Summary: I've heard the exhortations to Ask, Seek and Knock in isolation from the Golden Rule. They are irrevocably connected. One concept leads to the other. Jesus points to the way God treats us in order to show us how treat each other.
Matthew 7:7 “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; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
The standard message on this passage is, we need to ask, and when we ask God will give us what we ask, we just have to have faith. Although that is certainly part of what Jesus is saying we need to ask, seek and knock, this must also be kept in the context of the Sermon—Jesus just finished saying “seek first the kingdom of God . . .” “Seek” is in the center of the exhortation—what is it we should seek? Jesus is exhorting us NOT to ask for food and clothes and things in this world—He’ll take care of those things. He is teaching us to ask for spiritual things—for those things concerning the Kingdom of God.
As James said
4:1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Matthew 7:9 “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 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!
This is instruction by both analogy and contrast. Earthly fathers take care of their kids. Our heavenly Father is better than this. This, again, also points us to the focus which should be there in our asking:
Luke 6 concludes this exhortation to “ask, seek, and knock” with the words “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 the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (v. 11)
Matthew 7:12 So (Therefore) in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
THIS is actually the point of the passage. . . any time there is a therefore you want to see what it is therefore-yet I have often heard this teaching—the Golden Rule—taught in isolation, and have heard the exhortations to Ask, Seek and Knock in isolation from the Golden Rule. They are irrevocably connected. One concept leads to the other—in fact, Jesus is pointing us to the way God treats us not in order to give us an exhortation to ask, but in order to teach us how to treat each other . . .
Theological indicative/moral imperative
T.B. Maston wrote a book “Biblical Ethics” in which he argues the entire Bible promotes a concept of ethics based on relationship—that we are constantly exhorted as members of the community of faith to behave as God behaves, be as God is, and treat each other as God treats us. He calls this the “Theological indicative, moral imperative” structure of biblical ethics—that the Bible gives a description of God followed by an exhortation to human behavior “I, the LORD your God, am holy, therefore, be ye holy”. Here in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus also follows this pattern. If we ask God He responds. Therefore if our neighbor asks of us, we, also, must respond.
The point is NOT that we can ask whatever we want. It is that God treats us this way, and, therefore, we should treat each other this way—to treat them as we wish to be treated (v. 12)
Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
A Tree and Its Fruit
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
Jesus has already warned about dogs and pigs. Now he warns about wolves.
16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.