My men’s Bible study yesterday covered Matthew 7 as we finished up the Sermon on the Mount. We particularly focused in on these verses:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8, NASB
These verses are often quoted to justify asking what we want from God, or at least, what we think we need from Him. However, when we use these verses like that, we are misusing them, because we are ignoring the context. If we take a look at the verses before and after, we get a totally different picture. First, the before:
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged.For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” – Matthew 7:1-6, NASB
And the after:
“For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 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? 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!
“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
– Matthew 7:8-12, NASB
These verse give a lot of context to verses 7 and 8. First, Jesus is talking about how we treat others. Verses 1-2 are often misused, but that’s a devotional for another time. But note verse 6. Jesus is talking about our relationships and how we handle the things which are holy and sacred. It’s interesting He gives us a warning about how we judge in verses 1-5. And then he puts forth that we need to judge carefully, for we must protect what is holy from those who would use it wrongly or defile it. If you think about verse 6, you’ll see what I mean. How do you determine if a person fits what is meant by dog or swine (someone who is evil and rejects the ways of God – meaning they are unclean)? You have to judge them by their actions and their fruit (see verses 15-23). It’s all about the heart: having a right heart as we make these judgment calls. In other words, making decisions in a holy and righteous way.
Then we see what follows. Jesus is revealing that God the Father only gives what is good when He is asked. If we, who are sinful and whose hearts are filled with evil, know and do give good things, why would we assume the Father would do any differently? In fact, He is going to make our giving look rotten and stingy. He is going to give us what we need. He is going to provide for us out of His holiness and righteousness. And that means the gifts and blessings He gives us our holy and righteous.
That’s the context in which we find verses 7 and 8. They are surrounded by verses which point to God’s holiness and righteousness and His expectations of holiness and righteousness. When we ask for things out of a sense of holiness and righteousness, when we seek God’s holiness and righteousness, we will be answered and we will find what we’re looking for. Asking for that fancy new car? God’s not likely to answer that in a positive way. But what if we are hungering and thirsting for His righteousness? We will be satisfied (see Matthew 5:6). It reminds me of the song Take My Life. Here are some of the words:
Holiness, holiness is what I long for
Holiness is what I need
Holiness, holiness is what You want from me
Righteousness, righteousness is what I long for
Righteousness is what I need
Righteousness, righteousness is what You want from me
What do you long for? What are you asking of God? If it’s holiness and righteousness, look no farther than verses Matthew 7:7-8. Those verses are a promise you can count on God to deliver to you.