Today we are going to continue to look at Matthew 7. This is the closing of the sermon on the mount. It’s sort of the application part of the sermon. Last time we looked at how self righteousness gets in the way of helping others. Today I want to look at the next section dealing with asking God for things.
Here is what Jesus says
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
The first paragraph fits into an interesting category of scripture abuse. This is the sort of thing that is often used to justify what is often called the prosperity gospel. The idea that whatever you want, if you just ask God, then He will give it to you.
This idea leads to all sorts of problems. It puts our desires or what we feel we want, in front of God’s. It leads to all kinds of confusion. It leads to guilt for people who end up being told, or at least feeling as if they had just prayed enough or in the right way that things would have turned out the way they wanted. Or it leads to self centered materialistic prayer. This mindset leads to a serious amount of disappointment in God.
The reason this happens is that it is almost always taken out of the context of the sermon as a whole and frankly even out of context of the second paragraph.
The sermon on the mount is, as a whole, about the Kingdom. Jesus is saying, “In the world it is this way, but in the Kingdom it is . . . ” Remember this is the closing statement. In a sense Jesus is saying “Everything I’ve said today being true – ask, seek, knock. . ” It’s not a stand alone paragraph.
This is not to say that Jesus doesn’t care about what we want. It’s not to say that Jesus thinks all of our desires are 100% selfish or wrong. But this paragraph assumes the rest of the sermon and that we are operating with a Kingdom mindset. It assumes a Kingdom ask, seek and knock. It assumes a starting point of submission to God and a focus on His desires and will for our life.
The second paragraph assumes God’s love for us. This has been an incredibly challenging sermon. Jesus has said a lot of hard things and challenged pretty much every self centered cultural norm possible. And then He says in a sense, “Look, God loves you so much! He’s not in this to make it worse for you.”
For an analogy He uses the most loving human relationship created – the family. In the created order, and even in the fallen one, parents generally love their kids. Yes there are exceptions. And may God bless and protect the children in those exceptions. But in general parents love their kids. But God loves you even more.
Which parent if their kid needs bread will give them a stone? If the parent, who is fallen, knows how to help their kids, how much more does God know how to help.
The message He’s been delivering in the sermon is not because God doesn’t love us, is holding out on us, or wants us to have less life. NO! It’s because He has better for us. His way is the way to more life, not less. The Kingdom He has been describing is shocking and challenging. But it is better.
On top of this, it’s important to recognize the inverse of this example. That is what parent, who is fallen, if his kid comes to him and asks for a snake will give him the snake, instead of the fish that he needs? The kid may really want the snake. He doesn’t see why the snake is bad. But the parent knows what the kid needs is the fish.
In the same way when we ask for something out of our own mindset instead of the Kingdom mindset, God is not looking to give it to us. He knows what we need. He knows what will bring us to the Kingdom life. He’s not looking to give us what will drive us further away from Him. Now we might ignore Him and in some cases fight to go get what we don’t need or what doesn’t help us on our own. But God is only going to intentionally give us what helps us move into the Kingdom. He sees the big picture and the long game. He’s not interested in our short term happiness if that gets in the way our holiness, growth or even entrance into the Kingdom. Part of being a good parent is giving what the kid needs. But part of it is not giving the kid what will hurt them, no matter how much they “want” it.
The message then is God loves us and His way, His Kingdom, is the best for us. If we operate in that mindset we will be aligned with Him. We will want to be a part of this new life that He is offering. And He stand ready, willing, and excited to give it to us.