A Father Who Gives God Gifts – Matthew 7:9-11

Jesus offers an intentionally humorous illustration: when a child asks for something to eat, a parent would not give then something bad (or dangerous). What did Jesus mean by this metaphor?

Bread was baked in a small round loaf, more like a dinner roll than a modern loaf of bread, so potentially it could be mistaken for a stone. Both fish and snakes have scales, so it is possible to confuse the two.

Luke 11:1-13 includes two of these analogies after his version of the Lord’s Prayer and the parable of the Visitor at Midnight. He adds a third substitution: a scorpion for an egg. This may seem strange, but Middle Eastern scorpions are small and resemble a bird’s egg when it is asleep. This is an even stronger metaphor than the first two since the scorpion is very deadly. The point is not “how could the two be confused” but “why would you do such a thing?”

In the illustration, the child asks for something good and necessary for their lives and even then worst parent has the sense to give them something edible (and hopefully healthy).  If evil humans know how to give good things to their children, “how much more” will God, who is the ideal good Father, give good things to his children when they ask?

It is important to see the child is asking for some basic need, their daily bread (from Matthew 6:11). They are not asking for their wildest dreams, or to be wealthy and have a great car and gorgeous spouse, or to “have their boundaries expanded” as in the Prayer of Jabez. They are asking for their basic needs.

There is a responsibility on our part as well, we must ask if we expect to receive, we must knock if we expect the door to be opened.

Our theology shapes our prayer (McKnight, Sermon on the Mount, 247). What we believe about God shapes the way we pray to God. If our view of God is similar to a child’s view of Santa, then we will be very disappointed when our prayers are not answered. (“I asked for a pony and got pajamas instead.”) What happens when a child is disappointed by Santa year after year? They “grow up” and quit believing in him.

If our view of God is similar to a vending machine, we will be very disappointed when our prayers are not answered. If I do the right things (rituals, devotionals, etc), or do not commit too many sins, then God must answer my prayer with blessings, right? Think of those credit cards with some sort of a reward for spending. If I spend money and make my payments, they will give me money back at the end of the year, a “cash back bonus.” God does not really work like that.

Jesus describes God as the ultimate, good heavenly Father who wants the best for his children, even if those children do not understand what is best for them.

11 thoughts on “A Father Who Gives God Gifts – Matthew 7:9-11

  1. American society has become so selfish and greedy. All we do is ask, ask, ask. We can never have enough. We are constantly looking to upgrade what we have because nothing is ever good enough. When we upgrade our phone, the next version comes out shortly after and we want to upgrade again. When we come to God and ask Him for something, we become so upset when He says no. “The single biggest discouragement in prayer is unanswered, deeply felt petitions” (McKnight, p. 246). It becomes very discouraging when we God tells us no; however, He is good and He knows best. We can not look at God as a credit card that we receive cash back on. God does not reward us for doing devotions and going to church, but when we are doing these things, we are getting closer to God. This will allow our will to align more closely to God’s will. Doing the will of God should be our ultimate goal because He is good and knows what is best.

  2. The view of prayer and God has become closer to the view of karma than of what the Bible describes it to be. Man thinks that if he prays hard enough, asks the right way, does just enough good, that God will give him what he asks for. However, this is just not true. God does not give things to his children because he has to, is forced to, or is obligated to. God is God. He answers to no one but himself, has nothing above him or controlling him. God does what he wants because he is God. If God was any other type of God than what he was, this fact that God is all powerful and does as she pleases would be terrifying. However, God is a good God who wants the best for his children, which is why he gives good rather than bad. God chooses to bless his children and not curse them because it pleases him. This text found in Matthew does not reflect on the goodness of man, as man is in sin and has evil tendencies. Rather, this text focuses on the goodness and the good character of God (McKnight, 244). If even a evil and sinful man gives good things to children who ask, then imagine how much more a perfect and perfectly good God will want to give and bless his children.

  3. “Our theology shapes our prayer” (McKnight, 247). This portion really stuck out to me. It is interesting to think about the amount of people that walk away from God because they do not get what they want. Just like P.Long explains through his post they see God as this “vending machine” that gives them everything they want. I think this analogy can also be used when thinking about parenting in general. Most of us would disagree with the fact that the best way to raise a child is giving them everything they want. A 4 year-old is too immature to know the damage that eating candy for breakfast lunch and dinner would do to his body. However, he will most likely get upset when his mom takes away the candy. That is exactly how it is with us humans. We are too immature and naive to know what is best for us, and if God gave us everything we asked for we would most likely have pretty messed up lives. God knows best, and that is why we must strive to get to know him deeper and deeper. Even though our thoughts will never get completely aligned with his, the more we strive to have a relationship with him the better we will understand him.

  4. This passage is taken out of context all the time and can be very easily misread if not read carefully. Yes, this passage is talking about our needs, what is best for us. I think a lot of times the word “gift” throws people off thinking it’s like Christmas or something. Just because it’s a gift does not mean it’s something extra or a luxury item. Just the simple fact that we can wake up every day and breath and function is a gift from the Father and a gift that no one else can give. God is constantly giving us gifts even when we do not come close to deserving them, even when we are far from him, he still showers us with his blessings. What a good good father.

  5. This post hit on so many things I’ve been considering this past week regarding prayer. It’s really hard to consider that both God’s plan and our personal prayers need to be taken into account when thinking about this topic. We need to consider that while God can do what we ask of Him, He’s going to ultimately do what’s best for us according to His plan. I think 1 John 5:14 puts it best; “Now this is the confidence we have before Him: whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (HCSB). Just because we have faith that He can do something, it doesn’t automatically mean that He will do it simply because we have faith that He can. Like the post said, God is not a vending machine, but He most definitely is a “good heavenly Father who wants the best for his children, even if those children do not understand what is best for them” (Phillip Long). Many times, the things we pray for aren’t good, and when God says “no” to our prayers we are often confused and sometimes even angry at His answer. However, God knows what is best for us and we can have peace with whatever answer He gives us because we know that He loves us and is working for our good and His glory. Even if it’s not the answer that we want.

  6. It’s so easy to fall prey to the “Santa Prayer”. I think it is really important for us to understand what prayer is and how and why we pray the way we do. Prayer can be simplified down to simply being a conversation with God, but I think most Christians know that thinking about prayer as a conversation doesn’t help avoid the trap of “Santa Prayer”. The Lord’s prayer in Mathew does ask God for our “daily bread” but that can be interpreted as “just enough for today” and is not a case for asking God for a new Ferrari. So how do we avoid these “Santa Prayers”? I think it is important to start with focusing on God first in our prayers. It could be as simple as just saying “thank you” or maybe praising him for something He has done. This helps me to focus my attention on Him and not on myself. Does that mean that every prayer should start the same way? No, but it does help to think about Him first and then bring our needs before Him.

  7. I imagine a child who goes into an arcade beaming, pockets full of quarters, ready to play as many of his favorite games as he can, in order to win tickets of course. Leaving the arcade with candy and other kinds of toys, the possibilities are endless. Imagine though the child spends all of his quarters at the skeeball game, and heads towards the ticket counter with 200 tickets. He worked hard all day, and even had some really memorable shots, hitting the hardest, highest in the corner shots possible. He finds out though, all 200 tickets will buy him a pencil. He leaves with this pencil and questions all the time he spent at the skeeball machine. This is how many Christians operate daily. We have a mentality that the more we do, the more we will receive. The harder we try, the more God will be pleased and we will be on good terms with Him when we pray, and as we continue through life. Asking things of the Father as we claim to “serve” Him, and expecting Him to come through with these needs, like we earned them from Him. Just as McKnight says, “Jesus knew that his own disciples prayed, and didn’t get what they wanted.” (McKnight, 243). We know that God as James 1:5 says, “…gives generously to all without reproach…”(ESV James 1:5), but that doesn’t mean that He becomes our wishing well of prayers.

  8. This is very interesting. I had not realized before the visual/size similarity between the food asked for and the “bad gift” example objects. But beyond that it does stand as fairly obvious that God, being good, would not be the kind to give the “bad gifts”. I liked how you stressed that the requests were for needed things – simple food objects not every comfort in the world. When McKnight writes about this section of the sermon on the mount, he references James 1:5-6 and James 4:3. The first section explains how God is good and that there is nothing good that we receive apart from him. The second section (vs. 4:3) states that the believers were not getting their prayers answered because they were praying for the wrong things: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures”. Because God is The Good Father He cannot simply give us what we ask for every time because we don’t know enough to ask for good things all the time. However, Jesus does seem to promise that whatever good thing we ask for that is necessary will be given to us.

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