Matthew Chapter 6

Gospel of MatthewI’m glad you’re taking time to read God’s word.   I’m praying for you. Today Jesus teaches us about prayer,  giving to the needy, treasure in heaven and  worry.

JESUS TEACHES ABOUT GIVING TO THE NEEDY / 6:1-4 

It’s easier to do what is right when we gain matthew-24-35recognition and praise. To be sure our motives are not selfish, we should do our good deeds quietly or in secret, with no thought of reward. Jesus says we should check our motives in three areas: generosity or almsgiving (6:4), prayer (6:6), and fasting (6:18). Those acts should not be self-centered, but God-centered, done not to make us look good but to make God look good. God does not promise a material reward. Doing something only for ourselves is not a loving sacrifice. Check the motives behind your next good deed by asking, “Would I still do this if no one would ever know that I did it?”

6:1 “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”NIV At first reading, these words seem to contradict what Jesus had just told his disciples in 5:14-16, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works” (nrsv). No contradiction exists, however, because in 5:16, Jesus gave his disciples the correct motive: that people might “give glory to your Father in heaven” (nrsv). Jesus warned that doing good works (acts of righteousness) so that others might see and praise you for what you do would earn no reward from your Father in heaven.

The phrase “acts of righteousness” can be translated different ways, but it means “to do what is right.” Jesus pointed out three specific types of acts of righteousness that the Pharisees completed—many with great fanfare and notice—almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. These three were central to their expression of obedience to God. While all of these acts could glorify God, some of the Pharisees did them only to bring honor to themselves. In these words, Jesus was focusing on the motive behind any good deed. God rewards good deeds done for his glory alone. He does not reward good deeds done for recognition, display, applause, or honor. In fact, as Jesus explains in 6:5, the valued “reward” from others is the only reward that will be received.

6:2 “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.”NRSV The first “act of righteousness” Jesus used as an example was “almsgiving.” The Jewish law commanded that the people give to those in need: “Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land'” (Deuteronomy 15:10-11 nrsv).

Jesus expected his followers to do likewise, following God’s law. He said not “if,” but whenever you give alms (that is, give to the needy). However, Jesus’ followers were to have a different motive for their giving than did the hypocrites.

“Hypocrite” was the Greek word for “actor,” one who wore a mask and pretended to be someone he or she wasn’t. The term “hypocrites,” as used here, describes people who do good acts for appearance only, to be praised by others – not of compassion or other good motives. 

Probably the vast majority of people are more influenced by what men will say, than by what God Almighty thinks.

G. Campbell Morgan

(Many of the religious leaders did just this; later Jesus calls the Pharisees hypocrites, see 23:13-29.) The phrase sound a trumpet before you probably is not literal, but it pictures people calling attention to themselves, people who “blow their own horns.” Their actions may be good, but their motives are hollow. Like actors in a play, they give their gifts in front of an audience, hoping for praise. These empty acts and whatever human praise is received are the only reward the hypocrites will receive for their trouble. God will reward those who are sincere in their faith and whose motive in all their good deeds is to glorify him.

LIFE APPLICATION – GIVE ANYWAY

Jesus emphasized the importance of giving to those in need. Assuming the giving even as he was directing how the giving should be carried out, his repeated phrase was “When you give,” not “If you give.” Helping other people becomes a real adventure if we remain anonymous. Regardless, we still must help others. We may have to live through times when our acts of generosity are neither recognized nor appreciated. What can you do to give to those in need?

6:3-4 “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”NIV In 6:2, Jesus explained how his disciples were not to give alms; these verses describe how he wanted them to give. In the phrase do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, he was teaching that motives for giving to God and to others must be pure.

The phrase is a hyperbole (extreme example) to emphasize the total lack of ostentation. No one should call attention to the act. It is easy to give with mixed motives, to do something for someone if it will benefit us in return.

God has given us two hands—one for receiving and the other for giving.

Billy Graham

Jesus advised, however, that giving be done in secret. Jesus’ words do not forbid record keeping, receipting, or reporting procedures used in good stewardship. But he condemned practices to impress others. Jesus’ followers should give generously, out of compassion, when there is a need. God rewards such giving. The word for “reward” used here is different from the word used in 6:2, for the reward is very different. The hypocrites receive praise from humans alone as their only “reward.” Those who give in secret, however, will receive a reward from the Father—a reward of greater value because it will be perfect and eternal.

LIFE APPLICATION – KEEPING DONOR SECRETS

It’s nearly impossible to keep secret the amount of charitable giving you do today. Donors are required by tax authorities to keep very accurate records, and the larger the gift, the more people must keep a record of it. When Jesus said to keep your gifts a secret from even yourself, he was using hyperbole to warn against self-glorifying demonstrations.

Yet Christians can and should apply the spirit of Jesus’ teaching, even while they keep accurate financial accounts. Jesus tells us:

l Don’t get proud of your generosity. You are only a steward of resources that belong to God already.

l Don’t give for the honor bestowed on donors. Instead, give in gratitude for what God has given you.

l Don’t count your gifts as merit points for heaven. God will reward you generously, but not on your invoice.

Every time you give, count it as a reminder of your freedom from the power of money and of your trust in Jesus alone for all good things.

JESUS TEACHES ABOUT PRAYER / 6:5-15 

6:5 “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.”NRSV A second act of piety Jesus addressed was prayer. Some people, especially the religious leaders, wanted the people to think they were very holy, and public prayer was one way to get attention. Jesus saw through their self-righteous acts. He called these men hypocrites for praying not to God but to an audience of people who revered them for their apparent holiness. Jesus assumed that his followers would pray (whenever you pray). Prayer in the synagogues was not unusual; however, those who prayed at the street corners certainly had motives other than piously observing the exact prayer time (although prayers in the streets were acceptable on fasting days). When people prayed in those locations, not to God but merely so that they may be seen by others, they were not praying at all. Jesus taught that we find the essence of prayer not in public but in private communication with God. There is a place for public prayer, but to pray only where others will notice you indicates that your real intention is to please people, not God. For these hypocrites, people’s praise will be their only reward.

LIFE APPLICATION – PUBLIC PRAYER

Do Jesus’ words question the appropriateness of all public prayer? Can public prayer draw attention to God without drawing attention to the one praying? Did Jesus himself practice “closet praying” exclusively? No, the Gospels record Jesus at prayer both privately (14:23) and publicly (14:18-19). Later, his disciples carried on a tradition of corporate prayer from the earliest days of the church (Acts 1:14). As he did with giving, Jesus drew attention to the motives behind actions. The point really wasn’t a choice between public and private prayer but between heartfelt and hypocritical prayer. We must learn to pray in private so that we might eventually lead others in effective prayer in public. When asked to pray in public, focus on addressing God, not on how you’re coming across to others.

6:6 “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.”NIV The prayer life of Jesus’ followers would be radically different from that of the hypocritical religious leaders. Jesus did not condemn public prayer. Such prayer was vitally important to the early church, as it is to churches today. Corporate prayer has powerful results. Jesus’ point, however, was that people who prayed more in public than in private should consider their motives. If they really wanted to fellowship with God, Jesus suggested that they go alone into a room, close the door and pray. This “room” was probably some inner room without windows, a storeroom, a “secret” place.

 Prayer in public is subject to concern over correct word usage, political correctness, even pride. Private prayer enables believers to pour out their hearts to God (your Father, who is unseen), express their true feelings, and listen in the quietness for God’s answer. Jesus called God the “Father,” an intimate word describing the relationship believers have with him.

The self-sufficient do not pray, the self-satisfied will not pray, the self-righteous cannot pray. No man is greater than his prayer life.

Leonard Ravenhill

6:7-8 “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”NIV Repeating the same words over and over (babbling) like a magic incantation will not ensure that God hears these prayers. The pagans (or Gentiles) focused on how they delivered their prayers, repeating the right words in the right order. They often repeated the names of their gods as a way to get a blessing (as in Acts 19:34). Jesus was not condemning prayer any more than he was condemning giving in 6:1-4. In fact, Jesus encouraged persistent prayer (Luke 18:1-8) and soon would give a pattern for prayer (see 6:9-13). Instead, Jesus was condemning the shallow repetition of words by those who did not have a personal relationship with the Father. Jesus told his followers not to be like the pagans but to come to God as to their Father, bringing their needs. The believers did not pray to idols of wood or stone with incessant babbling. They prayed to the one living and true God who knew what they needed even before they asked! This does not excuse believers from prayer, but they needn’t spend a long time telling God their needs because he already knows. God doesn’t need our prayers; but he wants our prayers and knows that we need them.

6:9 “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.”NKJV This prayer is called the Lord’s Prayer because Jesus gave it to the disciples to pray, as well as to be a pattern for their prayers. Jesus did not give this prayer as an incantation to be recited over and over—that would render it as ineffective as the “babblings” of the pagans (6:7). Jesus said, “in this manner, therefore, pray.” In other words, this is how I want you to pray—praise God (6:9), intercede for his work in the world (6:10), ask for provision of individual daily needs (6:11), and request help in daily struggles (6:12-13). Jesus gave the prayer to his disciples; therefore, those who follow Christ should pray it as well. The first person plural pronouns indicate that the believers could pray it corporately. The pattern of praise, intercession, and request helps believers understand the nature and purpose of their personal prayers in their relationship with their Father.

LIFE APPLICATION – WHY PRAY?

If God knows what we need, why bother praying?

Because prayer is not like sending an order form to a supplier. Prayer develops an intimate personal relationship with an abundantly loving God, who also happens to know us deeply. His knowledge of us should encourage us toward confident and focused prayer. A child may feel an immediate need for candy; a parent considers the child’s long-term needs. Stretch that parent’s concern and perspective to an infinite dimension, and there you find God’s loving care.

 Prayer does not beg favors from a reluctant shopkeeper. Prayer develops the trust that says, “Father, you know best.” Bring your requests confidently to God.

The phrase “our Father in heaven” indicates that God is majestic and holy; he transcends everything on earth. But he is also personal and loving. The first line of this model prayer is a statement of praise and a commitment to “hallow,” or honor, God’s holy name. Christians, who bear the holy name of Christ, must be responsible to “hallow” him in every aspect of their lives. These words remind us that God wants to hear and listen as a loving Father, but that coming to him is an awesome privilege. We must enter the King’s throne room respectfully. When we pray for God’s name to be “hallowed,” we pray that this world will honor his name, and we look forward to Christ’s return when that will be a reality.

6:10 “Your kingdom come.”NKJV The phrase “Your kingdom come” refers to God’s spiritual reign, not Israel’s freedom from Rome. God announced his kingdom in the covenant with Abraham (8:11; Luke 13:28), and pious Jews were still waiting for it. Jesus’ followers recognize that the kingdom began with his coming to earth. Matthew’s readers understood the kingdom to be present in believers’ hearts as Christ reigned there (Luke 17:21). To say “your kingdom come” is to pray that more and more people will enter the kingdom. It also reaffirms belief that one day all evil will be destroyed, that God will establish the new heaven and earth, and that his glory will be known to all the nations (Psalm 110:1; Revelation 21:1).

“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”NKJV Praying your will be done does not imply resignation to fate; rather, it is a prayer that God’s perfect purpose will be accomplished in this world (on earth) as it already is in heaven’s throne room. The phrase “on earth as it is in heaven” could apply to the three prior requests. Each previous request—that God’s name be hallowed, that his kingdom come, and that his will be done—desires that these will take place on earth while looking forward to complete fulfillment when Christ returns.

LIFE APPLICATION – ONE FOOT IN HEAVEN, ONE ON EARTH

How does God accomplish his will on earth? He does it largely through people willing to do it.

We must not make this prayer as an abstract wish. Without personal commitment, the prayer would mean, “Let someone else do your will, or just get it done miraculously. I have other business today.” When you make this prayer, you’re saying, “I’ll do it, Lord. Lead me, guide me, and give me the shovel (or whatever I need) to get it done.”

6:11 “Give us this day our daily bread.”NKJV These last two (verses 11 and 12) are requests for personal needs. “Bread” refers to food in general, although it also could refer to spiritual “food.” We must trust God daily to provide what he knows we need. The word “daily” suggests that we should not worry about what God already knows we need (6:8). The adjective translated “daily” (epiousios) occurs only here in the New Testament and carries several possible meanings: (1) “for the day,” perhaps recalling the daily provision of manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16:15-26); (2) “necessary,” what I need for today in order to survive, “sufficient for today”; (3) “for the coming day,” pointing to the coming kingdom.

LIFE APPLICATION – DAILY BREAD

Every component of the Lord’s Prayer can be described as “daily,” yet only bread was given that specific adjective. God’s Fatherhood, will, and kingdom are all worthy of our daily attention. God’s forgiveness and our forgiveness of others require daily application. Our continual need for bread points to our deeper, daily need for God. The request for today’s bread keeps our relationship with God in the present tense. We will be just as much in need of God tomorrow as we are in need of his provision of nourishment, protection, and guidance today. Each day, present your needs to him.

Believers must trust God for provision and not worry. That God “gives” daily bread does not negate people’s responsibility to work and earn the food they eat. Instead, it acknowledges that God is Sustainer and Provider. It is a misconception to think that we provide for our needs ourselves. God gives us our ability to work and earn money to buy our food.

6:12 “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”NKJV The word “debts” is probably a literal rendering of an Aramaic word, the language Jesus used in preaching. It means “sin,” picturing sin as something that requires reconciliation with God. Some have taken this sentence to mean that God’s forgiveness of our sins is dependent on our forgiveness of others’ sins against us; however, the rest of Scripture shows us that no one can earn God’s forgiveness. The meaning, therefore, focuses on the true repentance of a believer who understands the greatness of the forgiveness that he or she has received. This believer willingly extends such forgiveness to others for their wrongs. The flip side of this thought reveals the selfishness of a person who seeks God’s forgiveness yet willfully refuses to forgive others. Jesus expands on this in 6:14-15.

LIFE APPLICATION – FORGIVING OTHERS

To forgive completely requires one of the most difficult of all adjustments, but Jesus describes it so simply. Just as we need forgiveness, so we must forgive others.

l You were abused and abandoned. Can you forgive the abuser?

l You were the victim of political oppression or military terror. Can you forgive those who inflicted the pain?

l You thought it was love, but the object of your love has found another. Can you ever forgive that person?

Jesus knows our hurts and wounds. Through the tears, God’s love begins to heal. That’s why forgiveness is complicated but simple. And it’s always the direction God wants your heart to turn, never toward revenge or hate. Forgiving others bears witness to the power of God over the worst that life can deal.

6:13 “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”NKJV God doesn’t lead us into temptation, for he does not tempt people to do evil (James 1:13). The Greek word translated “temptation” (peirasmos) does not mean “enticement to do evil” but “testing.” Sometimes God allows his people to be “tested” by temptation. But this testing is never without a purpose: God is always working to refine his people, teach them to depend on him, and strengthen their character to be more like him. How he does this differs in every person’s life.

Why would Jesus encourage us to ask God to avoid tempting or testing us? There are some interesting parallels between this prayer and Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (26:36-46).

 The Lord’s Prayer affirms the will of God (“your will be done”), then asks for relief and delivery from trials. In the garden, Jesus asked the Father to remove the cup of trial while immediately declaring his willingness to cooperate with his Father’s will. Soon after, when Jesus discovered the disciples asleep, he encouraged them to pray not to fall into temptation. Jesus knew, however, that they would indeed fall and fail within moments.

Once our eyes have been opened to see the enormity of our offence 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 offences of others, it proves that we have minimized our own.

John R. W. Stott

The end of the Lord’s Prayer reminds us of the importance of testing, even though we seldom desire it. Our prayer should be: “And lead us not into further testing even while you are leading us out of evil.” Jesus both taught and modeled a freedom in prayer that dared to ask almost anything, fully knowing that the Father will do what is best.

Jesus wanted his followers to place their trust in God during trying times and to pray for deliverance from Satan (the evil one) and his deceit. All Christians struggle with temptation. Sometimes it is so subtle that we don’t even realize what is happening to us. God has promised: “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 nrsv). Believers who pray these words realize their sinful nature and their need to depend on God in the face of temptation. Some scholars suggest that these words may also include prayer regarding the coming final conflict between God and Satan. If so, the believers’ prayers are that they may be spared from the trials surrounding it.

“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”NKJV This doxology does not appear in most ancient manuscripts, nor does it appear in Luke’s version of this prayer (Luke 11:2-4), leading scholars to conclude that it was not in the original text. The early church, when using this prayer, may have added this closing sentence of praise.

6:14-15 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”NRSV Jesus’ words reinforce the petition in 6:12. Jesus gave a startling warning about forgiveness: If we refuse to forgive others, God will also refuse to forgive us. This does not refer to salvation because salvation is not dependent on anything people can do. The foundation of God’s forgiveness builds upon his own character. In love he regards the death of Christ as sufficient to pay our penalty. Forgiving others is not a meritorious work for earning salvation. However, living in relationship with God requires constant repentance of the sins that plague us. Because believers must come to God constantly for confession and forgiveness, refusing to forgive others reveals a lack of appreciation for the mercy received from God. All people are on common ground as sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. If we don’t forgive others, we are in fact denying and rejecting God’s forgiveness of us (see Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). Later, Jesus told a parable depicting such a situation (18:23-35).

JESUS TEACHES ABOUT FASTING / 6:16-18 

6:16 “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.”NRSV Jesus here addresses the third “act of piety”—fasting. People fast (go without food) so that they can spend more time in prayer. This act is both noble and difficult. Fasting was mandatory for the Jewish people once a year, on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:32); however, people could fast individually or in groups while praying for certain requests (see, for example, Esther 4:16). The purpose of fasting is to provide time for prayer, to teach self-discipline, to remind God’s people that they can live with a lot less, and to help them appreciate what God has given. In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees fasted twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays (Luke 18:12). Fasting could have great spiritual value, but some people, such as the Pharisees, had turned it into a way to gain public approval. During a fast, they would look dismal and disfigure their faces so that people would know they were fasting and be impressed by their “holiness.” Jesus was condemning hypocrisy, not fasting. The Pharisees may have felt truly contrite; but were they spending time with God in prayer during their fast? They negated the purpose by making sure others knew when they were fasting. Public recognition would be their only reward.

LIFE APPLICATION – FAST

Most people who practice fasting would say that the word “slow” presents a clearer picture of this discipline than “fast.” Time slows down during a fast as energy levels decline with the absence of food.

Fasting presents a physical example of the painstaking aspects of spiritual growth. Jesus expected his disciples to fast, but he forbade self-centered and attention-seeking exercises. This kind of discipline may, in fact, be a key to the renewal of the church today. Are you willing to give up a mealtime or set aside other major activities to devote to prayer? What sacrifice would you be willing to make to spend even one day alone with the Lord?

6:17-18 “But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”NRSV Jesus did not condemn this third act of piety any more than he did the first two. As he assumed that his followers would give (6:2) and pray (6:5), so he assumed that they would fast. When you fast, Jesus was saying, go about your normal daily routine; don’t make a show of it. Putting olive oil on one’s head was like putting on lotion; it was a common part of daily hygiene like washing one’s face. No one but God would know they were fasting. Jesus commended acts of self-sacrifice done quietly and sincerely. He wanted people to adopt spiritual disciplines for the right reasons, not from a selfish desire for praise. As with the other disciplines, the reward would come from God, not from people.

LIFE APPLICATION – FASTING

Fasting is a spiritual discipline, like prayer and giving. All three remind us of a primary relationship—God and us. All three require that we give up something to gain something better.

The first time you voluntarily give up the pleasure of food, it may hurt. Start with just a one-meal fast, advises author Richard Foster. Treat fasting like an athletic exercise. If you’re a novice, don’t try to swim the English Channel.

During your fast, pray often. Be sure not to make a big public event of it, telling friends or moaning to your family about hunger pangs. Just pray. Open yourself to God. Tell him how much you want his love and guidance. Read some psalms, refreshing your heart with food from God’s Word. Let your fast bring you joy before you turn again to the food that you need to run the next mile.

JESUS TEACHES ABOUT MONEY / 6:19-24 

Jesus had been teaching about how his followers should live quite differently from those in the current religious establishment. The remainder of this chapter presents Jesus’ description of the attitudes of his followers that would set them apart from the world. The section about money focuses on true discipleship and how wealth is often the most common distraction from such discipleship. Jesus demands undivided commitment—no divided loyalties, no part-time disciples. Our attitude toward money is often the pulse of the heart of our discipleship.

6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.”NKJV Jesus’ followers do not concern themselves with amassing possessions and wealth; they refuse to lay up . . . treasures on earth. Those treasures by their very nature cannot be secure, and death would cause a person to lose them. Such treasures can be eaten away by moths or rust (the Greek word brosis can refer to anything that “eats away”), and they can be stolen by thieves.

Jesus did not condemn saving money for the future or having certain “treasures” in your home that you value. But he condemned the attitude toward money and possessions that makes these things more important than eternal values.

6:20-21 “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.”NKJV How does a person lay up . . . treasures in heaven? Laying or storing up treasures in heaven includes, but is not limited to, tithing our money. It is also accomplished through bringing others to Christ and all acts of obedience to God. That “treasure” is the eternal value of whatever we accomplish on earth. Acts of obedience to God, laid up in heaven, are not susceptible to decay, destruction, or theft. Nothing can affect or change them; they are eternal.

The final sentence points out the significance of Jesus’ words. Wherever our focus lies, whatever occupies our thoughts and our time—that is our “treasure.” Jesus warned that people’s hearts tend to be wrapped around their treasures, and few treasure God as they ought. In this startling challenge we again face the tension between actions and words in following Christ. Words become cheap when we tell ourselves we can act one way and believe another. Jesus exposed those who claim to value eternity while living as if there were nothing beyond this world.

Our heart will be with our treasure. The “heart” refers to the mind, emotions, and will. What we treasure most controls us, whether we admit it or not. (This is not limited to financial treasure. Some people treasure their house, car, or children almost to the point of idolatry.) For example, if we lay up treasures on earth in the form of money, our “heart” will be with our money. If our focus is our money, then we will do all we can to make more and more, and we will never have enough. We feel great when our stocks are up; we might feel despair if the stock market declines. We may become stingy, unwilling to give a cent of our amassed fortune, for then we would have one cent less. In short, we forget whose money it really is, the good purposes for which he gave it to us, and the fact that it will not last.

Jesus contrasted heavenly values with earthly values when he explained that our first loyalty should be to those things that do not fade, cannot be stolen or used up, and never wear out. We should not be fascinated with our possessions, lest they possess us. This means that we may have to cut back if our possessions become too important to us. Jesus calls for a decision that allows us to live contentedly with whatever we have because we have chosen what is eternal and lasting.

LIFE APPLICATION – FINANCIAL PLANNING

Do you have a will? a living trust? a diversified portfolio? a broker you can call?

Christians might ask, “Why all the fuss over financial security, given Jesus’ warning here?” But Jesus was not teaching people to be sloppy and careless about money. We need solid financial plans to be good stewards of the earthly resources that God has entrusted to us.

Jesus was also saying that money is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Money ought never to be any Christian’s goal. Financial plans should not drive our lives. Believers should focus on God’s purposes, God’s goals, and God’s plan.

Everyone needs money. Every Christian ought to share money. Financial planning is a sign of careful management. But hopes and dreams that rise to heaven are the only ones worth living for.

6:22-23 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”NIV Jesus described the “spiritual vision” his disciples should have. Proper spiritual vision requires us to see clearly what God wants us to do and to see the world from his point of view. “The eye is the lamp of the body” means that through the eyes the body receives light, allowing it to move. In the Old Testament, the “eye” denoted the direction of a person’s life. “Good” eyes focus on God. They are generous to others and convey the single focus of a true disciple. They receive and fill the body with God’s light so that it can serve him wholeheartedly. “Bad” eyes represent materialism, greed, and covetousness. Those with “bad” eyes may see the light, but they have allowed self-serving desires, interests, and goals to block their vision. Those with “bad eyes” think they have light; in reality, they are in spiritual darkness. This could mean a sort of “double vision”—trying to focus on God and earthly possessions. It will lead to gloom in life and darkness in eternity. How great is that darkness for those who see the light but are not focused on God. Materialism destroys the whole self. In these words, Jesus was calling his followers to undivided loyalty—eyes fixed and focused on him.

6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”NRSV Continuing the theme of his disciples having undivided loyalty, Jesus explained that no one can serve (that is, be a slave of, belong to) two masters. A slave could belong to two partners but not to two separate individuals because his or her loyalty would be divided. While slaves have their earthly master chosen for them, from a spiritual standpoint all people must choose whom they will serve. They can choose to serve themselves—to pursue wealth and selfish pleasures—or they can choose to serve God. The word translated “wealth” is also translated “mammon,” referring to possessions as well. Either we store our treasures with God (6:20-21), we focus our “eyes” on him (6:22-23), and we serve him alone—or else we do not serve him at all. There can be no part-time loyalty. Jesus wants total devotion.

LIFE APPLICATION – WHO’S YOUR MASTER?

Jesus says we can have only one master. We live in a materialistic society where many people serve money. They spend all their lives collecting and storing it, only to die and leave it behind. Their desire for money and what it can buy far outweighs their commitment to God and spiritual matters. Even Christians spend a great deal of time trying to create heaven on earth. Whatever you store up, you will spend much of your time and energy thinking about. Don’t fall into the materialistic trap, because “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). Does Christ or money occupy more of your thoughts, time, and efforts? Ask yourself, “Have I taken Christ or financial security as my master?”

JESUS TEACHES ABOUT WORRY / 6:25-34 

6:25 “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 important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”NIV The command “do not worry” does not imply complete lack of concern, nor does it call people to be unwilling to work and supply their own needs. Instead, Jesus was continuing to highlight kingdom priorities—the attitude toward life that his disciples should exemplify. They need not be overly concerned about food or clothing because they know that God will care for them. Worrying about food and clothing should never take priority over serving God. Food and clothes are less important than the life and body that they supply. Because God sustains our lives and gives us our bodies, we can trust him to provide the food and clothing he knows we need.

When we worry over lack of food or inadequate clothing, we immobilize ourselves and focus on the worry. We refuse to trust that God can supply these most basic needs. Worry immobilizes us, but trust in God moves us to action. We work for our money to supply food and clothing, but we must always remember that these ultimately come from God’s hands. When the need arises, we need not worry, for we know that our God will supply.

LIFE APPLICATION – WORRY

Worry presents us with the dual temptation to distrust God and to substitute fear for practical action. Worry means paying attention to what we cannot change instead of putting our energies to work in effective ways. Jesus made it clear that worry takes away from life rather than adding anything to it. We can counteract worry by doing what we can and trusting where we can’t. When we work for God and wait on his timing, we won’t have time to worry. When we seek first to honor God as king and conform our lives to his righteousness, worry will always finds us otherwise occupied.

6:26 “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?”NKJV Perhaps as he spoke these words, Jesus gestured to several birds passing overhead. The birds need food, and the heavenly Father knows it. The birds are dependent upon God’s daily provision because they cannot grow, prepare, or store their food. They work—they hunt for it and then bring it back to their families—but they don’t worry. If God cares for the birds, making sure that the natural order of his creation supplies food for them, how much more will he care for a hungry human being? Jesus was teaching total dependence upon God as opposed to humanity’s self-sufficiency. How much more should his followers, who know him personally, trust that he will provide their needs? Jesus was not prohibiting his followers from sowing, reaping, and gathering food (that is, working for it); but he was prohibiting worry about having enough food. All that we have ultimately comes from God’s hand. Whether we have much or little, we must remember that God provides for our needs.

LIFE APPLICATION -WHY IS ANYONE HUNGRY?

What about starving families in African refugee camps? If God supplies food for birds, why not food for street kids in Rio?

l Jesus is not teaching that every case of hunger will be satisfied with food. Not every hungry person in his own day was fed, and surely in the course of human history many people would go hungry. Unfortunately, some would die for lack of food.

l Jesus is teaching us to focus our minds, channeling our efforts and directing our energies not to mere bodily maintenance but to God’s eternal purposes.

Ask yourself: How can I spend less time worrying about my bank account and more time serving the church? less time worrying about mortgages and more time visiting the sick? less time worrying about kids’ college tuition payments and more time learning the Bible?

Now you’re thinking!

6:27 “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?”NRSV Many of us would do well to ask ourselves this question every morning. Daily we face new challenges, concerns, problems, and choices. Will we worry, or will we pray? Will worrying be of any help whatsoever? Because of the ill effects of worry, Jesus tells us not to worry about those needs that God promises to supply. Worry may damage our health, cause the object of our worry to consume our thoughts, disrupt our productivity, negatively affect the way we treat others, and reduce our ability to trust in God. Worry may, in reality, take time away from our span of life rather than adding to it. It accomplishes nothing.

6:28-30 “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?”NKJV Sitting on the grassy hillside, Jesus may have gestured to the lilies of the field, probably referring generally to the bountiful flowers in Israel. As in 6:26, Jesus was not condoning laziness while waiting for God to supply. Instead, he wanted his disciples to place their lives and needs in God’s hands, refusing to worry over basic needs. To worry about clothing is to show little faith in God’s ability to supply. If his creation feeds the birds (6:26) and clothes the earth with beauty and color so rich that even King Solomon’s glorious garments could not match it, will He not much more clothe you? God “clothes” the flowers and grass of the field, neither of which endures for long (today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven).

The phrase “thrown into the oven” could refer to the hot wind (called the sirocco) that came off the desert southeast of Israel that would wilt flowers. Also, dry and dead grass was cut and used for fuel in the ovens when baking.

6:31-32 “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.”NKJV Therefore, Jesus said, because God provides food and clothing not only for birds and flowers but even more for his precious human creation, do not worry. Do not spend energy fretting over what you will eat, drink, or wear. Worry has no place in the lives of Jesus’ disciples; it is the Gentiles (unbelievers) who seek after, fret over, and worry about such things. They have no sense of God’s care for them, no reason to focus their energies elsewhere. Jesus’ followers, however, have kingdom priorities, a favored relationship with the king, and a promise that their heavenly Father knows that they need all these things.

6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”NKJV Jesus’ followers must settle the question of priorities. They must be different from unbelievers whose priorities are comfort, security, money, fashion, etc. Jesus’ followers seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. The word “seek” is a present imperative, a command to fulfill a continuing obligation. To “seek the kingdom” means both to submit to God’s sovereignty here and now and to work for the future coming of his kingdom. To “seek His righteousness” means to seek to live as God requires, to truly seek these “first” calls for total loyalty and commitment. It means to turn to God first for help, to fill our thoughts with his desires, to take his character for our pattern, and to serve and obey him in everything.

What is most important to you; what do you “seek first”? People, objects, goals, money, pleasure, and other desires all compete for priority. Any of these can quickly bump God out of first place if we don’t actively choose to give him first place in every area of life. Strangely enough, when we get our priorities right, Jesus promised that all these things shall be added to you. When Jesus’ followers seek his kingdom first, God takes care of their needs.

But how can we truly be undistracted by materialistic pursuits? We all have to work, dress, drive, pay taxes—these responsibilities take up most of our days. We may not be materialistic; we just have to live. Should we leave it all and become monks? If there is no middle road, how do we do both—seek the kingdom and provide for our needs? Disciples of Jesus must understand the action (seek, strive), the priority (first), and the objectives (the kingdom of God and his righteousness). Priorities and sequence, however, are quite different matters. We determine sequences of work, rest, prayer, and worship according to time available, the cooperation of others, and many variables. But there can be only one central priority, which by its nature affects all others. The central priority determines the ways we pursue all our priorities.

LIFE APPLICATION – KEEPING PRIORITIES

Good grades are important, and physical fitness is better than frailty, but neither are top-of-the-list priorities. A loving marriage makes life happy, and workplace promotions affirm our skills, but neither constitutes the last word.

Jesus put all the good we seek to do in divine perspective here: Seek God’s kingdom! Here are some ways to do that:

l Realize that your church, for all its faults, is your extended Christian family. Serve it well. Give it your energy and time.

l Eagerly tell people how much Jesus means to you personally.

l Direct your work to projects and purposes that God would approve.

l Keep promises made to family and friends.

l Show a lot of love to the people God puts in your life.

l Get with a group of Christian friends and add three specific items to this list that you will work on during the next month. These friends can hold you accountable.

When we attempt to assign the appropriate amount of time to the kingdom of God and his righteousness so that we can figure out how much time we have left to do other activities, we reduce Jesus’ words to a lesson in sequence and planning rather than a command about the whole of life. But if we think of “seek first” as “consistently look for, honor throughout, represent constantly, and remember always,” then the ways we deal with family, friends, work, leisure, etc., will all be transformed. The rule of God and God’s rules will determine and direct our efforts in every area of life. If this is not the case, we are not seeking first God’s kingdom or righteousness.

6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”NIV Because God cares for his people’s needs, do not worry about tomorrow. In an appeal to common sense, Jesus explained that what we worry about happening tomorrow may not happen, so we will have wasted time and energy worrying. We need to reserve that energy for today because each day has enough trouble. We only add to today’s burdens when we worry about the future. All the anxieties about tomorrow will not change the outcome, and it will have enough anxieties of its own. The burdens of today are enough, so let God take care of them. God’s certain promises of care for our needs do not mean that life will be without trouble. Trouble comes, so we must trust that God will provide through his grace. We must trust him for today without worrying about tomorrow.

Planning for tomorrow is time well spent; worrying about tomorrow is time wasted. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference. Careful planning is thinking ahead about goals, steps, and schedules and trusting in God’s guidance. When done well, planning can help alleviate worry. Worriers, by contrast, are consumed by fear and make it difficult to trust God. They let their plans interfere with their relationship with God. Don’t let worries about tomorrow affect your relationship with God today.

LIFE APPLICATION – DAILY TROUBLES

One of the best ways to avoid dealing with today’s challenges and difficulties is to get wrapped up in tomorrow’s. It seems easier to worry about what might not happen in the future than to deal with what is happening in the present! Tomorrow may require plans and forethought, but not worry. Today requires work and trust. Worry immobilizes us today and reveals a lack of trust in God’s ability to hold tomorrow and preserve us. Jesus left no doubt that troubles of one kind or another will be part of the daily routine. But he also described those troubles as “enough” for each day. Can we not also trust God to provide whatever we need for the day? When we worry about tomorrow, we misuse the strength God has provided for today. We need to take “one day at a time” in our relationship with God.

www.RidgeFellowship.com

Source: Life Application Bible Commentary – Matthew.

About dkoop

Lead Pastor of The Ridge Fellowship: Leander, Jarrell & Taylor, TX
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