Today: [Matthew 6] The Sermon on the Mount, Continued: In chapter 6 of Matthew Jesus continues the first of five great discourses in Matthew’s gospel. In this portion of His teaching, Jesus covers many subjects that have been completely misconstrued by religious mentalities by which multitudes have been brought under bondage and legalism through other twisting the words of Jesus that were meant to liberate and free us.
[Mat 6:1-34 KJV] 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.
In chapter 6 of Matthew the discourse known as the Sermon on the Mount continues from chapter 5. The Sermon on the Mount is the first of 5 discourses Jesus makes in the gospel of Matthew. The recorded incidents of Jesus’ teaching occur relatively early in His ministry, and this first example is the singular most lengthy message of Jesus found in the entire New Testament. The Sermon on the Mount emphasizes Jesus’ moral teaching, covering a vast array of subjects, and has served to provide key elements of Christian ethics from the first century on.
Verse 1 begins with Jesus cautioning us about boastful giving. Our alms are not to be performed to be seen of men. The common application of this statement is that we are never allow our giving to be anything other than in utmost secrecy, however if you look more closely at these remarks that isn’t quite the case. Jesus is saying that when you do your alms before men (or with your giving being in the knowledge of others) that we are not to do so with the opinion of men in mind. If we were to obey the more strict interpretation that it is sinful to allow any of our giving to be other than in secret then Jesus himself violated this alleged gospel ethic when He brought attention to the woman with the two mites who cast in of all her living in Mark 12:42. Other examples of giving that was made public include Barnabas in Acts 4:36-37 (who was actually renamed in honor of his giving habits) and Cornelius the Centurion whose giving was the stated prompting for in Acts 10 for an angelic visitation and the beginning of the preaching of the gospel to the Gentile world. Jesus is dealing with heart motivations here and not giving pretext for some strict religious prohibition on allowing a gift to be made known.
Jesus goes on in verse 5 to emphasize the same issue of heart motivation where prayer is concerned. When we pray, our attention is not to be upon those who may be standing by listening but rather our prayer is to be directed toward heaven. Jesus is contrasting those who pray to be seen of men on the earth or those who pray to be seen by their Father in heaven. In His remarks, Jesus also gives us His understanding of the place of prayer in our person lives. He sees prayer as something that happens not just in a religious venue, such as the synagogue in this case, but at home. Where is your place of prayer? When is the last time you prayed openly and verbally in your home? When is the last time your spouse, or children or others living in your home heard you pray or participated with you in prayer? There is a place for public prayer and even corporate prayer in the church setting, but in the teachings of Jesus prayer is as much at home in your domestic environment as any place else.
Jesus goes on to talk about repetitious prayer. Again, religious mentalities have taken this passage to mean that you ask God one time and if you repeat your request you are in sin. That is not what this passage is saying. Jesus is not saying it is wrong to use repetition in prayer, but rather we should not use VAIN repetition. What does this mean? The word vain doesn’t actually appear in the original text, but the definition of the word “repetition” means to “stutter” or to “stammer”. Those who do not believe in speaking in tongues quote this verse (and you better be ready for it) to repudiate glossolalia (speaking in tongues) as being warned against by Jesus. In either case, this is not what Jesus is saying. He is not saying that we should not be repetitious in prayer, or saying that we should not stammer, stutter, or speaking tongues in prayer but that we should not do these things AS THE HEATHEN DO. Pagan cultures believed that HOW they prayed, or how they carried about the practice of their petition determined whether or not they would be heard. We know that God ALWAYS hears us no matter what. If we pray much and often, or just breath a one word prayer in a moment of need, God always and continually hears us when we cry out to Him.
One of the dangerous and unhelpful areas we get into in prayer is by concocting various and sundry protocols of prayer. The current teaching on the “Courts of Heaven” is often misconstrued in this way. People come up with all sorts of legal language that they feel is vital, important and even necessary to use before they will actually be heard or get an answer from God. That is not correct and in fact is not what the author of the book by that name meant when he wrote about the courts of heaven. We attended a conference recently where this author was one of the speakers and his entire first message was making the point that it was the spirit and not the letter of prayer that he was emphasizing in his messages on the theme of the court of heaven.
Jesus goes on to give us a template, or guide to prayer. Again, what is known as “The Lord’s Prayer” was no doubt not intended to be something we repeat verbatim, and then convince ourselves that we have been obedient in prayer. Jesus is using classic and ancient methods of teaching in giving general principles or subheadings of prayer that we should consider and include when we talk to God. These include:
- Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name: The idea of God being Father may be common to us but it was borderline if not outright blasphemy to the people Jesus was speaking to. The charge of death against Jesus ultimately came because He called God His Father.
- The kingdom come. This was a direct challenge against the rule of the Pharisees and Sadducees, against Herod and against Rome. Jesus was turning the thoughts of the people away from the government of men to the government of God. This is a sentiment that the current contemporary church culture has ignored in becoming increasingly politicized in its endeavors and focus in recent decades, since the Reagan years.
- Daily Bread: Church authorities for centuries have taught it is unspiritual to ask for mundane things. Jesus repudiates the poverty mentality and the vow of poverty in this inclusion of daily needs in prayer.
- Forgiveness: If we do not forgive, we will not enjoy the dividends of the forgiveness found for us in God.
- Lead us not into temptation but Deliver us from evil: Modern church culture teaches that God uses calamity, sickness, and misfortune to teach us important lessons. Jesus in His doctrine taught us that the Holy Spirit is the Teacher and not disaster, mishap or tragedy.
- Thine is the kingdom, glory and power. If government and power belong to God, then why are we looking to men? Jesus’ prayer concludes with a reminder of just who in reality is in charge (Zech. 4:6).
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.
In verse 19 Jesus speaks of personal economy and the handling of finances. Is He saying that it is sinful to have a savings account or to plan for the future? Proverbs 13:22 says that a righteous man leaves an inheritance for his children. It is doubtful that Jesus, who is our righteousness according to 1 Cor. 1:30 is intending us to think that it is wrong to have any surplus in our lives, or wrong to make provisions for those we leave behind. The point is that our motivation to take care of ourselves and our own personal needs should not eclipse or eliminate our investments in the kingdom through giving into gospel endeavors and giving likewise to the poor and the underprivileged. We should have the faith and the fortitude to see our own needs provided for and the compassion to generously, radically and personally to provide for the needy (and not just leave it to the institutions of society or government entitlement programs to do this for us).
In verse 22 Jesus talks about the “light of the body”. He exhorts us that our eye should be “single”. If our eye is single we are full of light, but if our eye is evil, or not single we are full of darkness and “how great is that darkness”. If you study carefully, you will find that the singleness of eye that Jesus teaches in this verse is equivalent to the simplicity in Christ that Paul writes about in the following verse:
[2Co 11:3 KJV] 3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
The word simplicity in 2 Cor. 11:3 that Paul uses means that he prayed for there to be an “absence of distinction” in the body of Christ. He continually warned the Corinthians against sectarian thinking, one claiming to be of Paul, and another of “Apollos” etc. His remarks are an indictment against the denominational system and divisive character of Christianity today. His call is for us to reflexively upon meeting other Christians to find common ground, rather than to seek to delineate differences in belief or practice by which we can distinguish our beliefs and doctrines from others in our midst or in our community. The lack of being single in vision, or having simplicity in Christ is in the New Testament perspective, giving sway to the spirit of anti-Christ in our midst.
Jesus goes on to warn us not to be preoccupied with our own personal needs. He says that we cannot serve God and “mammon”. What is mammon? The more correct term would be WHO is mammon? The early Christians took Jesus statements to be referring to a demon named Mammonous, who was the personification of avarice. What is avarice? Avarice traditionally, is listed as one of the seven deadly sins. It is defined as extreme greed, and preoccupation with materialism as a goal of life or seen as the ultimate answer to man’s need to the exclusion of the rightful place of God in the heart.
In context we can see in Jesus’ teaching that it is all about what you are seeking. He goes on to emphasize not seeking after uncertain riches, but rather seeking first the kingdom. Many look at this and say it is wrong then to be wealthy, or to have your needs meet. That is not what Jesus is saying. In context He is saying if we seek first the kingdom, all those things that the worshippers of Mammonous are pursuing will be added to you. The wording is “all these things” what things? The things that others seek vainly by pursuing after natural attainment rather than seeking God.
In the concluding verse Jesus tells us not to look beyond the evil of the day in our moment by moment challenge of daily life. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. We carry a heavy load in life unnecessarily when we are always borrowing tomorrow’s troubles today. Whatever grace is extended by God to us in our burdens is only sufficient for today’s evil. The grace of God was never intended to wrap itself as an envelope of divine sustaining around our refusal not to worry. We need to learn to consign tomorrow’s challenges to when tomorrow actually shows up and keep ourselves comforted in the grace of God for the day we are actually living in.
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