A wonk is a person who is preoccupied with arcane details or procedures in a specialized field. It is often used in politics in the phrase “policy wonk” to refer to a person who knows fine details of government law and policy.
Jesus had to deal with wonks among the religious leaders of his day. He said to them:
“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life. – John 5:39-40
They were Bible experts who missed the main point. They knew the arcane details in the Bible but missed its heart. They were Bible wonks; fascinated by Bible details and facts, but without affection for the person speaking through the text – God.
Working in another culture can make a person a wonk – someone who finds the other culture fascinating but has no real affection for the people.
Translating the Bible requires mastering the details of the Bible, of the language, and of the culture. It can make you into an wonk – a very competent technician lacking a heart for those who speak the language.
The search for justice also creates wonks – people who expertly manage their public stance by knowing and saying the right words and phrases, and being quick to criticize when others aren’t as fastidious. Their justice consists of wonk-approved incantations.
Whatever you to do, don’t do it like a wonk.