“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him 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!”
As a new father, I quickly learned that when my son, Jack, cries there must be something wrong. Normally a quiet and content baby, Jack uses his sad little cries to let me know when he is hungry, tired of “tummy time,” or ready to get up from his crib. At three and a half months, crying is his only way to communicate his needs to me. A few nights ago, I was feeding him a bottle late at night. Typically, when he is halfway through with his bottle, I attempt to burp him to prevent an undesirable spit up. When I took the bottle away, Jack immediately made the most pitifully sad face I have every seen—lips pouty, skin beet red, little baby tears rolling down his cheeks—and then his distraught cry began. Astutely, I abandoned my attempts to burp him and returned the bottle.
In Luke 11, Jesus instructed His disciples to pray. In His model prayer, Jesus emphasized their utter dependence on God and their desire for the will of the Father to be accomplished. Jesus then told a parable to illustrate the boldness with which they should approach God in prayer. Though a neighbor will not wake up late at night and give you bread for your guest because he is your friend, he will give you what you need because of your boldness. If your sleepy-eyed and grumpy neighbor will answer your requests, how much more so will your heavenly Father be willing to answer your bold requests. Jesus concludes with an exhortation to ask, seek, and knock because we can be confident of the Father’s response.
But what has stuck in my mind about this passage is the comparison Jesus makes between earthly fathers and our heavenly Father in vv. 11–13. Jesus asks rhetorically what father would give his son a serpent when he had asked for a fish, or would give his son a scorpion when he had asked for an egg. It is obvious. No proper, earthly father would ever do such a thing! It is unimaginable! As parents, it is part of our instinct to care for, provide, and protect our children. We are willing to give our children what they need. What is more, no parent would think to give a dangerous creature to a child who had asked for such an essential need as food.
Jesus’ conclusion is pointed. If we who are evil, sinful, and selfish do not refuse our children what they need, neither will our perfect heavenly Father. How true! If I willingly shake the sleepiness out of my eyes to feed my son, even though I am tired, grumpy, and a little annoyed, how much more will our heavenly Father, who neither slumbers nor sleeps, who did not even spare His own Son, care for us and graciously give us all things we need. We only need to ask as His child, with faith and expectation. He certainly will not deny us our essential needs. The good that He promises is the essential need that the Father will give us the Holy Spirit. God will provide His presence, guidance, and intimacy—all that we truly need.
The reason that Jack cries is that he has not learned to trust me as his father. When I put down his bottle, he feared that his greatest, immediate need would not be met. But as he grows, he will learn of my love for him, how much I care for him, how I would give him anything he needs. But my greatest feelings of love, devotion, and care for my son are but poor, dim reflections of the love of our heavenly Father for us. God is more gracious, more tender, more loving than we can begin to know.