The next passage from the Sermon contains some more very familiar verses.
Ask, Seek, Knock
“Ask and it will be given to 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 his son asks for bread, will give him a 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! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:7-12 First off, the last sentence, which I included because of the section breaks in NIV translation, doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of the section. I mean, I accept that the Golden Rule may sum up the Law and the Prophets, but that is not what the other sentences are talking about.
Second, I don’t think the passage means you can ask god for bread or fish. In other words, I don’t think the passage means that if you pray for physical things they’ll be granted you. I say that because the first part talks about seeking, and knocking and opening doors. I think the passage means that those who pursue faith will find it, just like an earthly father would give his kids a fish, so your heavenly father will grant you faith.
But that doesn’t necessarily save the relevance of this passage. Aren’t there people who search for faith and don’t find it? Aren’t there people who wished that they believed but just cannot? I would love to hear from folks who find comfort or meaning in this passage.
P.S. The opposite advice, “God helps those who help themselves” comes from Benjamin Franklin.
UPDATE: I’ve emailed this post to members of the clergy in my address book. I would be delighted if they would share their wisdom, or if that’s too intimidating, their shared befuddlement.