me for being closed-minded.

  14. poohpity says:

    Pat, “Death” is the answer to your riddle. I cheated and looked it up. :-)

  15. phpatato says:

    You are right Deb… the answer is “Death”.

    cheater. :-) xoxo

  16. narrowpathseeker says:

    Was anyone else “outside” and couldn’t see anything “inside” yesterday? I don’t understand what happened with that Marwa thread. I was here several times yesterday and it was not visible to me at any time nor was there any indication under recent comments that there was any new thread being used. Was anyone else totally unaware of it or am I the only one?

  17. poohpity says:

    Mart must have felt the comments were better left unread so no harm was done to any of his readers.

  18. bubbles says:

    I do not know anything about the Marwa topic, but a few weeks ago, the writing about Samson was posted, I came back awhile later to comment, and that post was taken down, and a new one was in its place. I could not find that post after looking. Then a week or two later the Samson post was back.

    The times may be incorrect as everything else is going on in life. A few days may be two weeks instead. Time passes quickly.

  19. narrowpathseeker says:

    Bubbles, I go through that confusion with time spans too.. Sometimes it seems longer and sometimes it seems shorter. The disappearing and reappearing acts here tend to add to my confusion sometimes. I will be in the middle of replying to a comment and when I go back to check out a name or something…the comment isn’t there! ;-)

  20. poohpity says:

    bubbles, I think the Samson thing was in articles at the top in the pages section that comes out once a month the same as we get at home with ODB booklet. But the comments do seem to disappear when you log in they come back at least for me anyway.

  21. SFDBWV says:

    In trying to keep focused on Mart’s thoughts about riddles, Mart asks if the cross isn’t the greatest riddle of all.

    Because we try so hard to understand how God thinks and why He did and does things we drive ourselves crazy and into heated disagreements with others in trying to solve the riddle or mystery of God.

    When we give Him credit for every good thing in our lives, we tend then also to blame Him for all the bad things as well.

    It may be better to be simple minded and ask no questions at all or better yet not have any questions to ask, just be like a contented sheep not knowing anything or worrying about anything just going along following the Shepard’s direction.

    But we are cursed with an inquisitive soul that is never satisfied.

    Because we all see from a different perspective, experience and motivation we are never going to quite agree completely on any subject. The best we can hope for is not to hurt someone for seeing differently the same things.

    Remember the old poem I shared with you “The Blind Men And The Elephant”.

    More snow this morning, 5 inches yesterday and more on the way today.


  22. kingskreation says:

    It says at the end of Marwa’s post that the comments were closed in order to follow website regulations…

  23. cherielyn says:

    I saw Mart’s riddle somewhere else, about a year ago, and knew the answer was “Nothing” and saw that narrow had given the answer already. Just getting caught up on this topic last night and this morning.

    Just want to say how much I appreciate reading all of the comments. They are so insightful and helpful – iron sharpening iron.

  24. remarutho says:

    Joyous Maundy Thursday All –

    If one considers a riddle as a challenge to one’s worldview, then we may encounter the living Christ on the “horns of a dilemma.” A dilemma being defined as a forced move which will be painful – you lose if you make it, you lose if you don’t. God so loves the world that he makes a move he would never make if he did not love the world to such extreme excess: He offers his only Son as the propitiation for the sins of the world.

    Mart, you wrote:

    “In some ways, the cross on which Christ died might be the greatest riddle of all—which while achieving
    his mission of rescue—is also designed to help us think inside and outside of our own personal universes”

    In the worldly mindset the crucifixion of the King of the universe is “not what I would do.” How could I freely offer my child for the sake of others? We must depart our own confined, self-directed universe and consider how the Creator of the universe (the very universe we may think of as belonging to us) could love us so much. The love is radical and utterly self-giving. The riddle brings us to the dilemma: choose to be the ruler of my own universe of retribution – or surrender to the universe that is entirely in the hands of its owner. Jesus rescues us from ultimate death when we acknowledge his sovereign power and his eagerness to rescue – when we believe.

    As we abandon self-determination and embrace God’s powerful love, we lose the former even as we obtain the latter. That is a change of world-view.


  25. oneg2dblu says:

    I’m breaking my silence today and feeling safe that my answer will not offend anyone, break any guidelines, or be taken down.
    “What is the value of the riddle?”
    That is hard to answer unless one knows the answer to it.
    Then finds for himself satisfaction.
    If as pooh states, the answer according to its origin or maker, is supposed to be Death.
    Death does not answer that riddle for me, if I hold to the scriptures, hold it accountable to Christ, as I should every thought, and look only to Him for my answers.
    Only then, can I satisfy my Christ filled heart soul and spirit.
    What is greater than God?
    How can death satisfy any Christian who knows that God’s word clearly says that Christ overcame even death on the cross. Death certainly is not greaterthan God!
    So, that answer fails at the very first premise to me.
    How do I go on to feel Death as the correct answer, when that answer directly opposes the Holy Word of God?
    Where is the death in those whom God gives Eternal Life?
    Oh death where is thy sting?
    So, in defence of the written word, which really does not need my defending it… I’ll share with you all my thoughts
    even if you don’t want them.
    I just started reading the Spurgeon Anthology, and I have been blessed by these very words, “Oh you who dislike certain portions of the Holy Writ, rest assured that your taste is corrupt, and that God will not stay your little opinion.
    Your dislike is the very reason why God wrote it because you ought not be suited; you have no right to be pleased.
    God wrote what you do not like; He wrote the truth!
    Oh, let us bend in reverance before it, for it is God inspired.” Spurgeon
    Now you may see why I think the Law, even the condemning lists from Paul, and every word written in the bible is there for a reason, presented to us as the answers to all life’s little riddles.
    It is also why we have such a hard time explaining the Trinity to the world by using our worldly words, using seen elemental qualities of this world, like the egg, or fire, or water.
    All of which I thoroughly enjoyed reading and agree with, because I can understand then in my flesh now as well, until I realize we can not use the seen world to describe the unseen. Things like our “assurance of salvation,” are really only words until we get them truly resolved by the answers from the Holy Spirit, not by the well crafted words of man. Where we speak only in riddles understood by man, God’s Spirit speaks in truth to us, using His Holy Spirit!
    Those God inspired written words contained in the bible, the whole world can read them but not understand them, or see them, when they read in their current flesh. Only God, who is greater than Death, can bring to His Living Words to our inquiring minds as His perfect answer, “Everlasting Life.”
    Happy Easter to All, “He is Risen,” thus overcoming even death on the cross. Be Blessed, Gary

  26. Mart De Haan says:

    Hi Gary,
    At 11:46 of March 27, phpatato posted another riddle that Deb was responding to. Death was the answer to that one while “nothing” is the answer to the one I posted.

  27. billystan454 says:

    I enjoy a challenge, and at first this riddle stumped me. After reading it for a second time I agree that nothing is the only answer that fits. In my previous post I took nothing and made it two words. No thing is greater than God, no thing is more evil than Satan, and if you eat no thing you will be overtaken by physical death.
    God is the Giver and the Taker. God alone can take a person and turn their life around to the point that life long friends no longer recognize them. No thing I did or could have done changes that. Our salvation is not given based on the works we do, but as an act of grace. The Bible outwits science at every step. i read an article on MSN yesterday, Its headline stated this,”Man offers $10,000 to anyone who can proove creation wrong.” Not the exact words, but you get the idea.
    This gentleman whoever he may be, according to the article, is a “creationist.” In other words he is a Christian. As I read the article it became pretty obvious just how much its author hated the word Christian.
    After I read that article I found a link to this article, “Florida school apologizes after students stomp on ‘Jesus'”. if the link for this article is still available I recomend reading it. Christianity in America is quickly becoming a curse word.
    Hopefully these two articles will get some of us off our coaches and start following Jesus’ instructions at the close of Matthew. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” That does not mean every Christian needs to go abroad; there many hungry, and homeless, adults and children right here in America. There are many ministries we can help in our own cities, towns, and villages. Our churches cannot do them without us helping. Nation wide states are cutting more and more human services from their budgets. For decades our government has done the work of our local churches, while we sit in our pews and______.

  28. poohpity says:

    3 Hours ago I left my friend and father of my children into the hands of our Lord. Please pray for us as we mourn his loss. Thank you! Love Deb

  29. remarutho says:

    Dear Pooh —

    We lift your friend and the father of your children to the Lord’s care this afternoon. May Jesus surround you all with his love and tender care in these days of grief.


  30. Mart De Haan says:

    Thank you, Deb, for letting us know. Yes, you will be in our thoughts, prayers, and hearts.

  31. cherielyn says:

    Deb, you are in my thoughts & prayers, as you have been ever since I found this site a few years ago.

    I pray for God’s comfort for you as you deal with your loss.

  32. narrowpathseeker says:

    Pooh, I am sorry for your loss and will be praying for you and your children to be Comforted in the way that only He can.

  33. kingdomkid7 says:

    I pray God will specially comfort you and your kids during these difficult days, Pooh. I’m sorry to hear of your loss.

  34. phpatato says:


    Please know that you and your children will be in my thoughts and prayers. May our Heavenly Father surround you all with His comfort and peace.


  35. pegramsdell says:

    So sorry Deb. My ex-husband of passed last week too. My prayers and thoughts are of you right now Deb. We were married for 24 years and divorced 9 years ago, but we were still in love. I’m so glad I was chosen to be with him at the end. Thank You Jesus! Love you Deb.

  36. foreverblessed says:

    Pooh, may God bless you and your children, and comfort you.
    Pegramsdell, may God bless you too, and support you and hold you close to Him.

  37. oneg2dblu says:

    pooh… please know our hearts ache with you and yours as we hold you up in prayer knowing well He is willing and He will give you His Peace. But, now we mourn in our collective body while our spirit mourns in the spirit for us. He hears when we mourn and when we pray, when we weap and when we worship. He allows us His perfect remedy. “He loves us!” Gary

  38. oneg2dblu says:

    Mart… thanks for clearing that up. As always, I’m a day late and a dollar short. Conveniently out of context… yet still holding on to the truth found in His word.
    I wonder if that is considered radical obedience, or just dogged persistance, or always speaking in riddles?

  39. billystan454 says:

    I won’t say I can feel your hurt, but I understand it. My prayers will be with you and your family. When my wife died in 2008 I was told by a much more experienced brother in Christ to read and carry with me Thessalonians 4:13-14. i wont quote it here. but when you are ready, and you will know when that moment arises, read these two verses.

  40. billystan454 says:

    Many of the posts refer to God as a comforter as I was reading these posts I was reminded of 2 Corinthians
    1:3-4. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
    We have two sisters in Christ suffering a loss beyond description, let’s dedicate this day to them with prayer, and tell our friends to pray with us.

  41. oneg2dblu says:

    billystan454… I really enjoyed your “no thing” treatise, as plain and simple truth was found in it everywhere. Gary

  42. poohpity says:

    Gary, I would say conveniently out of context, period.:-)

    Thank you all so very much for your comforting words and prayers. Need lots of both, thank you.

  43. billystan454 says:

    My intent was not to hurt, and if I hurt you I am deeply sorry.
    I was simply saying what worked for me! I’m very much old school and sometimes I don’t realize my words are hurtful until told. Thank you for saying so.

  44. poohpity says:

    billystan, you said nothing hurtful at all. What I read was very comforting, thank you.

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