We tend to treat each segment of this passage as three disconnected ideas:
- God will answer your prayers (vv.7-8)
- God is a generous and loving Father (vv.9-11)
- Treat others like you want to be treated (v.12)
When in reality, all three of these concepts are critically interdependent:
- When we understand that God is a generous Father (vv.9-11)
- Then we’ll respond by treating others with that same compassion he demonstrates toward us (v.12)
- And our lives will become conduits of his grace and mercy, satisfying the deepest yearnings of our hearts (vv.7-8)
The first way of looking at these verses can be transactional and self-centered: What must I do to get what I want? God becomes the means to my ends.
The second way is relational and God-centered: How can I live in a way that honors my heavenly Father and serves his children? I become the means to God’s ends.
Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been trying to realign our attitudes and actions from a legalistic and contractual lifestyle to one that is love-based and covenantal. He is not raising the bar or imposing a new legalism. Rather, Christ is showing us that Kingdom-Seekers can naturally fulfill God’s Law by living in relationship with him—a relationship that is based on his character and not ours.
Let’s see how these three segments are interrelated. Jesus begins this passage with what seems to be an audacious promise:
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
When and how can this be true? Jesus answers with the “So” in verse 12.
12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
We usually see this verse standing alone as “The Golden Rule,” embodying a sense of mutuality and morality with which almost anyone could agree. But the fact that Jesus begins this command with the word “So” shows how interconnected this command is with the rest of his sermon—especially with his previous teaching on prayer and priorities.
We cannot disconnect verses about having our prayers answered from his command to treat others with equity and dignity. This command is not only the culmination of the Sermon on the Mount; Jesus says that it sums up the entirety of the Jewish Law and the Prophets. It’s everything.
Christ says that God is not a power to be appeased; rather, he is a Father who delights in his children:
9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 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 good gifts to those who ask him!
Jesus underscores that our relationship with God is familial. He is a compassionate Papa who wants to lavish gifts upon his kids. So why aren’t all of our prayers answered and all of our wishes fulfilled? The problem may not be God’s lack of generosity, but ours. Closed hands cannot hold God’s blessings—much less pass them along to others.
Verse 12 holds the secret. When we genuinely work toward the welfare of others, we are living in the flow of God’s Spirit and not just “giving to get.” We are demonstrating the character of our Father in heaven, who wants to richly bless his children. Indeed, by living this way and becoming a conduit of his grace and mercy, we will become the answer to someone else’s prayers!
And by living this kind of life, we put ourselves in a position to have our own prayers answered. We find what we’re looking for when we help others get what they need. When we treat others as we want to be treated, the hungry will be fed, the sick treated, the orphan adopted, the widow consoled, the imprisoned visited, and the naked clothed.
That’s what the Kingdom looks like. When we live as Kingdom-seekers, our desires naturally align with Kingdom goals. We abandon our old priorities and habits. Our prayers are no longer in conflict with God’s will for our lives. What we’re now seeking has been the Father’s will all along—but now our hearts are able to see it and our hands are able to receive it.
When we do to others what we would have done to us, we not only fulfill God’s Law, we become his hands and feet. The Kingdom irony is that—until we are willing to fulfill the needs of others–we will never really find what we’re looking for. But when we do for others what we want done to us, then God sees we have found what we ultimately need—and is graciously willing to bless us with everything else.