The Goodness of Our Father
“Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father … in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (vv. 9–11).- Matthew 7:7–11
The model for prayer that Jesus gave to His people reveals the incredible truth that His disciples are privileged to call God Father (Matt. 6:9; Luke 11:2). This is remarkable indeed when we recall that we were once enemies of our Creator in Adam (1 Cor. 15:22; Eph. 2:1–3). Instead of leaving us in our misery and under His wrath, God redeemed us, adopting us as His children (Rom. 8:14–17; Gal. 4:1–7). He makes the people He has chosen for Himself—men, women, and children who are not His children by nature—to be His sons, not by obliterating gender distinctions but by conferring the privileges of sonship on all of those in Christ. God’s people receive not only a great earthly blessing, like the ancient firstborn sons of Israel, but also the full and abundant blessing of life that is ours as a gift but Jesus’ by right (Deut. 21:15–17; John 10:10; 14:6).
Thus, in Christ, we need not be terrified of coming before the most holy God, for we are covered in the righteousness of His Son (2 Cor. 5:21). There is still a filial awe that is ours when we are in our Father’s presence, but it is not a fear that the Lord is out to get us or that anything that concerns us is insignificant to Him. Indeed, question and answer 120 of the Heidelberg Catechism teach us that having God as our Father means that He will “give us what we ask in faith.” The “in faith” is an important qualification. Our petitions must not be faithless requests, either in that we do not believe God can do what we ask or in that we dare to ask for things to aid us in our sin. Still, no matter how minor our worries and needs may seem, they are never trifling matters for our Father. He is genuinely concerned about them and wants us to present them to Him.
We conclude as much from today’s passage, in which Jesus compares us to our heavenly Father to demonstrate God’s love and trustworthiness. In the midst of affirming that we give our children good things when they ask, Jesus points out what should be obvious—that we are evil (Matt. 7:7–11). Original sin and our thoroughgoing fallenness were not concepts invented by Paul or Augustine; they were affirmed by our Savior Himself. Yet Jesus is not concerned so much in this passage to give us a doctrine of sin as to teach us the goodness of God in a manner that will move us to pray. If we, who possess no inherent goodness, give only good things to our sons and daughters, how could we believe that One who is the supreme standard of goodness would do less?
Even the most compassionate earthly fathers are far less than our God. Matthew Henry writes, “All the compassions of all the tender fathers in the world compared with the tender mercies of our God, would be but as a candle to the sun, or a drop to the ocean.” We must trust that our good Father in heaven will not withhold anything good from us but will bless us in all things. We show this when we are not afraid to ask Him for what we want and need.
Passages for Further Study
2 John 9