I certainly have not received everything I have ever asked for. Sometimes that has been a good thing, especially when my mother used to say, “You’re asking for it kid!”
What about the times, when I sincerely, politely, humbly, even altruistically, asked for something and still did not receive it. What was the deal there?
Have I not received it “yet“? Is it a case of timing or delayed gratification?
Have I received it in some other form I am unable or unwilling to recognise?
Perhaps the premise or the promise is flawed. Merely a delusional distraction of some kind?
What on earth was Jesus going on about when he said, “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” in Matthew 7:8?
I read it again the other day and it jumped out as a dogmatic statement. When I flicked back a couple of pages I noticed that “asking” and “seeking” featured regularly in the section of scripture, commonly referred to in Matthews Gospel as the ‘Sermon on the Mount’, where this verse is found.
At the start of the Sermon, Jesus said,
“”Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and
“”Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” – Matthew 5:3,6
If, as seems to be the case, he is using a poetical form of rhetoric to make his point, this would show that those who are the poor, the impoverished, the ones who lack in some way, thus their hunger and thirst, are the ones who will be on the receiving end of God’s grace, mercy and generosity. There is a sense in which they do not need to ask or seek because they will be pre-emptively supplied by God in some way.
This seems to be reenforced in Matthew 6:8, where Jesus said,
“your Father knows what you need before you ask him”.
However he then goes on to teach the Lord’s Prayer, which has a series of requests in which the petitioner first asks for God’s kingdom.
Later in Matthew 6:33, he tells them to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you”. Previously when I’ve read that verse, I took it as a sort of reassurance that Jesus was referring to my temporal comforts. i.e. there was some sort of theistic bargain taking place. If I “seek” his kingdom, I will taken care of in the food and clothing department, ignoring the full context of the sermon.
The verbs and participles in Matthew 7:8 are all in the present tense (except for “will be opened”), so it could be read as;
“For all those who are asking are receiving and all those seeking are finding and to all those knocking it will be opened”
Putting this together with the preëmptive statements in Chapter 5 and 6 and the imperatives of the Lord’s Prayer (“pray like this…”) and Matthew 6:33 (“seek first the kingdom…”) God is using the means of prayer (asking, seeking, knocking) to carry out his goal of giving us his kingdom, his righteousness etc. It is not a case of bargaining; “If you bow down and worship me then I will give you these riches” – that offer came from someone else. Instead it is more the sense of; “God is giving you new life, and a new world view, as you worship him, apart from self interest, self justification, self vindication, and realise your own radical spiritual depravity.”
This is the only way “your righteousness exceeds that of (the self-appointed religious élite of their day) the scribes and pharisees.” When it is derived, or better understood as, received from God through Jesus. The difference between the first century application and today is merely context and politics. Then it was nominally religious posturing in defiance of an incumbent foreign government to look more self righteous before ones peers. Today, the posturing still happens, but its in the form of token environmental salvage or political endorsement of a minority whim both of which are fashioned to appear as gracious and tolerant and yet, like the scribes and pharisees of old, is dresses up in elaborate, eloquent, scolding arrogance towards any who buck the trend.
It may be said of them, as it was of me in my belligerence, “they’re asking for it.” Jesus assures them, they’ll “get it.” We all will. The question is not, are you getting what you asked for, but, what are you asking for?
What are you asking for?