Ask, Search, Knock
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 Who among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him. 12 Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
When you read this passage, how do you understand it? What do you think it is teaching? — “Anything I pray for, I should get, because God is good and will give me ‘good things’ if I ask for them” — and — “If I don’t get them, then either the Bible is not true, which means God is not real, OR, It must not be His fault, it must be my fault, so I must not have had enough ‘faith.’ — Why do we think these things?
I truly believe we think this way, because we are spoiled. I mean it. We are the most blessed people ‘materially’ that has ever lived on this planet. We have running water, electricity, heat and air conditioning, refrigerators, food from all over the world, we eat on a daily basis the way that only royalty has eaten for the majority of human history, and much better than royalty I might add, and one thing that we all take for granted is a soft bed to lay down on at night, with a soft pillow, and a warm blanket. We have the greatest medicines and health care, the greatest levels of sanitation, the greatest transportation, we can now fly, and we can even leave the planet and come back safely if we want to.
We have freedoms that are guaranteed to us by our constitution, freedom to speak freely without being beheaded like John the Baptist was because he told the king that it was unlawful for him to marry Herodias, freedom to worship God without being afraid that we will be hanged, or cut to pieces, or tortured, or to have our families tortured, which is still happening around the world today, freedom to own weapons to defend ourselves, our loved ones, and the innocent against those who commit evil, freedom from the government to take away your property without compensation, freedom from being punished more severely than your crime deserves, freedom to vote for our leaders, so that we the people have the ultimate power in this country and that all of our leaders only have power because the people have bestowed it on them and not the other way around, and we can vote and remove them from government if they try to use their power to take away our rights.
When we say that we have everything we need as Americans, that is a gross understatement. We have everything we need, and a million times more. We truly are blessed. And as a country, we are not just blessed, we are spoiled. Why do I say that? Because we don’t appreciate our blessings. Of course that is a general statement about the country as a whole, not a specific statement about any individuals, but that’s what spoiled is. When you are given far more than you need, and instead of being appreciative, you are unappreciative.
Instead of giving thanks for what you have, you want more! Instead of trying to figure out how to pour your overflow of blessings from your cup to others, you try to figure out how to make your cup bigger so that you can keep it all for yourself. And that is true for the overwhelming majority of Americans, poor and rich alike, which is why we don’t appreciate our blessings as we should, and it’s also why we misunderstand this passage when we read it.
When we read this passage that tells us to ask, seek, and knock, and we will receive, find, and it will be opened, we think it’s about asking for wealth, seeking comforts, and knocking on the doors of opportunities for success. And when we don’t get the very things God has told us NOT to ask for, we think that either He’s not real, or I didn’t have enough faith, and so we walk away from Him or we try harder and harder to keep asking for the wrong things that He has promised, He will NOT give us.
3 You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
So if material wealth or health is not what God is telling us to ask for, then what is He telling us to ask for, because it seems pretty obvious from the context that that is what He is saying He will give us…Is it? Let’s read it again, but let’s also look at if from it’s parallel passage in Luke, and then come back to it again.
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 Who among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him.
First thing’s first… In Mt and Lk, it does not say “door.” Now, it does not change the meaning, but it would be more helpful for us as 21st century Americans to think “gate” in its immediate context in Matthew, in order to understand what He’s teaching.
how much more will your Father in heaven give —What?— good things— How do we know that is not referring to health and wealth? Let’s look at Luke…
1 He was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “Whenever you pray, say, Father, your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread.
So what did Jesus teach us to pray for? our daily bread, our needs, not luxury or riches, but our needs. He teaches over and over and over and over to not chase after riches. He goes on…
4 And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone in debt to us. And do not bring us into temptation.”
So he taught them how to pray, and then He gives a parable on prayer…
5 He also said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I don’t have anything to offer him.’ 7 Then he will answer from inside and say, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I have gone to bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he won’t get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his friend’s shameless boldness, he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
notice, it says, “as much as he needs.” He asked for three loaves of bread to feed his guests, he didn’t ask for three bottles of wine or for a fattened calf. He asked for what he needed, and he was given as much as he needed. So it SEEMS obvious, what Luke is talking about here right? Ask for you whatever you NEED, and God will give you what you ask for? That seems right…let’s keep reading.
9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?
Now this is all from Luke, before I read the last verse of this passage in Luke, let’s go back and look at the same verse in Matthew
11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him.
Your Father in heaven will give what? — good things —
It still seems obvious what those good things are right? all the earthly things we need, like food, and water, and shelter right? Now let’s stick Luke’s version back in…
13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
[Fill in the blank]
Now you say, wait a minute, how did it go from “good things,” to “the Holy Spirit?” That completely changes the meaning, to which I say, “exactly!”
Matthew was written before Luke, and Luke came along and clarified some of the misunderstandings of early Christians. Not that Matthew was wrong, but that people obviously did the same thing then as we do today. We will listen to Jesus teach about the dangers of wealth, and not to chase after wealth, and don’t pursue wealth, then He’ll teach us to pray for just what we need, and then after all of that, He says to ask and we will receive, and what’s the first thing we do? We say, “Hey, God said that if we ask for wealth, He’ll give it to us!! Yay!!!!!” [hand to forehead] And the whole time, He’s saying… “I couldn’t have been more clear in my teaching, people will believe what they WANT to believe, even if it flies completely in the face of everything else I have taught.” So if he’s not talking about wealth, and things, if He is talking about the Holy Spirit, then how does any of that make sense? Why say ask, seek, knock, and you’ll get what you ask for, find what you’re searching for, and be able to enter where you knock?
Let’s jump back to Matthew… Keep in mind, in Matthew, Jesus also just finished teaching us how to pray in this same sermon on the Mount, He said
9 “Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
He taught us to pray for our needs, to be forgiven, to protect us from Satan, and to pray for what else? … to pray for the kingdom of God to come here to earth and to be here just like it is in heaven. So when He told us to ask, he said for us to ask for our needs, and for the kingdom of God to move forward on earth.
then He taught us about the dangers of chasing after wealth, and instead of storing up treasures on earth, we should store up what we will really treasure in heaven, and that’s people, so instead of seeking after wealth and material wants, we should seek after the kingdom of God…
31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.
So when he said to seek and we will find, He didn’t mean we should seek after wealth, but that we should seek the kingdom of God, and when he said knock, he wasn’t referring to knocking on the door of opportunity to gain more wealth or success, I don’t believe he was referring to a door at all, the word door is not in the Matthew or the Luke passage, and most of your translations don’t put door in there, the CSB does, and even though it doesn’t really change the ultimate meaning of the passage, I think it makes it harder for us 21st Century Americans to understand the passage, I believe if you were to put a word in to help us understand, I think it should have been gate, instead of door, because in the context of Jesus’ teaching in the next few verses, He talks about the Gates to heaven and hell. So imagine yourself standing at one of the gates to heaven and knocking to get in, and the gate being opened to you.
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.
Matthew talks about gates, not doors in its context, but Luke had just told the parable of a man knocking on his neighbor’s door in the middle of the night, in his context, so, it’s not wrong to use the word door, but neither Matthew, nor Luke includes the word door, and I think it’s better that way. Here is an example from another version.
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
So when Jesus teaches us to ask, seek, and knock, He’s talking about the Kingdom of God, and when He says “how much more will your Father in heaven give ‘good things’ to those who ask him,” those good things are the things of the kingdom, So when Luke records Jesus’ same teaching, instead of good things, He just says the Holy Spirit, so that there is no confusion about what we are to be asking for, what we are to be seeking, and what door we should be knocking on that God has promised to open, the door to the kingdom of God, We should be asking for God’s kingdom to come, we should be seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and we should be knocking on the gates to the Kingdom of God. That is the door God has promised to open, and when He does we will receive the Holy Spirit of God.
God has always taught a very consistent message, and has made a promise to answer our prayer’s consistently. He has promised that he will not answer our prayers for worldly wealth and health to escape the effects of sin in the world because we don’t like them, He himself did not avoid the effects of sin in the world, He suffered and endured pain and hardship, but He has promised to answer our prayers for the kingdom of God to come, to make us more into His image, and to forgive us and adopt us as His own children. It’s only from that understanding and mindset that we can proclaim the same message that Paul proclaimed to the Philippians
29 For it has been granted to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him,
You see, Paul was in prison, in chains, and he considered it a blessing from God, not because of his own suffering, but because his suffering was strengthening the church, and the kingdom was growing because of it. He said...
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually advanced the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is because I am in Christ. 14 Most of the brothers have gained confidence in the Lord from my imprisonment and dare even more to speak the word fearlessly.
He wasn’t praying for riches and comfort and health, he was praying for the kingdom to move forward and to grow, and it was. Right after he finished telling that it has been granted to the Philippians not only to believe in God, but also to suffer for him, he tells them how they are to live on earth…
1 If, then, there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 make my joy complete by thinking the same way, having the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4 Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others. 5 Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, 6 who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. 7 Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, 8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross. 9 For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow— in heaven and on earth and under the earth— 11 and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Notice how he tells us to live… not chasing after comfort or selfish ambition, but in humility to consider others as more important than ourselves, looking after the interests of others and not just our own, just as Jesus did, humbling Himself to look after us. If that is the direction of our life, if that is our goal and ambition, then our prayers will change accordingly. We won’t be praying for luxury and more blessings and more blessings and more blessings, we will be praying for the things of the kingdom, we will be praying for opportunities to move the kingdom forward on earth as it is in heaven, and we will be praying for the salvation of others. We will be praying for people, and not pavement. And if we do, He has promised to answer our prayers, they may not always answer them the way and in the timing that we want Him to, but he will answer them, and when He does, we will give Him glory for doing so.
13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
Have you asked God for the Holy Spirit? Have you asked God to forgive you of your sins? Have you repented? Have you made the commitment to turn from sin to God? Do you trust in Jesus alone for your salvation on the day of judgement? Do you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that when you see those gates of heaven, that you will be welcomed in to the banquet table? If you don’t know, you can know right now.
13 I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
God said that those who believe in Jesus may “KNOW” that they are saved. If God says you can know, then it would be foolish for anyone to say that you can’t. How can you know? By placing your faith in Jesus alone for your salvation. James said that genuine faith produces repentance, so if you have not turned from living in sin, then James says that’s not real faith, and it won’t save you.
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him?
17 In the same way faith, if it does not have works, is dead by itself.
20 Senseless person! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless?
24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
The only thing separating you from God is your sin, not your eye color, not your skin color, not your economic status, not your nationality. The only thing that separates you from God is your sins against Him, and He came and died for to forgive you of those sins. All He asks that you do is to repent and believe. To believe that He loves you and died to forgive you of your sins, but not to turn from sinning against Him, is nothing more than rejecting Him. And on the other hand, to turn from sinning, but to refuse to believe in Jesus and His death for your forgiveness, is also to reject Him. Don’t reject Him. Trust Him. Love Him. Ask Him to forgive you for your sins, and let the world know it.
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.