BE REAL WITH GOD
Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him as stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him? (Matt. 7: 7-11)
This could well be a part of Jesus’s teaching on prayer but for one thing – the context. If we ignore the following parable, we might think that He advocating persistence in prayer, which is a reality about prayer in other contexts, but not in this one.
So what is He talking about?
His story seems to indicate that God values a transparent two-way communication in our dealings with Him. When a child asks straight out for what he wants, a father will not be devious and give him what he has not requested. If earthly, fallible human fathers treat their children well, how much more will a perfect heavenly Father give the best to His children?
The issue is: If God is open and honest with us, how open and honest are we with Him? We fool ourselves if we think that we can fool Him by our words while at the same time try to conceal what’s in our hearts. Be real with God. Jesus taught Bartimaeus, the blind man, this lesson when He asked him,
What do you want me to do for you? (Mark 10: 51)
Jesus was not stupid. He knew what Bartimaeus’ problem was, but He wanted him to verbalise it. Why? Because it was important for the blind man to admit his need. Jesus drew him out to ask for what he wanted. He wanted him to play open cards with Him so that He could respond to him according to his heart need.
This lesson is not only applicable to our interaction with the Father. It is equally important that we be transparent with people as well. This does not give us a licence, however, to be brutal in our honesty. There is a way to be open with people that invites trust, not offence. Jesus put it this way:
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matt. 7: 12)
Let’s take this a little further. What about the way Jesus spoke to and about the Pharisees? Was He not being brutal in His transparency? Was He contradicting His own principles? Did He expose the wicked hearts of the Pharisees in the spirit of Torah?
In order to uncover His purpose, we must check His motive. What was His intention when He spoke to them as harshly as He did? There may be several reasons but let’s look at a few.
- They were the spiritual leaders of the people. They were the educated ones who were responsible for interpreting, modelling and teaching the Had Jesus remained silent, He would have given them permission to continue being hypocrites, teaching one thing but contradicting what they taught by their behaviour. By publicly exposing their hearts, He warned them about what they were doing and, at the same time, the people who admired them for the wrong reasons. They did not follow the teaching of Torah which they expected their followers to do.
- The Pharisees thought they were the watchdogs and critics of the people. They did what Jesus warned His disciples not to do. They judged others by their own standards and heaped guilt and condemnation on those who failed. That was not to be their role. They were to lead by example, not alienate by condemnation. Jesus alerted the people and warned the Pharisees that they were themselves under condemnation for what they were doing. This was their opportunity to repent.
- Jesus offended their minds to expose their hearts. Their reactions to Him revealed what was in their hearts. They were not interested in walking in the way of Yahweh. They enjoyed the praise they received from people while living their wicked lives in secret. Jesus told them the truth so that they would have an opportunity to repent, and so that they would have no excuse for what they did when they came into judgment.
John the Baptist was equally brutal in the way he spoke to the religious leaders. He called them “a brood of vipers” – not a very flattering title or a way to “win friends and influence people”! Luke concluded his report with these words:
And with many other words, John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them. (Luke 3: 18)
Good news, John? In this case, the context makes it clear that John’s harsh words were part of the good news he was telling them. If his hearers knew what was in their own hearts, perhaps they would realise that what John taught about Messiah was true – that He had come to take away the sin of the world and to give them the Holy Spirit who would separate out the wheat from the chaff in their lives.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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