Ask, Seek, Knock
"Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened. Or who is there among you, who, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, who will give him a serpent? If you then, being 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! Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets.
Since God is such a generous giver, what is there that you (personally) should be asking Him for?
Jesus shows us the virtue of perseverance and its application in prayer. Our motivation to persist in our service to God is the desire to draw near to Him for what He has done for us. Consider the amount of time the Apostles and even Jesus (when He walked this Earth) spent in prayer. Now, consider how much more we need to pray, and then compare it with how much time you actually spend in prayer. The Christian life does not run on autopilot. It needs persistence, constant navigational resetting, and hands-on steering. In order to line up our lives with His plan and Will, we have to be willing and able to surrender to His concerns. We do this through knowing His Word and praying.
Prayer is not a vending machine where we can pick what we want, and what we want to do. Rather, it is aligning our mindset with His. This passage has led many people to think that God is a divine bellhop who will give us what we seek, what we want if we just have enough faith. But, that is plainly not the message this passage gives to us. Yes, we are to seek, we are to knock; we are to be persistent with our prayers. But, we are not to seek just to help our selfish concerns. Prayer is seeking the Son-ship and Lord-ship of Christ because He is in control, not just because of a friendship with Him. Prayer is the instrument for seeking how to get His Will done, not our will.
1. Ask and it will be given: This is a very bold and direct statement, which is rare, if not non-existent in other languages and cultures of the time, including Hebrew law and writings. This passage is saying that we have the right, and ability (by what Christ has done on the cross) to go directly to God in prayer. There is no need for intermediaries or special priests or rituals.
a. There is a promise in this passage that gives us the confidence that He hears our prayers and even answers them. But, we are not to assume that God answers our whims and desires. We are not the focus of the prayer, nor are we God. He, God and Lord of the universe, is sovereign, and His Will is to be sought, brought into our hearts and minds, and then put into practice.
b. We also have to have confidence that His answer is best! We often seek those things that are not beneficial or right for us because our view, understanding, and thinking do not include all of the information. We only see our temporary and immediate needs, whereas God sees it all, the outcome that we do not see.
i. His answers are conditioned upon our abiding in Him and His Will (John 15:7; James 4:3; 1 John 5:14-15)!
ii. How sad it is that so many Christians never enjoy God's favor, simply because they do not ask! Have you asked, sought, or knocked today?
c. In the Greek this passage is in the present tense, which implies "continuous action!" Persistence is a theme in much of Jesus' teaching that we are to take our faith to heart and practice it seriously (Luke 11:5-8; 18:1-8)!
d. For us to really learn and apply the Bible, we have to learn to be persistent so we can receive His blessings, be a blessing to others, and hear His call (Psalm 1:1-3; 119:97-104)!
2. Being evil: This often refers to the universal, sinful nature that all of humanity shares, which was the prime reason Christ came to pay that debt of sin so we could go directly to Him in prayer. So we can seek...
a. As a Christian, saved by grace, our original sin has been covered (atonement means covering); however, we are still filled with sin. As we grow in Christ, we should have the inclination to sin less and be more devoted to His Will. But, we are still in sin.
b. Jesus is using a standard Jewish argument (gal-vahomer), where you start with a lesser statement, and if that is true, then the greater corresponding statement must be true too.
c. Fish and bread were the staples of food in the region that Jesus was preaching, both for the common person and the kings. The kings would have much more to feast on. Luke also adds, if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion.
d. Good gifts/things are the things that are important, that are essential in the practice of the faith. They include righteousness, sincerity, purity, wisdom, and humility. Without such characters as the proof test that Christ has saved us and the Holy Spirit is working in us (Luke 11:13 parallel that adds the Spirit), we would fail to follow His precepts and be of no good to those around us.
i. Seeking such good gifts is part of the process of building character, and what we are to seek. God's concern is our character and maturity. Nothing else is of paramount importance. That does not mean we do not ask Him to fulfill our needs and provide our comfort, but we are not to focus on them.
ii. The greatest gift we could ever receive, besides our salvation, is the Spirit!
iii. We are living in the Kingdom of God, as He is the King!
3. This passage is often referred to as the Golden rule. It has been said; he who has the gold makes the rules. And, if you consider that we own nothing, yet all of space, time, and eternity are His, then He has the gold and makes the rules. But golden rule means the most important rule, as this passage is about the treatment of others. It all comes down to how you want to be treated, then treating others in that way. Of course, for this to work, you have to have a self esteem that is rooted in Christ and the character traits as prescribed by His Word (Gal 5)
a. Do also to them; this was based on a common saying amongst many Jewish (Tobit & Hillel) thinkers as well as Greek philosophers that goes back to the most ancient of literature. The saying was a negative statement that said; Do not do to others what you do not want done to you. Jesus replaces the emphasis as a positive obligation, based on God's goodness.
b. We can see the universality of this teaching:
i. The Hindus teach: This is the sum of duty: do naught to others, which if do thee would cause thee pain. (The Mahabharata).
ii. The Buddhists teach; Hurt not others with that which pains yourself. (Udana- Varga).
iii. The Muslim Koran teaches; No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. (Hadith).
iv. The Baha'i teaches; He should not wish for others that which he doth not wish for himself, nor promise that which he doth not fulfill. (Certitude).
v. The Greek philosophers taught; Do not that to thy neighbor that thou wouldst not suffer from him (Pittacus of Lesbos, 650-570 BC) and Do not do unto others what angers you if done to you by others. (Isocrates, 436-338 BC).
vi. Confucius taught; What you do not want others to do to you, do not do to others. (551-479 BC).
vii. Hebrew literature says; What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow men. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary. (The Talmud).
c. Jesus asks us to do something positively to others, while these other religions only prohibit you from doing something adversely to others!
i. Jesus: Do unto others what you want them to do to you!
ii. Others: Don't do to others what you don't want done to you!
iii. The difference is that the others only require us to not cause any harm to others. A Christian has a higher call and duty, as we are called to demonstrate kindness and the rest of the Fruits (Gal 5:22-23) to others.
d. Our God is willing and able to give! He wants to give every good and perfect gift to you! It is up to us to ask so we can receive it! But, remember, we are always to seek what is according to His Will and character as the prime prize!
i. Prayer is a relationship, to build, mold, and grow us deeper to His heart. It is not just an asking machine, even if you have right, pure motives, and spend your time on intercession for others, as we all should. Jesus is telling us to keep on asking (inquiry), seeking (finding it) and knocking (then it will be opened to you so you can find it) and it will be given to you. Asking, plus action, plus perseverance equals the quest for character and growth to be a more mature Christian; it leads us to go deeper in our relationship to Him and others, and be of more use to God and others.
ii. This one rule summarizes what the Law and the Prophets were all about in human relating, just as the commandment Love your neighbor as yourself summed up the Law (Matt. 5:43-48; Rom. 13:8-10).
e. This also applies to outreach and evangelism. Would you rather be told you are a sinner and will burn in Hell, or have someone befriend you and model Christ's character to you so you would want to become a Christian? Or, at the very least, have someone use loving and caring words, along with listening and positive, constructive encouragement when needed! One way works; the other does not (Gal. 6:1-2; Eph. 4:15; 2 Tim. 2:24-26)!
f. If the world actually followed those other religious teachings, it would end wars, reconcile political problems, and all forms of conflicts, including personal contention, strife, selfishness, and greed! Imagine what would happen if everyone followed Jesus' teaching! What would it be like in your school, office, home, or other places?
This passage needs not to be memorized as much as it is needed to be functional! It calls for commitment, and is something to be accomplished! God desires that we be in close relationship to Him, not merely seeking what we can get. He will give us what we need, and much more! If you only seek what you think you want, you will never have a clue what maturity and surrender mean (Gal. 2:20-21)
Our motives, obedience, and persevering will be the key! Be in love with Him. Seek His presence, and be persistent in your prayers. If you fear you will ask Him for the wrong thing, remember, we all do that. As you draw closer to Him, you will learn the right things to ask. Prayer is persistence and learning!
1. If you could have whatever you wanted, and God gave it to you, what bearing, what impact would that have on your life and faith; or, would it be a hindrance?
2. Have you ever thought through your dreams and wishes to their logical conclusion and impact? If so, what would you think they would be like from God's perspective?
3. How much time do you spend in prayer? How much should you? What is in the way?
4. Have you considered the value of perseverance and its application to prayer?
5. Do you seek great things for yourself (Jer. 45:5)? How and why would this be beneficial to the Christian faith, and how, and why would it distract us from God's Will?
6. What do you think Jesus stresses in this passage? How would you put it in your own words?
7. Why would some Christians think that prayer is like a vending machine or God like a bellhop, so we seek what we want, and what we want to do if we have enough faith? Why is that appealing to some people? How appealing is seeking His will? Which really requires more faith, to get what you want or to serve Him?
8. Prayer is getting our mindset aligned with His. What are some of the things that get you sidetracked from pursuing your faith more deeply though prayer?
9. Do you have the confidence that He hears your prayers and answers them? What is your focus in prayer?
10. Do you also have the confidence that His answers are best? If so, why do we experience stress and worry?
11. What are the conditions we must meet in order to have our prayers answered?
12. Read Psalm 1:1-3; 119:97-104. How does persistence have a significant bearing on receiving His blessings, being a blessing to others, and hearing His call? What about getting more out of the Word?
13. Do you feel confident that God has provided for you? How do you feel when you hear about Christians who do not have enough food, or even suffer and die for their faith? How does this passage deal with this?
14. What was your impression of all the similar statements from other religions compared to Jesus' statement? What can we gain by learning about other cultures and religions?
15. What are the Good gifts that you seek?
16. What is necessary for the Golden rule to work perfectly? What keeps society from practicing it? (Keep in mind, nearly all religions and philosophies have this in their teachings)
17. What would you want done to you?
18. Our God is willing and able to give! He wants to give us every good and perfect gift! It is up to us to ask so we can receive it! What can we do to be better at asking?
19. How can this passage influence both our, and our church's outreach and evangelism programs?
20. This passage needs not to be memorized but rather committed too and accomplished! So what is a plan to get started on this?
1) Opening prayer: Lord, our God, you are a generous Father, who give us what is good for us simply because you love us. Give us grateful hearts, Lord, that we may learn from you to give and share without calculation but simply with love and joy, as Jesus, your Son, did among us, who lives with you and with us forever.
2) Gospel reading - Matthew 7, 7-12:
Jesus said to His disciples: 'Ask and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. Everyone who asks receives; everyone who searches finds; everyone who knocks will have the door opened.
Is there anyone among you who would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or would hand him a snake when he asked for a fish?
If you, then, evil as you are, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
'So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the Law and the Prophets.
The Gospel today gives a part of the Sermon on the Mountain, the New Law of God which has been revealed to us by Jesus. The Sermon on the Mountain has the following structure:
a) Mathew 5, 1-16: The entrance door: the Beatitudes (Mt 5, 1-10) and the mission of the disciples: to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Mt 5, 12-16).
b) Mathew 5, 17 a 6, 18: The new relationship with God: The new justice (Mt 5, 17-48) which does not expect the reward for practicing alms giving, for praying and fasting (Mt 6, 1-18).
c) Mathew 6, 19-34: The new relationship with the goods of the earth:(Mt 6, 19-21), do not look at the world with a diseased eye (Mt 6, 22-23), do not serve God and money (Mt 6, 24), do not be concerned about food and drink (Mt 6, 23-34).
d) Mathew 7, 1-23: The new relationship with persons: do not look for the splinter in your brother’s eye (Mt 7, 1-5); do not throw your pearls in front of pigs (Mt 7, 6); the Gospel today: do not be afraid to ask things from God (Mt 7, 7-11); and the Golden Rule (Mt 7, 12); choose the hard and narrow roads (Mt 7, 13-14), beware of false prophets (Mt 7, 15-20).
e) Mathew 7, 21-29: Conclusion: do not only speak but practice also (Mt 7, 21-23); the community built on this basis will resist the storm (Mt 7, 24-27). The result of these words is a new conscience before the Scribes and the Doctors (Mt 7, 28-29).
Mathew 7, 7-8: The three recommendations of Jesus. The three recommendations: to ask, to seek and to knock: “Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you!” A person is asked. The response depends both on the person as well as on the insistence with which it is asked. To seek is done oriented by some criteria. The better the criteria, the more certainty one can have of finding what one is looking for. To knock at the door is done with the hope that there will be someone on the other side of the door, at home. Jesus completes the recommendation offering the certainty of the response: “Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find; knock and it will be opened; because anyone who asks receives, and anyone who seeks will find and to anyone who knocks the door will be opened”. That means that when we ask God, He listens to our petition. When we seek God, he allows Himself to be found (Is 5, 5-6). When we knock on the door of God’s house, He opens the door for us.
Mathew 7, 9-11: The question of Jesus to the people. “Is there anyone among you who would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or would hand him a snake when he asked for a fish?” Here appears the simple and direct way which Jesus has for teaching the people the things of God to the people. Speaking to the parents, He connects Himself to the daily experience. Between the lines of the question one can guess the response the people yelled out: “No!” because nobody gives a stone to a son who asks for bread. There is no father and no mother who would give a snake to the son when he asks for a fish. And Jesus draws the conclusion: “If you, then, evil as you are, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Jesus calls us evil to stress the certainty of being listened to by God when we ask Him for something. And this, because if we who are not saints, know how to give good things to our children, how much more the Father in heaven. This comparison has as its objective to take away from our heart any doubt concerning the prayer addressed to God with trust. God will listen! Luke adds that God will give the Holy Spirit (Lk 11, 13).
Mathew 7, 12: The Golden Rule. "So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the Law and the Prophets.” This is the summary of all the Old Testament, of the Law and the Prophets. And this is the summary of everything which God wants to tell us, the summary of all the teaching of Jesus. This Golden Rule is not found only in the teaching of Jesus, but also, in one way or other, in all religions. This responds to the most profound and more universal sentiment of the human being.
4) Personal questions
• Ask, seek, and knock on the door: How do you pray and speak with God?
• How do you live the Golden Rule?
5) Concluding prayer: Lord I praise your name for your faithful love and your constancy; your promises surpass even your fame. You heard me on the day when I called, and you gave new strength to my heart. (Ps 138, 2-3)
Spurgeon writes...“The law and the prophets” are here condensed into a single sentence. This is the golden rule, a handy rule, a perpetually-applicable rule, useful in every condition, and it never makes a mistake.
Wonderful condensation of the two tables off the law! God help us to remember it. This is a golden rule, and he that follows that shall lead a golden life.
J C Ryle comments that in... In this part of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 7:12-20) our Lord begins to draw His discourse to a conclusion. The lessons He here enforces on our notice, are broad, general, and full of the deepest wisdom. Let us mark them in succession.
He lays down a general principle for our guidance in all doubtful questions between man and man. We are "to do to others as we would have others do to us." We are not to deal with others as others deal with us. This is mere selfishness and heathenism. We are to deal with others as we would like others to deal with us. This is real Christianity.
This is a golden rule indeed! It does not merely forbid all petty malice and revenge, all cheating and over-reaching. It does much more. It settles a hundred difficult points, which in a world like this are continually arising between man and man. It prevents the necessity of laying down endless little rules for our conduct in specific cases. It sweeps the whole debatable ground with one mighty principle. It shows us a balance and measure, by which every one may see at once what is his duty. Is there a thing we would not like our neighbor to do to us? Then let us always remember, that this is the thing we ought not to do to him. Is there a thing we would like him to do to us? Then this is the very thing we ought to do to him. How many intricate questions would be decided at once, if this rule were honestly used! (J. C. Ryle. Expository Thoughts)
This is what we often hear referred to as "the Golden Rule" (the principle of reciprocity = the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit) which is a summation of Jesus' ethical teaching regarding our treatment of others.
All things, therefore, whatever ye may will that men may be doing to you, so also do to them, for this is the law and the prophets.
The Golden Rule is like a "pocketknife" always ready to be used, even when there is no time to ask for advice. Treat them like you would like to be treated Jesus says! Jesus thus provides a rule we can use in thousands of specific cases to determine what righteousness looks like. Doing to others what we would want them to do to us is what the Law and the Prophets taught. This behavior fulfills them (cf. Mt 5:17). This behavior is the will of God, and Jesus’ disciples should do it.
Jesus had made similar statements earlier in His sermon..."Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you." (Matthew 5:42) "I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:44)
Versions of the “Golden Rule” existed before Christ, in the rabbinic writings and even in Hinduism and Buddhism. All of them cast the rule as a negative command, such as Rabbi Hillel’s version, “What is hateful to yourself do not to someone else.”
Jesus puts this command in the positive, and says that we should do unto others what we want them to do unto us.
Jameison, F, B writes that...“This is the substance of all relative duty; all Scripture in a nutshell.” Incomparable summary! How well called “the royal law!” (Jas 2:8; Ro 13:9). It is true that similar maxims are found floating in the writings of the cultivated Greeks and Romans, and naturally enough in the Rabbinical writings. But so expressed as it is here, in immediate connection with, and as the sum of such duties as has been just enjoined, and such principles as had been before taught, it is to be found nowhere else. And the best commentary upon this fact is, that never till our Lord came down thus to teach did men effectually and widely exemplify it in their practice. The precise sense of the maxim is best referred to common sense. It is not, of course, what, in our wayward, capricious, gasping moods, we should wish that men would do to us, that we are to hold ourselves bound to do to them; but only what, in the exercise of an impartial judgment, and putting ourselves in their place, we consider it reasonable that they should do to us, that we are to do to them.& (Matthew 7)
MacArthur comments that...How we treat others is not to be determined by how we expect them to treat us or by how we think they should treat us, but by how we want them to treat us. Herein is the heart of the principle, an aspect of the general truth that is not found in similar expressions in other religions and philosophies. For many years the basic instrument of music was the harpsichord. As its keys are depressed, a given string is plucked to create the desired note, much as a guitar string is plucked with a pick. But the tone made in that way is not pure, and the mechanism is relatively slow and limiting. Sometime during the last quarter of the eighteenth century, during Beethoven’s lifetime, an unknown musician modified the harpsichord so that the keys activated hammers that struck, rather than plucked, the strings. With that minor change, a major improvement was made that would henceforth radically enhance the entire musical world, giving a grandeur and breadth never before known. That is the sort of revolutionary change Jesus gives in the golden rule. Every other form of this basic principle had been given in purely negative terms, and is found in the literature of almost every major religion and philosophical system... The motivation is basically selfish-refraining from harming others in order that they will not harm us. Those negative forms of the rule are not golden, because they are primarily utilitarian and motivated by fear and self-preservation...
Selfless love does not serve in order to prevent its own harm or to insure its own welfare. It serves for the sake of the one being served, and serves in the way it likes being served-whether it ever receives such service or not. That level of love is the divine level, and can be achieved only by divine help. Only God’s children can have right relations with others, because they possess the motivation and the resource to refrain from self-righteously condemning others and to love in an utterly selfless way. (MacArthur, J: Matthew 1-7 Macarthur New Testament Commentary Chicago: Moody Press)
Therefore (oun) is a term of conclusion, but the question then arises as to what specifically that Jesus has previously discussed is now being concluded in this summary statement. In so doing, Jesus makes the command much broader. It is the difference between not breaking traffic laws and doing something positive like helping a stranded motorist. This especially applies to Christian fellowship. If we would experience love and have people reach out to us, we must love and reach out to others.
Expositor's has a good summary of the possibilities writing that...
The oun ("therefore") might refer to Mt 7-11 (i.e., because God gives good gifts, therefore Jesus' disciples should live by this rule as a function of gratitude) or to Mt 7:1-6 (i.e., instead of judging others, we should treat them as we ourselves would want to be treated).
But more probably it refers to the entire body of the sermon (Mt 5:17-7:12), for here there is a second reference to "the Law and the Prophets"; and this appears to form an envelope with Mt 5:17-20.This is a figure of speech which goes by the Latin term "inclusio" for "inclusion" in which the same phrase ["Law and Prophets"] is repeated at the beginning of Jesus' exposition of what constitutes a surpassing degree of righteousness and again here at the end, which is marked as the end also by the fact that He then proceeds to call for a decision from His hearers in Mt 7:13-14. When this figure is used, it marks what is said as being comprised in one complete circle, thus calling our attention to its solemnity; giving completeness of the statement that is made, or to the truth enumerated, thus marking and emphasizing its importance.
"Therefore," in the light of all I have taught about the true direction in which the OT law points, obey the Golden Rule; for this is (NIV "sums up") the Law and the Prophets (cf. Ro 13:9).
This way of putting it provides a powerful yet flexible maxim that helps us decide moral issues in a thousand cases without the need for multiplied case law. The rule is not arbitrary, without rational support, as in radical humanism; in Jesus' mind its rationale ("for") lies in its connection with revealed truth recorded in "the Law and the Prophets." The rule embraces quantity ("in everything") and quality ("[do] even so"). And in the context of fulfilling the Scriptures, the rule provides a handy summary of the righteousness to be displayed in the kingdom by kingdom citizens. (Gaebelein, F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament. Zondervan Publishing)
McGee feels that...“Therefore” is the most important word in the Golden Rule. It relates the Golden Rule to that which precedes it. That is, it postulates it on prayer. It all comes together in one package. Don’t lift out the Golden Rule and say that you live by it. Understand what the Lord is talking about. Only as we “ask, seek, and knock” are we able to live in the light of the Golden Rule.
This Golden Rule of conduct is not a prerequisite for salvation, for no person (except Christ) could possibly obey it perfectly. Jesus is commanding those who are already citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven to seek to order their personal lives by this standard, which in its essence far surpasses the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees! In other words, the command of Jesus demands a standard of conduct that surpasses what is normally expected, a command that can only be fulfilled by those who possess the gift of God's Spirit. The perfect love of the heavenly Father is most reflected in His children when they treat others as they themselves wish to be treated.
Begin to apply (in the power of the Spirit) the "Golden Rule Test" - Ask yourself whether the action you think is beneficial to others is actually one you would want to receive yourself! Such actions might just change your interactions for the better and for God's glory!
McNeile writes that “The Golden Rule is the distilled essence of that ‘fulfillment’ (that which Jesus described in Mt 5:17 "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.")
"The law and the Prophets" is further explained by Jesus in Matthew 22 when asked..."Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." (Mt 22:36-40)
There is also a negative form of Jesus positive command in the Apocrypha (caveat)...And what you hate, do not do to anyone. Do not drink wine to excess or let drunkenness go with you on your way (Tobit 4:15)
Jesus, in contrast to the Jewish rabbis and the Apocrypha, made it a positive command (present imperative), enriching its meaning going beyond passive restraint to active benevolence. Christianity is not simply a matter of abstinence from sin but is positive goodness in action. This command nicely summarizes the whole gist of the ethical principles contained in the Law and the Prophets and the surpassing righteousness described from Mt 5:22-7:11.
How can we put the Golden Rule into action in our workplace? The story is told of an owner talking with one of his managers about an employee stealing from the firm. The owner, who was a follower of Christ, asked, "What do you think we should do about him?" to which the manager responded "Give him the ax!" The Christian applying Jesus' teaching asked "Suppose he admits his wrongdoing and agrees to pay for what he's stolen? Why don't we let him keep his job? Isn't that how you would want to be treated?" The manager replied "Sure, but that's just not the real world!" Jesus' point is that His disciples are in fact citizens of another world, the Kingdom of Heaven and as such we are committed to follow the King's decrees, which demand integrity, responsibility, and accountability. When they are practiced, employees become more dependable and fulfilled. And when the employer makes the workers' welfare as important as making a profit, more people stay off welfare rolls and out of unemployment lines. Sure believers are living in "the real world" but living in the real world but they are not to follow its rules but the rules which Jesus laid down in the Sermon on the Mount. When we put Christ's righteousness into practice, our light shines and the Father in heaven gets the glory.
Paul had some advice for workers and employers. He urged workers to carry out their duties "as bondservants of Christ...as to the Lord, and not to men" (Eph 6:6, 7-see notes Ep 6:6; 6:7). And he instructed masters not to threaten their servants, reminding them that their Master shows no partiality (Eph 6:9).
What about us? Are we living in the real world by the rules Jesus gave us?
Thinking it through: What principle does the golden rule (Mt. 7:12) give us for serving others? How does it apply in the workplace?
The reward for honest labor is always greater than the wages received.
Our Duty to Others: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” Matthew 7:12
This is a wonderfully comprehensive rule of action. It bids us consider the interests of others as well as our own. It bids us set our neighbor alongside of ourselves, and think of him as having the same rights as we have, and requiring from us the same treatment that we give to ourselves. It gives us a standard by which to test all our motives and all our conduct bearing on others. We are at once in thought to change places with the person toward whom duty is to be determined, and ask, “if he were where I am, and I were where He is, how should I want him to treat me in this case?” the application of this rule would instantly put a stop to all rash, hasty actions; for it commands us to consider our neighbor and question our own heart before doing anything. It would slay all selfishness; for it compels us to regard our neighbor’s interests as precisely equal to our own. It would lead us to honor others; for it puts us and them on the same platform.
The application of this rule would put a stop to all injustice and wrong; for none of us would do injustice or wrong to ourselves, and we are to treat our neighbor as if he were ourselves. It would lead us to seek the highest good of all other men, even the lowliest; for we surely want all men to seek our good. The thorough applying of this Golden Rule would end all conflict between capital and labor; for it would give the employer a deep, loving interest in the men he employs, and lead him to think of their good in all ways. It would also give to every employee a desire for the prosperity of his employer and an interest in his business. It would end all strife in families, in communities, among nations. The perfect working of this rule everywhere would make heaven; for the will of God would then “be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
The doing as we would be done unto, Matt 7:12.
God is graciously pleased on some occasions to take those things which are good in men, for the purpose of illustrating His own ineffable and unbounded goodness. There is scarcely to be found a mother so destitute of feeling as to “forget her sucking child, and not to have compassion on the son of her womb.” ‘Such a monster,’ says God, ‘may be found: “yet will not I forget thee.” ’ So, in the words before the text, we are told, that, “evil” as men are, there exists not a father so cruel as to give his child a stone or a serpent, when importuned by him for the food that is necessary for his subsistence: from whence this inference is made; “How much more shall your heavenly Father give good things unto them that ask him.” Such inferences are just and legitimate to a certain extent: but they must not be pressed too far. We must not presume to argue, as many infidels have done, “that because a benevolent man would not punish his enemy to all eternity, therefore God will not:” for there is no parallel between the cases; nor are God’s actions to be measured by such a standard: his written word will be the rule of his procedure; and all conclusions that contradict that, will prove delusive at the last.
But though we cannot always argue from what man would do to what we may expect from God, we may safely, and in all cases, infer, from the superabundant goodness of God to us, the obligation which lies on us to exercise all possible degrees of kindness to our fellow-creatures. To this thought we are led by the connexion in which our text stands with the preceding verses. The words we have just read to you are an exhortation founded on the preceding representation of the Divine goodness: and certainly the argument is exceeding strong: for, if God in any case condescends to make our good actions a rule of conduct to Himself, much more should we make the unbiased convictions of our own minds the rule of our conduct towards all.
The direction that is here given us is as important as any in the whole sacred volume. We shall endeavor to point out,
I. Its import: It is almost dangerous to attempt an elucidation of so plain a command, lest we only obscure, whilst we endeavor to explain it. But it is obvious that something must be supplied, in order to guard against the misconstructions which a caviler might put upon the words. The fact is, that all people do of themselves supply what is wanting in them, without being conscious that the sense which they affix to the words is the result of their own judgment, and not the strict meaning of the words themselves. There are two limitations which all people do, though unconsciously, assign to the words, and without which they would not be a just rule of conduct to any man: and these are,
1. That we must exchange situations, as it were, with the person towards whom we are about to act. It would be absurd to say, that we must actually conduct ourselves towards all people precisely as we would wish them to act towards us. There are a thousand menial services, which the more opulent part of the community must have done for them, and which it would be folly and madness in them to go and do for others. Besides, there are duties arising out of the very situations we hold; and which are not duties to any, except to persons who are so circumstanced. Those, for instance, who are in authority, as rulers, or parents, or masters, are not called to obey their inferiors, because they desire to be obeyed by them. Were we therefore to construe the command without any limitation, we must break down all the distinctions in society, and set aside all the duties which God himself has connected with them. To prevent this, we must suppose the person to be in our situation, and ourselves in his; and then consider, what we should desire and expect from him. If, for instance, we be in authority, we should ask ourselves what treatment we should desire and expect, if we were in the place of our inferiors; and then we should act with all the kindness and condescension towards them, that we, in a change of circumstances, should expect at their hands.
2. That we must make, not our inclination, but our judgment, the rule of our conduct. It is not sufficient to change places with the person towards whom we are about to act. For, if we put ourselves in the situation of a poor man, we might wish our rich neighbor to divide his property with us: but this is no reason why we should go and act thus: the thing is unreasonable in itself: and, however we might wish it, we should not for a moment think that justice or equity required it. So, if we were to put ourselves in the place of a convicted felon, we might wish the judge not to put the laws in force against us: but that is no reason why we, if sitting in the place of judgment, should not enforce and execute the laws against others. We must not consider so much what we might wish in such circumstances, as what we should, after full and impartial consideration, think right. We should think it right that the judge should investigate our cause with care, and make his decision with equity; and, on the whole, should lean to the side of mercy rather than of severity: but we could never persuade ourselves that felons should be permitted to violate the laws with impunity; because that would render the peaceful members of society a prey to every daring ruffian. It is evident then that we must call in the aid of judgment, and regulate our conduct according to its deliberate and unbiased dictates.
With the help of these two remarks, we shall be in no danger of misinterpreting the rule before us. Indeed these limitations are so obvious, that, as we said before, they are unconsciously supplied even by the most ignorant of mankind: so that we might have waved all mention of them, if it had not been expedient to mark with precision the limits, which, though generally acknowledged, are but indistinctly seen. In a word, the rule is this: We must consider in all cases what we, under a change of circumstances, should think it right for another to do unto us; and that must be the rule of our conduct towards him.
Having thus considered the import of the rule, we proceed to shew,
II. Its excellence: A greater encomium cannot be passed upon it than is in the words before us: “This is the law and the prophets.” But what is implied in this commendation? And what are those particular excellencies which it holds up to our view? It intimates that the rule is eminently distinguished for the following properties:
1. It is concise: “The law and the prophets” constitute a very large volume; to become well acquainted with which in all its parts, requires no little expense, both of time and labor. But, vast as its circumference is, its lines all meet in this rule, as in their common centre. We speak not indeed of the doctrinal part of this volume, but of the preceptive. This limitation, like those before mentioned, is necessarily implied, though not expressed: and, if we do not bear it in mind, we shall pervert this best of principles into an occasion of the most destructive error. “The law and the prophets” have a twofold use; first, to testify of Christ as the ground of our hopes; and next, to state the law as the rule and measure of our duties. To understand the commendation given to this rule as extending to the law and the prophets in the former sense, would annihilate the whole Gospel, and make the death of Christ of no avail. We must therefore understand our Lord as speaking of the law and the prophets only so far as they contain a rule of life. Moreover, when speaking of them expressly in this view, He comprehends the law under two great commandments, The love of God, and The love of our neighbor; and then He adds, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” But it is only to this second commandment that the rule in our text refers; and consequently, when we speak of the rule as comprehending the law and the prophets, we must be considered as limiting our assertion not only to the preceptive part of the law, in opposition to the doctrinal, but to that part of the preceptive code which contains our duty to our neighbor. Let it be remembered, however, that there is not a page of the sacred volume which is not replete with instruction upon this point; and that this short sentence in my text is a summary of the whole.
Now if, on every occasion, we had to search the sacred volume for some precept directly to our point, the opportunities of acting would be passed before we had found such a direction as would be satisfactory to our minds. This would be the case even with those who were most conversant with the sacred writings, and much more with those whose time is almost entirely occupied with temporal concerns. But behold, here is a summary, so short, that it is easily remembered; so simple, that it is easily understood; so suited to all occasions that it is easily applied, by any person, and at any time. Methinks this rule, to a Christian, is like the compass to a mariner. Were the master of a ship destitute of any means of directing his vessel, except those afforded him by the heavenly bodies, he might often be steering a very different course from that which he designed to take: but, by the help of the compass, the most illiterate sailor may know which way to steer: that little portable contrivance will direct him, whether by day or night, whether in a calm or tempest, and that too in every climate under heaven. Precisely thus it is with the Christian: there would be many times and occasions, when, if destitute of this rule, he would not know how to conduct himself aright: but, by the help of this, the most ignorant cannot lose his way: his path in every situation is made plain by it; and the “way-faring man, though a fool, shall not err therein.”
2. It is comprehensive: “The law and the prophets” contain directions proper for every person, in every rank, under every situation and circumstance in which he can possibly be placed. Nor is this rule at all less extensive: it will direct the king on his throne no less than the meanest subject in his dominions. There is not any single act, relating either to justice and equity, or to kindness and charity, or even to common decency and civility, which it does not equally embrace, and for which it does not provide a sufficient directory.
Under the Jewish dispensation, the high-priest had an opportunity of ascertaining the mind and will of God by means of his breast-plate. What the Urim and Thummim was, or how it conveyed information to the high-priest, is not positively known: but that God did make use of it in some way to convey to him the knowledge of His will, is certain: nor was there any subject whereon God would not have given him instruction, if he had sought it in a becoming manner. Now we are repeatedly told in the New Testament, that all true Christians are both “kings and priests unto God:” and one of the most distinguished privileges which, as Christians, we enjoy, is a liberty of access to God, every one of us for ourselves, without the intervention of any human being; and a permission to seek direction from Him on every occasion. And has not God furnished us with the Urim and Thummim? Yes, He has: this very rule He has given us to carry, as it were, upon our breasts, that it may instruct us in every part of our duty. We may say respecting it, as Moses says of the Gospel salvation, “we need not go up to heaven, to bring it down from above, nor descend into the deep, to bring it up from beneath; but the word is nigh us, even in our mouth and in our hearts.” Wherever we are, we need only set ourselves in the presence of God, and, with humble supplications to Him, inspect our own bosoms, to see what light this rule will afford us; and we shall assuredly be guided in the right way. Whether we be rich or poor, learned or unlearned, and whether the subject be more or less important, no difference shall be made: if the point relate to states and kingdoms, or if it concern only the smallest branch of moral duty to an individual, it shall equally be made known to us: and if, after that, we err, the error will not proceed from any defect in the rule itself, but from a want of a more perfect discernment of it, or a more just application of it to the point before us.
3. It is complete: What can be added to “the law and the prophets” to make them more complete? Vain would be the attempt either of men or angels to find in them one single flaw or defect: for whilst they comprehend every species of duty, they supply at the same time every motive for the performance of it: “The word of the Lord is perfect.” The same may be said also of the rule before us. No created wisdom can improve it: no man can find in it anything either superfluous or defective. Its comprehensiveness and conciseness we have before spoken of: and we may now notice, what indeed still more clearly displays its excellence, its singular operation on the human mind, not merely as a light to direct us in the path we should go, but as an incentive to us to walk in it.
The mode in which this rule operates upon us is this: it takes the most corrupt principle of the human heart, even that root of bitterness from whence every species of injustice springs; it suspends all the operations of that principle on the side of evil, and constrains it to become a powerful advocate of virtue. Selfishness is the real source of all those evils and calamities which men bring on each other. It is to this principle that we must trace the wars of contending nations, the discord of families, the injustice, the fraud, and all the other evils that are found in the transactions of individuals. From this principle it is that, men are universally disposed to expect too much, and to concede too little. Now this rule, requiring us to put ourselves in the place of him towards whom we are about to act, cuts off at once all scope for the exercise of this principle in our own cause, and enlists it into the service of our neighbor: thereby inclining us as much to favor him, as it would otherwise have inclined us to benefit ourselves: at the same time it marks so strongly the reasonableness of true benevolence, as makes us abhor the thought of acting in opposition to it. Whilst this rule operates thus as a stimulus to virtue, a consciousness of having acted agreeably to it is one of the richest rewards that man can enjoy on earth: if a man fail of accomplishing his benevolent purposes, he has a recompense in his own bosom from a sense that he has acted right himself: and, if he attain his end, he has double recompense, the testimony of a good conscience, and the joy of seeing that he has not labored in vain. Say then, whether this be not justly called the golden rule? Surely, whether we consider the mode of its operation, or its peculiar efficacy, or the delight that invariably proceeds from conforming to it, its value is inestimable: nor can any terms be too strong in commendation of it.
From this subject we may learn,
1. The scope and intent of true religion: It is surprising what a jealousy prevails in the minds of men with respect to this. Talk of religion, and especially of Christ, and of “the righteousness which is of God by faith in Him, unto all, and upon all them that believe;” and a doubt immediately arises, whether you are not an enemy to good works: this is declared to be the proper tendency of such sentiments; and all manner of stories are raked together to countenance the idea. As for those who deny that “the law and the prophets” testify of Christ, and point Him out as the only source of “righteousness and strength,” we shall leave them to settle the matter with the Apostle Paul, and with the standard writings of the established Church. We shall at present notice those only who are so fearful about the interests of morality. Now we assert, that, however strongly the doctrine of justification by faith be maintained from “the law and the prophets,” no man that pays the smallest deference to their testimony can fail to insist upon good works. When we read in one part, that “the love of God and of our neighbor are the two great commandments, on which hang all the law and the prophets;” and in another part, that “the doing as we would be done unto, is (in substance) “the law and the prophets;” we are amazed that any human being should be found, who denies the necessity of good works; or that people should be so credulous as to impute this sentiment to all who embrace the doctrine of salvation through a crucified Redeemer.
Let the matter be investigated: let it be seen whether Paul was an enemy to good works; whether the great body of our English Reformers were enemies to good works: let us examine the writings of those who now uphold the same doctrine, and see whether they neglect to inculcate and encourage good works. Truly, if people were not blinded by prejudice, they would see that one half at least of the obloquy that falls upon those who are contemptuously called Evangelical, is on account of the strictness of their lives and the holiness of their deportment. But, waving all these considerations, this at least is plain, that, whatever fault there may be in any set of men, “the law and the prophets” stand unimpeached: they, with one voice, require submission to the golden rule, and make the practice of that to be an indispensable test of men’s regard for their testimony. Let this then sink down into our ears; let it be remembered, that the very Scriptures, which inculcate most forcibly the doctrine of salvation by faith in Christ, inculcate also a most exalted morality. The Gospel never did, nor ever will, bring any person to salvation in the way of sin; it is in the way of holiness only and of a very exalted degree of holiness too, that any man can attain the salvation of the Gospel. Not that holiness will save him; it is the blood and righteousness of Christ that saves him: nevertheless it is an universal and unalterable truth, that “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” May God write that truth on the hearts of such as disregard good works, and especially on the hearts of all who set themselves against the doctrines of salvation through unfounded prejudices against them, as being of a licentious tendency!
2. The effect and benefit of true religion: This is not to be looked for in the professions, but in the practices of men; yet not in the practice of some easy duties, such as those of generosity and kindness, but in an universal and habitual attention to the rule before us. Where Christian principles have their full operation on the mind, there this rule will be established in the heart, and be exhibited in the life. Take the conduct of the early converts to Christianity; and there you will see the precise change of which we are speaking: and their situations being peculiar, they carried the principle to the extent of selling all their possessions for the support of their poorer brethren. A still more wonderful instance we see in the Apostle Paul, who, from the time of his conversion to Christianity, was willing to do or suffer any thing whereby he might facilitate the progress of the Gospel in the world. Knowing the advantages which, as a Christian, he enjoyed, he was willing even to lay down his own life, if by so doing he might bring others to a participation of them. The same change is still accomplished in the world; only it is less visible; the circumstances of the Church not calling for such a manifest display of it, and the measure of divine grace now enjoyed by the saints being, it is to be feared, more scanty than at that period.
But can anyone see the effects of religion, even as it is now exhibited, and not confess its excellence? Wherever it prevails, it establishes both in the heart and life this amiable principle: it brings men to do as they would be done unto. Suppose for a moment that one single man, the present disturber of the universe, were impressed aright by the Gospel of Christ, and brought under the influence of this principle, how many thousands and even millions of the human race would have reason to rejoice! And, if that principle were universally prevalent, what happiness would pervade the world! Such then is the effect, and such the benefit of true religion. It only remains that we urge you all to cultivate this principle. Let it not be said of any of you, ‘He talks of faith in Christ, but he is covetous, dishonest, passionate, and vindictive.’ Let love reign in your hearts; and whilst you profess yourselves to be “trees of righteousness, of the Lord’s planting,” let the “tree be known by its fruit.”
Our day bears witness to excessive misunderstanding about what it means to be a Christian. So much called "Christian" lacks resemblance to the explanations given by Jesus Christ and the Apostles. Jesus warned of those whose level of Christian confession would be so shallow that whatever joy appeared at first would vanish when the intensity of the gospel brought on affliction or persecution. Others, Jesus warned, would try accompanying their Christian confession with desire for the world's approval and the heaping up of material things, only to see the gospel never bear fruit of true conversion in their lives. Yet most of them continue to consider themselves Christians in spite of our Lord's statements to the contrary (see Matthew 13).
It is so easy to presume that most that make a Christian confession are indeed Christians. According to pollsters, three-fourths of our population call themselves Christian. But where are they? Where is the influence upon the morals of our society? Where is the transformation in governmental and judicial practices? Where is the Christian work ethic in the workplace or integrity in business practices? Where is the mind that rejects worldliness, and is characterized by profound generosity and service toward others? While we rejoice in the believers that are making a difference in moral and political issues, and that are diligent and honest in the workplace, and that live with a passion for generosity and service, we also know that proportionately there's not much of this in our nation.
We cannot ignore what Jesus is doing in the Sermon on the Mount. He is not giving nice suggestions for how to live, but instead, He sets forth the character and practice of kingdom citizens. He does not describe an optional lifestyle. Rather, Jesus Christ draws a bold line between mere profession and kingdom citizenship.
We are not suggesting that following the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount are easy or even automatic. Any honest interpretation of the Sermon admits to be, apart from God's grace, the most difficult demands in the Word of God. But our Lord does not hesitate to set forth the highest standards for kingdom citizens. What is impossible for those outside of Christ, He demands for kingdom citizens. And there is one clear reason why He does make such demands. Kingdom citizens are given grace to live as those who know the King. That is the difference between those of the world, those that merely make Christian confessions, and those that are born of God, kingdom citizens. It is not that kingdom citizens are better than others or more intelligent or possess greater willpower. Instead, it is a matter of grace alone. How is the grace of God displayed in kingdom citizens? Consider the way our Lord narrows this down to prayer and practice in our text. Without prayer as our Lord explains it, and without the kind of practice that He demands, the Sermon on the Mount will be the most frustrating teaching to us in all of Scripture. But if we see what Jesus explains in our text, and look to the grace of God, we will have the foundation for kingdom living.
I. Prayer: looking persistently toward the Father: Prayer is not a new subject in the Sermon on the Mount. We have already considered Christ's instructions on secret prayer instead of praying to be noticed by men, and the practice of relational prayer instead of meaningless repetition. We also looked at the pattern that Christ gave us in the Lord's Prayer. There we are taught to set as priority in our praying the honor of our God and His rule to be extended to the ends of the earth. We are also told to express our dependence upon the Lord for daily bread, forgiveness, and deliverance from temptation.
With all of that instruction on prayer why is there the seeming intrusion in the middle of an explanation of judgment about prayer? Our text is a summation of the kingdom righteousness already explained in 5:20-7:6. We considered in earlier studies that this rather large section is a parenthetical explanation of kingdom righteousness, a concise description of the character, ambition, and behavior of those in covenant with God through Christ. Now Christ brings this to a point of application. How do you live like a kingdom citizen? He commands that we ask, seek, and knock - i.e., that we look persistently to the Father for grace in every demand upon our lives as kingdom citizens. And in relationship to others, He explains that the essence of the teaching of the Law and the Prophets is treating others in the same gracious and earnest way you desire to be treated as a kingdom citizen.
Let us first focus upon the call to prayer or what we might describe as looking persistently to the Father to supply the grace needed to live like kingdom citizens.
1. Persistence in prayer: How often have we heard the command of verse 7 to be a carte blanche confirmation to ask God for anything we desire? It seems that this is most often the application of the well-known asking, seeking, knocking command of prayer. But this is an improper use of this prayer. In this Sermon we do not have a string of random thoughts and sayings of Jesus collated by Matthew into a single literary format, which would legitimize carte blanche use of this command. Instead we have a consistent picture of the character and demands upon kingdom citizens. The command to pray in verse 7 has everything to do with fulfilling kingdom demands.
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." To begin with, each of the imperative verbs is in the present tense, showing a call for persistency. The same is true in verse 8: "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." So the idea conveyed is "ask and keep asking, seek and keep seeking, knock and keep knocking." He is calling for a lifestyle of persistent prayer. That stands in sharp contrast to the flash-in-the-pan style of Christianity so popular in our day that calls for nothing but a profession (and maybe baptism) and lacks perseverance. Kingdom citizens persist in desiring that the character, ambitions, attitudes, and behavior that Jesus called for be shown consistently in our lives.
Yet we realize how impossible this is given our weaknesses, our propensity for sin, and our lack of power to obey (we have not forgotten the first Beatitude - "blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"). So our Lord tells us to call upon the God of the impossible! In other words, what Jesus has commanded in attitude, ambition, behavior, and deed cannot be done apart from persistent, ongoing, regular, faithful prayer. You can attend dozens of seminars on Christian living, participate in discipleship groups, and read all the good books on the subject including the Puritans. But if you are not regular in praying about your own spiritual needs and development, and persistently looking to the Lord for grace to follow Christ, then you will be sorely lacking in the practice of kingdom citizenship. Persistent prayer does at least three things in our lives.
First, it reminds us of our weakness apart from God's grace. If we ever get away from this we are destined for a great fall. "Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall" (I Cor 10:12 - and that stated in the context of temptation). We are reminded of our inadequacies in the face of Christ's demands. We think upon the desperate condition of our hearts, and our helplessness to stand against the "schemes of the devil" that are daily aimed our way (Eph 6:11). As we are honest before the Lord we come face to face with our sinfulness, and desperate need for the gospel to be daily applied to our lives.
Second, it reminds us to look to God as our Father. Perhaps nothing is more lacking in our lives than this very thing. We know the confessions, creeds, and hymns that affirm that God is our Father. But do we look to Him persistently as our Father that loves and cherishes us? Martyn Lloyd-Jones commented, "If you should ask me to state in one phrase what I regard as the greatest defect in most Christian lives I would say that it is our failure to know God as our Father as we should know Him". And the most prominent reason for this defect is our neglect and inconsistency in prayer. In effect, by neglecting prayer, we treat God as a casual friend and not as "Our Father who is in heaven" (6:9). Yet the Father promises to "give what is good to those who ask Him!"
Third, it disciplines and humbles us to receive the Father's gracious provisions so that we might live as kingdom citizens. We are affected by dispositions of heart and the influences around us. So often we think that we have the "stuff" to do whatever God commands if we make our mind up to do it. And so we get a bit cocky and arrogant, while growing in self-centeredness as the natural course of human existence. We are also influenced by what we see and hear in the world to be selfish. But prayer brings us back to reality: we are inadequate in ourselves to live the Christian life apart from God's grace. So we ask and go on asking, seek and go on seeking, and knock and go on knocking so that we might receive from the Father what we need to live like kingdom citizens. And in persistent prayer the Lord develops in us a dependency and submission to Him.
2. Faith in God's promises: Having called for persistence in prayer, many in our day object to the need for prayer. They comment on how much better educated we are in our day than in the first century. We are not shackled by the superstitions and illiteracy of the first century. We have great abilities and boundless energy to accomplish whatever we desire; and prayer is just not needed to do this. Others would object to prayer by saying that prayer does not work or that it does not do any good, it is only the practice of the feeble and weak minded.
On the contrary, Jesus assures us that persistent praying will receive from God's promises. "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." The commands of asking, seeking, and knocking are synonyms that highlight the need for persistency in prayer. Rather than creating different categories of prayer, they seem to show the growing intensity that develops when kingdom citizens persist in prayer. We ask for God's provisions. We seek to discover those provisions, keeping alert to what the Father is doing in our midst. We knock to have the storehouse doors opened wide that God's rich grace might be ours in abundance for the need at hand. The promise is sure. Asking results in receiving. Seeking ends in finding. Knocking assuredly finds the way to God's provision opened.
"But," someone objects, "I do not believe that God will answer my prayers; so why bother?" Instead, it is only as you pray persistently that you will believe the Father to provide what you need. You are not going to develop great faith in God's promises by your silence at the throne of grace. Pray whether you feel like it or not. Pray until you do feel like praying! The longer you persist in your own sinful self-dependence the less you will believe the Father to provide what you need to live like a kingdom citizen. Study the character of God as Father. Consider the biblical teaching of redemption and adoption. Meditate upon what it means that, "you are no longer a slave but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God" (Gal 4:7). Ponder how the witness of the Holy Spirit testifies to your own spirit that you are a child of God, and "if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ," as Paul expressed it (Rom 8:16-17). So, in light of this, ask and keep asking, seek and keep seeking, knock and keep knocking, for in so doing you will discover a welcome place before the Father whose promises are sure.
3. Certainty of the Father's response: To help us understand the certainty of the Father's response, our Lord uses a very realistic illustration comparing the lesser to the greater (the rhetorical device known as a fortiori). "Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?" As with the two previous paragraphs, our Lord uses a somewhat humorous picture to illustrate a truth. A boy goes to his father complaining that he is hungry. The father does not say, "Here's a stone that looks good enough to eat, go ahead and have this for a snack." Or "I'm fresh out of fish but I have a good snake for you to eat." The use of the negative expects a "no" answer to both questions. Then Christ gives the application. "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!"
Jesus affirms His own sinlessness by indicating that "you...being evil," not "we...being evil," "know how to give good gifts to your children." Even without sinlessness and perfection - even being evil, a father knows how to treat his children that are in need. He will not give a stone for bread or a snake for a fish when his child is hungry. Can we dare to think less of the heavenly Father than we do our own fathers? At the root of our being is evil yet there is enough vestige of the image of God in man that even evil men know how to give good gifts to their children. Can the Father do less than evil men? Do we think that His character is less honorable than our earthly fathers, or His powers less capable, or His resources less sufficient? So much of the problem of persistent, believing prayer is found right here: we have a low view of God as Father.
Again someone may object, "But God didn't give me what I wanted." Jesus tells us that the Father will "much more... give what is good to those who ask Him." Do we believe this? The fact is if you are honest about your own prayer life, there are many things that you have later been glad that God did not give you when you prayed for them! He knows how and when to give what is good for our lives. Or have we become so enamored with our selfish desires to the neglect of the "good" gifts of the kind of spiritual life described in the Sermon that we think little of God's response to our prayers? The "good" that Jesus speaks of points right back to the details of what He has demanded of kingdom citizens. Whatever we need to be faithful to Him, whether strength, wisdom, power, energy, ability, encouragement, or a thousand more things, He will give to us if we ask with the desire to live as kingdom citizens.
Consider the parent/child relationship. Do our own children understand us when we respond to their requests in ways they did not desire or plan? That is where the child learning to trust the wisdom, love, and experience of parents tests the relationship. How much more do we inwardly complain or become angry with God or embittered because our selfish desires have gone unfulfilled? What great problems have resulted in family relations when the child rebels against trusting his parents' wise and loving actions. This is a microcosm and example of even greater problems in our relationship to God the Father. The parent/child relationship is often fertile training ground to discipline and hone our desires, attitudes, and ambitions so that we learn to trust ultimately in the heavenly Father. Do you fail to trust God as your Father? He is no ogre - He cannot be. He is no tyrant or sadist or deceiver or malicious deity, those are impossibilities.
Persistent praying, in essence, teaches us about ourselves, our helplessness, weakness, inadequacy, and need for dependence upon the Father. And it teaches us about God as Father, who is ever faithful, loving, caring, and compassionate toward His children, and who knows how to "give what is good to those who ask Him." So ask Him!
II. Practice: living conscientiously toward others: Prayer leads to practice. By this we do not mean practicing prayer, but the practice of living conscientiously toward others. Much of the Sermon on the Mount is about this very matter of how kingdom citizens are to live in relationship to others. We are to pray so that we might know the supply of grace necessary to live in right relationship to others. What our Lord does in verse 12 - known as "the Golden Rule" - is to summarize everything that He has demanded of kingdom citizens in relationships into one, pithy statement, "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets." "Therefore," shows that it draws into a summary the great principles that Jesus has established for kingdom citizens.
1. Principle of the Golden Rule: In principle the Golden Rule seems so simple. Many religions have a similar command but all of them approach it from the negative point of view: don't do to others what you don't want them to do to you. That is good, common sense. But Jesus takes a different position. He is not trying to stop certain actions from taking place. He is instead commanding positive action toward others: "treat people the same way you want them to treat you."
What was Jesus implying by His commands regarding anger, adultery, divorce, vows, vengeance, loving our enemies, and judging others? As a kingdom citizen, go on the offensive by treating people in the way that you want to be treated. With the same graciousness, kindness, integrity in relationship, generosity, gentleness that you want to be treated, you treat others. The Golden Rule cannot be fulfilled only by the negative refraining from bad behavior toward others. Some may congratulate themselves that they do not do bad things to others, but it demands more. It demands the sort of positive behavior that Jesus has called for in forgiving others, moral purity toward others, honesty toward others, generosity toward others, loving others, and helping others in dealing with sin only after first dealing with your own sin.
2. Problem in fulfilling the Golden Rule: It seems quite obvious that if everyone practiced this command that literally overnight every national and international problem would be solved. There would be no fighting between relatives or nations. There would be no Internet pornography or gambling rings or terrorists or abortions or nuclear threats. Corporate greed would stop. Dishonesty in business practices would stop too. Some have recognized this so much that they have claimed the Golden Rule to be the whole essence of religion and life. They spend their time trying to get people to follow the Golden Rule. Men say, "Fine, I'm glad for you to practice the Golden Rule toward me. But I feel no obligation to do the same toward you."
The problem with this mentality is that the Golden Rule is not a blanket principle for the world. It is a summation of the attitude, ambition, and behavior of kingdom citizens toward everyone in the world. It is not for the world but for those that are in Christ. As a matter of fact, those outside of Christ do not have the power to follow the Golden Rule. Their hearts are still in darkness. They are self-centered, and bent on following their own desires. That is why the command to pray persistently to the Father precedes the Golden Rule; for it is only as the Father enables us that we have the grace needed to treat others in the way that we desire to be treated.
Maybe the Golden Rule frustrates us by our inability to practice it. Instead of it being a blessing to us it appears to be a curse, revealing our sin. As a matter of fact, we probably hate this law and despise it because the inward motive of our heart is bent on self-centered preservation of our own desires. We must have the inward change of heart that comes through faith in Christ if we are to follow this command. The cross precedes the Golden Rule in practice.
3. Practical issues of the Golden Rule: Notice that our Lord considers that the Golden Rule is applicable "in everything." In other words, it is to be a constant reminder in every setting we face, in every relationship, in every demand upon us that we are to "treat people in the same way you want them to treat you." Do you do this? Let's consider for a moment what Christ means. How do you want to be treated? Do you want people to be kind to you? Do you want them to be honest with you? Do you want them to be considerate of you? Do you want them to forgive you when you wrong them? What are the things that distress you or grieve you or disturb your thoughts? Do you want others to refrain from those actions toward you? Jesus is commanding us to consider these things, and then to take positive action to live in that very way toward others.
Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was. He stated that the first great commandment is to love the Lord God with one's heart, soul, mind, and strength, and then He declared, "The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'." And then He adds, "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets," or as He put it in our text, "for this is the Law and the Prophets" (Matt 22:39-40). To love God demands positive action on our part. In the same way, loving others means, "you are to be interested in your neighbor (sic), you are to love him, and to desire to help him, and to be concerned about his happiness," writes Lloyd-Jones. "The object of the law is to bring us to that" . So to live like a kingdom citizen does not mean that you just avoid doing bad things to others. It means, instead, that you seek the other person's good, you seek to find ways to serve him, you seek to do those things that will bring the other person to genuine happiness, you seek to treat him just as would Christ. We live like kingdom citizens only when we do this.
The kind of praying and practice that Jesus calls for comes only by the grace of God shown abundantly to those that know Jesus Christ. Grace to sustain and enable us comes as we seek to be persistent in prayer and conscientious in the practice of kingdom living.
We are challenged to devote ourselves to prayer every day. Determine even now to set aside time to pray about kingdom issues and to pray about your own faithfulness as a kingdom citizen. Pray for your fellow kingdom citizens
Treat people the way that you want to be treated. That is not complicated. But the biggest obstacle to doing this is becoming self-absorbed to the neglect of others. Let's repent of this, and demonstrate our love for Christ by the way we treat others.
The strength and courage to be a better leader. Most of the time I know the direction and path that is the best but I sometimes need the confidence to make it happen.
That I may know Him better
God being a generous giver I would ask the Lord to send the Holy Spirit upon me and give me strength, courage, wisdom, patience, understanding and guide and guard and protect me always and that the Holy Spirit may never allow me to displease God the Father
I will ask God to fill me daily with His Spirit, to fill me with His Love, to guide me and lead me, to give strength to carry me through this life}}
When I need anything first I will open Bible the word of God what he will speak with me through Bible then I will pray according His time He will give to me sometimes immediately we will receive sometime it will take time but God will give everything.
I have always prayed for the well being of my family. It’s the most important thing to me aside from my relationship with God. All my prayers are always prayers on behalf of my family, their needs, their cares, their sickness and pains, their plans and endeavors. That all is well with us of my family always, with God's grace. Now, I have a special prayer for my grandson, Christian Jeremy. He is actually the first son of my sister's daughter. He is only 17 days old, born by caesarian, still in the hospital till now coz he was born of a congenital defect. HIs digestive system, specifically the colon part, didn’t develop fully. I pray that God will grant him His miracle healing and touch him and heal him, without any need for any surgery and further tests. He's been thru a lot at a very early age. God, please hear our prayers, in the most mighty name of Jesus, with the Holy Spirit. Amen!!! And thank you so much Lord God! Thanks so much for everything. Praise and glory to you!
I will continue to ask God for his Holy Spirit to be our helper, giver, speaker and controller over our life in all situation and occasions. His divine breakthrough, blessings, favors, success, miracles, long life and prosperity should be with me and my family.
I should continue to ask for the LORD to fill me up with the Holy Spirit and to be led by the spirit in all situations and occasions. By doing this, it will help me to avoid temptation, sin and all things that are directly opposed to the FATHER and all things good.
That He forgive me my sin that i can go to heaven
I would personally ask Him to guide me always to the path of righteousness, so that I will obey His teachings and put them into practice in my day to day life, so that I find a place in eternal life.
I will ask Him for the grace to please Him the more all my life. The Bible says seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all other things shall be added to you. I know if I am able to please my Savior, I will not lack for anything in life be it money, health, prosperity, anything. He is the giver of all things and I know that He cannot watch His precious child suffer any want.
I would ask him to provide me a good life partner. And also ask lord to use me for his works and provide me a strong spiritual life.
I want Him to grant me $ 350,000 US Dollars so that we complete our church building, the wall of the church is standing for almost five years without roof, I asking God to providing us with money in Jesus name Amen.
I am asking for the Holy Spirit and the gifts He brings because He promises that the Holy Spirit will instruct us and announce to us about the future.
I'll ask God to mend our broken marriage, open our hearts, ears and eyes so that we could carry out His will on earth as it is in heaven.
This is a very honest question I have been waiting for long time. I think the prophet Matthew on this verse he was hoping that it will happen but, to my knowledge of asking the mighty for financial solution since I was a child until today it is so difficult for him to give me. I find God not generous giver when it comes to money. And that is the most thing I have been asking for. I have been asking a question when I pray to God and say “it is a sin to ask for money in prayers" What can I do without money in this living life.
Very often I ask God for strength my belief and to have more faith
To be written in the book of life and wisdom to do his will.
There is nothing I should be asking God for. Dying on the cross was more than enough. Giving His life up for me was more than I deserved. The only requests I make are on behalf of other people.
Understanding of His word. So I may be the child that he would want to bestow His Love and Kindness on. An obedient and respectful child of God.
I am asking God for me to walk closer to Him and for my three sons to follow Him also. He has blessed me in many ways, not really financially for that is not lasting, but with love and I love Him. Blessings.
I want that God always give to me the Holy Spirit to be my guide to always follow what He want to me to do in my life. Blessings
When asking from a generous giver, you are free to say what you want, l want to thank God because He gives us the freedom to ask everything in Jesus' name always ask God to give me wisdom to know what is good and what is wrong, to love His people as He loves me coz when you have love you produce all the fruits of the holy spirit., and for protection from evil spirits.
I’ll ask God for forgiveness for all my sins that I unconsciously and consciously committed. Also good health and peace of mind.........
To be closer to GOD, to know HIM and the way of light, then wisdom and courage to implement HIS teachings
I do ask God to give me wisdom and faith in Him so as to understand His will and I become what He wants me to be...
For greater faith, and a closer relationship with Him. Of course, health, happiness and family unity.
I should be asking God for forgiveness and strength. God knows that what I need right now is not anything that the earth has to offer but what He has already given me that I was to blind to see. Peace be with you.
I should be asking him for restoration. I am a recovering addict. I lost everything somewhere along the way. A beautiful angelic voice that he gave to me and I didn't use it to glorify him-I want another chance to do that. I lost all materialistic possessions, and I want to live comfortably the rest of my time here. I want to be blessed, so that I may bless others. More importantly, I want to Lord to continue to work on me-my attitude, temper, anger, my mouth, my heart, and any other thing I possess that’s not of him.
I will ask for more days of my life. But how can I forget to ask him to sort out my financial problems as there are claiming high mountains and not even coming down even as a little.