The Fourfold Gospel
6:1 Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men1, to be seen of them: else ye have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT.
(A mountain plateau not far from Capernaum.)
E. ALMSGIVING, PRAYER, AND FASTING TO BE PERFORMED SINCERELY, NOT
- Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men. This verse refers back to Matthew 5:20, where the disciple is told that his
righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. Matthew's
fifth chapter deals with the actions themselves, but this sixth chapter
treats of the motives and manners of our actions.
6:2 When therefore thou doest alms, sound not a trumpet before thee1, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets2, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward3.
- Sound not a trumpet before thee. Trumpets were sounded as signals to large bodies. This fact gave to the word "trumpet" a symbolic
significance. Anything which is noised or blazoned abroad is spoken of
as being "trumpeted". The figure also conveys the idea of pompous
self-laudation. Hence we still speak of an egotistical man as one who
"blows his own trumpet".
- As the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets. The hypocrites of that day did not blow a literal trumpet to call attention
to their gifts any more than the hypocrites of this day do. But they
used methods to call attention to their generosity as those of our time
do when they publish an account of their munificence in the newspapers.
Almsgiving was a prominent feature of Jewish life. Transplanted from
Judaism, almsgiving became one of the characteristic features of the
early church (Acts 9:36; Acts 10:2; Galatians 2:10). On the significance of the
synagogue, see Mark 1:39.
- They have received their reward. Christ corrected the error as to it in what he said about the widow's mites (Mark 12:43,44; Luke 21:3,4).
As these hypocrites sought the praise of men, they had their reward
when they received it.
6:3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth1:
- But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth. Jesus here recommends secret and noiseless giving, by the
never-to-be-forgotten metaphor of the left and right hand. Our
generosity is to come so spontaneously, and with so little thought,
that the liberality of one part of the body shall not be communicated
to the other. The command does not forbid publicity, but that spirit
which "desires" publicity.
6:4 that thine alms may be in secret1: and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee2.
- That thine alms may be in secret. Toplady says,
"The true Christian cares not how much men hear of his
"public" charities, nor how little they hear of his
Good deeds may be published by others to stimulate good in others; but
care should be taken lest they be stimulated to give for the sake of
like notoriety (Mark 12:41-44; Acts 4:36,37).
- And thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee. Salvation is a matter of favor, and not of merit. But there is, nevertheless, a
recompense attendant upon it. The joys of the world come, and the
blessings in this world are included in that recompense (Matthew 25:34-40).
6:5 And when ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites1: for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues3 and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward.
- And when ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites. Jesus deals with our conduct toward God as well as toward man. However perfectly we
may act toward man, our life is one-sided and imperfect if we omit or
improperly perform our duties toward God.
- For they love to stand and pray . . . that they may be seen of men. The Pharisaical habit of standing in a prayerful attitude, to be seen
of men, was certainly not prayer. In their case public opinion, and not
the praise of God, "was the wind that set the wind-mill a-work"
(Trapp). As Pharisees loved the standing and not the praying, so
Christians should love the praying and not the standing. Yet prayer for
the edification or comfort of others is not here condemned. Prayer
itself is nowhere condemned. It is the ostentatious prayer-attitude
which Jesus stamps with his displeasure. Needless attitudes of private
prayer in pulpit and pew are here condemned.
- In the synagogues. See Mark 1:39.
6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber1, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret2, and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee.
- But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber. The inner chamber was properly a little room in the interior of the house
or on the housetop, but it is here used to indicate any place of
- And having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret. The shut door emphasizes the strictness of the privacy, for in all personal
prayer we should strive to be alone with God. Jesus found a prayer-
chamber upon the mountain-top and in the garden.
6:7 And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do1: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
- And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do. For samples of repetitions, see 1 Kings 18:26; Acts 19:34. Strictly speaking,
Jesus does not here forbid either a long prayer, or the use of the same
words in a prayer when the heart sincerely prompts the utterance. He
himself prayed at great length, even continuing in prayer all night
(Luke 6:12), and in the garden he thrice repeated the same words.
What he does forbid is making the number and length of prayers an
object of consideration or a source of trust. This command is
especially violated by the repetitions of the Roman Catholic rosary.
Speech to God cannot be ordered too carefully (Ecclesiastes 5:2).
6:8 Be not therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him1.
- For your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. In stating that God knows our desires before we ask, Jesus gives
the reason against vain repetitions. God does not need elaborate
explanations, and prayer is not uttered to inform him, but to put
ourselves in such communion with him as to make us fit to receive.
Moreover, prayer is a matter of asking and receiving, and not a
meritorious service, as Mohammedans and Catholics still hold, and as
the Pharisees held. With them, as public prayers were to gain credit
with men, so long and repeated prayers were to obtain merit before God.
Christ teaches contrary to all this.
6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye1. Our Father who art in heaven2, Hallowed be thy name.
- After this manner therefore pray ye. Having pointed out the errors which then characterized prayer, Jesus proceeds to give a brief outline
as a model in matter, arrangement, and expression.
As to the prayer generally, we note the following: It is divided
into two sections, and each section is subdivided into three heads. Of
these the first three are invocations for the glory of God; thus: (1)
That God may be glorified in his name, so that it shall be universally
reverenced; (2) That God may be glorified in his kingdom--that kingdom
before which every power of evil shall eventually fall; (3) That God
may be glorified in the hearts of humanity by all men becoming obedient
unto his will (Matthew 6:9,10). These petitions come first, for it is
of first importance to us that God should be honored in his person, in
his authority and in his desires. The three petitions represent three
stages of spiritual growth in the communion and fellowship with God. We
first know and revere his name as God. From that we advance to the full
recognition of his royal and divine authority. And from this in turn we
again advance until we know him fully as Father, and forgetting his
authority, perform his wishes through the joyous constraint of love, as
do the angels in heaven.
The second three petitions are for humanity; thus: (1) For their
bodies, that they may have sustenance (Matthew 6:11). (2) For their souls
in things concerning the past--that past trespasses may be forgiven
(Matthew 6:12). (3) For their souls as to the future, that they may be
enabled to avoid temptation, and that they may be finally delivered
from evil (Matthew 6:13).
- Our Father who art in heaven. The common Jewish invocation was, "O Lord God of our fathers". Jesus, as the brother of man, introduced this
new and precious invocation, which puts us in prayer's proper attitude.
6:10 Thy kingdom come1. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.
- Thy kingdom come. This is the first section of the prayer.
6:11 Give us this day our daily bread1.
- Give us this day our daily bread. So long as it is "this day" we do not need tomorrow's bread. It is a petition for milk and honey,
symbols of luxury, but for bread, life's staff and necessity, and for
bread in moderation--bestowed day by day, like the manna.
6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors1.
- And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. This is the one thing needful to the soul in regard to the past. Since a
certain soul condition is necessary (viz.: the spirit of forgiveness),
as a condition precedent to obtaining this petition, that condition is
plainly stated in the petition itself. God cannot forgive the temper
that is unforgiving, for it can only exist in a heart blind as to the
amount of its debt. Forgiveness, too, must be a completed act before
we begin to pray. Our Lord lays stress on this one point in the prayer,
returning to it after he had closed the form, that he may assure us
that the divine procedure will, in this respect, be fashioned to our
own. "Debt" is a mild word for our sin, and is broader than "trespass".
Trespass indicates a misstep, a wrong-doing, but debt an unfulfilled
obligation of any kind. We must not be hard in exacting our rights,
when to do so would be oppressive. In the prayer as usually publicly
repeated, the word "trespasses" is often used in place of the word
"debts". This is a remnant of Tyndale's translation (A.D. 1526) which
has been preserved and handed down in the Episcopal Liturgies. Tyndale
renders Matthew as follows: "And forgive us our trespases even as we
forgive them which trespas vs".
6:13 And bring us not into temptation1, but deliver us from the evil [one.]
- And bring us not into temptation. This petition, to be effective, must be followed by an earnest effort on our part to fulfill it. God
does not tempt us (James 1:13), but he can permit us to be led into
temptation, or he can shield is from it, only permitting us to enter so
far into it as to come off victorious over it (1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Peter 2:9);
so that it shall prove unto us a blessing instead of a curse
(James 1:12; James 5:11).
- But deliver us from the evil [one]. We prefer to read "the evil", rather than "the evil one", for the neuter is more comprehensive
(2 Timothy 4:18), and includes deliverance from the evil thoughts of man's
own heart, and from evils from without as well as temptations of Satan.
6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you1.
- For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Forgiveness may be difficult, but it is essential:
we should realize that as we pray. Jesus presents this truth positively
and negatively, that we may make no mistake about it.
6:15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Those who are accustomed to repeat the Lord's Prayer will notice
that the doxology with which it closes is omitted. It was probably
inserted from some early liturgy. It is absent from the oldest
manuscripts, and interrupts the connection of the thought about
forgiveness. All textual editors omit it.
6:16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance1: for they disfigure their faces2, that they may be seen of men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward.
- When ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance. Fasting, as an aid to meditation and prayer, is a wholesome practice,
but stated fasts lead to hollow formality, and fasts which are endured
for public praise are an abomination.
- For they disfigure their faces. By omitting to wash their faces and neglecting to dress or anoint their beards.
6:17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head1, and wash thy face;
- Anoint thy head. His words allude to the practice of anointing. Rich Jews were accustomed to anoint their bodies daily with olive or
sweet oil. This was refreshing, and prevented many of the disease which
the dry, hot air of Palestine made prevalent. The custom still prevails
among Eastern nations.
6:18 that thou be not seen of men to fast, but of thy Father who is in secret1: and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall recompense thee.
- That thou be not seen of men to fast, but of thy Father who is in secret. Christ admonishes us to conceal the fast, and so avoid the
temptation to be hypocritically ostentatious, for fasting is intended
for self-abasement, and not to cultivate pride.
6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth1, where moth and rust consume2, and where thieves break through and steal3:
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT.
(A mountain plateau not far from Capernaum.)
F. SECURITY OF HEAVENLY TREASURES CONTRASTED WITH EARTHLY ANXIETIES.
- Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth. A too literal compliance with this negative precept would discourage thrift. The
precept is not intended to discourage the possession of property in
moderation, but if forbids us to hoard for selfish purposes, or to look
upon our possessions as permanent and abiding. The lives of many men of
our day seem to be employed to no other purpose than that of amassing
an abundance of earthly treasure. But no true Christian can envy them,
or follow their example.
- Where moth and rust consume. In our Lord's time banks, such as we have, were unknown, and in order to keep money its possessor frequently
buried it, thus subjecting it to rest and corrosion. The havoc caused
by moths is too familiar to need comment (James 5:2). Costly and
ornamental apparel was reckoned among a man's chief treasures in olden
times. See Joshua 7:21; 2 Kings 5:5; Luke 16:19.
- Where thieves break through and steal. Oriental houses were frequently made of loose stone or sun-dried bricks, so that the thief
found it easier to enter by digging through the wall than by opening
the barred door.
6:20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven1, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
- But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. As the impossibility of hoarding earthly treasures is in Matthew 6:19 urged as a reason against
it, so in this verse the possibility of amassing perpetual possessions
in heaven is set forth as the reason why we should do it. Thus the
striking contrast between the two kinds of treasures is brought to our
notice, so that it is the height of folly not to make a proper choice
6:21 for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also1.
- For where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also. Having contrasted the two treasures, Jesus here suggests the contrast between
the two places where they are stored up. Since the heart follows the
treasure, that it may dwell with the object of its love, we should
place our treasures in heaven, even if the treasures there were no
better than the treasures on earth; for it is better that our hearts
should abide in the city of God than on this sinful earth.
6:22 The lamp of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single1, thy whole body shall be full of light.
- The lamp of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single,
- thy whole body shall be full of light. In these two verses there is a brief allegory, the meaning of which is to be ascertained from the
context. The subject under consideration is the propriety of laying up
treasures, not on earth, but in heaven, and the effect which treasures
have upon the heart. Now, the heart or affection is to the soul much
the same as the eye is to the body. If we do not set our affections
upon spiritual things, the time quickly comes when we cannot see them
(1 Corinthians 2:14; John 3:19-21). Jesus therefore represents our affections
as if they were an eye. If the eye is single--that is, if it sees nothing
with a double or confused vision--then the man receives through it
clear views of the outside world, and his inner man is, so to speak,
full of light. But if his eye is diseased or blinded, then his inner
man is likewise darkened. Applying the allegory to the spiritual man,
if his heart is single in its love toward God and the things of God,
then he has clear views as to the relative importance and value of
things temporal and eternal, things earthly and things heavenly. But if
the heart looks with a double interest upon both earthly and heavenly
treasure, it makes the man double-minded (James 1:6-8), and so
spoils his life. God does not permit a double affection any more than
he does a double service, and a man who seeks to continue in it will
soon be visited with great darkness as to the things of God, and will
become blind in heart and conscience (Romans 1:21-25).
6:23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness1. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is the darkness2!
- But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. But if his eye is diseased or blinded, then his inner man is likewise
darkened. Applying the allegory to the spiritual man, if his heart is
single in its love toward God and the things of God, then he has clear
views as to the relative importance and value of things temporal and
eternal, things earthly and things heavenly. But if the heart looks
with a double interest upon both earthly and heavenly treasure, it
makes the man double-minded (James 1:6-8), and so spoils his life.
See Matthew 20:15.
- If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is the darkness! God does not permit a double affection any more than he does
a double service, and a man who seeks to continue in it will soon be
visited with great darkness as to the things of God, and will become
blind in heart and conscience (Romans 1:21-25).
6:24 No man can serve two masters1; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon2.
- No man can serve two masters. Jesus here assumes that we are framed to serve (Genesis 2:15); and hence that we must choose our master, for
it is impossible to serve two masters whose interests are differing and
- Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Mammon was a common Chaldee word used in the East to express material riches. It is here personified as
a kind of god of this world. These masters conflict here, for it is
mammon's interest to be hoarded and loved, but it is God's interest
that mammon be distributed to the needy and be lightly esteemed. God
claims our supreme love and our undivided service.
6:25 Therefore I say unto you, be not anxious for your life1, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body2, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment?
- Be not anxious for your life. The word "anxious" is derived from "merimnao", a word which indicates a state of doubt or double-
mindedness. It therefore indicates that sense of suspense or worry
which comes from a mind in doubt. Compare Luke 12:29. Hence we may
say that Jesus is here continuing the contrasts of Matthew 6:24, and that,
having warned against a double vision and a double service, he now
warns against a double mind as to the comparative value of the benefits
to be derived from the service of God or the service of mammom.
- What ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body,
- what ye shall put on. Mammon can only supply food, but God gives the life; mammon can only furnish clothing, but God gives the body. By
single-mindedness we can find peace, for God is to be relied upon. By
double-mindedness we fall to worrying, for mammon may fail to supply
those things which we feel we need.
6:26 Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value then they2?
- Behold the birds of the heaven . . . your heavenly Father feedeth them. Literally, do ye not greatly excel them. The birds do not serve
mammon at all, yet God feeds them.
- Are not ye of much more value then they? Surely, then, man who excels the birds both in his intrinsic value and in his capacity for
temporal and eternal service, can expect to receive from God his
6:27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life1?
- And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life? Peace and trust characterize the service of God. The
rewards of mammon, on the contrary, are won by anxiety. But the rewards
of mammon cannot lengthen life as can God. Therefore we should not
hesitate to choose God's service.
6:28 And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field1, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
- Consider the lilies of the field. Which lily is here meant cannot be determined. Calcott thinks it was the fragrant white lily which
grows profusely all over Palestine. Smith favors the scarlet martagon;
Tristam, the anemone coronaria; and Thomson, the Huleh lily, a species
of iris. It is likely, however, that scholars are trying to draw
distinctions where Jesus himself drew none. It is highly probable that
in popular speech many of the common spring flowers were loosely
classes together under the name lily.
6:29 yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these1.
- Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. The magnificence of Solomon and of his court is proverbial in the East
unto this day. To the Jew he was the highest representative of earthly
grandeur, yet he was surpassed by the common lily of the field. See
Song of Solomon 3:6-11.
6:30 But if God doth 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 faith2?
- The grass of the field, which . . . is cast into the oven. As to the grass and oven we may say that the forests of Palestine had been
cleared off centuries earlier, and the people were accustomed to use
the dried grass, mingled with wild flowers and weeds, for fuel. The
oven was a large, round pot of earthenware, or other material, two or
three feet high, and narrowing toward the top. This was first heated by
fire within, after which the fire was raked out, and the dough put
inside. Such is still the universal practice.
- O ye of little faith. As Bengal notes,
"This is the only term of reproach Jesus applied to his
6:31 Be not therefore anxious1, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
- Be not therefore anxious. God's care for the grass which lasts but for a day should teach us to expect that he will show more interest in
providing for those who have been fashioned for eternity.
6:32 For after all these things do the Gentiles seek1; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things2.
- For after all these things do the Gentiles seek. Christians having a heavenly Father to supply their wants, should not live like the
Gentiles, who have no consciousness of such a Father. Of what use is
all our religious knowledge if we are still as careworn and distrustful
as the benighted heathen?
- Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. Here is the panacea for anxiety. Being God, the Supreme One knows;
being a Father, he feels. Many repose with confidence upon the
regularity and beneficence of his providential laws; but far sweeter is
that assurance which arises from a sense of God's personal interest in
our individual welfare--an interest manifested by the gift of his Son.
6:33 But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness1; and all these things shall be added unto you2.
- But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness. The kingdom of heaven is the real object of our search. It must be sought first
both in point of time and of interest, and it must be kept ever first
in our thoughts after it is found.
- And all these things shall be added unto you. That Christian faith and obedience leads to worldly prosperity is proved by countless
instances which are multiplied with each succeeding day. The security
of Christ's kingdom leads to that cheerfulness which renews the
strength, and to that undistracted industry which brings success.
6:34 Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself1. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
- Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Each day has trouble enough without adding to it
by borrowing somewhat from the morrow. Serve God today with the
strength you used to expend in carrying troubles which you borrowed
from the future, and God will order the affairs of tomorrow.