Matthew 6 - The Sermon on the Mount (Continued)
A. Doing good to please God.
1. (1) Jesus' warning against doing good to be seen by men.
"Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven."
a. Jesus has just clearly shown us God's righteous standard; perhaps He is anticipating the thought "wouldn't everybody be impressed if I was like that?" So now, Jesus address the danger of cultivating an image of righteousness.
b. Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men: Charitable deeds is actually the word righteousness. Jesus tells us to not do righteous acts for the sake of display or image (to be seen by them).
i. Does this principle of Jesus contradict His previous command to let your light so shine before men (Matthew 5:16)? Not at all. Although His followers are to be seen doing good works, they must not do good works simply to be seen.
c. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven: The idea is when we do righteous deeds for the attention and applause of men, their attention and applause is our reward. How much better it is to receive a reward from your Father in heaven.
2. (2-4) Jesus gives examples of the wrong kind of giving and the right kind of giving.
"Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly."
a. When you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet: It was customary in Jesus' day to draw attention to giving, so the person would be known as generous. Today, people do not sound a trumpet to project the image of generosity, but they still know how to call attention to their giving.
b. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward: Jesus tells the one who gives to hear the applause of men that he should savor the applause, because it will be all they get. The grammar of the ancient Greek here is emphatic. When Jesus says they have their reward, the word have can be understood as "paid in full."
c. Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing: Instead, our giving is to be - if it were possible - even hidden from ourselves. Though we cannot really be ignorant about our own giving, we can deny any indulgent self-congratulation.
d. That your charitable deed may be in secret: If someone finds out that we have given something, have we automatically lost our reward? The issue is really a matter of motive. If we give for our own glory, it doesn't matter if no one finds out and we will still have no reward from God. But if we give for God's glory, it doesn't matter who finds out, because your reward will remain.
e. Our Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly: Jesus points out the exceeding value of doing good for the glory of God. How much better it is to receive our award from God, who rewards much more generously and much more openly than men do.
3. (5-6) Jesus gives examples of the wrong kind of prayer and the right kind of prayer.
"And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly."
a. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets: There were two main places where a Jew in Jesus' day might pray hypocritically. They might pray at the synagogue at the time of public prayer, or on the street at the appointed times of prayer (9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m.).
b. That they may be seen by men: These hypocrites pray not to be heard by God, but to be seen by men. This is a common fault in public prayer today, when people pray to impress or teach others instead of genuinely pouring out their hearts before God.
i. This kind of prayer is accurately portrayed by the description of an eloquent prayer in a New England church: "Reverend Jones presented the most beautiful prayer ever offered before a Boston audience."
ii. What an insult such prayers are to God! When we mouth words towards God, while really trying to impress others, we use God merely as a tool to impress others.
c. They have their reward: Again, those praying to be seen of men have their reward, and they should enjoy it in full - because that is all they will receive.
d. But you, when you pray, go into your room: Rather, we should meet with God in our room (or, "closet"). The idea is of a private place where we can impress no one but God.
i. The specific ancient Greek word "room" was used for a storeroom where treasures were kept. There are treasures waiting for you in your prayer closet!
ii. Jesus certainly isn't prohibiting public prayer, but our prayers should always be to God and not towards man.
5. (7-13) The right way to pray.
"And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen."
a. When you pray, do not use vain repetitions: The right kind of prayer does not use vain repetitions, which is any and all prayer which is all words and no meaning, all lips and no mind or heart.
i. The Jewish rabbis of Jesus' day said things like: "Whoever is long in prayer is heard" and "Whenever the righteous make their prayer long, their prayer is heard." One famous Jewish prayer began like this: "Blessed, praised, and glorified, exalted, and honored, magnified and lauded be the name of the Holy One."
ii. When we try to impress God with our many words, we deny that God is a loving, yet holy Father. Instead, we should follow the counsel of Ecclesiastes 5:2: God is in heaven, and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few.
b. Our Father in heaven: The right kind of prayer comes to God as a Father in heaven. It rightly recognizes whom we pray to.
i. When we say "Father" we use a privileged title, demonstrating a privileged relationship. It was very unusual for Jews call God "Father" because it was considered too intimate.
ii. When we say "in heaven" we remember God's holiness and glory. He is our Father, but our Father in heaven.
c. Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven: The right kind of prayer has a passion for God's glory and agenda. His name, kingdom and will have the top priority.
i. Everyone wants to guard their own name and reputation. But we must resist the tendency to protect and promote ourselves first and put God's name, kingdom and will first.
d. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one: The right kind of prayer will freely bring its own needs to God. This will include needs for daily provision, forgiveness, and strength in the face of temptation.
i. When Jesus says bread, He means real bread, as in the sense of daily provisions. Early theologians allegorized this, because they couldn't imagine Jesus speaking about an everyday thing like bread in such a majestic prayer like this. Calvin rightly said of such interpretations which fail to see God's interest in the mundane: "This is exceedingly absurd." God does care about everyday things.
ii. The one who is truly forgiven will show forgiveness to others; Jesus will elaborate more on this idea in Matthew 6:14 and 15.
iii. Temptation literally means a test, not always a solicitation to do evil. God has promised to keep us from any testing that is greater than what we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13).
e. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever: The right kind of prayer praises God and credits to Him the kingdom and the power and the glory.
i. There is some dispute as to if this doxology is in the original manuscript Matthew wrote or was added in later by a scribe. Because the idea certainly fits, we should regard it as Jesus truly said it.
6. (14-15) More on the importance of forgiveness.
"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
a. If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: Forgiveness is required for those who have been forgiven. We are not given the luxury of holding on to our bitterness towards other people.
b. Neither will your Father forgive your trespasses: Jesus has much more to say about forgiveness (Matthew 9:2-6, 18:21-35, and Luke 17:3-4). Here, the emphasis is on the imperative of forgiveness - it is not an option.
7. (16-18) The right way to fast.
"Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly."
a. When you fast, do not be like hypocrites: The hypocritical scribes and Pharisees wanted to make sure that everybody knew they were fasting, so they would have a sad countenance and disfigure their faces so their "agony" would be evident to all.
i. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward: When hypocrites receive the admiration of men for these "spiritual" efforts, they receive all the reward they will ever get.
b. When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting: In contrast, Jesus' instructs to take care of ourselves as usual and to make the fast something of a secret before God.
c. When you fast: However, notice that Jesus assumes that His followers would fast. But with most anything good like fasting, our corrupt natures can corrupt something good into something bad.
i. A modern example of a good thing gone bad is the manner of dressing nice on Sunday. There is nothing wrong with this in itself, but if it is used to draw attention to one's self, something good has become something bad.
d. You can do a wonderful thing for the wrong motive and have it count for nothing before God; Christianity is a matter of the heart, not just outward works.
e. The real problem with the hypocrite is self-interest. "Ultimately, our only reason for pleasing men around us is that we may be pleased." (D. Martin Lloyd-Jones)
B. The place of material things: a warning against covetousness.
1. (19-21) The choice between two treasures.
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
a. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth: The ancient Greek more literally says do not treasure for yourself treasures on earth. The idea is that earthly treasure is temporary and fading away (where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal), but heavenly treasure is secure.
i. The issue isn't that earthly treasures are intrinsically bad; but they are no ultimate value either. If this is the case, then how can the disciple of Jesus their dedication to continually expanding their earthly treasures?
ii. To lay up for yourselves treasure on earth is also to doom yourself to a life of frustration and emptiness. Regarding material things, the secret to happiness is not more, it is contentment. In a 1992 survey, people were asked how much money they would have to make to have "the American dream." Those who earn $25,000 or less a year thought they would need around $54,000. Those in the $100,000 annual income bracket said that they could buy the dream for an average of $192,000 a year. These figures indicate that we typically think we would have to have double our income in order to find the good life. But the Apostle Paul had the right idea in 1 Timothy 6:6: Now godliness with contentment is great gain.
b. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven: In contrast, heavenly treasures are everlasting and incorruptible. Treasures in heaven given enjoyment now, in the contentment and sense of well-being that comes from being a giver. But their ultimate enjoyment comes on the other side of eternity.
i. It has been wisely observed that a hearse is never followed by a U-Haul trailer. Every thing one might take with them to the world beyond are left behind. Gold is a precious commodity on earth; in heaven God uses it to pave the streets!
ii. Jesus once told a parable that has troubled some. In Luke 16:1-14, He speaks of a dishonest manager, who is about to be called to account. Knowing he will be fired, he begins to settle accounts with his master's debtors at terms favorable to the debtors, so they will treat him kindly when the master fires him. The master ends up complimenting the manager for his shrewd tactics (presumably before he fired him). What was praiseworthy about the manager? First, he knew he would be called to account for his life and he took it seriously. Secondly, he took advantage of his present position to arrange a comfortable future - and we can use our material resources right now for eternal good - even though we can't bring them with us!
iii. Our material treasures will not pass from this life to the next; but the good that has been done for the kingdom of God through the use of our treasures lasts for eternity, and the work God does in us through faithful giving will last for eternity.
c. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also: Jesus draws the conclusion that you can only have your treasure (and your heart) in one place; we can't lay up treasure on earth and on heaven at the same time.
2. (22-23) The choice between two visions.
"The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!"
a. The lamp of the body is the eye: Simply, the idea is that "light" comes into the body through eye. If our eyes were blind, we would live in a "dark" world.
b. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light: The idea behind having a good eye is either being generous or being single minded. Both principles apply to the disciple's attitude towards material things.
i. Being generous brings light to our lives. We are happier and more content when we have God's heart of generosity. But if we are not generous, it is as if your whole body will be full of darkness. Our selfish, miserly ways cast darkness over everything that we think or do.
ii. Being single minded brings light to our lives, and we are also happier and more content when we focus on the kingdom of God and His righteousness, knowing that all the material things will be added to us (Matthew 6:33). But when we are double-minded, it is as if your whole body will be full of darkness. We try to live for two masters at the same time, and it puts a dark shadow over everything in our life.
c. Full of light . . . full of darkness: In any case, Jesus tells us that either our eye is directed at heavenly things (and therefore full of light) or it is directed at earthly things (and therefore full of darkness).
i. "An evil eye was a phrase in use, among the ancient Jews, to denote an envious, covetous man or disposition; a man who repined at his neighbour's prosperity, loved his own money, and would do nothing in the way of charity for God's sake." (Clarke)
d. How great is that darkness: Building on the analogy of the eye, Jesus reminds us that if we are blind in our eyes, the whole body is blind. The darkness is then great in our whole body. In the same way, our attitude towards material treasure will either bring great light or great darkness to our lives.
i. Often a materialistic, miserly, selfish Christian justifies their sin by saying "It's just one area of my life." But even as the darkness of the eye affects everything in the body, so a wrong attitude towards material things brings darkness to our whole being.
3. (24) The choice between two masters.
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."
a. No one can serve two masters: Having two masters is not like working two jobs. Jesus has the master and slave relationship in view, and no slave could serve two masters.
i. Jesus states that serving two masters is a simple impossibility. If you think that you are successfully serving two masters, you are deceived. It can't be done. As ancient Israel struggled with idolatry, they thought they could worship the Lord God and Baal. God constantly reminded them that to worship Baal was to forsake the Lord God. To be loyal to the one is to despise the other.
ii. Colossians 3:5 says, Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. When we are covetous, we are idolaters.
b. You cannot serve God and mammon: There are different opinions regarding the origin of the term mammon. Some think it was the name of a pagan god. Others think the name comes "From the Hebrew aman, to trust, confide; because men are apt to trust in riches." (Clarke) Whatever its origin, the meaning is clear: mammon is materialism, "wealth personified" (Expositor's Bible Commentary).
i. "Mammon, saith one, is a monster, whose head is as subtle as the serpent, whose mouth is wide as hell, eyes sharp as a lizard, scent as quick as the vulture, hands fast as harpies, belly insatiable as a wolf, feet swift to shed blood, as a lioness robbed of her whelps." (Trapp)
ii. Certainly, Jesus is talking about the heart here. Many people would say they love God, but their service of money shows that in fact they do not. How can we tell Who or what we are serving? One way is by remembering this principle: you will sacrifice for your God. If you will sacrifice for the sake of money, but will not sacrifice for the sake of Jesus, don't deceive yourself: money is your God.
iii. On a Friday afternoon in 1990, a businessman staggered to the steps of his Los Angeles office. Before he died of the gunshot wound to his chest, he called out the names of his three children. But he still had his $10,000 Rolex watch clutched in his hand. He was the victim of a rash of Rolex robberies - and was killed as a sacrifice to his god.
iv. A 1992 story in the Los Angeles Times told about Michelle, a successful writer and editor, who fears the day her husband might discover her secret stash of credit cards, her secret post office box or the other tricks she uses to hide how much money she spends shopping for herself. "I make as much money as my husband . . . If I want a $500 suit from Ann Taylor, I deserve it and don't want to be hassled about it. So the easiest thing to do is lie," she explains. Last year, when her husband forced her to destroy one of her credit cards, Michelle went out and got a new one without telling him. "I do live in fear. If he discovers this new VISA, he'll kill me."
v. A school teacher explained more: "Men just don't understand that shopping is our drug of choice," she joked, even while admitting that some months her salary goes exclusively to paying the minimum balance on her credit cards. "Walking through the door of South Coast Plaza is like walking though the gates of heaven. God made car trunks for women to hide shopping bags in."
vi. A young professional named Mary explained: "Shopping is my recreation. It's my way of pampering myself. When you walk into [a mall] and you see all the stores, it's like something takes over and you get caught up in it."
vii. We must remember that we don't have to be rich to serve mammon (money); the poor can be just as greedy and covetous as the rich are.
C. The place of material things: anxiety over material things.
1. (25) Therefore: because the Kingdom of God is so vastly superior to earthly pursuits, it deserves our attention.
"Therefore I say to you, do not worry 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?"
a. Do not worry about your life: We should not get tangled up worrying about the things of this world, because our life is more than those things.
b. Do not worry: There is a difference between a godly sense of responsibility and an ungodly, untrusting worry; however, an ungodly, untrusting sense of worry usually masquerades as "responsibility."
i. We are to be concerned with the right things; the ultimate issues of life - and we leave the management (and the worry) over material things with our heavenly Father.
c. Is not life more than food: The worry Jesus speaks of debases man to the level of an animal, who is merely concerned with physical needs. Your life is more, and you have eternal matters to pursue.
2. (26-30) Example and arguments against worry.
"Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?"
a. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them: The birds are provided for by God, and if He takes care of them. How much more will He take care of us?
i. But take careful note: the birds don't worry, but they do work. Bird don't just open their mouth and expected God to fill it.
b. Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? Worry accomplishes nothing; we can add nothing to our lives by worrying. There may be greater sins than worry, but there are none more debilitating and useless.
i. Can add: The ancient Greek may mean adding to life instead of adding to height, but the thought is the same
ii. Instead of adding to our life, we can actually harm ourselves through worry. Stress is one of the great contributors to disease and poor health.
c. If God so clothes the grass of the field: God even takes care of the grass of the field, so He will certainly take care of you.
3. (31-32) Let the heathen worry about those things! You have a heavenly Father that knows your needs.
"Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things."
a. Therefore do not worry: We are invited to know a freedom from the worry and anxiety that comes from undue concern about material things. We can reflect the same kind of heart that Matthew Henry showed when he said the following after being robbed:
Lord, I thank You:
That I have never been robbed before.
That although they took my money, they spared my life.
That although they took everything, it wasn't very much.
That it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.
4. (33) Summary: Put God's kingdom first - He will take care of these things!
"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."
a. But seek first the kingdom of God: Let this be the acid test when you are in trouble: Am I seeking the Kingdom of God first?
i. In particular regard to the context Jesus is speaking to, we must ask ourselves this question: "Is physical well-being a worthy object to which I will devote my life?" If you think it is, then your god is mammon, your life is cursed with worry, and you live life as an animal, concerned mostly with physical needs.
b. And all these things shall be added to you: If you do not think that your physical-well being is a worthy object to live your life for, you then may enjoy all these things. He promises heavenly treasure, rest in divine provision, and fulfill God's highest purpose for man - fellowship with Him, and being part of His kingdom.
i. Remember: this is the choice that you made when you became a Christian, but you reinforce that decision, or deny that decision, everyday of your life.
5. (34) A conclusion with common sense.
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."
a. Do not worry about tomorrow . . . Sufficient for the day is its own trouble: If you must worry, worry only for the things of today. Most of our worry is over things that we have absolutely no control over anyway.