Sunday May 31, 2015 | Seth McCoy
7 “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? 10 Or if the child asks for a fish, will give 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!
Seth McCoy begins our Twisted Scripture series by discussing the topic of prayer by focusing on Matthew 7:7-11. This passage has a tendency to be misrepresented by our own cultural contexts that can distort the language of this passage into an individualistic prosperity gospel. It was argued that the ultimate goal of prayer is to ask, seek and knock in order to find the beauty of a life lived in submission to God and for the purpose of advancing the Kingdom of God.
This week introduced our summer series entitled Twisted Scripture. This series will be devoted to delving into commonly misunderstood and misinterpreted Scriptures and recapturing them in light of their proper context.
Asking, seeking and knocking are the language of desire in Matthew 7:7-8. Proponents of the prosperity gospel have often used these verses. The fundamental belief behind the prosperity gospel is that if you give enough and do it with enough faith you will in turn receive material possessions and personal comfort and safety.
The series of Twisted Scripture will spend considerable time looking at the context of various passages because context matters critically in biblical interpretation. How does our specific context in the United States affect our reading of these Scriptures? Are there any other places in the Sermon on the Mount that could be argued to go against the basic tenets of the prosperity gospel? The life of Jesus and the Disciples seems to go against any prosperity gospel mentality, as personal possessions and safety were extremely low on the priority for both Jesus and his Disciples.
“Keep on asking”, “Continue seeking” and “Don’t stop knocking” is the more accurate translation of these present imperative verb tenses in the passage of Matthew. The world of Jesus and the Disciples was built within the context of relationship and each of the above verbs has a built in relationship. Each verb requires someone who can provide and someone who wants something. There is also an inherent danger in people getting just what they want when they want it. We call children in this situation “spoiled” and the goal of Jesus is to teach us how to want what he wants in a world that implores us to seek out our own individual desires.
The context with the Sermon on the Mount also argues against a prosperity gospel interpretation of these key verses. Matthew 6:25-34 emphasizes the need to trust God for our needs and not worry about material possessions. Following this, Matthew 7:1-2 specifically commands us to not judge others, which is ultimately about trying to control another person and a certain situation.
The often confused and difficult part of this main passage in Matthew 7:7-8 is what follows in verses 9-11 where Jesus emphasizes the good gifts that God will bring in response to our asking, seeking and knocking. The trouble is that we all too often focus on the goodness of the gifts being promised while the primary emphasis for Jesus in his teaching to his early disciples was to emphasize to them the ultimate goodness of their Father. Jesus wanted to instill in his disciples, and He wants to instill in us, that the process of awakening to the present Kingdom of God involves a process of discipleship that we need to work out in our lives. This Kingdom of God is the thing we are to continue asking for, seeking and knocking to find.
Seth finished with a story of John and Nancy where John was being called out to be the best version of himself by his wife, Nancy. The life of discipleship with Jesus is ultimately about being called out to be the best version of ourselves and, in the case of Jesus’ original disciples, this meant being more marginalized and more in poverty, but more fully alive to God.