Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Matthew 7:9-11 The Perfect Example of a Father

I have an admission that will not surprise anyone who knows me. I am selfish, irritable, grumpy, ill-tempered and difficult to get along with. As such, I really make a lousy father. I want to be good but the fact of the matter is I’m really not—at least, not like my kids deserve. However, even with my failings they would probably rate me as a good daddy. They’re too young to really understand it when I’m short with them or to read my irritation when they ask me for something and sometimes I just really don’t want to get up to get it because I’m being lazy.

One day, though, I know they will see those chinks in my armor. I’ll no longer be Super-dad. They will see me as the sinful, impossibly broken man that I am. It is my hope that they will realize that my failures as a father are a result of sin and that they will see that there is a perfect heavenly Father who never sins. Perhaps, as Jesus points out in these verses, the contrast between their all too human dad and the omnipotent, all loving, patient, kind Father in heaven will give them a new appreciation for His mercy and grace.

Parents love and care for their children. I mean, there is just something unexplainable about the love that you feel when you hold your child for the first time. You want to do good for them. You want to give good things to them. It is true that there are those who abuse their children and mistreat them but that is the exception, I believe, and not the rule. Therefore, Jesus asks a question and assumes the answer He would get when He says in verses that a parent whose child asks for bread will not give that child a stone or substitute a snake for a fish. First of all, that would represent not just a complete disregard for what the child actually asked but would actually demonstrate the intent of the parent to hurt the child. No good parent does that. Even the psychotic ones wouldn’t admit to it out in public.

Now, with that in mind and on the heels of His exhortation that we pray to God and go to Him with our needs, He makes His point. We, each and everyone one of us, are “evil” from the tops of our heads to the tips of our toes. We have times where we don’t want to get up and get the child what they are asking for when they’re hungry or tired. That’s the sinful part of our self—the part that says “My comfort on this couch is more important that what my child is asking for”. We can all relate to that. Most all of us have never done anything that would qualify as abuse but we have all been selfish or irritated with our children. We know that when scripture says “There is none righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10) that we ourselves are living proof of that text. In Genesis, we can insert our name for the word “his” when it says in Genesis 6:5 “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”. When Jesus says “If you then, being evil”, He nails every one of us without exception.

He acknowledges that we, as parents, try to do right. We take care of our children as best as we can and we “give good gifts to them” even in our sinful state. We’re not perfect but by and large parent care for their children. If we’re impossibly wicked, and we are, and we do good to our children then Christ draws a contrast that should startle all of us as we ponder its implications. Our “Father”, who is God, is perfect and holy whereas we are fallen and sinful. He is “in heaven”—above all things, eternal, and separated from all sin.. We’re here on this earth, finite, temporal, and surrounded by the pollution of sin. If we give our children good things when they ask, Jesus says, God, by His very nature, will certainly not fail to give us good things when we ask Him.

Therefore, when we feel the tug of sin on our hearts, when we become continually aware of how far short of the mark we fall, and we pray to God “Please, forgive me. Change me from the inside out. Conform me to the likeness of your Blessed Son” we can know that God will hear and answer our prayer. When we pray to Him for the things we need to live, we can be confident that He will give us what we need. The fact that we fail our children should grieve us and drive us to repent and live as we are called. However, even in our failings we can be encouraged by the contrast of our fallen nature and the perfection of our heavenly Father who always responds in love to His children.

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