Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? Matthew 7: 9–10
Let us pray for good and perfect gifts such that we may give the same to our neighbour.
Our Bible text is part of the Sermon on the Mount and provides us with information on how to pray. After Jesus had taught the people the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 9 et seq) He went on to make it clear that those who pray can count on their prayers being answered by God. God does not heedlessly ignore the pleas of those who pray (Matthew 7: 7 8). This certainty is illustrated in verses 9 and 10 by way of the relationship between a father and his son. The father will give his son something good and not something bad. So if a sinful human being already makes the endeavour to give good things to his loved ones, how much more does this not apply to God, who Himself is goodness.
Bread and fish versus stone and snake
It is interesting what kinds of things Jesus contrasts here in order to illustrate His reference to fulfilled prayers. Bread and fish was the usual food at the time of Jesus (Mark 6: 38 et seq; John 21: 13). A stone can look like a loaf of bread, just as a snake can resemble a fish. Although similar in outward form, bread and fish are of use for the sustenance of the body, while stones and snakes are not. Thus one cannot replace good and valuable gifts with useless imitations of lesser value. Man, who is sinful, is capable of deceiving others in this manner. How often have we not been victims of such deceit! How good it is that such things never happen to us at the hand of God! God is the epitome of goodness and perfection.
God grants us good and perfect gifts
Anything that human beings produce is temporal and imperfect. Even our knowledge is fragmented, as Apostle Paul states in the first epistle to the Corinthians. However, he also goes on to give us a new perspective: one day perfection will dawn, and all things partial will cease (1 Corinthians 13: 9–10). Those who pray believingly, however, can already experience today that the Father in heaven grants them good and perfect gifts.
What is good and perfect?
All things that correspond to the will of God are good and perfect. Thus it is quite comprehensible that God only ever grants the supplicant that which corresponds to His divine will. His perfect will incorporates
- Our redemption. For this we must grow into the nature of the Crucified and Risen One. The Lord lets us live through various things in order to lead us into this knowledge and sustain us in it.
- Peace among mankind. To begin with, this peace is rooted in our own efforts to make peace with ourselves and our situations of life. This requires gratitude and contentedness on our part. There are various pleas that God will not grant—namely if granting them would lead us to become overwhelmed or discontent.
- Oneness among one another. The Lord expects this of the bridal congregation. Those who ask God for this will receive power to overcome envy, resentments, and divisions.
- The rapture of the bride through His Son. Let us never allow any imitations of lesser value, conceived by man, to replace this goal of faith!
Let us make the endeavour to ask God for these good and perfect gifts. Thereby we will receive the power to proclaim the will of God to our fellow human beings and interact with them in the nature of Christ.
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the divine service held on Sunday, 21 February 2016 at Midrand Congregation.