Matthew 7:7-12 Reading

Matthew 7:7-12

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! 12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

A few thoughts for meditation:

As Jesus brought the sermon to a close, we should be impressed by the crushing moral demands. It’s not that these standards are wrong or disagreeable, but that they are so high we are powerless to obtain them on our own. In answer to this weight, Jesus reassured us that all which God demands of us, he also freely provides to those who ask. He stressed this in three ways, “ask… seek… knock” all with the assurance that God will answer. It is important to keep this prayer in context though, and understand it in light of the Lord’s Prayer taught earlier. Jesus focused on the kingdom of God and our place within it. That is the “good” we are called to ask for and freely receive, not whatever our sinful desires may crave.. Whatever we need in the moment to be a more faithful disciple, God will freely provide to us when we ask. That is part of his generous Fatherly care for us.

Jesus illustrated the generous character of God by comparing it to the defective generosity of sinful mankind, arguing from lesser to greater. Mankind is “evil”, fallen, corrupt, in bondage to sin. And yet, even evil human beings know they should provide their children good things when they ask. In this case, the children ask for simple food, bread and fish, and most parents know they should not answer with stones or serpents. God of course is good and perfect and knows exactly what good gifts his children need, and will freely and generously give those good things when we ask him. This picture of the generosity of God is important to keep in mind. Too often, there lingers in the back of our minds a picture of a stingy God, who withholds good things from us. This was part of the temptation Eve faced in the garden. Satan caused her to doubt the goodness and generosity of God by asking her why God would hold back the forbidden fruit from her. That is often the fear at the heart of legalism, that God is holding back good things until we earn them. But Jesus painted the opposite picture here. God freely offers to provide “good things” when we keep asking, seeking, and knocking. These are acts of faith, acts of trusting God, who rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6). So as we seek to be faithful disciples, servants, and children of the Father’s kingdom, he promises to provide every good thing we need for that mission. Again, the “good” promised here is “good” as God defines it, not how we define it. Too often our definition of “good” is corrupted by our sinful or short-sighted desires. But our Father knows the good we need even when we don’t, and when he does not give us specifically what we ask for, it’s because he is giving us the good thing we should have asked for instead. When a child asks for carrot cake, the father may give him a carrot instead, not because he is stingy but because that is what the child needs more in the moment.

Finally, Jesus summarized the moral demands of this sermon with what is often called the Golden Rule, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” This closed what he began in 5:17, when he began teaching what it meant to fulfill “the Law and the Prophets”. The phrase forms bookends around the body of teaching. This idea of the Golden Rule is not unique to Jesus. Other ancient teachers used it, but it was usually stated in a more negative way, “whatever you don’t want others to do to you, don’t do to them”. In other words, if you don’t want people to steal from you, don’t steal from them, etc. But what is unique to Jesus here is that he stated the Golden Rule in a more positive form, whatever you want others to do to you, do to them. By this switch, Jesus included not only the sins of commission (i.e. stealing killing, lying) but also the sins of omission, withholding good to others which we should actively give. If you want people to be generous to you, be generous to them. If you want them to be friendly to you, be friendly to them. If you want others to help you in time of need, then you help others in time of need. In other words, it’s not enough to just refrain from outward evil, but we must actively promote goodness and love from the heart as God defines it. We cannot expect to wait for others to do good to us before we will do good to them. We must seek to live as Christ did, regardless of how others respond to us. This is true obedience to the Law and Prophets.

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