An ancient rabbinic tale tells of how the spot for a temple was selected. Two brothers lived on adjacent farms, worked the fields, and divided the harvest. One season, after a plentiful harvest, the married brother sat with his family and thought about his lonely brother. He decided to take his share and give it to his brother. The single brother was also thinking about how difficult it was for his married brother. He decided to take his share and give it to the married brother. The place where the brothers met was where the temple was built.
Jesus now talks about our relationships with other people, and how they should be characterized by love. This is the positive side of Jesus’ instruction to us. The absence of hatred and ill-will doesn’t mean we necessarily like them, but we can love them in Christ. And this love involves action.
God’s Love Leads to Success
Jesus says if we ask we will receive, if we look we will find, and if we knock it will be opened to us. This is a great and comprehensive promise. We can feel free to love and sacrifice because of Christ’s love and because he has promised to meet our needs.
Our heavenly Father expresses generosity to us in many ways. He sent Christ to pay for our sins. He blesses us daily and will do so in eternity. We can do for others without fear of depleting our resources since they are given by God. We keep on asking, looking, and knocking. As we receive these blessings, we share them with others.
What should we pursue? Wisdom and a greater fellowship with Christ. Wisdom helps to discern and discriminate between right and wrong. We receive such wisdom through prayer. James said, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let them ask of God, who gives to all people generously and without reproach, and it will be given to them” (1:5).
Solomon’s prayer is a good example to follow. God gave him the throne of Israel, and Solomon realized his awesome responsibility. He prayed, “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours” (1 Kings 3:9)?
Wisdom is needed because situations keep changing. Technological advances present us with new ethical questions. Gene therapy can present us with many new and unanswered questions. Imagine the books it would take to have specific rules for every new and developing circumstance. We need wisdom.
We need to pursue fellowship with God. God’s Spirit indwells us to encourage and strengthen. These verses are not a blank check. The promise is made to believers alone. We must live in obedience. John wrote, “Whatever we ask we receive from him because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22).
Our motives must be right. Again James writes, “You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (4:3).
We must be submissive to God’s will. “For let not that person expect that they will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded person, unstable in all their ways” (James 1:7). And we must persevere. Keep on asking, seeking, and knocking.
We make our requests known to God through prayer. Our prayers should not be passive, but active. We do what we know is God’s will while believing he will reveal more of it. If we are asking for a job, we ought to be looking. If we need food, we need to be working.
We believe that God sees our needs more clearly than we do and is far ahead of us fulfilling them. God knows our needs, but it doesn’t relieve us from asking, knocking and looking.
God’s Love Motivates Us to Be Liberal in Our Giving
Paul says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a frequent aroma” (Ephesians 5:1).
God’s giving nature should be reflected in us. Jesus uses an illustration of a father’s love. A father will not give a child a stone when he asks for bread. And what father would give a snake if a fish was requested? Jews do not eat snakes. Luke adds what father would give a scorpion if an egg was requested.
Unbelievers have no divine source from which to receive blessings. They have no promises of help from God.
God will give liberally to his children, and he expects us to give the same way. Our God is not harsh, vengeful, or stingy. There are no limits to his treasure house. There are no boundaries to his goodness. If imperfect and human fathers care for their children, then how much more will our perfect heavenly father care for us.God’s Love Inspires Us to Treat Everyone Equally
We manifest God’s love when we treat others as we want to be treated (the Golden Rule). Unbelievers have no capacity to do this for they have not experienced God’s love. This is a paraphrase of the second greatest command that we should love our neighbors as ourselves.
This verse is called the Golden Rule. One has said that it is “the topmost peak of social ethics…the Everest of all ethical teaching.”
This rule is not unique to the Bible. It is found in the literature of almost every major religion and philosophy. The Jewish rabbi Hillel said, “What is hateful to yourself do not to someone else.” The Book of Tobit in the Apocrypha reads, “What thou thyself hatest, to no man do.” Confucius said, “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” Epictetus, a Greek philosopher, said, “What you avoid suffering yourself, do not afflict on others.”
Jesus’ unique contribution is that he states it in positive terms. This makes obedience more difficult. Since God treats all equally, we should too. He sent his Son to die for all—not just one race or social class. God’s love extends to all.
Martin Wiles is an author, teacher, and freelance editor currently residing in Greenwood, South Carolina. He and his wife Michelle are founders and editors of Love Lines from God (www.lovelinesfromgod.com). Wiles has authored Grits & Grace & God and Grits, Gumbo, and Going to Church (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas), Morning By Morning,Morning Serenity, Grace Greater Than Sin (America Star Books), Authentic Christianity (Smashwords) and is a contributing author in Penned from the Heart (Son-Rise Publications), and Rise (Chaplain Publishing). He has served as Regional Correspondent and Sunday school lesson writer for the Baptist Courier and also written for LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life curriculum. He has also been published in Open Windows, Proclaim, The Secret Place, Upper Room, Light from the Word, Reach Out Columbia, Mustard Seed Ministries, Journey Christian Newspaper,Common Ground Herald, The Quiet Hour, and Power for Living. He is a regular contributor to Christian Devotions, and PCC Daily Devotions, and is a regular contributor for the Dorchester County Eagle Record, the Orangeburg County Times and Democrat, and the Greenwood County Index Journal. Wiles also serves as the Managing Editor for Christian Devotions , the Senior Editor for Inspire a Fire, and as a Proof Editor for Courier Publishing. You can follow him @linesfromgod.