Biblical Studies/New Testament Commentaries/The Gospel of Matthew/Chapter 6
Matthew 6 (NASB)[edit | edit source]
|Matthew 6: (NASB)|
Giving to the Poor and Prayer
1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 2“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. 9 “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread. 12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’] 14“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
Fasting; The True Treasure; Wealth (Mammon)
16 “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
The Cure for Anxiety
25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Outline of Matthew 6[edit | edit source]
I. Teachings on giving to the poor and on prayer (vv. 1-15).
- a. Necessary attitude towards giving (vv. 1-4).
- b. Guidelines for prayer (vv. 5-8).
- c. The Lord's prayer (vv. 9-13).
- d. Statements against worry (vv. 14-15)
II. Teachings on fasting, treasure and wealth (vv. 16-24).
- a. Guidelines for the doing and showing of act of fasting (vv. 16-18).
- b. Building up treasures in heaven (vv. 19-21).
- c. Fulfillment by light, rather than by darkness (vv. 22-23).
- d. Serving Two Masters (vv. 24).
III. The Cure for Anxiety (vv. 25-34).
- a. The worry free milieu of nature and admonition not to worry (vv. 25-30).
- b. Seek the kingdom rather than worry (vv. 31-33)
- c. Let each day care for itself (vv. 34).
Paraphrase of Matthew 6[edit | edit source]
Proper Giving and Prayer[edit | edit source]
1 When you do good things, do not do them for show, as a performance for the others around you. It is not for that glory that you work and if that is the glory you seek, your reward will not be of that from your Father in Heaven.
2 Do not announce boldly and with great fervor and excitement the works of charity you do by your own hands. 3 When you do these good things, do it in private 4 for when your giving is without acknowledgement, your Father will be the one who rewards you, not the masses. 5 Do the same when you pray; not bringing attention to yourself like the others who pray as a means of self-appreciation, for the glory they get is all that they receive is nothing compared to the satisfaction you will receive.
6 When you enter into prayer, go where no one can find you; in the secret, the private, and pray to your unseen God, whom will recognize this and reward you accordingly. 7 When you pray, there is no word count- say what matters, not the ramblings of a fool. 8 Do not be like the fool, for God knows you more than you can imagine and already knows what you need.
Jesus Teaches the Disciples How to Pray[edit | edit source]
9 When you pray, pray like this: “Heavenly Father, your name is holy,
10 may your kingdom be as present on earth as it is in heaven,
11 Provide for us our needs and
12 pardon us as we seek to do the same for others.
13 Steer us not into the ensnares of temptation, but bring us out of the swamp of wrong doing.”
14 If you pardon others for their wrong doings against you, God will do the same for you. 15 But if you dwell in your grudges, God will repay the favor.
The "How To"s of Fasting and Setting Your Priorities[edit | edit source]
16 In Fasting, do not do it in a complaining or showy way. 17 Instead, take away the visible signs of your fast, 18 so that it will be known only to God, your unseen father, that you are fasting, and He will reward you accordingly.
19 Earth is not the place to be building up riches, for surely they will waste away long before your time is even over. 20 Build up your rewards in heaven, where none can touch or steal. 21 Where your prized possessions belong, so does your heart.
22 What your eyes see enters your body. If you dwell in light and look upon it, your body will also be. 23 But if you fill your eyes with darkness, your body will also dwell in the absence of light.
24 You can’t serve two masters at once. It simply can’t be done. You will love one, but not the other. You can’t be a servant of God, but worship money at the same time.
Don't Worry; Seek God Instead[edit | edit source]
25 There is no need to worry about all the non-essentials of life. 26 The birds of the air do not worry about the things we do, yet God cares for them. Are we, His Children, not that much more important to Him than the birds? 27 Is it even possible for worry to have any benefit? 28 Why are clothes such a big concern to you? The flowers on the ground have no concern of what to wear. 29 But even so, the wise Solomon chose to adorn himself like their petals. 30 If God adorns the fields in such a way, the fields that day-by-day pass away, will he not take care of you, even in your lack of faith? 31 So stop sweating the small stuff!
32 The people of the world follow after these things, and God knows this. 33 But you Child, must pursue after the Kingdom of God and all He has to offer, and He will care for your every need.
34 In this, do not be anxious about what the next day will bring, it will take care of itself. Be present where you are.
Overview of Matthew 6[edit | edit source]
Teachings on giving to the poor and on prayer (v.1-15)[edit | edit source]
This is a passage where Jesus is talking to his disciples and giving a broad brush on the issues and guidelines concerned with giving to the poor (vv. 2-4), prayer (v. 5-15) and fasting (v. 16-18) (Earle 80). Jesus warns the disciples against doing things in the ways of hypocrites, who do all spiritual acts for show. his point is to not show their righteousness in the physical realm/human sphere, because the true reward is with God in Heaven for our good deeds (v. 1). In vv. 2-4, Jesus talks about giving in secret. In vv. 5-6, He puts the same emphasis, but this time, on prayer. In vv. 7-8, Jesus speaks of not being repetitive in prayer and that God knows our needs before we even ask, which brings Him into the Lord's prayer.
Verses 9-14 are the full text of the Lord's prayer, not including the later added admonition that is most commonly said when using the prayer today. Jesus is instructing the disciples how to pray with this example. Verse 9 addresses God as both the "Father", which shows connection with God, and "Hallowed be your name", which recognizes God's sovereignty. The next saying (v. 10), "Your Kingdom come [...]" recognizes the need to put God's will first and represents a common theme seen in the New Testament, the Kingdom of God. Verse 11 is a care for physical sustenance and provision, which is an example of the human aspect of Jesus Christ. Verse 12 recognizes forgiveness, a necessary part of Jesus' new model of Christian community, and verse 13 deals with temptation and God's alone ability to protect us from evil. Verses 14-15 touch again on forgiveness; the necessity of forgiving others in God's example.
Teachings on fasting, treasure, and wealth (vv.16-24)[edit | edit source]
This second section starts off with a similar admonition against showmanship, like those seen earlier in the passage, but this time on the issue of fasting (v. 16-18). Jesus then goes on to warn the disciples against building up earthly treasure because where the most importance is built up and where the first priority lies, so does a person's heart (vv. 19-21).
Verses 22-23 identify the eyes as the light of the body. What Jesus' followers see must be wholesome and not full of darkness. Christians are called by Christ to be full of light and to shine that light, being separate from the outside world of darkness. As Christians, our alliance must also be only to Christ, because we cannot serve two masters. Our devotion must be to God, not to money (v. 24).
The Cure for Anxiety (vv. 25-34)[edit | edit source]
Jesus warns against worry, being a part of life, especially in the areas of eating and clothing (v. 25). He uses the picture of birds, who are not workers, but are still provided for by God (v. 26). Worry is neither healthy or time-saving (v.27). Again, Jesus uses an example from nature, but this time, lillies and grass, which personify beauty, but do not care about their appearance (vv.28-30). Instead, Jesus admonishes the disciples to follow and seek after God and to not worry about the things of tomorrow, for they will take care of themselves and God will provide all that is needed (vv.31-34).
Historical Context[edit | edit source]
The very beginnings of the spreading of the Gospel were by word-of-mouth, that is, oral tradition. In this way, the gospel was originally preached through the style of word of mouth and began the missionary work of the early church (Argyle 15). This model can be seen in the early church of Acts and in the early work of the disciples post-Christ's ascension. This oral tradition served as a framework for the later written gospels and served as a source work as well. The ways of the early church, in both preaching and in teaching, helped form the oral tradition of the day and led to the formation of the written works (Argyle 15).
In dating the book of Matthew, the Gospel had to be written after the Gospel of Mark, as Matthew uses Mark as a source material. The book of Matthew was probably written after the death of both the apostle Peter and Paul (Argyle 17). Based on Matthew's apparent interest in church order, a time that the Christian Church was beginning to develop "a separate organization and order of worship" was necessary for the writing of Matthew and he also makes apparent use of the rabbinical code, especially in its use as a practical guide (Argyle 17). Matthew was written after the fall of Jerusalem, which occurred in A.D. 70, making the Gospel of Matthew written no earlier than A.D. 80 (Argyle 17).
Background Information[edit | edit source]
Sources used[edit | edit source]
The most notable source for the Gospel of Matthew is the Gospel of Mark, which was also used in the writing of the Gospel of Luke. A large number, close to ninety-percent, of what is written in the gospel of Mark is again written in Matthew, and in closely-paralleled use of language (Argyle 12). An apparent difference between the two is the style of Mark, which is Greek, and the style of Matthew, which is more Jewish-leaning (Argyle 14).
Despite the use of source material from both oral tradition and earlier written works, Matthew does have distinctive qualities and accounts found nowhere else in available written documents. Examples of this would be in narratives, such as those of the apostle peter, the passion, the resurrection and other miscellaneous accounts, discourses, quotations from the Old testament and editorial matter (Argyle 15).
Authorship[edit | edit source]
There is no official statement of authorship given to the book of Matthew. It is an anonymous work and the author is not known with any definitiveness. Authorship is still uncertain, but there are some things that clear up who could and could not have been the author of the book of Matthew. It is known that the book of Matthew could not have been written by the apostle named Matthew, because of its use of the gospel of Mark as source material. As an apostle, Matthew would have had no need to use the written work of someone not an apostle to write a gospel account (Argyle 16). It is also known that whoever the author of Matthew is, they were most likely a Jewish Christian. This can be seen especially in use of Jewish language and phrases, in the Judaic tone of the book, and the occasional of anti-Gentile messages (Argyle 17). In Matthew 6, the anti-Gentile nature of the gospel can be seen, especially in verse 32, which accosts Gentiles as those who seek the things of the world, rather than seek God.
- ↑Your almost exclusive dependence on a single source (Argyle) has tended to make your commentary a summary of his worrk rather than a research paper, which should depend on a number of sources.
Literary Context[edit | edit source]
There are different times of literary types and details that go into Matthew 6. Matthew 6 was grown out of oral tradition (Argyle, 15). The book of Matthew is smoother in style than Mark and contains the different literary types, unique to Matthew, which include narratives, discourses, Old Testament quotations and editorial matter (Argyle, 13). The book of Matthew was influenced by the culture, such as the fall of Jerusalem and uses Mark as a primary source. The book of Matthew contains Jewish phrases and is markedly Jewish in style (Argyle, 17). Compared to the other gospels, Matthew is more expansive in certain details (Argyle, 16). The Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Greek. The overall Jewish style, Jewish phrases and cultural context tends to suggest that the book of Matthew addresses a specific audience, which was most likely the community of Jewish Christians.
Matthew makes use of illusory language, which is seen in Matthew 6 with the examples in nature in the section on wealth and in the illustration of the lamp as the eye to the body. Matthew 6 is poetic, rather than prosaic, which is seen in the poetic parallelism in the Lord's prayer (Earle, 82).
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Righteousness & Reward (v.1)[edit | edit source]
In this passage, Jesus is dealing a lot with motivation of the heart. The main issue dealt with in the passage is the situation of “man before God-the genuineness of man’s benevolence, his prayer and his repetance” (Dietrich, 40). This is prefaced in verse 1. Contextually, Jesus didn’t want the disciples to act in the way of the hypocrites and wanted them to see that the reward from giving in public doesn’t go beyond pride. The significant phrase in verse 1 is “to be seen of them”. We are to seek God’s glory; not our own. On this verse, John Wesley wrote, “Take heed that ye practice not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them.” (Earle, 81).
There seems to be a contrast with Matthew 5:16, which says, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (NASB). However, as Jesus is dealing more with motivation in the passage, than the actual acts of giving, fasting and prayer, it should be said that the two do not contrast, but rather, work well together as the motivation behind the act that Jesus is trying to get the disciples to see is to glorify God, rather than themselves (Earle, 81). Public acts can be used to spur others onto doing good as long as their motivation is in the right place.
Jesus’ Teaching on Almsgiving (v.2-4)[edit | edit source]
Verse 2 ends with the statement “your Father who sees in secret will reward you,” which ties it together with verses 8 and 18. In verse 3, the author uses a metaphor of not letting the "left hand know what the right hand is doing." (NASB). This metaphor is significant in Arabic culture in that “the relation of the right hand to the left” is “a type of close fellowship” (Argyle 55). The specific practice of almsgiving, a considerably righteous act, was not designed to bring focus to and receive gratitude from others. The momentary award of applause is none compared to the heavenly reward received by those who do their acts of giving in private. "Only deeds doe for God’s glory will receive an eschatological reward" (Hagner 140). It is not that Jesus is against the actual act of almsgiving, but seeing that the act has been degraded by hypocrisy, Jesus chooses to speak against the misuse of giving to the poor (Hill 132). The ideal, as seen in verse 3, is to give for the sake of benefitting the life of another, not to gain glory for oneself. The goal is kingdom advancement, not self-glorification. According to verse 4, the only form of almsgiving that will be rewarded by God is that done in order to glorify God and relieve the suffering of others in the plight of poverty (Hill 132).
Jesus’ Teaching on Prayer (v.5-8)[edit | edit source]
Verse 5 is not an appeal against worshipping in public. That is not on the agenda of Jesus. Rather, verse 5 is a “warning against succumbing to the temptation to ‘showiness’ in performing [public worship and prayer].” (Hill, 132). Jesus speaks in the sixth verse to urge the act of prayer as an act of secrecy. In verse 7, Christ warns the disciples about using repetitive language used in vain during the act of prayer (Earle, 82). The point Jesus makes is that the Christian is to address only God in his prayer. In addition, there is no point to listing off a long line of wants to God, who already knows all that we desire and need (Argyle, 55). It is also an example of gentile criticism, which is seen multiple times in the book of Matthew, which makes the supposition that Matthew was written with Jewish-Christian intent more probable. The Language in verse 8 shows that God, “Our Heavenly Father”, knows that in prayer we are addressing Him and the He already has foreknowledge of what we will and need to ask Him for (Earle, 82). Even if prayer is presented within the sphere of public worship, it is still only to be directed towards God alone and in secret, not intended to be an act for the public eye or selling point for Christianity (which doesn’t need to be “sold”) or your own righteousness (Hagner, 142). Prayer is only authentic when it is directed to God alone. It is “straightforward and simple for those who have experience the grace of the kingdom of Christ. The disciple does not try to coerce or manipulate God. There are no magical words or formulae, nor does an abundance of words count with God.” (Hagner, 152). The father already knows the needs of the disciple and how to deal with them. However, the disciple must pray with that in mind and with “confidence and trust” of God’s providential care of His children (Hill, 134).
The Lord’s Prayer (v.9-12)[edit | edit source]
As a prayer, the Lord’s prayer expresses itself in simple and sincere terms, in which Jesus asks for needs and glorifies the Father (Earle, 82). The first section about the prayer is about God; the second, us. The Lord’s prayer is one that testifies to hope and is an act of adoration, the bringing of God’s kingdom being brought to earth (Dietrich, 43). “[The Lord’s prayer] is, first of all, an act of adoration, an act of faith and hope in the reign of God in the New age of which, in Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit, we have the initial instalment; then an act of consecration to God’s will; and finally, a humble and total commitment of our own needs to the Father, in the assurance that he will faithfully supply them.” (Dietrich, 43). Matthew’s account of the Lord’s prayer was one that was most likely for Jewish usage and/or use in during synagogue services, which explains the longer length seen in Matthew compared the Luke account of the prayer (Argyle, 56). The Lord’s prayer was most likely the basis for the Aramaic prayer of Kaddish (Argyle, 56). It also follows the pattern of Jewish prayers prayed in the synagogue and testifies to God’s great redemptive work (Hagner, 152). The phrase, “Our Father” in verse 9 shows a fellowship, or kinship rather, with God, while the phrase “who art in Heaven” shows a divine reverence and the order of the two addresses should be noted as significant, putting the personal relationship with God before His sovereignty in the prayer (Earle, 82). “The hallowing of God’s name is intimately related to the coming of his kingdom.” (Argyle, 41). In verse 10, the phrase “Thy will be done” is a foreshadowing of the prayer Jesus prays at the Garden of Gethsemane, which is written in Matthew 26, verse 42 saying, “If this cup cannot pass by, but I must drink it, your will be done!” (Earle, 83). This makes the phrase, “Thy will be done” significant to the book of Matthew, along with the other gospel accounts of Jesus’ life. The phrase “Give us this day” in verse 11 is a care for physical sustenance. The priority here is that the physical should not come first, but rather, recognized as a need that God cares about and for. The word “daily” seen in verse 11 is one unique to the Lord’s prayer, which is probably taken from the Greek word epiouson, which means “necessary for existence” (Earle, 83). “Forgive us [....] is a phrase in verse 12 that recognizes that each person has sinned. In the Luke 11:4 account of the Lord’s prayer, the author replaces the word debts with sins. Verse 12 also sees the duty of the disciples to not only recognize that absolute pardon given by God, but also their own duty to forgive wrongdoings done in their own lives in order to receive divine forgiveness (Argyle, 57). A correlation could be made to the practice of the church in communion, which during its earliest times of practice, could not be taken in everything was not made right between brothers and sisters within the community. In James 1:12-14, we learn that it is a false view of God to see him as a source of trial and that temptation is brought on by our own desires (Perkins, 100). Therefore, the saying in the Lord’s prayer, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” was written before the work of James and did not have the same theological sources or perspective as the later written books we know as the New Testament. The Matthew account of the Lord’s prayer has the later addition of the closing statement in verse 13, which is also unique to Matthew and was most likely added later for closure of the prayer (Earle, 83).
Forgiveness of Transgressions (v.14-15)[edit | edit source]
Jesus relays a heavy importance on the forgiveness of others, which is seen in verse 14-15. Commitment to Christ and His forgiveness is an absolute. Verse 14 and 15 relate back to verse 12 in that they speak of the need for forgiveness of others in order to be forgiven by God. As a closing statement following the Lord’s prayer, it is another chance to emphasize the importance of forgiveness within the Christian tradition. God’s pardon is a freeing from debt, and the disciple must do the same for his brother, or he will remain in the death brought on by his sin (Dietrich, 42). The short statement made in verse 14 and 15 recognizes that within the ministry of Christ, forgiveness is a fundamental belief and foundational relational aspect of Christian community.
Jesus’ Teaching on Fasting (v.16-18)[edit | edit source]
Fasting was a commonplace action, done during times such as Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement and the New Year in Jewish society (Argyle, 57). The action of voluntary fasting was probably a normative one for Christ’s disciples (Hill, 140-1). It was also a “special means of self-discipline” done by Pharisees to “make their faces unsightly by not washing and by putting ashes on the head so that men might know that they were fasting and admire their piety.” (Argyle, 57). In contrast, fasting also had “an ancient and honored position as a means of exhibiting humility before God and thus securing his favor.” (Hare, 71). The fast of the truest nature should follow the advice to be “invisible”, regarding the “inner self” only, following Joel 2:13, which says, “Rend your hearts and not your garments.” (Hare, 71).
Storing up Treasures in Heaven (vv. 19-21)[edit | edit source]
The emphasis in this section is that wealth metaphorically stored in Heaven is “incorruptible” in contrast to the literal gathering of wealth on the earth, which only increases the worry-level of the one who is hoarding it. (This is a later emphasis in Matthew 6) (Argyle 58).
The term rust, in v. 19, means “eating away,” as in the process of corrosion (Earle 84). Treasures stored up in heaven are free from this type of “eating away.” And they can also not be stolen away by robbers (Hill 140).
“Treasure in Heaven,” a phrase used in verse 19 and 20, is actually a Jewish phrase, used in literature to signify good deeds done that are of a religious nature. To act generously toward others stores up a person’s treasure with God (Argyle 58). In this passage, Jesus teaches his disciples to stay away from inconsistent treasure gathered upon earth and focus rather on acts that build up the kingdom (Hare 71). Also, in this passage, Jesus clearly illustrates the contradictory nature of being devoted to both God and money.
The focus of the passage, however, is not on wealth, but rather, on the urgency of authentic and “unqualified discipleship,” which fits well with the rest of the Gospel of Matthew (Hager 160). It is up to each individual to decide what is important to them and where their allegiance lies. This allegiance directly affects what the heart holds dear and how that persons life will be shaped (Hill 142).
Light & Darkness (vv. 22-23)[edit | edit source]
The theme of Light and darkness is common throughout the New Testament. The message Jesus tries to get across with this metaphoric example is that “only singleness of purpose, or purity of intention, can keep the inner being lighted with God’s presence” (Earle 85).
In Aramaic, the phrase “your whole body” was a way of stating, “you yourself” (Argyle 59). “The ancients regarded the eye not as a window through which light entered but as a lamp that projected light and thus grasp the eternal world.” (Hare 72). The evil eye is a common theme in other Jewish literature (Hare 72).
The issues seen behind this passage is whether the disciples' gaze is focused on God alone and His light or on possessions (Dietrich 44). The eye gazing into the light is inter-connected with the heart, where motivations and treasures lie. “If the heart is shut against God, or attached elsewhere, all is in obscurity, both within and without” (Dietrich, 44).
The Old Testament depicts the eye, in addition to the heart, as an indicator of what direction a person’s will and life will take (Hill 142). The Aramaic expression, "full of light" (photeiros) includes the idea of "giving light" as well as receiving it (Hill 142).
Servant of Two Masters (v.24)[edit | edit source]
The word money used here in verse 24 would be translated from the Aramaic word, Mammon, which meant “money and/or wealth” (Earle, 85). It is a neutral word, similar to the English phrase “the almighty dollar” (Hare, 72). The emphasis in this verse is to show the contrast between serving God, who calls for sacrificing self, and serving mammon, which requires self-centeredness and a desire only for self-preservation (Argyle, 59). Jesus’ perspective was that mammon held a power over men that related to demonic power (Dietrich, 44). A connection can be made of this verse and 1 Timothy 6:10, which states, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (NASB). The words of Timothy here not only display Matthew’s idea of the incompatibility of a love for money with the way of Christ (“root of all sorts of evil” and “[...] have wandered away from the faith”), but also with Matthew’s attention to Jesus’ admonition against worry (“[...] and pierced themselves with many griefs”) seen in Matthew 6:25-34. Another verse in which this verse cross references to is Matthew 5:20, Jesus demand for “better righteousness” (Hare, 71).
Admonitions against Worry (v.25-31)[edit | edit source]
It’s a basic idea that Humans are pack rats; we like to collect things and acquire wealth. Jesus point in verse 25 is life is more than what we consume and what we wear. “[Life] is a spiritual as well as material existence.” (Earle, 85). Some criticisms faced with this passage are that it promotes laziness, that it is ridiculous to think that God will provide if we do nothing or that the Christian life is one that is without difficulty. However, the Apostles are prime example of what it was like to depend on God without laziness, as they primarily depended on prayer and the hospitality of community after abandoning everything to follow Christ as seen in the Gospels. Therefore, “the passage thus serves as a commentary on the sayings about treasures, generosity, and mammon and addresses Christians, generally both rich and poor.” (Hare, 74).
This passage is not primarily about wealth, but about the proper use of it. In the passage, Jesus uses the illustrations of birds of the air (v. 26) and lilies of the field (v.28) to show God’s providential care. These illustrations are not to be taken as exacts, but rather, symbolic representations that bring attention away from worrying about the everyday stress of life and put the focus on how God’s care can be seen in the natural world (Hare, 74). This passage directly relates to God’s admonition through Christ in the beatitudes (Matthew 5), to be “poor” in the idea of “those whose expectation and hope are in God, those who have ‘left everything to follow Jesus.’” (Dietrich, 45). Jesus message was not one of carelessness towards life, but one of commitment to God and the prosperity of life through the spirit. Verse 32 is another example of Matthew’s anti-Gentile attitude, but it’s point is not the paganism of worry, but rather the nature of the action being an “affront to God who will not overlook the legitimate needs of his people.” (Hill, 143).
Seeking His Kingdom First (v.32-33)[edit | edit source]
The idea of seeking the Kingdom first directly relates to the Lord’s prayer seen earlier in Matthew 6. In this passage, “Jesus is calling for absolute faith and trust in the providence of God’s love and the putting of his will and purpose before all else.” (Argyle, 59). The first section of the Lord’s prayer is about seeking the kingdom of God first, and the righteousness God offers through that kingdom, which directly relates to the phrase “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” in verse 33 (Earle, 86). The word righteousness in this context is similar to that seen elsewhere in Matthew and means living life in “agreement with the will of God, and at the heart of which lies obedience and trust.” (Hill, 145). The reader should take note that in this passage, a reason is not given for not worrying, but that there is rather, an emphasis on relying on the trustworthiness and providence of God (Argyle, 59). The point to take away in pursuit of avoiding anxiety is that it can only be done by making the kingdom of God one’s first priority (Hagner, 166). “If he takes care of his creation, he will surely take care of those who participate in his kingdom.” (Hagner, 167). While teaching this, Jesus saw that there was a high level of relevancy with the disciples, whose earthly task was to spread the gospel and proclaim the kingdom of God, that basis of which was God’s “special fatherly love and grace” along with His sovereignty (ibid.).
Worry About Tomorrow (v.34)[edit | edit source]
It is possible that verse 34 was a later Jewish addition to Matthew 6 (Argyle, 59). The word “troubles” here comes from the Greek word kakia which means “material evil or calamities”, which is a unique sense of using the particular word in the New Testament (Argyle, 59). The focus on putting the kingdom of God first and seeking God’s righteousness, it is not that the believer develops a heavenly view of the economic sphere and its functions, but rather, see them in a different light and how they relate to other areas of thought, such as the “ecological plight of the plant and the deprivations of the poor” (Hare, 76). “The implications [of this verse are] that only by faith in God and by seeking first his kingdom will men be delivered from worry about tomorrow.” (Hill, 145).
Theological Implications[edit | edit source]
There are three major biblical themes in Matthew chapter 6, which are the kingdom of God, God’s providential care and spiritual acts/acts of righteousness. The three are seen throughout the chapter and other times in the teaching of Jesus, especially kingdom of God, which is a common theme throughout the Gospels. In the context of Matthew 6, the use of these three themes is in Jesus teaching His disciples, which in a sense, was His way of developing theology for His followers. They had the Jewish background, but Jesus came and changed everything. Radical change often means a theological overhaul, which Jesus did. The three themes of the kingdom of God, God’s providential care and spiritual acts/acts of righteousness are used in a sermon format, which is a normative style for the book of Matthew and also provide principles on which a believer can base their biblical views on the subjects upon.
Kingdom of God[edit | edit source]
The first theme, and the major theme of Matthew chapter 6 is the kingdom of God. This is a common theme in the New Testament and throughout the teachings of Jesus. Eight of the chapters thirty-four verses are directly related, or mention, the kingdom of God.
One of the less obvious references to the kingdom of God is found in verse 9. Although the following verses reference is blaring in its obviousness, verse 9 is most connected to the idea of the kingdom of God in that in its addressing of God it is setting the preface for the next verse, which is primarily focused on the kingdom of God. There can be no kingdom of God without the actual sovereign God. Also, the kingdom of God here on earth, preached by Jesus, relies on a connection to the heavenly father, which is seen in the use of the word “Father”.
Verse 10 is not discrete in its mention of the kingdom; its the verse’s main subject matter. The focus of the verse is on the kingdom of God not only having power in heaven, but also, here on the earth and letting God’s will be the governing force of the Christians life. This is, by any means, a “challenging petition” (Earle, 82). It is putting what God wants first and anything else a far second. This is a prayer that if taken seriously can radically change life and should only be prayer with earnest authenticity and single-mindedness of heart to be kingdom agents.
In addressing the life of a kingdom agent, the author of Matthew, in verses 19-21 illustrates the need to spend life building up treasure in heaven rather than gaining earthly good. This is an essential part to the life of the believer in that if living in the mindset of the kingdom, all should be done under the will of God and with the kingdom in mind, rather than the pressure of living under worldly stresses. This passage would have been relevant to the disciples who had given up everything in order to follow Jesus and had to deal with both the pressure to live in the worldly mindset and their call to abandon everything and follow.
Another verse addressing kingdom behavior is verse 24, which addresses the issue of serving both God and money. This, as Jesus illustrates, is a total contradiction. One can not be self-serving and follow after wealth and be a kingdom agent. Living in the mindset of the kingdom means that your devotion is a complete allegiance to God and His kingdom- no exceptions. Much like v. 19-21, verse 24 would have been relevant to the disciples in dealing with the imbalance of being a follower of Christ during his lifetime.
Verse 33 is a direct mention of the kingdom of God, but in order to understand the implications of the verse, one must also look at it within the context of verse 32. Verse 32 is the closing statement in addressing the disciples admonishing them not to worry and is markedly anti-Gentile, typical of Matthew’s gospel. It sets up verse 33 by stating that God will take care of material things and provides the stark contrast between those who seek after the things of the world and the call verse 33 states to seek after God’s kingdom and his righteousness knowing God will do the rest. It is the job of the disciple to not only follow after Christ, but seek His will and His righteousness for their life, making “the salvation of souls and building of His church” their main priority (Earle, 87). This is the key role of the kingdom agent: God seeker and righteousness pursuer.
God’s Providential Care[edit | edit source]
The second theme of Matthew 6 is God’s providential care. Although it is not as common of a theme as the kingdom of God, it is one seen throughout the New Testament, such as here in Matthew and also in areas of Pauline writings. This theme is the main subject of seven verses in Matthew 6.
The section dealing with the theme of God’s providential care is verses 25-31, which in the NASB version is headed as “The Cure for Anxiety”. The main section of this section of the chapter is Jesus teaching his disciples not to worry. The life of a disciple wasn’t the easiest. They were going against the status quo, which wasn’t how we see it today. Imagine high school, but a hundred times worse. They were living in a new style of life, having to rely on the hospitality of others when they had previously held jobs as tax collectors, fishermen and other trades which provided for them. They were away from their family. Jesus was shaking things up and the disciples were worried.
Let’s see this from the perspective Jesus is trying to get across in His teachings seen in verses 25-31. Of all people, Jesus should be the one worrying. After all, He is the one having to die on the cross to save every living person that was ever was, is and is to be; the one who has to change the entire religious spectrum of society; the one who has to defy all known ways of righteousness and teach people how to live in pursuit of God’s will. Jesus seriously has a lot to worry about, but in verses 25-31, we see Jesus preaching to His disciples on God’s provision. He uses carefree examples of nature and proclaims that as creations of utmost value, God will provide. Life won’t be easy-Jesus is a prime illustration of that- but following Christ means following after Him and trusting that He will provide.
Anxiety is a temptation we as humanity are prone to (Hare, 45). Like the disciples, we worry. Jesus teaching in this passage is not only relevant to the disciples, but also for us today as people who are always concerned about what the next step in life is, what the future holds and what to wear to that ‘big interview’ you have Monday night. The call to not worry is one that passes from generation to generation all the same. It is as relevant today as it was to those crossing the desert and stormy seas, but it has taken on a new meaning in our technology-driven, morally-askew society that we have come to know and become complacent to. As it is said, worry won’t add a single hour to your life and in age where everyone is trying to recapture their youth, why not forget about worry and trust in the life-giving way of Christ?
Spiritual Acts/Acts of Righteousness[edit | edit source]
Although Matthew 6 has an underlying focus on the kingdom of God, the theme of spiritual acts/acts of righteousness is the topic of what Jesus is teaching to His disciples in this passage. As a major topic, it is also seen in James 2 in the New Testament. The theme of spiritual acts/acts of righteousness is the focus of twenty verses in the chapter and is divided into three main areas: giving, praying and fasting.
The passage starts out in verse 1 developing this theme of spiritual acts/acts of righteousness. The subject of this verse is displaying righteousness before men in order to gain self-glorification rather than choosing to glorify God with actions and gain heavenly reward from God. This is a preface to the passage in that it sets out right away that Jesus isn’t teaching that these spiritual acts shouldn’t be done, but the difference is in where the glory is given to (Hagner, 140). It serves as an opening statement that declares from the forefront that Jesus means business here; don’t be like the hypocrites- do righteous acts for God, not yourself.
Verses 2-4 focus on the spiritual act of giving. In this time, the act of giving was often done in public in order to gain praise for helping the lower in society. Jesus’ life and ministry was a contrast to this idea, in that His works of service to others, which was the basis of His ministry, particularly in His miraculous works, were all done for the glory of God. The author of Matthew emphasizes here that in giving, if you are satisfied with the momentary applause of men, you will not receive your heavenly reward. As in verse 1, the emphasis here is not in the actual act of giving being bad, but that the motivation must also be to glorify God in service to others.
Verses 5-8 follow the example of verses 2-4 in that they are also on spiritual acts of righteousness, but this time, the focus is on prayer. Prayer, like giving, was done in public to bring attention to self and made a mockery of intentional public worship to God. The pharisees were a prime example of this. Jesus didn’t want His followers, the foundation He was building His church upon to follow suit in this area and admonishes them to make prayer only between themselves and God, done in secret. It isn’t that public worship is here being criticized, but the act of bringing glory to yourself through making a public display of act that is supposed to be about deep connection with the heavenly Father.
Forgiveness in Matthew 6 is a spiritual act, based upon the forgiveness granted by God. This is seen in verses 12, 14 and 15. The emphasis the author of Matthew puts is especially on forgiving others as Christ forgives. It is a part of the Lord’s prayer and the closing of the first section of the passage. Forgiveness is essential. Without it, we cannot live life abundantly in Christ because we are bound by sin and in darkness. Throughout the New Testament, there is stipulations on what makes forgiveness unallowable. In Matthew 6:15, Jesus teaches that if you do not grant forgiveness to one who affronts you, you yourself cannot be forgiven by God. Jesus teaches to not harbor resentment, which turns to bitterness and anger; life-killing forces and barriers to the kingdom. Our sins are forgiven and we must go and do the same.
Much like the sections in 2-4 and 5-8, verses 16-18 are teachings against self-glorification in Christian practice, but this time, the emphasis is on the spiritual act of fasting. This was the act that was the most notable in self-glorification. For those who have ever fasted, it is easy to show the appearance of hunger. It is a basic human need to be fed and to give that up for spiritual growth takes discipline. It can be a showy act and was used as such by spiritual leaders in Jesus time. Jesus does not criticize fasting, as it was an encouraged practice of His time that He Himself participated in (Temptation of Jesus accounted for in Matthew 4), but is again teaching against the use of spiritual acts to gain worldly righteousness rather than building up the kingdom of Christ.
Though verse 24 is connected to the kingdom of God theme, it also has some significance in the theme of spiritual acts/acts of righteousness. It is a spiritual act to devote one’s entire life to Christ. It is a daily commitment to seek His will and live it out, pursuing Christ-likeness with your entire being. The service of money gets in the way of this commitment. This is especially relevant to our specific society. It is easy to say one is committed to Christ and have it only be words. “We piously affirm that we have chosen to serve God, not mammon, but in our daily life it is mammon that sets our own priorities and determines our choices.” (Hare, 73). Money is not our priority as kingdom agents, but using our entire lives in devotion to Christ as a spiritual act.
Parallels of Matthew 6 found in the Synoptic Gospels [edit | edit source]
(Click image to enlarge & view next two pages of parallels)
Highlighted in RED: agreement between Matthew & Luke
Highlighted in YELLOW: agreement between Matthew & Mark
Underlined in SOLID: Complete agreement in wording between the Gospels.
Underlined in DOTTED: Close agreement in wording between the Gospels.
Observations on Matthew 6 and Parallel Gospel Passages[edit | edit source]
Matthew[edit | edit source]
What was seen as “the heavenly reward” is Jewish culture?
Is working only for reward, even from God, still lacking in the right motivation?
The view seen about gaining reward contrasts the Aristotlian view of virtue. How might the author of the passage been affected by Aristotle’s work on ethics?
What caused the interchange of debts and sins in verse 12? What was the view on monetary sins and the importance of money in Jesus’ society?
Is the large emphasis made on an anti-wealth agenda due to the culture of the time? How was it relevant?
Where elsewhere in the Bible are there listed barriers to forgiveness?
What is the significance in body metaphors used in the New Testament?
How did the Jews see the interconnectedness of the eye and the heart?
Who are the hypocrites?
The passage is mildly vague on who Jesus is using as an example of spiritual showmen. Other times in Scripture, Jesus easily and directly point out specifically. Why in this account does he speak outright?
Matthew was written mainly to a Jewish-Christian audience. What would the significance of the Master (in connection to slavery) (verse 24) have to them?
What would the metaphor of “a lamp of the body” mean in relation to Jewish history?
How relative would the rust-corrosion statement be to those in Jesus’ society?
How has the culture in regards to clothing changed over the course of time (other than style)?
Do lilies grow in the desert? This seems like a translation mishap or out of place reference.
Why does Christ not give concrete reasoning behind not worrying? Was it left out by the author?
Is the grass metaphor supposed to speak of the futility of life?
Does Jesus method of speaking metaphorically run the risk of being over-read and over-interpreted?
This passage seems to be missing information in verses 25-31 because of its vagueness and lack of concrete information. Would there be any reason for the author of Matthew to leave sections of Jesus’ sermon out?
How revolutionary would Jesus’ teaching seen in Matthew 6 be to Jewish society at the time?
Observations of Matthew and Synoptic Gospel Parallels[edit | edit source]
What is the relevancy and relation of using the word ‘Father’ in regards to God seen in both Matthew 6:8 and Luke 12:30?
Why is it seen as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ in Matthew and ‘Instruction about Prayer’ in Luke?
In the context of Luke, it is a private prayer more so than in the context of Matthew. Why this distinction?
Why does the Matthew version of the prayer have the added closing statement and Luke’s not?
The Matthew prayer also has the statement ‘deliver us from evil’ absent in Luke. Why is this so?
Why is the phrase “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” seen in Matthew absent in Luke?
The Matthew version of the prayer is longer and more detailed. Why is this so?
Mark places Jesus teaching on forgiveness in the story of the money changers while Matthew places it in a sermon. Why this contrasting context?
Is the wording of Luke 12:33 more or less used for stylistic flourish in contrast to the same account in Matthew 6:20?
Luke uses the ‘servant of two masters’ verse in a parable, while Matthew uses it in a sermon. Why is this so?
Why does Luke 12 leave out the phrase ‘What you drink’ seen in Matthew 6?
Why is Luke 12 specific in type of bird (raven) and Matthew 6 not?
Why does Matthew 6 contain the phrase ‘Why are you worried about clothing’ and Luke 12 not?
What does the ‘grass of the field thrown into the furnace’ statement said in both Matthew and in Luke mean?
Why is Matthew more anti-Gentile than Luke?
Was foreknowledge of God important in both the author of Matthew and the author of Luke’s theology?
How was Solomon (referenced in both Matthew and Luke) seen as a relevant figure in Jesus’ society and when Matthew and Luke were written?
Who is the book of Luke addressing and how does that affect his writing in contrast to the book of Matthew, which is addressing Jewish-Christians?
How might the agendas of the authors of the synoptic gospels influenced their accounts of Jesus’ teaching?
What was the author of Matthew and author of Luke’s society (Matthew 6:28 and Luke 12:25)?
Word Study[edit | edit source]
REWARD[edit | edit source]
Greek Root: ἀνταπόδομα, ατος, τό (Bauer)
REWARD- something that is given in return for good or evil done or received or that is offered or given for some service or attainment. (Merriam-Webster)
Places where REWARD is found in Matthew 6:
Matt 6:1 otherwise you have no reward with your Father who
Matt 6:2 Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
Matt 6:4 who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
Matt 6:5 Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
Matt 6:6 who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
Matt 6:16 Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
Matt 6:18 who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
(Taken from Logos 3.0)
REWARD: In the Old Testament, “any reward depends for its significance upon the character of its bestower, and God’s rewards, with which the biblical writers are chiefly concerned , both as blessings and punishments are manifestations of his justice […]” (Douglas, 1019). In the New Testament, “Jesus promised rewards to his disciples (Mk. 9:41; 10:29; Mt. 5:3-12), so coupled with self-denial and suffering for the gospel’s sake as to prevent a necessary attitude. He slew the Pharisaic notion of meritorious service (Lk. 17:10) and discouraged desire for human reward (Mt. 6:1), since the Father is the disciple’s best reward. Jesus shows that reward is inseparable from himself and from God, and the apostles labored to establish the complete dependence of man’s obedience and faith upon mercy and grace (Rom. 4:4; 6:23). Work, and therefore reward, is certainly looked for, but simply as an index of living faith (Jas. 2:14-16; Jn. 6:29) not as a basis of claim upon God. The reward of salvation in Christ begins in time (2 Cor. 5:5) and its fulfillment is looked for after judgment (final rewards and punishments) when the covenant people enter into full enjoyment of the vision of God which is their enduring reward (Rev. 21:3)” (Douglas, 1019).
FORGIVE[edit | edit source]
Greek Root: χαρίζομαι (Bauer)
FORGIVE: to give up resentment of or claim to requital for; to grant relief from payment of; to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) (Merriam-Webster)
Places where FORGIVE is found in Matthew 6:
Matt 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven
Matt 6:14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions,your heavenly Father will [...]
Matt 6:15 But if you do not forgive others, then your heavenly Father will not forgive you.
(Taken from Logos 3.0)
FORGIVE: “Forgiveness is the wiping out of an offense from memory; it can be affected only by the one affronted. Once eradicated, the offense no longer conditions the relationship between the offender and the one affronted, and the harmony is restored between the two. The Bible stresses both human forgiveness and divine forgiveness: The latter is the divine act by which the removal of sin and its consequences is effected.” (Freedman, 831). Examples of forgiveness in the Old Testament is the use of intercessory prayer (Exod 34:9), prayers of the people (Jeremiah 5:1; 7; 31:34; 33:8; 36:3; 50:20), assurance through lament (Psalm 130) (Douglas, 831). “Divine Forgiveness is dependent on the loving nature of God. But while offered to all, pardon is not given to all. Impediments to forgiveness include stubborn unrepentance (Mark 4:12), unbelief (implicit in Acts 2:37-38, 40), denial of wrongdoing (1 John 1:8, 10) and refusal to forgive other people (Matt 6:14-15) (Douglas, 835).
PRAY[edit | edit source]
Greek Root: ἐντυγχάνω (Bauer)
PRAY: to make a request in a humble manner; to address God or a god with adoration, confession, supplication, or thanksgiving. (Merriam-Webster)
Places where PRAY is found in Matthew 6
Matt 6:5 When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues
Matt 6:6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is
Matt 6:7 And when you are praying, do not use meaningless
Matt 6:9 Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven,
(Taken from Logos 3.0)
PRAYER: “In the Bible prayer is worship that includes all attitudes of the human spirit in its approach to God. The Christian worships God when he adores, confesses, praises and supplicates him in prayer. This highest activity of which the human spirit is capable may also be thought of as communion with God, so long as due emphasis is laid upon divine initiative. A man prays because God has already touched his spirit. Prayer in the Bible is not a ‘natural response’ (Jn. 4:24). […] The biblical doctrine of God, the necessity of a man’s being in saving or covenant relation with him, and his entering fully with all the privileges and obligations of that relation with God.” (Douglas, 947-8). Prayer takes on a specific and important emphasis in the Gospels. Jesus taught much of his doctrine of prayer through the use of Parables (Lk. 11:5-8; Mt. 7:7-11; Lk. 18:1-8; Lk. 18:10-14) (Douglas, 948). The simplicity of prayer is taught in Mt. 6:5f; 23:14; Mk12:38; Lk. 20:47 (Douglas, 949). “[…] the basic characteristic of Christian prayer [is] a new access to the Father which Christ secures for the Christian, and prayer in harmony with the Father’s will because offered in Christ’s name.” (Douglas, 949). On the Lord’s Prayer, “”there […] [are] six petititions [following the invocation in Mt. 6:9b] (9c-13b), of which the first three have reference to God’s name, kingdom and will, and the last three to man’s need of bread, forgiveness and victory: the prayer then closes with a doxology (13c) which contains a threefold declaration concerning God’s kingdom, power and glory. It is ‘like this’ that Christians are bidden to pray.” (Douglas, 949).
Bibliography[edit | edit source]
Argyle, A. W. "The Gospel According the Matthew" Vol. 1. London: Cambridge Univ., 1963. Print. The Cambridge Bible Commentary on the New English Bible.
Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Ed. (BDAG). Ed. Frederick William Danker. Third ed. Logos Bible Software, 2000.
Dietrich, Suzanna De. "The Gospel According to Matthew" Vol. 16. Richmond: John Knox, 1961. Print. The Layman's Bible Commentary.
Douglas, J. D., ed. "Pray." New Bible Dictionary. Third ed. Leicester: InterVarsity, 1996. 1019. Print.
Earle, Ralph. Matthew. Vol. VI. Kansas City: Beacon Hill, 1964. Print. Beacon Bible Commentary.
Freedman, David Noel. "Forgiveness." The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 2. New York: Doubleday Dell, 1992. 947+. Print.
Hagner, Donald A. "Matthew 1-13" Vol. 33A. Dallas: Word Incorporated, 1993. Print. Word Biblical Commentary.
Hare, Douglas R. A. "Matthew" Louisville: John Knox, 1993. Print. Interpretation A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching.
Hill, David. "The Gospel of Matthew" Grand Rapids: Marshall Morgan & Scott, 1972. Print. The New Century Bible Commentary.
Luke. New American Standard Bible. The Lockman Foundation. Web. <http://nasb.scripturetext.com/luke.htm>.
Mark. New American Standard Bible. The Lockman Foundation. Web. <http://nasb.scripturetext.com/mark.htm>.
Matthew. New American Standard Bible. The Lockman Foundation. Web. <http://nasb.scripturetext.com/matthew/6.htm>.
Merriam-Webster, I. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. Eleventh ed. Springfield: Merriam-Webster,, 2003. Print.
Perkins, Pheme. "First and Second Peter, James and Jude." Louisville: John Knox, 1995. Print. Interpretation A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching.
Commentary on Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Too bad no one observed Ash Wednesday during the first century.
Jesus could have had a ball with it, given his penchant for directing special criticism toward religious people and their overt expressions of piety. Smudged foreheads are public expressions; as Jesus knew, all public religious statements can bear witness to the gospel or ensnare us in games of spiritual self-congratulation.
Preachers and the liturgies they employ need to find ways of explaining the purpose of Ash Wednesday and Lent, for these observances are postbiblical inventions. A sermon on this Matthean passage might take up the topic of how people conduct a devotional life as a means of communing with God. In the text Jesus highlights the pitfalls that accompany religious behavior, warning that piety intended to garner notice from others is really no piety at all.
The Context: The Sermon on the Mount
Scholars debate whether Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount addresses those who are already disciples or those who may yet enlist. But when we consider the overall scope of Matthew, it becomes unnecessary to force a choice on that issue. The audience that first heard the Sermon as a piece of the Gospel of Matthew clearly was a collection of religious folk who knew the importance of particular religious acts. In the first part of the passage (Matthew 6:1–6, 16–18), Jesus does not instruct people to begin giving, praying, and fasting. He grants that faithful people rightly do these things. What Jesus addresses is the proper motivation behind religious practices. This theme makes these verses interesting for Ash Wednesday, when religious folk fill the pews and most seekers stay away.
The Sermon focuses on the righteousness (dikaiosunē in Greek) that characterizes the kingdom of heaven. Our passage stands within a series of illustrations of this righteousness (note the context set by 5:20; 6:1 [where the NRSV renders dikaiosunē as “piety”]; 6:33). In contrast to a Pauline understanding of dikaiosunē, the Sermon describes “righteousness” mostly in moral terms. Still, righteousness that is part and parcel of the kingdom of heaven is not merely a list of actions to be performed. Although Jesus insists that certain behaviors are utterly vital for a life of faith, his greater point is that righteousness encompasses the focus and state of mind that motivates and sustains one’s actions.
Part One: Matthew 6:1–6, 16–18
The lectionary offers a passage best understood as two separate pieces. The first comprises three similar sections. (By skipping over Jesus’ extended comments on prayer in 6:7–15, the prescribed reading emphasizes the parallel format of the sections.) Each section addresses a practice of individual piety that was widely commended in the Judaism of Jesus’ time, and also part of the earliest Christians’ devotional repertoire. In addition, other Jewish teachers used language similar to Jesus’ to condemn those who paraded their piety for public show. The Sermon on the Mount therefore reminds us just how indebted Jesus was to Jewish ideas and teachings. Far from being a criticism of Judaism and its practices, the Sermon reiterates the thoroughly Jewish identity of Jesus and his message.
The opening verse (6:1) summarizes the point of the first part: if you act in a way designed to secure the notice of others, your deeds of “righteousness” yield no reward. Note that this does not disallow public piety. Jesus warns against perverted piety or piety misused for public self-aggrandizement. Those who do this are hypocrites, and they forfeit reward from God.
Hypocrite is a Greek term for stage actors. It did not necessarily carry connotations of an underhanded person who intends to deceive, yet in Jesus’ day the word was sometimes associated with false godliness. Ancient actors wore masks, literally hiding their true selves behind a false identity. This image, when used to criticize those who display piety in particular ways, suggests a degree of pretense behind their actions. Jesus’ criticism goes beyond saying, “Hey, you aren’t doing that correctly!” It is more severe: “What you are doing demonstrates that you are not really the person you want us and God to believe you are!” False practice and false identity are familiar themes in Matthew’s Gospel, which elsewhere reflects Christian communities struggling to discern friends from foes (see Matthew 13:24–30).
The idea of reward resounds in 6:4, 6, and 18, verses that speak of God giving back. God’s reward does not fulfill a precise quid pro quo or necessarily indicate something earned. It refers to benefits conferred in the consummating of the kingdom of heaven, just as so many Matthean parables emphasize a coming judgment and God’s distribution of privileges or punishments.
When working with Jesus’ instructions about giving, prayer, and fasting, preachers should note that he gives burlesque descriptions of pious behavior. The idea of sounding a trumpet when giving money is a joke; no one would do such a thing. Yet the overkill acknowledges that people sometimes give to make public declaration of their own authority or importance. That kind of motivation would have received no argument from the Roman patronage system, in which gifts obliged recipients to return favors or loyalties to givers.
Like the trumpet, the images of keeping one hand from knowing the other’s actions, praying on a street corner, praying in utter secret in a closet, and purposely soiling or contorting (these are better translations than the NRSV’s and NIV’s “disfigure”) one’s face also inject humor. But the humor intensifies very serious warnings. Charity is not charity when an intent to garner attention and influence lies behind it. Prayer is not prayer when the one praying is more interested in calling attention to one’s own efforts, eloquence, or importance than in conducting honest communication with God. Fasting, which enacts humanity’s utter dependence upon God (fasting in scripture has connections to repentance, petition, lament, and the yearning for God’s justice), instead mocks that dependence when the fast is poisoned by attempts to impress others with the depths of the faster’s devotion.
Likewise, those who view ashes on their foreheads as marks of religious achievement – like the adult equivalent of gold stars given for perfect Sunday school attendance – and those who peddle Lenten spirituality as a unique virtue have received their reward in full. Dust to dust, indeed.
And, of course, there is a rub for those of us who scoff at behaviors that strike us as excessively pious: the refusal to engage in certain acts of piety can lead to the same self-condemning outcome. Nonparticipation has its public, observable dimensions, as well.
Some people misread the Sermon on the Mount by interpreting the whole thing as a sustained warning to those who would brazenly presume they can achieve the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven by their own effort. Not so. Read on its own terms, the Sermon resounds with words of promise, beginning with Jesus’ opening macarism about the poor in spirit. Our passage repeatedly assures that God sees and blesses our genuine service and worship. Jesus promises that people enjoy magnificent access to God, even — or especially — through the most simple and understated expressions of devotion.
An individual’s religious practices, to be authentic, must concern a person’s interaction with God. Jesus’ point is not that only private or unobservable religious activities count for anything, but that believers should go about their devotion, in whatever forms, as if no one else is watching. Jesus’ humor and overstatement underscore this fact: the ways of religious folk have a tendency to bring out our self-centeredness and ironically parade our impiety. This is an important message for Ash Wednesday and for all of the Lenten season.
Part Two: Matthew 6:19–21
These verses introduce a new subsection of the Sermon (6:19–34) that addresses wealth, possessions, and the anxiety they foster. Preachers could end today’s reading at 6:18 with a clear conscience. However, these are three important verses, even if their connection to what precedes them is uncertain.
In contrasting “treasures on earth” with “treasures in heaven,” Jesus notes that our possessions and acquisitions are always corruptible, vulnerable, and temporary (see James 5:2–3; Sirach 29:10–12). Gathering “treasures in heaven” refers to conducting oneself in anticipation of God’s judgment and reward. Jesus did not coin this expression, for many Jewish texts speak about living in such a way that one stores up incorruptible treasures, understood as good standing with the Lord, which manifests itself in eschatological reward. In Matthew’s Gospel, this idea is consistent with the fullness of “the kingdom of heaven” and all its benefits.
The true value of monetary wealth, therefore, lies not in its power to accumulate possessions in pursuit of power and comfort. Wealth enables generosity, and a generous heart has its sights set on God. Jesus’ statement in verse 21 works in two ways. First, our use of wealth displays where our hearts reside. The uses to which we put money identify what our innermost selves care for most deeply. Second, our hearts can be made to follow where our treasure goes. When we invest in certain charitable causes and people, our hearts will expand to care for them more deeply. This means that a person need not wait until she or he can muster enough heartfelt concern for the needy before writing a check. Giving a gift, putting money toward uses that promote God’s vision of righteousness, may help a heart receive a taste of what God desires for the world.
Matthew 6 is seen as a continuation of “The Sermon on the Mountain”. During this chapter Jesus teaches people about hypocrisy, prayers, fasting, hoarding and influences.
In the beginning verses of this chapter, Jesus teaches his followers how to remain genuine in offering their gifts to God. He warns them against boasting. In verse 3 Jesus says, “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” which often translated to mean, “Be discreet so no one can tell what you’re doing.”
Jesus also addressed the topic of prayer. Jesus preaches against making a spectacle of prayer. He shows people how to pray in a sober and diligent way. It is at this point that he teaches the masses about the Lord’s Prayer. In this chapter Jesus also talks about fasting. He teaches His followers how to fast in the proper manner. Jesus cautions them against making a big deal out of this practice and discourages them from fasting to impress other men. Jesus also discusses the topic of hoarding. In the last verses of the Chapter He advises people not to value earthly property too much at the expense of losing the kingdom of heaven.
1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Matthew chapter 6
1 Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
5 And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 This, then, is how you should pray: ''Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
16 When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
25 Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you--you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. 2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. 7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. 8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. 14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
1 'Take care not to practice your righteousness in the sight of people, to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
2 'So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, so that they will be praised by people. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 But when yougive to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your charitable giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
5 'And when you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they will be seen by people. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 But as for you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
7 'And when you are praying, do not use thoughtless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8 So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
9 'Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father, who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. ’
14 For if you forgive other people for their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive other people, then your Father will not forgive youroffenses.
16 'Now whenever you fast, do not make a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they distort their faces so that they will be noticed by people when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 But as for you, when you fast,anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by people but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
19 'Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 'The eye is the lamp of the body; so then, if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye isbad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24 'No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
25 'For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the sky, that they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather crops into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more important than they? 27 And which of you by worrying can add a singleday to hislife’s span? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Notice how the lilies of the field grow; they do not labor nor do they spin thread for cloth,29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 Butseek firstHis kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will beprovided to you.
34 'So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
1 'Watch out! Don't do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2 When you give to someone in need, don't do as the hypocrites do--blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. 3 But when you give to someone in need, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4 Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
5 'When you pray, don't be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
7 'When you pray, don't babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. 8 Don't be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!
9 Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. 10 May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today the food we need, 12 and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. 13 And don't let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.
14 'If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
16 'And when you fast, don't make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. 17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. 18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
19 'Don't store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
22 'Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. 23 But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!
24 'No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
25 'That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life--whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn't life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
28 'And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
31 'So don't worry about these things, saying, 'What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?' 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
34 'So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today.
1 "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven. 2 So whenever you give to the poor, don't sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. 3 But when you give to the poor, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
5 "Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 When you pray, don't babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they'll be heard for their many words. 8 Don't be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him.
9 "Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done 11 on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
14 "For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. 15 But if you don't forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.
16 "Whenever you fast, don't be gloomy like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so that their fasting is obvious to people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting isn't obvious to others but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
19 "Don't store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don't break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness, how deep is that darkness!
24 "No one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
25 "Therefore I tell you: Don't worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn't life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Consider the birds of the sky: They don't sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you worth more than they? 27 Can any of you add one moment to his life-span by worrying? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow: They don't labor or spin thread. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. 30 If that's how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won't he do much more for you--you of little faith? 31 So don't worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don't worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Chapter 6 explained matthew
Matthew Chapter 6
Verses 1-18: Here Christ expands the thought of 5:20, showing how the Pharisees’ righteousness was deficient by exposing their hypocrisy in the matters of giving to the poor (verses 1-4); prayer (verses 5-15); and fasting (verses 16-18). All of these acts are supposed to be worship rendered to God, never displays of self-righteousness to gain the admiration of others.
Matthew 6:1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.”
Jesus warns us not to give “alms before men” just to gain human recognition to ourselves. The one who does righteousness (or gives of his possessions), to the Lord before men merely “to be seen of them” has “no reward” from the Father in heaven.
True worship results from the desire to serve God, not men, since pleasing God is far more important than pleasing men. Loss of reward is incurred by gaining the reward of human recognition as an end in itself.
Matthew 6:2 “Therefore when thou doest [thine] alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”
“Hypocrites”: This word had its origins in Greek theater, describing a character who wore a mask. The term, as used in the New Testament; normally described an unregenerate person who was self-deceived.
“They have their reward”: There reward is that they were seen by men, nothing more. God does not reward hypocrisy, but He does punish it (23:13-23).
Therefore, in all of our giving we are not to “sound a trumpet” before us in a hypocritical manner of gaining attention to ourselves. This metaphorical phrase means do not “publicize” your righteousness, for such performers are “hypocrites” (from the Greek, “play actor”).
Thus, Jesus warns against acting like the hypocrites, whose aim is to win human praise.
Matthew 6:3 “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:”
“Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth” means that one’s giving of finances to the work of the Lord should be done so freely and spontaneously that his right hand cannot keep up with his left hand.
Matthew 6:4 “That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.”
The real key to success in this kind of giving is found in the phrase “thy Father which seeth in secret … shall reward” you. Giving by faith, out of a cheerful heart, depends on our total confidence in the fact that God does indeed see us and knows our needs. These verses certainly do not condemn public giving, but rather they speak against giving out of the wrong attitude and for the wrong motive.
Jesus was warning us that our doing must not be for a big show or to receive in return. When we help someone, it should not be for public acclamation. We should help, because there is a need, and not to benefit ourselves.
See a need and quietly take care of it. Don’t run and put it the paper when you feed someone. God sees everything we do, but more than that, He sees the reason why we did it.
Verses 5-6: Praying, like giving, is to be done to the Lord, not to man. Jesus said that people “love to pray standing in the synagogues.” Both a time and place for prayer were customary in the ancient Jewish synagogue (Mark 11:25). Therefore, Jesus is not condemning the practice of public prayer, but rather the misuse of it.
Because of the statement “enter into thy closet,” some have suggested that all public prayer is wrong. This would be contrary to the rest of New Testament statements about prayer, commandments and restrictions regarding prayer, and examples of prayer meetings (Acts 12:12).
The principle here is that the believer should not make a show of his prayer nor of the answers he receives to prayer in such a way as to call unnecessary attention to himself.
Matthew 6:5-6 “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites [are]: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”
This Scripture does not mean not to pray in church. It just means don’t pray, just so men can say, what a beautiful prayer you prayed. The most effective prayers are when we seek God by ourselves, having nothing to gain but fellowship with Him.
Everyone should have a place to go and pray to God alone. Prayer is just talking to God. The words we say are really unimportant. God knows the desires of our hearts before we say a word.
He just loves for us to come to Him to visit, with no ulterior motives. When we pray, we must be quite part of the time and let God speak to our spirit. God does not want us to ever be ashamed to pray. Just talk to God. He will listen and answer your prayer. Be sincere.
Matthew 6:7 “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”
“Vain repetitions”: Prayers are not to be merely recited, nor are our words to be repeated thoughtlessly, or as if they were automatic formulas. But this is not a prohibition against importunity.
Jesus warned that we “use not vain repetitions” (Greek battalogeo denotes babbling or speaking without thinking). Such prayer was characteristic of the heathen. A good example of this is found in the ecstatic babblings of the false prophets in the Old Testament and in the prophets of Baal who confronted Elijah on Mount Carmel (1 King 18:26-29).
Matthew 6:8 “Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”
Prayer is not man’s attempt to change the will of God. Prayer is not conquering God’s reluctance to answer, but laying hold of His willingness to help. Prayer in the life of the true believer is an act of total confidence and assurance in the plan and purpose of God. The following sample prayer is given to the disciples as an example of a suitable prayer.
This prayer, often called the “Lord’s Prayer,” is in reality a disciple’s prayer. In no way does the prayer itself embody all of Christ’s teaching about prayer and having just warned against vain repetition, He did not intend for this particular prayer to be merely recited with empty meaninglessness.
In these verses above, Jesus was saying, talk to God, don’t memorize a prayer and say it every time. Tell God what is in your heart. Tell Him you love Him and need His help.
Probably, the most famous prayer in all the world is the prayer Jesus taught them to pray here. Most people misunderstand what he was saying. We all memorize this prayer, and say it without having the vaguest idea what it meant.
If you will notice in verse 9, Jesus said “After this manner therefore pray ye.” He did not say, pray this prayer. He was showing the disciples and us as well, the way to get results from our prayers.
Matthew 6:9 “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”
“After this manner”: The prayer is a model, not merely a liturgy. It is notable for its brevity, simplicity, and comprehensiveness. On the 6 petitions, 3 are direct to God (verses 9-10), and 3 toward human needs (verses 11-13).
The beginning phrase, “Our Father,” is completely uncommon to the prayers of the Old Testament. The two major elements of the prayer are adoration and petition. “Hallowed be thy name” addresses the attention of the prayer toward God and reverence for His name and His person. Hallowed (Greek hagiazo) means to be held in reverence and holy awe.
The Father is the first person of the Trinity. With only one exception (John 17:3), Jesus always spoke of God as the Father. The Scriptures identify the fatherhood of God in five areas: He is the Father of Creation (James 1:17), a protective Father emphasizing His defense of the poor and oppressed (Psalm 68:5), and a redemptive Father when we become the children of God (John 1:13; Rom. 8:15).
Just as physical fathers provide many benefits, so our heavenly Father also provides a number of spiritual benefits. Christians may have fellowship with (1 John 1:3), access to (verses 9, 32), guidance by (Psalm 119:9; 2 Tim 3:17), protection by (John 10:29), and an inheritance from (Rom. 8:17), the Father.
Just because God is the Father of all, because He is the Father of Creation, does not mean that everyone will go to heaven. A person must be born of God (John 1:13), to become a son of God (John 1:12). Then God becomes a redemptive Father.
Matthew 6:10 “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as [it is] in heaven.”
The phrase “Thy kingdom come” refers to the eschatological nature of this prayer. Notice that the kingdom is to be prayed for implying that it has not arrived. The kingdom represents the full and effective reign of God through the mediatorial office of the Messiah.
The recognition of “Thy will be done” emphasizes the idea that prayer is to bring about the conformity of the will of the believer to the will of God. Prayer is an act of spiritual expression that brings us into conformity to the very nature and purpose of God. All prayer, first of all, willingly submits to God’s purposes, plans and glory.
God is not just Supreme Ruler of heaven, but of this earth as well. We must say as Jesus said, “not my will but thine”. We should be looking forward to God’s kingdom being set up on this earth.
Matthew 6:11 “Give us this day our daily bread.”
The section of petitions begins with the request to “give us this day our daily bread.” Bread (Greek artoa) may be applied to the provision of food in general. The term daily (Greek epiousious), denotes “indispensable.” The concept of daily provision of bread fits perfectly with the Old Testament example of the daily provision of manna to the Israelites while they were wandering in the wilderness (Exodus 16:14-15).
God will take care of our needs one day at a time. The Bible says take no thought for tomorrow. Live each day one day at a time.
Matthew 6:12 “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
Forgive us our debts” refers to sins, which are our moral and spiritual debts to God’s righteousness. The request for forgiveness of sin is made here by the believer. In order to be saved one need not necessarily name all of his sins, but he must confess that he is a sinner.
The parallel passage in Luke 11:4 uses a word that means “sins,” so that in context, spiritual debts are intended. Sinners are debtors to God for their violation of His laws. This request is the heart of the prayer; it is what Jesus stressed in the words that immediately follow the prayer (verses 14:15; Mark 11:25).
We all want the first part of verse 12, but few want the last. We must forgive to get forgiveness.
Verses 13-15: “Lead us not into temptation” is a plea for the providential help of God in our daily confrontation with the temptation of sin. God does not tempt us to do evil, but we are tempted of our own lusts (James 1:13-14). However, God does test us in order to give us the opportunity to prove our faithfulness to Him. He never desires to lead us into evil itself.
Therefore, if we resist the Devil, we are promised that he will flee from us. The prayer closes with a doxology of praise: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen,” which is a liturgical ending similar to (1 Chronicles 29:11). Though omitted in some manuscripts, these words constitute a fitting and climactic affirmation of faith.
Matthew 6:13 “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
“And lead us not into temptation” (Luke 22:40). God does not tempt men (James 1:13), but He will subject them to trails that may expose them to Satan’s assaults, as in the case of Job and Peter (Luke 22:31-32). This petition reflects the believing one’s desire to avoid the dangers of sin altogether.
God knows what one’s need is before one asks (verse 8), and He promises that no one will be subjected to testing beyond what can be endured. He also promises a way of escape – often through endurance (1 Cor. 10:13). But still, the proper attitude for the believer is the one expressed in this petition.
Our lusts cause us to be tempted. We should ask each day to let the blood of Jesus wash over our minds and our beings so the devil cannot attack us in these areas. God will deliver us from evil, but we must realize our need for His help and use it.
Just as the prayer begins with praise and recognition of God for what He is, it ends with praise and recognition. “Amen” means so be it.
Matthew 6:14-15 “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:” “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
“Neither will your Father forgive your trespasses”: This is not to suggest that God will withdraw justification from those who have already received the free pardon He extends to all believers. Forgiveness in that sense, a permanent and complete acquittal from the guilt and ultimate penalty of sin, belongs to all who are in Christ (John 5:24; Rom. 8:1; Eph. 1:7).
Yet, Scripture also teaches that God chastens His children who disobey (Heb. 12:5-7). Believers are to confess their sins in order to obtain a day-to-day cleansing (1 John 1:9). This sort of forgiveness is a simple washing from the worldly defilements of sin, not a repeat of the wholesales cleansing from sin’s corruption that comes with justification.
It is like a washing of the feet rather than a bath (John 13:10). Forgiveness in this latter sense is what God threatens to withhold from Christians who refuse to forgive others (18:23-35).
All through the Bible we see statements like the one above. “Judge not, that ye not be judged” Etc.
Verses 16-17: “When ye fast”: This indicates that fasting is assumed to be a normal part of one’s spiritual life (1 Cor. 7:5). Fasting is associated with sadness (9:14-15), prayer (17:21), charity (Isaiah 58:3-6), and seeking the Lord’s will (Acts 13:2-3; 14:23).
Matthew 6:16 “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”
“When ye fast” is a reference both to fasting prescribed under the Mosaic Law in connection with the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29) and the voluntary fast of that day. The Pharisees added two fast days, Monday and Thursday of each week, as a case of public display and piety. The Pharisees regarded the practice of fasting as meritorious, and appeared in the synagogues negligently attired.
Their sad disfigurement of face and the wearing of mourning garb gave them an opportunity to exhibit their superior ascetic sanctity before the people. The phrase “disfigure their faces” literally denotes covering their faces and is a figurative expression for mournful gestures and neglected appearance of those wanting to call attention to themselves.
Verses 17-18: This passage is not to be taken as a command against fasting but rather against the misuse of the spiritual exercise of fasting. Fasting that requires spectators is mere acting. Though Jesus Himself instituted no fast for His disciples, voluntary fasting does appear in the early churches (Acts 13:2).
The injunction to “anoint thine head” relates to the ancient custom of anointing one’s head when going to a feast. In other words, Jesus was saying that when we fast we are to do so secretly to the Lord, while outwardly maintaining the appearance of joy and triumph, which is the end result of true fasting.
Matthew 6:17-18 “But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;” “That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”
Fasting involves more than giving up food for a day or two. A fast is a solemn time of separation from worldly things of all kinds. For a fast to be effective, it must be a fast that God encouraged you to do for some specific prayer request to be answered.
The time that would ordinarily be watching TV or fixing lunch, or 1,000 other little things, should be spent studying your Bible and praying. During a fast, God is your source.
Many types of illness require fasting. When the disciples came to Jesus and asked why they could not heal someone, Jesus said, this type comes out by prayer and fasting.
When you fast, it is a serious time with God and Him alone. We fast to show sincerity. God will honor a fast, if we are sincerely seeking. You may fast one meal, one day, two days, three days, or as long as you have agreed with God you will fast. It is better to promise less.
You must follow through, until God releases you. God does not like to play games. Some people drink juice during a fast, but a true fast is a total abstinence. Pray before you begin. Sometimes a preacher will call a fast for a church, but usually it is an individual thing.
Don’t brag to others about a fast. Just separate yourself for a season, pray and fast. It gets wonderful results.
Verses 19-21: The attention of the believer is directed toward “treasures in heaven.” This term “treasures” implies the addition or accumulation of things. The two kinds of treasures are conditioned by their place (either on earth or in heaven). The concept of laying up treasures in heaven is not pictured as one of meritorious benefits but rather of rewards for faithful service, as is illustrated elsewhere in the teaching of Jesus.
Matthew 6:19-20 “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:” “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:”
“Treasures”: Don’t amass earthly wealth. Jesus commends the use of financial assets for purposes which are heavenly and eternal.
Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
We have seen in the past, the stock market dropping drastically causing many people to lose their life’s savings. Some cannot cope with the loss of worldly goods, and have resorted to suicide.
The sad thing is that you cannot end it all. We are eternal beings, and will spend an eternity somewhere. When we end our lives, there is some question where that eternity will be. Really, God does not care if you are poor or rich. God does not want us to put money ahead of Him, or His people.
The sin of having money occurs, when we see someone in need, and will not help them. Love of money is a sin. Whenever you help God’s people here on earth, you are laying up treasures for heaven.
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).
This is what God would have you to do, if He has endowed you with wealth. Be quick to distribute to those in need. Be content with what you have, whether it be much, or little. Help everyone you can, as often as you can.
In heaven there are no thieves. Your heart and pocket book are usually in the same place. Put God first and all other things will fall in place.
Matthew Chapter 6 Questions
- When you do alms, you can lose your reward if you do what?
- What do the hypocrites do?
- What is said about the right and left hand?
- If you do alms in secret, what will God do?
- For what reason should we help someone?
- God sees what we do, but more than that, what does He see?
- When we pray, where should we pray?
- The most effective prayers are what?
- What is prayer?
- We are told not to use vain repetitions when we pray. What do the heathen believe?
- What is the most famous prayer?
- What was Jesus telling the disciples and us about prayer?
- What is the first thing we should do in prayer?
- How should we speak to God?
- God is supreme ruler of where?
- How does God take care of our needs?
- How should we live our lives?
- How can we be forgiven?
- What causes us to be tempted?
- How should prayer end?
- What does “amen” mean?
- Who is spoken of as having a sad countenance when fasting?
- What two things should we do, so as not to appear to be fasting?
- What is a fast, besides giving up food?
- What must we do for God to honor our fast?
- Some drink juice fasting, but a true fast is what?
- Sometimes a preacher calls a fast for the church, but it is usually what?
- What can happen to treasures on earth?
- Where should we lay up treasures?
- God does not care whether you are rich or poor, what does God care about?
- What must a rich person be quick to do?
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A basic principle 6:1
"Righteousness" means what is in harmony with the will of God, and righteous deeds are those that are pleasing to Him. Jesus warned His disciples about the possibility of doing good deeds for the wrong reason as He began His teaching about righteous behavior. If one does what God approves to obtain human approval, that one will not receive a reward for his good deed from God. Notice again that disciples’ rewards will vary. Some disciples will receive more reward from God than others. Disciples should practice good works publicly (Matthew 5:16), but they should not draw special attention to them.
The rabbis considered almsgiving, prayer, and fasting as the three chief acts of Jewish piety. [Note: C. G. Montefiore and H. Loewe, A Rabbinic Anthology, pp. 412-39; G. F. Moore, Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era, 2:162-79.] Jesus dealt with each of these aspects of worship similarly. He first warned His disciples not to do the act for man’s praise. Then He assured them that if they disregarded His warning they would get human praise but no more. Third, He taught them how to do the act for God alone, secretly (not for public applause). Finally, He assured them that the Father who sees in secret would reward their righteous act openly.
Righteousness and the Father 6:1-18
Jesus moved from correcting popular misinterpretations of selected Old Testament texts that speak of righteous conduct (Matthew 5:17-48) to correcting popular misconceptions about righteous conduct. He moved from ethical distinctions to the practice of religion. Throughout this entire section proper motivation for actions is a constant emphasis.
Alms were gifts of money to the needy. What Jesus said on this subject is applicable to all types of giving.
Interpreters have understood the practice of sounding a trumpet to announce alms-giving metaphorically and literally. Metaphorically it would mean that Jesus was using a figure of speech to picture showy giving, something like "blowing your own horn." However, His description seems to have had a custom behind it. There is old evidence that during this period the Jewish priests blew trumpets in the Temple when they collected funds for some special need. [Note: David Hill, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 133.] Alternatively, this may be a reference to the metal horn-shaped collection receptacles in the Temple that noisily announced contributions that people tossed into them. [Note: Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, p. 26; J. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, p. 170, n. 73.] However, Jesus mentioned the synagogues and streets, not the Temple. Probably Jesus referred to the blowing of trumpets in the streets that announced fasts that included alms-giving. [Note: Adolf Buchler, "St. Mathew vi 1-6 and Other Allied Passages," Journal of Theological Studies 10 (1909):266-70.]
The idea of not letting the left hand know what the right hand does pictures secrecy (cf. Matthew 25:35-40). The way to avoid hypocrisy is to let no other people know when we give. We can carry this to the extreme, of course, but Jesus’ point was that we should not draw attention to ourselves when we give. Hypocrisy does not just involve giving an impression that is incorrect, such as that one gives alms when he really does not. It also involves deceiving oneself even if one deceives no one else. A third kind of hypocrisy involves deceiving oneself and others into thinking that what one does is for a certain purpose when it is really for a different purpose. This seems to be the type of hypocrisy in view here.
"They were not giving, but buying. They wanted the praise of men, they paid for it." [Note: Davies and Allison, 1:582.]
"The hypocrites are not identified here, but Matthew 23 clearly indicates that they are the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:13-15; Matthew 23:23; Matthew 23:25; Matthew 23:27; Matthew 23:29). A clearer illustration of a facet of Matthew’s style can hardly be found. First he intimates a fact, then he builds on it, and finally he establishes it. Here the intimation concerns the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees." [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 107.]
"As ’leaders,’ the religious leaders evince their evilness most prominently by showing themselves to be ’hypocritical.’ Hypocrisy in Matthew’s story is the opposite of being ’perfect.’ To be perfect is to be wholehearted, or single-hearted, in the devotion with which one serves God (Matthew 5:48; Deuteronomy 18:13). To be hypocritical is to be ’divided’ in one’s fealty to God. Hypocrisy, then, is a form of inner incongruity, to wit: paying honor to God with the lips while the heart is far from him (Matthew 15:7-8); making pronouncements about what is right while not practicing them (Matthew 23:3 c); and appearing outwardly to be righteous while being inwardly full of lawlessness (Matthew 23:28)." [Note: Kingsbury, Matthew as . . ., p. 20.]
Jesus assumed that His disciples would pray, as He assumed they would give alms (Matthew 6:2) and fast (Matthew 6:16). Again He warned against ostentatious worship. The synagogues and streets were public places where people could practice their righteousness with an audience. The motive is what matters most. Obviously Jesus was not condemning public prayer per se (cf. Matthew 15:36; Matthew 18:19-20; 1 Timothy 2:8). Praying out loud was common among the Jews, though one could still pray out loud in a private place. [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 238.]
"The public versus private antithesis is a good test of one’s motives; the person who prays more in public than in private reveals that he is less interested in God’s approval than in human praise." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p,. 165.]
Jesus alluded to the Septuagint version of Isaiah 26:20 where the private room is a bedroom (cf. 2 Kings 4:33). Any private setting will do. Jesus was not discouraging public praying but praying to be admired for it.
Jesus digressed briefly to give a further warning about repetitious prayer (Matthew 6:7-8) and a positive example of proper prayer (Matthew 6:9-15). Jesus’ disciples can fall into prayer practices that characterize the pagans. Jesus Himself prayed long prayers (Luke 6:12), and He repeated Himself in prayer (Matthew 26:44). These practices were not the objects of His criticism. He was attacking the idea that the length of a prayer makes it efficacious. Pagan prayer commonly relies on length and repetition for effectiveness, the sheer quantity of words.
Jesus’ disciples do not need to inform their omniscient Father of their needs in prayer. He already knows what they are. Why pray then? Jesus did not answer that question here. Essentially we pray for the same reasons children speak to their parents: to share concerns, to have fellowship, to obtain help, and to express gratitude, among other reasons.
Jesus gave His disciples a model prayer known commonly as "The Lord’s Prayer." Obviously it was not His prayer in the sense that He prayed it, but it was His prayer in the sense that He taught it. He introduced the model as such. Here is a way to pray that is neither too long, ostentatious, nor unnecessarily repetitious.
One of Jesus’ unique emphases, as I have already mentioned, was that His disciples should think of God as their heavenly Father. It was not characteristic of believers to address God as their Father until Jesus taught them to do so. [Note: J. Jeremias, The Prayers of Jesus, p. 11.]
"Only fifteen times was God referred to as the Father in the Old Testament. Where it does occur, it is used of the nation Israel or to the king of Israel. Never was God called the Father of an individual or of human beings in general (though isolated instances occur in second temple Judaism, Sirach 51:10). In the New Testament numerous references to God as Father can be found." [Note: Mark L. Bailey, "A Biblical Theology of Paul’s Pastoral Epistles," in A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, p. 342. Cf. H. F. D. Sparks, "The Doctrine of the Divine Fatherhood of God in the Gospels," in Studies in the Gospels: Essays in Memory of R. H. Lightfoot, pp. 241-62; and James Barr, "Abba Isn’t Daddy," Journal of Theological Studies 39 (1988):28-47.]
"The overwhelming tendency in Jewish circles was to multiply titles ascribing sovereignty, lordship, glory, grace, and the like to God . . ." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 169.]
"Our" Father indicates that Jesus expected His disciples to pray this prayer aware of their group context, as part of His disciples. Private use of this prayer is all right, but the context in which Jesus taught it was corporate, so He gave a corporate address. The "our" does not include Himself since it is part of Jesus’ teaching concerning how to pray.
The way we think of God as we pray to Him is very important. In prayer we should remember that He is a loving Father who will respond as such to His children. Some modern individuals advocate thinking of God as our Mother. However this runs contrary to what Jesus taught and to the thousands of references to God that God has given us in the masculine gender in both Testaments. God is not a sexual being. Nevertheless He is more like a father to us than a mother. Thinking of Him primarily as a mother will result in some distortion in our concept of God. It will also result in some confusion in our thinking about how God relates to us and how we should relate to Him. [Note: See Aída Besançon Spencer, "Father-Ruler: The Meaning of the Metaphor ’Father’ for God in the Bible," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 39:3 (September 1996):433-42.] Thinking of God as our Father will also remind us of our privileged access into His presence and of our need to treat Him respectfully.
"In heaven" reminds us of His transcendence and sovereignty. Our address to God in prayer does more to prepare us for proper praying than it does to secure the desired response from Him. [Note: Stott, p. 146.]
The first three petitions deal with God and the last three with us. This pattern indicates that disciples should have more concern for God than we do for ourselves. We should put His interests first in our praying as in all our living. All the petitions have some connection with the kingdom. The first three deal with the coming of the kingdom, and the last three are appeals in view of the coming kingdom. [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 107.]
The first petition (Matthew 6:9 c) is that everyone would hold God’s name (His reputation, everything about Him) in reverence. He is already holy. We do not need to pray that He will become more holy. What is necessary is that His creatures everywhere recognize and acknowledge His holiness. This petition focuses on God’s reputation. People need to hallow it, to treat it as special. By praying these words we affirm God’s holiness.
God’s reputation and the kingdom had close connections in the Old Testament (Isaiah 29:23; Ezekiel 36:23).
"In one respect His name is profaned when His people are ill-treated. The sin of the nation which brought about the captivity had caused a profanation of the Name, Is. 43:25; 49:11; Ezekiel 36:20-23. By their restoration His name was to be sanctified. But this sanctification was only a foreshadowing of a still future consummation. Only when the ’kingdom’ came would God’s name be wholly sanctified in the final redemption of His people from reproach." [Note: Allen, p. 58.]
The second petition (Matthew 6:10 a) is that the messianic kingdom will indeed come quickly (cf. Mark 15:43; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Revelation 11:17). It was appropriate for Jesus’ first disciples to pray this petition since the establishment of the kingdom was imminent. It is also appropriate for modern disciples to pray it since the inauguration of that kingdom will begin the righteous rule of Messiah on the earth, which every believer should anticipate eagerly. This kingdom has not yet begun. If it had, Jesus’ disciples would not need to pray for it to come. Christ will rule over His kingdom, the Davidic kingdom, from the earth, and He is now in heaven. This petition focuses on God’s kingdom. People need to prepare for it.
"Those who maintain that for Jesus himself the kingdom of God had already come in his own person and ministry inevitably treat this second petition of the Lord’s prayer in a rather cavalier fashion. It must be interpreted, they say, in line with other sayings of Jesus. Why? And what other sayings? When all the evidence in the sayings of Jesus for ’realized eschatology’ is thoroughly tested, it boils down to the ephthasen eph humas [’has come upon you’] of Matthew 12:28 and Luke 11:20. Why should that determine the interpretation of Matthew 6:10 and Luke 11:2? Why should a difficult, obscure saying establish the meaning of one that is clear and unambiguous? Why not interpret the ephthasen [’has come,’ Matthew 12:28] by the elthato [’come,’ Matthew 6:10]; or rather, since neither can be eliminated on valid critical grounds, why not seek an interpretation that does equal justice to both?" [Note: Millar Burrows, "Thy Kingdom Come," Journal of Biblical Literature 74 (January 1955):4-5.]
"Jesus’ conception of God’s kingdom is not simply that of the universal sovereignty of God, which may or may not be accepted by men but is always there. That is the basis of his conception, but he combines with it the eschatological idea of the kingdom which is still to come. In other words, what Jesus means by the kingdom of God includes what the rabbinic literature calls the coming age." [Note: Ibid., p. 8.]
These are accurate and interesting conclusions coming from a non-dispensationalist.
The third petition (Matthew 6:10 b-c) is a request that what God wants to happen on earth will indeed transpire on earth as it now does in heaven. That condition will take place most fully when Christ sets up His kingdom on the earth. However this should be the desire of every disciple in the inter-advent age while Jesus is still in heaven. Nothing better can happen than whatever God’s will involves (Romans 12:1). God’s "will" (Gr. thelema) includes His righteous demands (Matthew 7:21; Matthew 12:50; cf. Psalms 40:8) as well as His determination to cause and permit certain events in history (Matthew 18:14; Matthew 26:42; cf. Acts 21:14). This petition focuses on God’s will. People need to do it.
"This difference [between God’s heavenly universal rule and His earthly millennial rule] arises out of the fact that rebellion and sin exist upon the earth, sin which is to be dealt with in a way not known in any other spot in the universe, not even among the angels which sinned. It is here that the great purpose of what I have named the Mediatorial Kingdom appears: On the basis of mediatorial redemption it must ’come’ to put down at last all rebellion with its evil results, thus finally bringing the Kingdom and will of God on earth as it is in heaven." [Note: McClain, p. 35.]
The remaining petitions (Matthew 6:11-13) focus on the disciples’ needs. Notice the "Thy," "Thy," "Thy," in Matthew 6:9-10 and the "us," "us," "us," in Matthew 6:11-13. Some believers have concluded that prayer should not include anything selfish, so they do not make personal petitions. However, Jesus commanded His disciples to bring their personal needs to God in prayer. The first three petitions stand alone, but the last three have connecting "ands" that bind them together. We need all three of these things equally; we cannot get along without any of them.
The bread in view (Matthew 6:11) probably refers to all our food and even all our physical needs. [Note: Walvoord, Matthew: . . ., p. 53.] Bread has this larger significance in the Bible (cf. Proverbs 30:8; Mark 3:20; Acts 6:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:12; James 2:15). Even today we speak of bread as "the staff of life." Daily bread refers to the necessities of life, not its luxuries. This is a prayer for our needs, not our greeds. The request is for God to supply our needs day by day (cf. Exodus 16:4-5; Psalms 104:14-15; Psalms 104:27-28; Proverbs 30:8). The expression "this day [or today] our daily bread" reflects first century life in which workers received their pay daily. It also reminds disciples that we only live one day at a time, and each day we are dependent on God to sustain us. Asking God to provide our needs does not free us from the responsibility of working, however (cf. Matthew 6:25-34; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). God satisfies our needs partially by giving us the ability and the opportunity to earn a living. Ultimately everything comes from Him. Having to live from hand to mouth one day at a time can be a blessing if it reminds us of our total dependence on God. This is especially true since we live in a world that glorifies self-sufficiency.
The fifth petition requests forgiveness from debts (Matthew 6:12). "Debts" (Gr. opheilemata) probably translates the Aramaic word hoba that was a common synonym for sins. [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 172.] Viewing sins as debts was thoroughly Jewish (cf. Psalms 51:4). [Note: M’Neile, p. 80.] The second clause in the sentence does not mean that we must earn God’s forgiveness with our own. Our forgiveness of others demonstrates our felt need of forgiveness. The person who does not forgive a brother’s offenses does not appreciate how much he himself needs forgiveness.
"Once our eyes have been opened to see the enormity of our offense against God, the injuries which others have done to us appear by comparison extremely trifling. If, on the other hand, we have an exaggerated view of the offenses of others, it proves that we have minimized our own." [Note: Stott, pp. 149-50. Cf. Matthew 18:21-35.]
Some Christians have wondered why we should ask for God’s forgiveness since the New Testament clearly reveals that God forgives all sins-past, present, and future-when He justifies us (Acts 10:43; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). That is judicial or forensic forgiveness. However as forgiven believers we need to ask for forgiveness to restore fellowship with God (cf. 1 John 1:9). Forensic forgiveness brings us into God’s family. Family forgiveness keeps our fellowship with God intimate within God’s family.
"Personal fellowship with God is in view in these verses (not salvation from sin). One cannot walk in fellowship with God if he refuses to forgive others." [Note: Barbieri, p. 32.]
Some interpreters view Matthew 6:13 as containing one petition while others believe Jesus intended two. Probably one is correct in view of the close connection of the ideas. They are really two sides of one coin.
"Temptation" is the Greek peirasmos and means "testing." It refers not so much to solicitation to evil as to trials that test the character. God does not test (peirasmos) anyone (James 1:13-14). Why then do we need to pray that He will not lead us into testing? Even though God is not the instrumental cause of our testing He does permit us to experience temptation from the world, the flesh, and the devil (cf. Matthew 4:1; Genesis 22:1; Deuteronomy 8:2). Therefore this petition is a request that He minimize the occasions of our testing that may result in our sinning. It articulates the repentant disciple’s felt weakness to stand up under severe trials in view of our sinfulness (cf. Proverbs 30:7-9). [Note: Rick W. Byargeon, "Echoes of Wisdom in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 41:3 (September 1998):353-65.]
"But" introduces the alternative. "Deliver us" could mean "spare us from" or "deliver us out of." The meaning depends on what "evil" means. Is this a reference to evil generally or to the evil one, Satan? When the Greek preposition apo ("from") follows "deliver," it usually refers to deliverance from people. When ek ("from") follows it, it always refers to deliverance from things. [Note: J. B. Bauer, "Libera nos a malo," Verbum Domini 34 (1965):12-15.] Here apo occurs. Also, the adjective "evil" has an article modifying it in the Greek text, which indicates that it is to be taken as a substantive: "the evil one." God does not always deliver us from evil, but He does deliver us from the evil one. [Note: See Page, pp. 458-59.]
However the Old Testament predicted that a time of great evil would precede the establishment of the kingdom (Jeremiah 30). Some commentators, including non-premillenarians, have understood the evil in this petition as a reference to Satanic opposition that will come to its full force before the kingdom begins. [Note: E.g., Theodore H. Robinson, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 52; M’Neile, p. 81; and T. Herbert Bindley, "Eschatology in the Lord’s Prayer," The Expositor 17 (October 1919):319-20.] God later revealed through Paul that Christians will not go through this Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; et al.). Consequently we do not need to pray for deliverance from it but from other occasions of testing.
Some have seen a veiled reference to the Trinity in these last three petitions. The Father provides our bread through His creation and providence, the Son’s atonement secures our forgiveness, and the Spirit’s enablement assures our spiritual victory.
The final doxology appears in many ancient manuscripts, but there is so much variation in it that it was probably not originally a part of Matthew’s Gospel. Evidently pious scribes added it later to make the prayer complete liturgically. They apparently adapted the wording of David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 29:11. [Note: See also Thomas L. Constable, "The Lord’s Prayer," in Giving Ourselves to Prayer, compiled by Dan R. Crawford (Terre Haute, Ind.: PrayerShop Publishing, 2005), pp. 70-75.]
These verses explain the thought of the fifth petition (Matthew 6:12) more fully. Repetition stresses the importance of forgiving one another if we want God’s forgiveness (cf. Matthew 18:23-35). Our horizontal relationships with other people must be correct before our vertical relationship with God can be.
"Prayer is straightforward and simple for those who have experienced the grace of the kingdom in Christ. In prayer the disciple does not try to coerce or manipulate God. There are no magical words or formulae, nor does an abundance of words count with God. Short, direct, and sincere prayers are adequate." [Note: Hagner, p. 152.]
"The sample prayer, it can be concluded, is given in the context of the coming kingdom. The first three requests are petitions for the coming of the kingdom. The last three are for the needs of the disciples in the interim preceding the establishment of the kingdom." [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 112.]
Fasting in Israel involved going without food to engage in a spiritual exercise, usually prayer, with greater concentration. Fasting fostered and indicated self-humiliation before God, and confession often accompanied it (Nehemiah 9:1-2; Psalms 35:13; Isaiah 58:3; Isaiah 58:5; Daniel 9:2-20; Daniel 10:2-3; Jonah 3:5; Acts 9:9). People who felt anguish, danger, or desperation gave up eating temporarily to present some special petition to the Lord in prayer (Exodus 24:18; Judges 20:26; 2 Samuel 1:12; 2 Chronicles 20:3; Ezra 8:21-23; Esther 4:16; Matthew 4:1-2; Acts 13:1-3; Acts 14:23). Some pious believers fasted regularly (Luke 2:37). The Pharisees fasted twice a week (Luke 18:12). God only commanded the Israelites to fast on one day of the year, the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31; Leviticus 23:27-32; Numbers 29:7). However during the Exile the Israelites instituted additional regular fasts (Zechariah 7:3-5; Zechariah 8:19). Fasting occurred in the early church and seems to have been a normal part of Christian self-discipline (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Philippians 3:19; 1 Peter 4:3). Hypocritical fasting occurred in Israel long before Jesus’ day (Isaiah 58:1-7; Jeremiah 14:12; Zechariah 7:5-6), but the Pharisees were notorious for it.
"Fasting emphasized the denial of the flesh, but the Pharisees were glorifying their flesh by drawing attention to themselves." [Note: Barbieri, p. 32.]
Jesus’ point in this verse was that His disciples should avoid drawing attention to themselves when they fasted. He did not question the genuine contrition of some who fasted, but He pointed out that the hypocrites wanted the admiration of other people even more than they wanted God’s attention. Since that is what they really wanted, that is all they would get.
Jesus assumed His disciples would fast as He assumed they would give alms and pray. He said nothing to discourage them from fasting (cf. Matthew 9:14-17). He only condemned ostentatious fasting. To avoid any temptation to pander to the adulation of onlookers Jesus counseled His disciples to do nothing that would attract attention to the fact that they were fasting when they fasted. Again, the Father who sees the worship that His children offer in secret will reward them.
The three major acts of Jewish worship-alms-giving, prayer, and fasting-were only representative of many other acts of worship that Jesus’ disciples performed. His teaching in this section of the Sermon (Matthew 6:1-18) stressed lessons they should apply more broadly. In His teaching about each of these three practices, Jesus first warned His disciples not to do the act for man’s praise. Then He assured them that if they disregarded His warning they would get human praise but no more. Third, He taught them how to do the act secretly. Finally, He assured them that the Father who sees in secret would reward their righteous act openly. He thereby explained what it means to seek first the kingdom and its righteousness (Matthew 6:33).
Righteousness and the world 6:19-7:12
Thus far in the Sermon Jesus urged His disciples to base their understanding of the righteousness God requires on the revelation of Scripture, not the traditional interpretations of their leaders (Matthew 5:17-48). Then He clarified that true righteousness involved genuine worship of the Father, not hypocritical, ostentatious worship (Matthew 6:1-18). Next, He revealed what true righteousness involves as the disciple lives in the world. He dealt with four key relationships: the disciple’s relationship to wealth (Matthew 6:19-34), to his or her brethren (Matthew 7:1-5), to his or her antagonists (Matthew 7:6), and to God (Matthew 7:7-12).
In view of the imminence of the kingdom, Jesus’ disciples should "stop laying up treasures on earth." [Note: Nigel Turner, Syntax, p. 76.] Jesus called for a break with their former practice. Money is not intrinsically evil. The wise person works hard and makes financial provision for lean times (Proverbs 6:6-8). Believers have a responsibility to provide for their needy relatives (1 Timothy 5:8) and to be generous with others in need. We can enjoy what God has given us (1 Timothy 4:3-4; 1 Timothy 6:17). What Jesus forbade here was selfishness. Misers hoard more than they need (James 5:2-3). Materialists always want more. It is the love of money that is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).
"What Jesus precludes here is the accumulation of massive amounts of treasure as a life goal." [Note: Bock, Jesus according . . ., p. 142.]
It is foolish to accumulate great quantities of goods because they are perishable. Moths eat clothing, a major form of wealth in the ancient Near East. "Rust" (Gr. brosis) refers to the destructive force of rats and mildew as well as the corrosion that eats metal. [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 177.] Thieves can carry off just about anything in one way or another.
The treasures in heaven Jesus spoke of were the rewards God will give His faithful followers (Matthew 5:12; Matthew 5:30; Matthew 5:46; Matthew 6:6; Matthew 6:15; cf. Matthew 10:42; Matthew 18:5; Matthew 25:40; 2 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Timothy 6:13-19). They are the product of truly good works. These are secure in heaven, and God will dispense them to the faithful at His appointed time (cf. 1 Peter 1:4).
The thing that a person values most highly inevitably occupies the center of his or her heart. The heart is the center of the personality, and it controls the intellect, emotions, and will. [Note: A Dictionary of New Testament Theology, s.v. "kardia," by T. Sorg, 2:180-84.]
"If honour is reckoned the supreme good, the minds of men must be wholly occupied with ambition: if money, covetousness will immediately predominate: if pleasure, it will be impossible to prevent men from sinking into brutal indulgence." [Note: John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke , 1:334.]
On the other hand if a person values eternal riches most highly, he or she will pursue kingdom values (cf. Colossians 3:1-2; Revelation 14:13). Some Christians believe that it is always carnal to desire and to work for eternal rewards, but Jesus commanded us to do precisely that (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Serving the Lord to obtain a reward to glorify oneself is obviously wrong, but to serve Him to obtain a reward that one may lay at His feet as an act of worship is not (cf. Revelation 4:10).
"What does it mean to lay up treasures in heaven? It means to use all that we have for the glory of God. It means to ’hang loose’ when it comes to the material things of life. It also means measuring life by the true riches of the kingdom and not by the false riches of this world." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:28.]
The disciple’s relationship to wealth 6:19-34 (cf. Luke 12:13-34)
Having made several references to treasure in heaven, Jesus now turned to focus on wealth. In the first part of chapter 6 His main emphasis was on sincerity. In this part of the chapter it is on single-mindedness.
The body finds its way through life with the aid of the eye. In that sense the eye is the lamp of the body (cf. Luke 11:34-36). A clear or good eye admits light into the body, but a bad eye leaves the body in darkness. Evidently Jesus meant the eye is similar to the heart (Matthew 6:21). The heart fixed on God (Psalms 108:1-2) is similar to the eye fixed on God’s law (Psalms 119:18; Psalms 119:148).
"Eyes are the expression of the soul, not its intake, although certainly the two ideas are related. What Jesus stresses in this saying is that a good eye acts in a healthy way. It is the sign of a healthy soul." [Note: Bock, Jesus according . . ., p. 143.]
A bad eye is a miserly eye (Proverbs 28:22). Jesus was speaking metaphorically. He probably meant that the person who is stingy and selfish cannot really see where he is going but is morally and spiritually blind (cf. Matthew 6:19-21). [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 178.] However, He may have meant that the person who is double-minded, dividing his loyalties between God and money, will have no clear vision but will lack direction (cf. Matthew 6:24). [Note: Floyd V. Filson, A Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew, p. 100.] Metaphorically the body represents the whole person. The light within is the vision that the eye with divided loyalties, a selfish attitude, provides.
The choice between two masters is behind the choice between two treasures and the choice between two visions. "Mammon" is the transliteration of the emphatic form of the Aramaic word mamona meaning wealth or property. The root word mn in both Hebrew and Aramaic indicates something in which one places confidence. Here Jesus personified it and set it over against God as a competing object of confidence. Jesus presented God and Mammon as two slave owners, masters.
". . . single ownership and fulltime service are of the essence of slavery." [Note: Tasker, p. 76.]
A person might be able to work for two different employers at the same time. However, God and Mammon are not employers but slave owners. Each demands single-minded devotion. To give either anything less is to provide no true service at all.
"Attempts at divided loyalty betray, not partial commitment to discipleship, but deep-seated commitment to idolatry." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 179.]
"The principle of materialism is in inevitable conflict with the kingship of God." [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 263.]
"Therefore" draws a conclusion from what has preceded (Matthew 6:19-24). Since God has given us life and a body, He will certainly also provide what we need to maintain them (cf. Luke 12:22-31; Philippians 4:6-7; Hebrews 13:5; 1 Peter 5:7). This argument is a fortiori, or qal wahomer, "How much more . . .?" It is wrong, therefore, for a disciple to fret about such things. We should simply trust and obey God and get on with fulfilling our divinely revealed calling in life.
If we fret constantly about having enough food and clothing, we show that we have not yet learned a very basic lesson that nature teaches us: God provides for His creatures’ needs. Furthermore God is the heavenly Father of believers. Consequently He will take special care of them. This argument is a minori ad maius, "From the lesser to the greater." This does not mean we can disregard work, but it does mean we should disregard worry.
Fretting cannot lengthen life any more than it can put food on the table or clothes on the back (Matthew 6:27). Worry really shortens life.
The lilies of the field were probably the wild crocuses that bloom so abundantly in Galilee during the spring. However, Jesus probably intended them to represent all the wildflowers. His point was that God is so good that He covers the ground with beautiful wildflowers that have no productive value and only last a short time.
"Once dried, grass became an important fuel source in wood-poor Palestine." [Note: Guelich, The Sermon . . ., p. 340.]
God’s providential grace should not make the disciple lazy but confident that He will provide for His children’s needs similarly. God often dresses the simplest field more beautifully than Israel’s wealthiest king could adorn himself. Therefore anxiety about the essentials of life really demonstrates lack of faith in God.
Since God provides so bountifully for His own, it is not only foolish but pagan to fret about the basic necessities of life. The fretting disciple lives as an unbeliever who disbelieves and disregards God. Such a person devotes too much of his or her attention to the accumulation of material goods and disregards the more important things in life.
"The key to avoiding anxiety is to make the kingdom one’s priority (Matthew 6:33)." [Note: Hagner, p. 166.]
Rather than refraining from the pursuit of material things the disciple should replace this with a pursuit having much greater significance. Seeking the kingdom involves pursuing the things about the kingdom for which Jesus taught His disciples to pray, namely, God’s honor, His reign, and His will (Matthew 6:9-10). This is one of only five places in Matthew where we read "kingdom of God" rather than "kingdom of heaven" (cf. Matthew 12:28; Matthew 19:24; Matthew 21:31; Matthew 21:43). In each case the context requires a more personal reference to God rather than a more oblique reference to heaven. Seeking God’s righteousness means pursuing righteousness in life in submission to God’s will (cf. Matthew 5:6; Matthew 5:10; Matthew 5:20; Matthew 6:1). It does not mean seeking justification, in view of Jesus’ use of "righteousness" in the context.
"In the end, just as there are only two kinds of piety, the self-centered and the God-centered, so there are only two kinds of ambition: one can be ambitious either for oneself or for God. There is no third alternative." [Note: Stott, p. 172.]
The "things" God will add are the necessities of life that He provides providentially, about which Jesus warned His disciples not to fret (Matthew 5:45; Matthew 6:11). Here God promises to meet the needs of those who commit themselves to seeking the furtherance of His kingdom and righteousness.
In view of this promise how can we explain the fact that some animals, plants, and committed believers have perished for lack of food? There is a wider sphere of context in which this promise operates. We all live in a fallen world where the effects of sin pervade every aspect of life. Sometimes the godly, through no fault of their own, get caught up in the consequences of sin and perish. Jesus did not elaborate this dimension of life here but assumed it as something His hearers would have known and understood.
Since we have such a promise backed up by the testimony of divine providence, we should not fret about tomorrow. Today has enough trouble or evil for us to deal with. Moreover the trouble we anticipate tomorrow may never materialize. God provides only enough grace so we can deal with life one day at a time. Tomorrow He will provide enough grace (help) for what we will face then.
To summarize, the disciple’s relationship to wealth should be trust in God and single-minded commitment to the affairs of His kingdom and righteousness. It should not be hoarding or pursuing wealth for its own sake. God, not Mammon, should be the magnet of the believer’s life. The fruit of such an attitude will be freedom from anxiety about daily material needs.
"It is impossible to be a partially committed or part-time disciple; it is impossible to serve two masters, whether one of them be wealth or anything else, when the other master is meant to be God." [Note: Hagner, p. 160.]
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 6". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/matthew-6.html. 2012.
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Matthew 6 Bible Commentary
Against hypocrisy in almsgiving. (1-4) Against hypocrisy in prayer. (5-8) How to pray. (9-15) Respecting fasting. (16-18) Evil of being worldly-minded. (19-24) Trust in God commended. (25-34)
Commentary on Matthew 6:1-4
(Read Matthew 6:1-4)
Our Lord next warned against hypocrisy and outward show in religious duties. What we do, must be done from an inward principle, that we may be approved of God, not that we may be praised of men. In these verses we are cautioned against hypocrisy in giving alms. Take heed of it. It is a subtle sin; and vain-glory creeps into what we do, before we are aware. But the duty is not the less necessary and excellent for being abused by hypocrites to serve their pride. The doom Christ passes, at first may seem a promise, but it is their reward; not the reward God promises to those who do good, but the reward hypocrites promise themselves, and a poor reward it is; they did it to be seen of men, and they are seen of men. When we take least notice of our good deeds ourselves, God takes most notice of them. He will reward thee; not as a master who gives his servant what he earns, and no more, but as a Father who gives abundantly to his son that serves him.
Commentary on Matthew 6:5-8
(Read Matthew 6:5-8)
It is taken for granted that all who are disciples of Christ pray. You may as soon find a living man that does not breathe, as a living Christian that does not pray. If prayerless, then graceless. The Scribes and Pharisees were guilty of two great faults in prayer, vain-glory and vain repetitions. "Verily they have their reward;" if in so great a matter as is between us and God, when we are at prayer, we can look to so poor a thing as the praise of men, it is just that it should be all our reward. Yet there is not a secret, sudden breathing after God, but he observes it. It is called a reward, but it is of grace, not of debt; what merit can there be in begging? If he does not give his people what they ask, it is because he knows they do not need it, and that it is not for their good. So far is God from being wrought upon by the length or words of our prayers, that the most powerful intercessions are those which are made with groanings that cannot be uttered. Let us well study what is shown of the frame of mind in which our prayers should be offered, and learn daily from Christ how to pray.
Commentary on Matthew 6:9-15
(Read Matthew 6:9-15)
Christ saw it needful to show his disciples what must commonly be the matter and method of their prayer. Not that we are tied up to the use of this only, or of this always; yet, without doubt, it is very good to use it. It has much in a little; and it is used acceptably no further than it is used with understanding, and without being needlessly repeated. The petitions are six; the first three relate more expressly to God and his honour, the last three to our own concerns, both temporal and spiritual. This prayer teaches us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and that all other things shall be added. After the things of God's glory, kingdom, and will, we pray for the needful supports and comforts of this present life. Every word here has a lesson in it. We ask for bread; that teaches us sobriety and temperance: and we ask only for bread; not for what we do not need. We ask for our bread; that teaches us honesty and industry: we do not ask for the bread of others, nor the bread of deceit, Proverbs 31:27, but the bread honestly gotten. We ask for our daily bread; which teaches us constantly to depend upon Divine Providence. We beg of God to give it us; not sell it us, nor lend it us, but give it. The greatest of men must be beholden to the mercy of God for their daily bread. We pray, Give it to us. This teaches us a compassion for the poor. Also that we ought to pray with our families. We pray that God would give it us this day; which teaches us to renew the desires of our souls toward God, as the wants of our bodies are renewed. As the day comes we must pray to our heavenly Father, and reckon we could as well go a day without food, as without prayer. We are taught to hate and dread sin while we hope for mercy, to distrust ourselves, to rely on the providence and grace of God to keep us from it, to be prepared to resist the tempter, and not to become tempters of others. Here is a promise, If you forgive, your heavenly Father will also forgive. We must forgive, as we hope to be forgiven. Those who desire to find mercy with God, must show mercy to their brethren. Christ came into the world as the great Peace-maker, not only to reconcile us to God, but one to another.
Commentary on Matthew 6:16-18
(Read Matthew 6:16-18)
Religious fasting is a duty required of the disciples of Christ, but it is not so much a duty itself, as a means to dispose us for other duties. Fasting is the humbling of the soul, Psalm 35:13; that is the inside of the duty; let that, therefore, be thy principal care, and as to the outside of it, covet not to let it be seen. God sees in secret, and will reward openly.
Commentary on Matthew 6:19-24
(Read Matthew 6:19-24)
Worldly-mindedness is a common and fatal symptom of hypocrisy, for by no sin can Satan have a surer and faster hold of the soul, under the cloak of a profession of religion. Something the soul will have, which it looks upon as the best thing; in which it has pleasure and confidence above other things. Christ counsels to make our best things the joys and glories of the other world, those things not seen which are eternal, and to place our happiness in them. There are treasures in heaven. It is our wisdom to give all diligence to make our title to eternal life sure through Jesus Christ, and to look on all things here below, as not worthy to be compared with it, and to be content with nothing short of it. It is happiness above and beyond the changes and chances of time, an inheritance incorruptible. The worldly man is wrong in his first principle; therefore all his reasonings and actions therefrom must be wrong. It is equally to be applied to false religion; that which is deemed light is thick darkness. This is an awful, but a common case; we should therefore carefully examine our leading principles by the word of God, with earnest prayer for the teaching of his Spirit. A man may do some service to two masters, but he can devote himself to the service of no more than one. God requires the whole heart, and will not share it with the world. When two masters oppose each other, no man can serve both. He who holds to the world and loves it, must despise God; he who loves God, must give up the friendship of the world.
Commentary on Matthew 6:25-34
(Read Matthew 6:25-34)
There is scarcely any sin against which our Lord Jesus more warns his disciples, than disquieting, distracting, distrustful cares about the things of this life. This often insnares the poor as much as the love of wealth does the rich. But there is a carefulness about temporal things which is a duty, though we must not carry these lawful cares too far. Take no thought for your life. Not about the length of it; but refer it to God to lengthen or shorten it as he pleases; our times are in his hand, and they are in a good hand. Not about the comforts of this life; but leave it to God to make it bitter or sweet as he pleases. Food and raiment God has promised, therefore we may expect them. Take no thought for the morrow, for the time to come. Be not anxious for the future, how you shall live next year, or when you are old, or what you shall leave behind you. As we must not boast of tomorrow, so we must not care for to-morrow, or the events of it. God has given us life, and has given us the body. And what can he not do for us, who did that? If we take care about our souls and for eternity, which are more than the body and its life, we may leave it to God to provide for us food and raiment, which are less. Improve this as an encouragement to trust in God. We must reconcile ourselves to our worldly estate, as we do to our stature. We cannot alter the disposals of Providence, therefore we must submit and resign ourselves to them. Thoughtfulness for our souls is the best cure of thoughtfulness for the world. Seek first the kingdom of God, and make religion your business: say not that this is the way to starve; no, it is the way to be well provided for, even in this world. The conclusion of the whole matter is, that it is the will and command of the Lord Jesus, that by daily prayers we may get strength to bear us up under our daily troubles, and to arm us against the temptations that attend them, and then let none of these things move us. Happy are those who take the Lord for their God, and make full proof of it by trusting themselves wholly to his wise disposal. Let thy Spirit convince us of sin in the want of this disposition, and take away the worldliness of our hearts.
- Bible > Bible Commentary
- Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary (concise)
- Matthew 6