If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13
At the beginning of the eleventh chapter of Luke the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. The first word of prayer that Jesus teaches them is “Father.” And one of the only five things that Jesus teaches them to request from the Father is “give us each day our daily bread.”
Jesus goes on to tell a story of another father (“my children are with me in bed”) who also has the required and requested bread. This father, when his friend comes knocking and seeking and asking for bread, is reluctant to get up and give it. But he finally does “because of the man’s boldness.” Jesus assures the disciples that if they ask, seek, and knock on the Father’s door it will be opened and they will receive.
We assume he means bread because he has been talking about bread, and because he then goes on to talk about more food, asking the fathers in his audience,
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” (Luke 11:11-12)
And then Jesus, after bringing us along skillfully thinking about needed daily sustenance, makes this stunning conclusion:
“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)
What? Wait. I thought we were talking about food – actual food – bread, fish, eggs. But then Jesus says, what you are really hungry for, what you are really knocking, seeking, asking for, your Father will give you – Himself. The Good Gift.
Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. Mark 10:18
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33
Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4
When Jesus promised, “How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” he dealt the fatal blow to what is called the “prosperity gospel.”
Once I was in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Chicago on a Saturday afternoon. I was in a doughnut shop and I witnessed an orthodox father come in with his two sons after service. With great delight, he told them they could pick out anything they wanted. I could see this was a weekly tradition and the sons came with great expectation. What struck me was that, as wonderful as the doughnuts were, their real delight was in each other. The father’s delight was in his sons. The sons’ delight was in their father and this wonderful being-together time that they shared each Saturday. They would continue to delight in each other if the doughnut shop closed down, if there were no more doughnuts at all.
I’m not saying that God doesn’t care for our physical needs. Jesus said not to worry about what we would eat or drink, that, like God fed the birds, he would feed us. And I know he will. But He doesn’t want food and drink to be my “Good Gift.”
After the people saw the sign Jesus performed [feeding bread to the 5,000], they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. John 6:14-15
Jesus doesn’t want to be the King of Bread, the King of Stomachs, the King of Prosperity. Jesus wants to be the King of our hearts. If our “good gift” is prosperity, bread and fish and eggs, what will happen when the food is gone, when the supply is short and the bread lines long? But if our good gift, our delight, is the Holy Spirit – the Presence of God – then we will always have Him. For He will never leave us nor forsake us.
He will be with us in the bread line. He will be with us when we lose our job, if we are homeless on the street. He will be with us in the cemetery, standing over the grave. He will be with us when we are mocked and persecuted. He will be with us in prison.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
In him [Jesus] and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 (ESV)
Photo of doughnuts by Doriguzzi https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Duck_Donuts.jpg