The Sermon on the Mount can be so familiar to us that we can easily read what Jesus said in a quick manner and really miss the teeth of what he said. What Jesus said can almost be mentally cast aside because we have heard it so often. This is certainly the temptation for Matthew 7:7-12. It is easy to read Matthew 7:7-8 and spend our whole time talking about how we need to ask, seek, and knock. But there is so much more that Jesus wants to show us. Jesus wants to teach us about the disposition of God. You will notice that Jesus does not merely say you need to ask God, you need to seek God, and you need to knock. I want us to notice that Jesus is trying to give us some confidence for why we should have a vibrant prayer life. Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you. Everyone who asks receives. Everyone who seeks finds. Everyone who knocks it will be opened (7:7-8). Jesus is trying to give us the strength and encouragement to talk to God and to ask God for things in your life. So let’s hold this call to ask God in our minds and we will return to it in a moment. But I want us to see the motivations that God is giving to us.
The Disposition of God (7:9-11)
Jesus asks an important question regarding how we as parents approach our children. If your child asked for bread, would you give it to him? If they asked for bread, would you give them something useless like a stone? No, Jesus is painting a picture that God will give us what we need if we ask. God is not going to give us something useless. God is going to give to us what is useful for our lives. This is the first picture of God. God is not in the business of giving out useless things. If there is something you need and ask God for it, God is not going to give you useless things in return. Have you ever opened a present like this where you did not know what it was or what you were going to do with it? God does not do that. God does not give you something that you have no use for.
The second rhetorical question is in verse 10. If your child asks for a fish, are you going to give him a snake? Jesus gives another picture of God. God not only does not give us useless things, but he does not give us harmful things. This makes sense to us. Parents do not intentionally give their children harmful things. I am not going to give you something that I think you are going to kill yourself using.
Notice that this is the conclusion Jesus draws in verse 11. We know how to give good gifts to our children. But not all parents are good parents. Jesus understands this. Even as we try to be good parents we are going to make all kinds of mistakes in our parenting. But notice what Jesus says. If we who are evil and do not get this right every time understand the need and desire to give good gifts to our children, then what do you think God will do? How much more will our Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him. You have a good God. You have a good God who is your Father. You have a good God who is your Father who knows how to give good gifts.
God’s disposition is not to be a curmudgeon or a scrooge. God’s disposition is not to tell us no without reason. Have you seen parents like this? They will not even consider the request or have a reason for their answer. They will just say no to their children. God is not like that. God does not say no without reason or thought. Now come back to verses 7-8. You can ask God. God wants to give to us.
We want to give to our children. We want our children to ask us and we will give it to them. But we do not give to them in an absolute sense. When we say that we would give our children anything they ask, we mean it in terms of the boundaries. God just made that point with us. God does not give us useless things or harmful things. So ask God and know that he is going to give to us within the parameters of his wisdom for us because he is a good Father.
So let’s think about verses 7-8 a little more. Jesus tells us that God is a good Father in heaven who will give us what we ask within the boundaries of his goodness and wisdom. Are there things that we are not asking God about in our lives? Take a moment and think about what is happening in your life. Think about things you need. Think about the hardships you face. Think about decisions you have to make. Are we even asking God about these things? What are we not asking God about in our lives? I want us to hear God’s word to us: just ask me. I want you to ask me. Please ask me. I am a good God. I am your Father. Why would we not ask him? Why would we not seek it from him when we do not know what we need or where to go? Why would we not knock for God to make a way through the impossible or inaccessible? Pray to God to open the closed door. How many times in life have you been presented a closed door? God is telling us to take it to him, asking him to open that door for us.
The Golden Rule (7:12)
Now please carefully look at verse 12. The first word is “therefore” or “so.” We have a connection to what Jesus just taught about asking, seeking, and knocking because you have a good God who is your Father. Therefore, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them because this sums up the Law and Prophets. In everything, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
Notice that Jesus does not say that the reason we treat others the way we want to be treated is because we hope that they will do the same back for us. The teaching is not a manipulation effort to try to get people to do what we want. The point is not to treat others well so that you can get out of them what you want. We are to treat others the way we want to be treated because that is an amazing summary of what the Law and Prophets call for God’s people to do. Too often we can think of doing good to others so long as they do the same back toward us. Then we will stop treating others the way we want to be treated because they did not respond in the same way. We do to others what we want them to do to us because that is the essence of God’s law to the world.
Please also consider what Jesus does not say. Jesus does not say to not treat others the way you would not want to be treated. Jesus is not teaching avoidance. Do not do something that you would not want someone to do to you. Now this is a true point. We often teach our kids this way. Is this what you would want someone to do to you? No. Then don’t do it to them. But Jesus teaches even more than this. Don’t just not do to others what you would not want them to do for you. But proactively do for others what you would want them to do for you. Treat them how you want to do be treated.
What does this have to do with the prior paragraph? How can we give to others and do good to others even when they do not respond the same way back toward us? Jesus’ answer is because God has you covered. God is going to give you what you need. You do not need to worry about you. You do not have to worry about what is going to happen to you. You just need to ask God and he will take care of you. We can give ourselves away to others because we know that God is listening to us and will give us what we need. We can give ourselves away in our marriages. We can give ourselves in our family relationships. We can give ourselves to our friends. We can give ourselves to one another as the family of God. We can give ourselves away even to strangers because we know that we can ask God and he will not give us something useless or harmful, but what we need.
This brings us back to Jesus’ words at the end of Matthew 6. You have been set free to seek God and his righteousness, not needing to worry about tomorrow, because you are storing up treasures in heaven and not on earth. God is caring for you. You know that God is caring for you. God is telling you to ask him and he will give to you. Do not hold back asking God. There is nothing too small for God to bring him. There is nothing too big for God. There is nothing too hard for God. So how do you look at God? What keeps you from praying? What do you not talk to God about? God tells us to just ask him and do not hold back.