stones, snakes, and scorpions

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 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! – Matthew 7:7-10

 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” – Luke 11:11-13

 

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Derek Maul – photo by Bernie Hardy

Sometimes when I go to church a phrase or an idea sticks on me somehow, grabbing hold and refusing to let go.

Often it’s the message – something Rebekah or John said from the pulpit; sometimes it comes from one of the praise songs or anthems; then there are the days where the discipleship class lesson resonates.

This weekend was inspirational in many ways, but this morning I woke up with the scripture from Matthew 7 on my mind. We’re studying The Sermon on the Mount (just a few verses at a time), and my class enjoyed a fruitful conversation around what is usually headlined the “Ask, Seek, Knock” passage.

Kevin pointed out that in Luke’s telling of the story Jesus throws in the “scorpion for egg” illustration. Hence my hybrid stone/snake/scorpion title.

DON’T BE DECEIVED: We were talking about how “The Prosperity Gospel” and the “Name it and Claim it” movement use scriptures such as these to advance their complete misrepresentation of the Gospel message. I suggested that – quite often – what we ask God for – if we make the mistake of following those teachings – has as much eternal value as a stone, a snake, or a scorpion.

Jesus spends a lot of the Sermon on the Mount reminding his listeners that the only thing we have to be concerned about is seeking God’s kingdom as our first priority; he tells people that it’s not the show-offs who are blessed so much as those who are humble; he has no time for the self-righteous; he says that when we worry we become the servants of the stuff we’re worried about; he makes the observation that “God makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).

You see, we can be so far off when it comes to understanding what makes for a good life. We can ask, and seek, and knock all day long (go ahead, knock yourself out!); and people even quote prosperity scriptures at God because they’ve been told they can pretty much make God grant their wishes if they just believe hard enough and use the right magic words; and the vulnerable can send those televangelists money along with their prayers so they can wrap them in some shawl they dipped in the River Jordan…

  • s-l300But God is not going to give you a stone when what will satisfy is the bread of life;
  • God is not about to grant you snake-oil when what you need is ICHTHUS (fish/Jesus);
  • God will never give you the sting of the tail of deception when what your soul hungers for is the empty tomb and a risen savior (the egg is a symbol of resurrection).

Jesus got my attention Sunday morning, via the phrase “stones, snakes, and scorpions” – reminding me that, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LordFor as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

It’s in the humble, sincere, heartfelt seeking that God comes to us; and our prosperity is the richness of a renewed, reconciled, radically new relationship with the “God who knows how to give good things to those who ask.

It’s in the humble, sincere, heartfelt seeking that God comes to us; and our prosperity is the richness of a renewed, reconciled, radically new relationship with the “God who knows how to give good things to those who ask.”  

Restoration! – DEREK

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