The passage we are going to talk about this week has a lot to teach us and while I want us to focus primarially on one aspect I don’t want us to ignore its other applications to our lives. As always when studying scripture, it is important to consider context, and that is seldom more true than when considering Matthew 7:7-12. In order for us to keep what I consider to be the primary thrust of the passage in mind, we are going to start at the end of the passage and work our way forward.
As we have discussed before, the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ description of the Kingdom of God, and a discussion of the nature and actions of its Citizens as compared to the Religious Establishment of the Day and the people of whom it was comprised. As such, it was also an explication of the Law by its author. Matthew 7:12, which we will examine first, is the summary statement of that explication. And what is Jesus summary of the Law and the Prophets? Treat others as you would be treated.
This seemingly simple statement is, we all know, neither simple or easy. Our natural desire is to satisfy ourselves, to make sure we get what we deserve and want. As the Golden Oldie says, “You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.” How does our desire for self satisfaction work itself out in our lives? How does that model for living compare with Jesus’ description of the Kingdom of Heaven and its citizens? How is it even possible for us to live the way Jesus describes, doing to others what we would wish for ourselves?
The answer to that last question is found in the preceeding verses. Verse 12 begins with a “So” or a “Therefore” which means that Verse 12 is a conclusion based on what has come before. And what came before was the “Ask, Seek, Knock” passage. In those verses Jesus reminds us of what he told us in Matthew 6:25-38. God will take care of us, it is in his very nature as our Father to care for us if we ask him to.
He reminds us that even though we are evil we wish to do well by our childeren and He asks how much more a holy, loving and pure God might wish to do well for His children. But for what reason, to what purpose does God wish to take care of us?
One group of reasons why he wishes to care for us is found in Matthew 6:25-38. He takes care of us because he is our creator and he loves his creation and he takes care of us because he wishes us to be in relationship with him. He gives us what we need to live and be in relationship with him because it pleases him. But there are two more reasons he cares for us. One explicit in the text, and the second implicit.
The explicit reason is because we are His children and he is our Father. The implicit reason and the one more to the point of the Sermon, is so that we can do to others what we would have done for us. I’m not quite sure that its as simple as “God cares for us so that we can care for others” but I think it may be something close to that.
Consider the following verses:
1 John 3:22, “Whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.”
1 John 5:14, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
James 4:3 tells us, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
1 John tells us that when we ask we recieve when we ask according to his will and do the things that are pleasing to God. What is God’s will, what is pleasing in his sight, particularly in the context of the connection between Matthew 7:12 and the immediately preceeding verses? What would we be asking for if we were asking according to his will?
Of course James chimes in and tells us bluntly and directly that we are looking for God to take care of our pleasures when God has other business in mind. What do these verses suggest we ought to be asking, seeking and knocking for?
Those who are God’s children are saved. They are saved from Hell to eternal life and Jesus is clear that their needs are known and they will be cared for in this life. But we are not saved for ourselves alone, we are saved to God’s purposes, to build his Kingdom in this world. And the way his Kingdom begins to be built is treating others as we would be treated, even in what we ask and seek from God.