Jesus is bringing the Sermon on the Mount to its conclusion. In doing so, Jesus is describing the standards for living in his kingdom. In the first six verses of Matthew 7 Jesus given a summary of how we are to not treat others. We are not to use false standards of judgment. We are not to judge others differently than we would judge ourselves. We are not to judge hypocritically. In verses 7-12 Jesus is going to give us a beautiful picture of love. The first six verses tell us how not to act toward others and verses 7-12 tell us how to act toward others.
Just Ask (7:7-12)
Jesus begins with wonderful words. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7 ESV) With this wonderful blessing we consider the context of this promise. Jesus has been teaching us about the kingdom and our need to seek it above all else. Jesus taught us that we do not need to worry about what we will eat, drink, or wear because God knows we need it and he will provide these things to his children who are seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness. It is important for us to keep the context of Jesus’ sermon so that no one tries to come to this verse, lift it out of its context, and try to pray in a way that is not in line with the purposes of God as we learned in the model prayer in chapter 6. We are people who are seeking righteousness, sincerity, humility, purity, and love. We are praying for the kingdom and for God’s will to be done.
But with these things in mind I want you to notice that Jesus is teaching us to be persistent. The tense of the Greek verbs is not a one time act but is a perpetual asking. Jesus encourages this persistent intensity in prayer with three different words: ask, seek, and knock. These are three great pictures. Ask God. Ask God for the things that are on your mind. Seek God and his righteousness. Seek him and you will find him. Knock is a great picture. It is as if we are on the outside of the kingdom doors knocking to come in and the Lord opens the door and brings us in. Ask of God. Seek God. Knock on God’s door. Notice the reason we should do this in verse 8. Jesus says that if we ask, seek, and knock that we will receive it. Jesus tells us to expect to receive what we ask of God. This is amazing! Expect to receive when you ask, seek, and knock.
But Jesus does not end the discussion by teaching that we need to ask God more. Jesus does not simply tell us to pray more. Jesus gives us great encouragement for coming to God in prayer. Jesus tells us why we should expect to receive from God.
Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? (Matthew 7:9–10 ESV)
If your child asks for bread, would you reject your child’s request? If your child asked you for a fish, would you give your child a serpent instead? Parents do not give their children bad things. Parents do not give children things that they do not need. My children may not understand what I am giving them but I am giving them something they need. They learn to trust that I am not going to give them bad things and I am not going to give them things that they do not need. When they ask of me, I will give them what they need, not something bad. Now listen to what Jesus says.
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! (Matthew 7:11 ESV)
Now we are sinful people and yet we know how to give good gifts to our children. So how much more will our heavenly Father give us good things when we ask him! Our heavenly Father answers from the depths of his goodness. These are comforting words! This is the heavenly Father’s positive, gracious call to come to him and ask. God is not ignorant of what we need. God is not impotent so that he cannot give what we need. God is not malevolent so that he will give us what we do not need. We are comforted by the affirmation of God’s benevolence in this text. This is hope and comfort for the poor in spirit who are mourning over their sins. God is not ignorant. God does not lack power. God is not malevolent.
God tells us to ask him. God tells us to seek him. God tells us to knock on his door. When we do, Jesus tells us that God will answer and he will give us what we need. He will give to us what we need from the storehouse of his blessings. So keep asking him. Keep seeking him. Keep knocking! How comforting it is to be his children who are in the hands of their heavenly Father!
The Golden Rule (7:12)
This brings us to verse 12 which has been frequently called the golden rule. Notice the first word of verse 12 is “so” or “therefore.” Because of what God has done for us as a loving and benevolent heavenly Father, do to others as you would have them do to you. God’s benevolence is to lead to your benevolence to others.
It is interesting that almost everyone in this country has heard of the golden rule. They may not know that it is from God’s word but they have heard of doing to others as you would have them do to you. Yet it is hardly practiced. I want you think about something for a moment. Imagine what this world would look like if every person did for others what they want others to do for them. Can you imagine what the world would look like? It is an amazing idea. How radically different the world would be if we would follow just this one command of our Lord Jesus! So why do we not do it? If this command can change the world, why does no one practice it? The answer is that we are simply too selfish and self-centered. We refuse to think about others. We want to think about ourselves. We are self-consumed. We do not want to think about others. We only want to think about ourselves and how other people affect us. When we think about ourselves, we hurt so many other people. Our culture seems to be unable to see this. When we think about ourselves, we hurt others. But if we would do for others as we would want them to do for us, then there would be an end to the hurt that we inflict on others.
This is why this command cannot sit in isolation. You cannot pull this command out of the context and expect it to work. Everyone knows to do to others as you would have them do to you. Yet no one practices this. Why not? The reason we do not do it is because it is not rooted in a reason. Why should I do for others as I would want them to do for me? Notice that the answer is not a selfish pursuit. The message is not to do for others in some sort of selfish manipulation to get out others what you want. How often we try this! We do something kind expecting kindness in return. When that kindness is not reciprocated, we get angry and attempt to hurt the other person. This is often why marriages experience trouble because people are operating under the same selfish manipulation rather than truly giving oneself for the other person.
The motivation for doing to others what we want do for us is because of verses 7-11. God is a benevolent heavenly Father who calls us to approach the throne and ask of him and he will give us what we need. Now go and give to others what they need. Do for them as you would have them do for you. God’s love for you is to motivate your love for others. We do not do for others so that people will do it for us. That is a corruption of what Jesus taught.
This command compels us to deal with others by beginning with ourselves. Here is what I mean by that. We do not determine the treatment of others by looking at them and asking what do they deserve. Rather, we start with ourselves and ask what would we want and need and do that for the other person. Notice what Jesus has done. Jesus is using our sense of self-interest that is innate in us and use it to treat others graciously.
Notice how verse 12 ends. “For this is the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus calls this command to do for others as you would have them do for you as the very heart of the Law and the Prophets. This command is the heart of the kingdom and is truly the very heart of God. This is what the Law of Moses was teaching and what the prophets were preaching. God said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” in Leviticus 19:18. This has always been God’s message. But the cross now amplifies this message in our hearts. Look at what God has accomplish for you through the cross. He draws you to him. He tells you to ask of him and expect to receive because he is a loving, heavenly Father. He is the powerful God who gives good gifts to his children. Now do the same. Give good gifts to others. Change the world and be the light: do for others what you would want them to do for you.