I think most of us realize that relationships are what make or break anything. If you can’t get along with others, life can be miserable. However, if you are surrounded with people you love and love you, you can handle about anything.
Matthew 7:1-6 gives the negative side of relationships. It shows the negative response when we are shown to be wrong. We tend to be critical and point the accusing finger at other people. However, Matthew 7:7-12 gives the positive side of relationships. It gives the reason the previous response is wrong. It ends with the Golden Rule:
“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”
But before the Golden Rule is a comment on prayer. In the middle of Jesus’ commentary on relationships He uses prayer as an illustration. It’s as if He is saying, ‘If your heavenly Father is kind to you even though you have faults, should’t we be kind and generous to others though they have faith?’ We should treat others like we like to be treated. There are three reasons for loving people as ourselves.
Purpose of Prayer. God gives many principles in His Word, but not specific methods or rules for every conceivable situation. Why? (1) Situations change. It would require a large library to house all the information. (2) God desires we rely on Him directly. He wants us to be in the Word and without His Word we cannot pray wisely or rightly. (3) He wants us to be in fellowship with Him as a Father. The Bible is a limitless source of divine truth, which we cannot exhaust. Apart from God we cannot understand it. In His Word, God gives enough truth for us to be responsible, but enough mystery for us to be dependent. He gives us His Word not only to direct our lives, but to draw our lives to Him.
Qualifications of Prayer. This verse is not a blank check. It is not meant to be a thorough teaching on prayer. A key danger of false teachers is to build a doctrine on one verse of Scripture. Other qualifications include: (1) Born-again – those who are not His children cannot come to Him as Father. (2) Obedience (1 John 3:22). (3) Right motive (James 4:3). (4) Submissive to His will (James 1:7,8; 1 John 5:14). (5) Perseverance – suggested by Greek, meaning ‘keep on asking.’ Notice the intensity in the three verbs. A child if his mother is near, asks. If she is not, he seeks. If she is inaccessible, he knocks (sometimes).
2- God’s Pattern – We are to love others because God does. (also Ephesians 5:1-2)
A Father’s Love. ‘Abba’ was the everyday, family word, like ‘Daddy.’ It is not natural for a father to ignore the needs of his son. We may be sinful, but we still meet needs of those we love. God does the same.
Objections to Prayer. Some may say, ‘If our Father is going to give it to us anyway, why ask?’ God’s giving depends on our asking not because he is ignorant or reluctant. The question is not whether He is ready to give, but whether we are ready to receive. God never spoils His children. He does not give us gifts whether we want them or not, whether we are ready or not. God often gives to those who don’t ask and fails to give to many who do. Being good, He gives good gifts. Being wise. He knows what gifts are good. Some gifts that appear to be good are really not. And often it takes time to see the goodness in a gift.
3 – God’s Purposes – The Golden Rule is the best known of Jesus’ teachings and the highest level of His ethical teaching.
Fool’s Golden Rule – Negative Attitude. Confucius said, ‘What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.’ Jesus gave a superior teaching by shifting from the negative to the positive. The mere absence of hatred does not constitute love. To follow the negative teaching you simply do nothing.
The Golden Rule – Positive Attitude. How we treat others is not to be determined by how we expect them to treat us or by how we think they should treat us, but by how we want them to treat us. Only Jesus can take a negative aspect of our personality and make it positive. All we have to do is use our imagination, put ourselves in the other person’s shoes and ask, “How would I like to be treated in that situation?” Only Jesus can give power to live this kind of life.
You can read my other Sermon on the Mount articles: Life Redefined: Sermons from The Sermon on the Mount.