For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:8)
In Buddhist philosophy, desire is the cause of all pain. Since all is ultimately illusion, desire is futile. It is a meaningless yearning after nothing, and so it hurts us. To be enlightened, free, is to be freed from desire—to let go of the illusions entirely, become fully “unattached,” and therefore suffer no pain.
(To be fair, I’m not a Buddhist. The above is probably lacking in nuance. But it’s my best understanding based on the reading I’ve done.)
Christianity is different.
Christianity validates desire. It says we are right to desire, we are right to feel restless, we are right to be, in a sense, discontent.
These things are pointing us to truths about reality that are very different from an Eastern “all is illusion” kind of truth.
In Christianity, desire points us to the truth of our alienation from God, for whom we were originally created. It points us to the brokenness of the world, which was originally perfect, paradise. It points us to the harmony and love we were intended to enjoy in human society.
And it points us to the hope of full restoration and redemption in Jesus Christ, a redemption we now know only partially until the day of resurrection comes and all is made new.
This role of desire is so central to Christianity that for many centuries, Christians have used it as an apologetics defence for the faith: our own souls bear witness to the truth. They signpost the way to heaven.*
Orientation and Promise
Jesus’ command to ask, seek, and knock is a fundamental orientation toward life. It tells us how to approach the world and how to go through life: with our hands and hearts open, curious, eager to know more, to discover and enjoy.
But that orientation would ultimately only be a cruel trick if we could not find what we seek. In the end it would weary us, exhaust us body and soul and leave us hungrier than we were when we began.
It’s Jesus’ next phrase, the promise attached to the command, that gives us the encouragement we need. He promises that if we seek, it won’t be in vain.
Ask, for everyone who asks receives.
Seek, for those who seek find.
Knock, for to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
The inverse is also true. He who never asks does not receive much. He who doesn’t look won’t find. He who doesn’t bother to knock will never get inside.
Raising My Expectations
I find I am sometimes better at the seeking part than I am at believing there will be something, in the end, to find. Some of it’s my personality, some is my life experience, but I tend to expect a long and sometimes arduous, sometimes exciting journey, but not necessarily a real reward at the end.
Jesus rebukes my lack of faith and tells me I’m wrong in this: that my low expectations do not do God justice. Our God has not set us on a hunt without reason and reward.
Nearly three thousand years ago Solomon set himself to discover the secrets of the universe and concluded that all is vain, “vanity of vanities,” empty and meaningless, because all ends in death.
Jesus, who comes to bring life everlasting, to restore to us what was lost, tells us the end of the search is no longer vanity. It is finding what we’re looking for..
And as part of that: what we seek will, to some degree, determine what we find.
So the Questions Are …
What are you seeking?
What are you asking for, that you don’t already have?
What door are you knocking on, that has never been opened to you before?
You have Jesus’ promise: it won’t be in vain.
Your desires are pointing to something greater. The mysteries are there for you to find.
*Thanks to Alister McGrath in his book A Brief History of Heaven for the wording here.
(This is Part 88 in a series on the Gospel of Matthew, which you can access here. Unless otherwise marked, quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.)
I would love to hear from you. Scroll down to leave a comment below!