"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."Sectarian institutions often use this verse to promote materialism in the name of Jesus: As though we should be praying to get rich or win football games. Let's examine its real meaning:
We can see a similar statement made by Jesus in the Book of Matthew - made during what is often referred to as the 'sermon on the mount.'
"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?" (Matt. 7:6-10)As we see both texts within their context we get another dimension to this statement. In Luke, the statement is:
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."and in Matthew:
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."It is the same teaching, yet given in two different situations and contexts.
Will anything be given?
The Greek doesn't really state "it will be given" as in whatever is asked for will be given. That phrase, "it will be given" comes from the Greek word δίδωμι (didōmi) which means to be given something specific that is cherished - according to the lexicon, "to give over to one's care, intrust, commit" and "to give or commit to some one something to be religiously observed."
So it is not that Jesus is speaking of asking God for anything - as the translated phrase "ask and it will be given" indicates. Jesus is speaking of asking God specifically for something special - something to be cherished. What is it?
Let's examine Jesus' parable above:
"Suppose you have a friend" means that Jesus is comparing God to a friend. Remember that before this verse Jesus introduced his students to his recommended prayer - referred to as the 'Lord's Prayer.' This is a prayer to the Supreme Being, evidenced by its first verse - "Our Father in heaven, hallowed by Your Name."
The Supreme Being is our Best Friend.
A friend is someone who is there for us - someone who cares for us regardless. This is God. We can rely upon Him to care for us and be there for us. We can always turn to Him.
What about the next part of the analogy: "and you go to him at midnight and say, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.'"
This is comparing one's approach to the Supreme Being in prayer to an inconvenient request to a friend. Why? Is Jesus saying that our prayer requests to God are inconvenient?
Actually, yes. So to speak. The Supreme Being is certainly able to hear everyone's prayer simultaneously without any effort - He can hear everything. He is always next to us in His expansion - the Holy Spirit.
However, the Supreme Being is not our waiter.
It is not as if the Supreme Being is some kind of genie who is always waiting for our command ('your wish is my command' goes the saying). The Supreme Being is not our servant!
Yet this is what so many ecclesiastical institutions teach their followers - that God is just up there waiting to deliver on our prayers. Whatever we ask for - He will deliver it.
And for this reason, the focus of these followers is to have God wait on us. We ask and He fetches. This is the relationship they seek with God.
But this is not the relationship that Jesus was teaching his students to have with God. Jesus wasn't teaching to just ask God for whatever we want. In fact, he railed against such a materialistic approach to God:
"And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well." (Luke 12:29-31)In other words, while Jesus suggests that if we are in need of anything, we should seek it from God, what he wants us to seek from God is not material things - be it health, money, a new job, a house, family, winning a football game and so on - but rather, he wants his followers to "seek His kingdom."
Does this mean we should seek to go to heaven? That is not what Jesus refers to as "His kingdom." The Greek word translated to "kingdom" is βασιλεία (basileia) which means, according to the lexicon, "royal power, kingship, dominion, rule - not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom."
In this context, Jesus is not talking about our rule or dominion. Jesus is talking about the Supreme Being's rule or dominion. This means that the use of the phrase "His kingdom" refers to a consciousness that accepts the dominion and rule of the Supreme Being over all things.
Now if Jesus wants us to "seek His kingdom" - now that we know what "His kingdom" means - it means that Jesus is wanting us to seek the consciousness whereby we accept the dominion of the Supreme Being.
In other words, we accept that the Supreme Being is in control. We accept that all things were created by Him. That all things are arranged by Him. That all things are meant for His enjoyment.
This consciousness is thus precisely the opposite of the consciousness that sectarian institutions and their teachers are teaching their followers - to ask God for anything that we want. They are accommodating a consciousness that I am the most important person in my life, and God's purpose is to supply whatever I need.
Jesus is teaching the opposite of this.
He is teaching that we should be seeking to have the consciousness that the Supreme Being is the most important person - and our purpose is to do whatever God wants me to do.
This means that Jesus is requesting that we seek to be God's servant, rather than put God in the position of being our servant.
How is this being communicated in Jesus' parable? Because Jesus is showing how the friend is being inconvenienced by the request, but a good friend will surely grant a necessity even though it is inconvenient.
This analogy relates to asking the Supreme Being for returning to "His kingdom" because Jesus wants his students to realize that God is not their servant, just waiting to fulfill whatever is asked, just as the friend who is sleeping, with he and his family already in bed, is not the servant of the person who has come to his door asking for food. Rather, the friend will accommodate what is needed by his friend - not just that he can ask him for any whimsical thing.
In the same way, when we ask the Supreme Being for anything, we should be conscious that He is not just waiting around to fulfill our requests. The Supreme Being is a busy Person. He is busy enjoying Himself in so many pastimes. He isn't just waiting around for our beck and call. This means that when we ask Him for something, we should be asking Him for something that really matters.
And as Jesus states above, the Supreme Being has already automatically arranged for the fate of our physical body. There is a system in place - the law of consequences - that grants our physical body a combination of what it needs and what our previous actions have produced. He has created an incredible machine within the physical world, one that needs little adjustment.
And besides, all of the things of the physical world - our house, our money, our job, our reputation, our health and the body itself - are all temporary. They will be dissolving soon. Within a few decades, every body we see around us including the body we see when we look in the mirror will die and begin decomposing. So why - as Jesus taught - should we be so concerned with these temporary things?
Our concern - and what we should seek - is the consciousness of love for the Supreme Being. This is achieving "His kingdom" because achieving this consciousness allows us the opportunity to engage in a loving relationship with God now and in the future - long after our physical body has decomposed.
Now what do loving relationships entail? They entail a person doing what the other person wants. If we are loving the Supreme Being we will be wanting to do what He wants. We will be wanting to serve Him.
This is what "seeking His kingdom" means.
And thus we can go back to the central element of Jesus' statement, of asking the Supreme Being to be His loving servant - to which Jesus says, "seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
Yes, we can ask God for million bucks, delivered tomorrow. But will it necessarily be given to us? No. Why?
Because this is not what Jesus is referring to. He is referring to asking the Supreme Being to return to "His kingdom." To be a part of the Supreme Being's world. To be one of the Supreme Being's servants and playmates. If we ask for that, yes, it will be given - the door will be opened.
Yet looking at our position realistically, we can see that we have no right to ask the Supreme Being for anything. We rejected Him and we ran away from Him. We rebelled against God and this is why we are here in the physical world wearing these temporary physical bodies and unable to see Him.
So it is a bit outrageous that we should be able to now approach God and ask if He will take us back. This is why Jesus said in his parable referring to the friend:
"...yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need."
This is describing the consciousness of a person who is approaching God in prayer, asking Him if we can return to Him.
The point of audacity is that we aren't worthy of this. We are not deserving. Yet we ask anyway. We are audacious because we yearn to return home to be with our Best Friend.
And it is this that satisfies the purpose of a request from the Supreme Being - defined by δίδωμι (didōmi). Seeking His kingdom is worthy of such a request.
Because returning to our relationship with God is also what the Supreme Being wants for us. He wants us to be happy and this is the only way we will ever be happy. This is why Jesus' most important teaching is:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind" (Luke 10:27)