How many times have we heard the accusation that Christianity is just an angry God telling me not to do stuff I want to?
It’s sometimes a fair accusation. Sometimes we Christians act as though angry is God’s natural state, and a lot of the time our “standing up for moral principles” involves a lot of telling people not to do things. Combine the two, as we’ve all seen happen, and it’s entirely understandable that someone who doesn’t know any different would come to that conclusion.
And then we come to Luke 11:9-13.
Jesus is teaching on prayer. He’s just taught the disciples what we now call “The Lord’s Prayer”, and told them a parable about a man knocking on his friend’s door late at night asking to borrow some bread.
Even if the friend won’t get up just for friendship’s sake, Jesus tells them, he’ll get up because their friend asked boldly. They exhibited faith that their friend would help them if they asked.
And now Jesus says “Ask, and it shall be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened. For whoever asks, receives, he who seeks, finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened”.
In order to ask, you have to have a desire. You need to want it. Jesus doesn’t say that’s wrong. He doesn’t say stop wanting. Buddhism does, but this is one of the big differences between Christians and Buddhists. From the same problem – people want to do wrong things – two vastly different solutions. Buddhist teaching, as I understand it, is to stop wanting anything. Followers of Jesus trust Him to purify our hearts so that we stop wanting what is evil.
“Whoever asks, receives” is pretty broad. So broad that we often want to try to protect God’s reputation by hedging it about with conditions and nuances. We have to have pure motives. We have to be seeking first His Kingdom. We have to ask according to His will.
It tends to become an exercise in what I call “magical thinking”. Fulfill all of the preconditions and you can manipulate God into giving you a pony.
Jesus pares all of that away, leaving the crux of the matter.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?”
God is a good father. He’s not going to give His child something harmful when they ask for something good. He’s not going to give them something harmful if they ask for it directly, any more than I’m going to leave my four-year-old unsupervised around power tools, or give him a cup of WD40 to drink if he asks for one.
We fallen, fallible human beings – human beings who do terrible things and commit all manner of crimes against one another – know how to give good things to our own kids when they ask. And we think that God, the Source of goodness and the One from whom every good and perfect gift comes cannot be trusted to do the same?
When he says no, we can trust Him that what we’re asking for really is power tools in the hands of a four-year-old. We might hurt ourselves and other people with it if He lets us have it.
“If you, 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!”
Give what now? The Holy Spirit? Well, that’s nice and all, but what I was needing was food. A healing. Wisdom and guidance. Whatever.
Sometimes we act like the gift of the Holy Spirit is a nice extra for church time and the spiritual part of life, but not really what we need.
Wait a minute, though.
We believe and teach that the Holy Spirit is God. So what God is saying He wants to give us is the gift of Himself. Provision? He’s Jehovah Jireh. Healing? He’s The Lord Who Heals You. Wisdom? He’s the only wise God, our Saviour. Cleansing? With Him is forgiveness.
And on a God-sized scale, too. This is the One who created billions of galaxies full of trillions of stars each many thousand times bigger than our own sun. This is the One who fills meadows with hundreds of wild flowers, who created the Paramecium and the Parasaurolophus. Whose greatness – perhaps the least of His divine attributes – no-one can fathom.
He gives royally, because He’s a Royal giver. He gives greatly, because it reflects His greatness. Not with a dropper, but with a downpour. We can trust Him to meet our needs with His abundance.