Pearls, Praying, and Parenting

Matthew 7:6-11

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.  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 the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are 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!

This is a difficult section of Scripture, and I needed to use a commentary and the notes in my Bible to make sure I was understanding the meaning of them.  Verse 6 comes on the heels of Jesus talking about judgement of others.  While we are not to judge those we preach the gospel message to, we must be wary if people are not responding to it over a long period of time.  The pearls represent the message of salvation through Jesus, and if people are rejecting the gospel and threatening us if we continue to preach it, we must use caution. I believe what Jesus is trying to get us avoid as Christians is preaching to people who will never want to hear what we have to say.  And there are such people.  We are still to love those people, and treat them with respect, but we must also be wise and recognize that there is a great deal of hostility towards Jesus and the Bible.

Verses 7-11 are also difficult, as many people would point to these verses and then a time when they asked God for something and he didn’t give them what they wanted.  Frequently, I’ve heard the argument that there would be no evil in the world if God was really just, or that we would all be rich.  Both the world and the prosperity “gospel” have the wrong idea of what prayer is for.  Prayer and parenting are used as intertwining examples here for a good reason.  Just as children depend on their parents, we must be dependent on God in prayer.  Alistair Begg, one of my favorite pastors, explains that parents know their children’s needs frequently before they ask.  I know my daughter wants breakfast and her diaper changed when she wakes up.  That doesn’t stop her from asking for her bottle.  God knows our physical and spiritual needs before we ask for them, but he still wants us to pray in order to show submission and dependency to him.

So what should we be asking for?  God’s will to be done.  Notice that verse 11 doesn’t say God will give us “whatever we want” if we ask him.  Jesus says he will give “good things” to those who ask him.  What has God given us that is good?  Eternal life through his son, Jesus Christ.  Prayer shouldn’t be thought of as us trying to gain material possessions or making our lives simpler.  The Christian life is difficult, and full of trials.  When Jesus says we will receive what we ask, find what we seek, and find open the door we knock upon, he is talking about salvation.  He is what we should be seeking, because when we seek him, he is waiting for us.  If we come to prayer with demands, we sound like petulant children who say they don’t want to go to bed or that they don’t want to stop watching T.V.  Prayer is encouraged by Jesus, but we should check our hearts when we do pray.  God, not ourselves, should be the focus of our prayer.  And we should trust that as our heavenly Father, he knows and cares about our needs.

I love the way verse 11 ends with Jesus declaring “how much more” God will give us.  What is greater than salvation?  Nothing.  As one of my favorite 4Him songs declares “the only thing I need I already have.  The fullness of your mercy in my hands.  The only One who loves me as I am.  The only thing I need I already have.”  If we, as sinners, know the needs of our children, how much more does God know and give us what we need?

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