In this chapter, these topics are introduced: Giving to the needy without display; the Lord’s Model Prayer; fasting with the right attitude; laying up treasures in heaven; our light must shine. We cannot serve God and Mammon. We must not be anxious about the basics but seek God’s kingdom first.
As I said in chapter 5, when I use the phrase “kingdom citizen” or “kingdom subject” (and so on), I’m not talking about some future millennium, but about us right now. The Sermon on the Mount is our teaching now, for us now; it is also about the final, fully manifested, future kingdom.
As I write in the introduction to every chapter:
This translation and commentary is offered for free, gratis, across the worldwide web to Christians in oppressive (persecuting) or developing countries, who cannot afford printed commentaries or Study Bibles, though everyone can use the commentary and entire website, of course.
The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section, for discipleship.
The Greek terms with brief definitions can be looked up at biblehub.com. However, I hope to bring different nuances to the few words I focus on. And I keep things nontechnical.
The translation is mine. I wrote it to learn what the Greek text really says. The translation tends to be literal, but complete literalism and readability are impossible, so adjustments had to be made. If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com.
Links are provided for further study.
Teaching about Giving (Matt. 6:1-4)
1 Be on your guard against doing your righteousness in front of people for the purpose of being seen by them; otherwise, you have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2 Therefore, when you do your act of generosity, don’t sound a trumpet ahead of you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they are praised by people. I tell you the truth that they have been paid their reward. 3 When you do your acts of generosity, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your generosity is done in secret and that your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Jesus had said to let your light shine so brightly that people see your good works and glorify God (5:14-16). Here the flow of this teaching goes in another direction, seen in the purpose clause: “for the purpose.” In 5:14-16, the light shines naturally out of the kingdom citizen, out of who he is, because Jesus said he is the light of the world, before he begins his good works. In the earlier passage, light is the source; here, showing off is the purpose or goal, and that’s wrongheaded.
“Jesus’ warning does not, of course, preclude public acts of righteousness—even with the knowledge that such acts will draw attention—as long as the disciple seeks to be seen for God’s glory rather than his or her own (5:16)” (Keener, p. 206).
“doing righteousness” is an accurate translation. It means that people do acts of righteousness, and in this context by being generous with the kingdom citizen’s money. If they perform their acts of generosity with the express purpose of showing off, then they have no reward before their Father in heaven. The main point in charity (6:2-4), praying (6:5-15) and fasting (6:16-18) is that the “disciples must guard against the perverse tendency to do good deeds in order to receive human admiration, because this forfeits divine reward (cf. Matt. 10:41-42; 19:27-29)” (Turner, comment on 6:1).
Righteousness is not only declared righteousness. It involves doing good works. First, the person is saved and declared righteous; then, second, he shows that he is declared righteous by doing righteous deeds. So the sequence is important: first salvation, then works of righteousness (and the sequence is more logical than chronological). Some scholars won’t like me introducing the concept of “salvation” in Jesus’s Sermon because it is out of place, but I simply mean that one enters the kingdom upon repentance (Matt. 4:17), which brings the person into right relationship with God.
Hyper-grace teachers need to be careful about downplaying or deemphasizing doing good works in keeping with repentance after the person has entered the kingdom of God (Matt. 3:8; Acts. 26:20).
“people”: it is the Greek noun anthrōpos (pronounced ahn-throw-poss), and even in the plural some interpreters say that it means only “men.” However, throughout Greek literature written before and during the NT, in the plural it means people in general, including womankind (except rare cases). In the singular it can mean person, depending on the context (Matt. 4:4; 10:36; 12:11, 12; 12:43, 45; 15:11, 18). So a “person” or “people” or “men and women” (and so on) is almost always the most accurate translation, despite what more conservative translations say. So I chose “people.”
I really like the idea that our Father will reward us when we do our good works or acts of generosity in private or secret or in hiddenness. When we do things in private, our Father who sees things done privately and rewards in private.
“act of generosity” means to give to the poor; in the old days, it was translated as “almsgiving” or “alms.”
“hypocrites”: originally it comes from the Greek play actor on the stage. They wore masks and played roles. There were stock characters, such as the buffoon, the bombastic soldier, or the old miser. The Septuagint (pronounced sep-too-ah-gent and abbreviated LXX for the “seventy” scholars who worked on it) is a third-to-first century (B.C.) translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. It uses the term hypocrite to mean the godless. However, in Matthew’s Gospel (it is used only once in Mark 7:6 and three times in Luke 6:42; 12:56; 13:15), it is more nuanced. Hypocrites appeared one way, but in reality they were different. They appeared outwardly religious, but inwardly they were full of dead men’s bones (Matt. 23:27). They wore religious masks. They actually did many things that the law required, but they failed to understand God’s view of righteousness. They were more self-deceived than deceivers, though in Matt. 23, Jesus denounced the Pharisees and experts in the law for teaching one thing but living another. They are religious show-offs who act out their righteousness to impress others but are out of touch with God’s mercy and love. Eccl. 7:16 says not to be overly righteous, but that is what they were and displayed it publicly. Here in these four verses, ostentatious display is wrong.
You can believe that they really did sound their trumpets (a few scholars argue for this), but mostly we should see this as hyperbolic imagery (Keener). Remember that hyperbole (pronounced hy-PER-bo-lee) is a rhetorical device that means an “extravagant exaggeration.” (Example: “This ice cream guy is really generous! He piled the ice cream a mile high on my cone!” The ice cream is not literally a mile high). The goal of hyperbole is to shock the listener to take notice.
Back to sounding the trumpet. The offering receptacles were in the shape of a trumpet, with the wide opening facing upwards. A giver drops his coins in it, and they could make a sound. But I believe we should see the whole picture as hyperbole, and the hypocrites do not literally sound the shofar or the metal trumpet before they give. Rather, the phrase is another startling image—Jesus used many of them in the Sermon on the Mount—which means to broadcast your generosity by “blowing your own horn” (as we say today).
In any case, the main point in v. 2 here is that they give so that they are seen by men. When they do, they have their reward—the praise of men, not the praise of God.
“people”: see v. 1 for more comments.
“I tell you the truth”: Matthew uses this expression thirty times in his Gospel. “Truth” comes from the word amēn (pronounced ah-main and comes into English as amen). It expresses the authority of the one who utters it. The Hebrew root ’mn means faithfulness, reliability and certainty. It could be translated as “truly I tell you” or I tell you with certainty.” Jesus’s faith in his own words is remarkable and points to his unique calling. In the OT and later Jewish writings is indicates a solemn pronouncement, but Jesus’ “introductory uses of amēn to confirm his own words is unique” (France at his comment on 5:18). The authoritative formula emphasizes pronouncements which are noteworthy and will be surprising or uncomfortable to the listener.
“paid their reward”: Osborne quotes an old-school commentator (Plummer): “They receive their pay then and there, and they receive it in full … God owes them nothing. They were not giving but buying. They wanted the praise of men, they paid for it, and they got it. The transaction is ended and they can claim nothing more” (comment on 6:2). The rich need to be careful when giving generously. Do it anonymously.
Now Jesus uses another hyperbole to drive home his point. Right and left hands don’t literally know what the other does. Instead, the teaching says that a kingdom citizen’s good deeds should be done in secret, so that he doesn’t pay attention to it. He doesn’t praise himself. He just gives out of love and compassion, not for his own positive reinforcement or feeling good.
The word “secret” can be translated as “private” or “out of the public view” or “a hidden place.” It is the opposite of “out in the open” or “public.”
The Father sees every secret thing you do—and aren’t you glad he shows mercy!—so he will reward you in secret.
“reward”: translates one verb apodidōmi (pronounced ah-poh-dee-doh-mee), which can mean “reward” or “recompense” or “give” or “pay back.” So hyper-prosperity teachers should not take the one word too far. God pays in full in private. No kingdom citizen needs to yell about having private jets or shout, “Money, come forth!” or have a church slogan that says, “Money cometh!” This is foolishness. Those preachers need to repent.
GrowApp for Matt. 5:1-4
A.. Do you give your time and money for the kingdom? What is your motive for giving? Self-aggrandizement? To get rich? Generosity?
Teaching about Prayer and Lord’s Model Prayer (Matt. 6:5-15)
5 Further, whenever you pray, don’t be as the hypocrites, because they like to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners, to make a public appearance before people. I tell you the truth: they are paid their reward. 6 But you, whenever you pray, go into your secret room and close your door and pray to your Father in secret, and your Father who sees you in secret will reward you. 7 While you are praying, don’t babble as the pagans do, for they think that they will be heard with their multiple words. 8 Therefore, don’t be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 Therefore, pray in this way:
Our Father who is in heaven,
Let your name be made holy.
10 Let your kingdom come,
Let your will be done,
As in heaven, also on earth.
11 Give us today our bread for living.
12 And forgive us our debts,
As we have forgiven our debtors.
13 Do not bring us into temptation;
Instead, deliver us from evil.
14 For if you forgive people their trespasses, your Father in heaven will also forgive yours. 15 But if you do not forgive people, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
“whenever”: it means indefinite time, so we can pray whenever we can—or should. It does not mean “if you pray” or “whenever you feel like it.”
“pray”: Let’s take an expansive look at the verb (and noun). It is the very common verb proseuchomai (pronounced pros-yew-khoh-my) and appears 85 times. The noun proseuchē (pronounced pros-yew-khay) is used 36 times, so they are the most common words for “prayer” or “pray” in the NT. They are combined with the preposition pros, which means, among other things, “towards,” and euchē, which means a prayer, vow and even a mere wish. But Christians took over the word and directed it towards the living God; they leaned in toward him and prayed their requests fully expecting an answer. It is not a mere wish to a pagan deity.
Prayer flows out of confidence before God that he will answer because we no longer have an uncondemned heart (1 John 3:19-24); and we know him so intimately that we find out from him what is his will is and then we pray according to it (1 John 5:14-15); we can also pray with our Spirit-inspired languages (1 Cor. 14:15-16). Pray!
“hypocrites”: see v. 4 for more information. They make a public appearance for their prayers. Once again this pericope (pronounced puh-RIH-koh-pea) or section is all about the contrast between public, ostentatious displays on the one hand and on the other doing righteous acts in private with so much trust in your heart that you know God sees you praying in private.
“are paid”: see v. 4 and apodidōmi for more information. Whatever specific word you choose to translate, it means to get something back or receive a reward. In this case, their reward is earth-bound and small.
“people”: see v. 1 for more comments.
“synagogue: this was the place of Jewish social life. Prayer and teaching were centered there.
I tell you the truth”: see v. 2 for more comments.
Normally, Jews did not literally pray in the streets, “but again Jesus reduces the questionable behavior to the absurd by graphically depicting a worst-case scenario: a person who craves notice so much that he arranges to find himself in the street during the regular daily prayer times” (Keener p. 211).
So once again, Jesus uses a startling image to instruct us. He uses this technique often in the Sermon on the Mount.
You may certainly take the “secret” or “private” or “unpublic” room literally. Many people do take it literally and call it their “prayer closet.” They literally go into their closet where their clothes hang and crawl underneath them and sit and pray. It makes me smile, and I’m sure God also smiles. He likes their enthusiasm to obey the Word literally. In my own life, I go on prayer walks away from people, except a few passersby. So I suppose the open air is my closet.
“reward”: it could be translated as “recompense” or “pay.” See v. 4 for more information.
God sees you in private, and he rewards you in private. He won’t send you out in public for a standing ovation because of your secret prayer life. He wants a relationship with you and you alone. Not you and your spouse. Not you and your children. Not you and your small group. All those people are important, but he wants you, in private.
“While you are praying”: this translates a present participle. Your praying can happen at any time.
“pagans”: it could be translated as “Gentiles” or “non-Jews.” They prayed at pagan temples and apparently prayed repetitively, multiplying words. Jesus worked in Galilee, where there was a large influx of Romans and Greeks. He may have actually heard them praying like this, as he worked as a craftsman in his youth, before he began his ministry.
“babble”: it translates an extremely rare word battalogeō (pronounced bah-tah-lo-geh-oh, and the “g” is hard as in “get”). It is hardly found in the larger Greek word, except in one instance. Liddell and Scott says it is related to Battos the Stammerer, the name of the king of Cyrene. It means “to speak stammeringly or say the same thing over and over.” The Shorter Lexicon suggests “babble.” To me, the battos stem sounds onomatopoeic (the sound and meaning of the word converge). It sounds like someone babbling or stammering. The log– stem is related to “words.” So it could mean, literally, “speaking batta” (babble) (Blomberg).
Multiplying words out of insecurity or fear because you think God may or may not be listening is misguided. We don’t need to repeat ourselves. He heard you the first time. We need to pray from a place of victory and confidence in our loving Father.
“This is not a diatribe against lengthy prayers per se (Jesus prayed all night [Luke 6:12] as well as lengthily in Mark 1:35; 6:46; 14:35-42) but rather the type of long prayer with endless repetition and virtually meaningless gibberish” (Osborne, comment on 6:7). Then Osborne points out that Gentiles sometimes repeated an extensive list of names of God, thinking that if they said the names correctly, they could manipulate the god Or it means mystical gibberish similar to mantras in Eastern religious today. Muslims have a string prayer beads, as if this act of piety means anything to God. It does not.
This is a short command: “Don’t be like them.” Don’t be like the pagans who don’t know God and pray out into the air and speak many words. They won’t be heard because of the abundance of their words, but if they turn to the true God in repentance, only then will God hear them.
God wants to reward people who trust in him and believe that he sees or knows what they need before they ask him. As noted in the previous verse, we need to pray out of confidence. He is our loving Father. He knows what you need before you ask. “The kingdom citizen does not need to prattle on and on as if God is hard of hearing or has a short attention span. This is exemplified in the short, balanced, and profound prayer that follows” (Osborne, comment on 6:8).
So why pray if he knows everything? Out of his love and mercy God has built the human or moral order to be in relationship with him. He does not need our participation, but he invites us into this relationship. And one sure way to be involved with him is to talk to him. Are you wise enough to see that you have needs, or can you handle things on your own? “I got this!”
Are you humble enough to pray to him, or can you figure this out on your own, with your own clever mind and intellect? What kind of relationship is that, before Almighty God? He is God; you are not. We enter a relationship with him on his terms, not ours. We pray to him, and we relate to him through prayer. He ordained prayer. We use our minds, and then our mouths speak and form words, and he allows our human speech to relate to him. Yes, we can pray with our minds only, but a healthy prayer life is a vocal or voiced one.
Prayer means self-surrender. In praying for yourself or someone else or for things, you are telling God, “I give my life to you and submit it to you. I depend on you, not my own abilities and brainpower and willpower. I give up! You take charge! You answer my prayers if it is your will” The moment we humble ourselves and pray, he answers. He wants to answer. But he’s the boss, not you.
Therefore he knows in advance that we need this or that answer, but he invites us into the privilege of praying to him and relating to him, by our needs and by our speaking—our being human.
“in this way”: the phrase indicates a model prayer. Though I won’t quarrel with anyone who prays the exact words and only the exact words, the people who do this miss the deeper meaning of the prayer. We are supposed to expand our prayers based on these verses beyond rote repetition.
“Father”: this is the most wonderful relational word that exists for God. Yes, he is our Savior and our Rock and our Deliverer and our Redeemer (and so on), but he is deepest of all our Father.
His fatherhood means we are his children. We can approach our Father whenever we want. If you had a mean earthly father, don’t project your bad experience or feelings on to God your Father. That’s not fair. He is not like your earthly father. He is wholly different and loving.
“let your name be made holy” in the eyes of the people or “let your name be sanctified” in the eyes of the people. Or it could be translated as “let your name be reverenced” in the eyes of the people. Or it could be “made holy” or “sanctified” or “reverenced” in your heart. You must treat God as holy or wholly other than any being, whether angel or the most holy man or sacred space (e.g. a temple). There is no one like him (“I am God; there is no one like me,” says Is. 46:9), so see him in that light.
“name”: this noun stands in for the person—a living, real person. You carry your earthly father’s name. If he is dysfunctional, his name is a disadvantage. If he is functional and impacting society for the better, then his name is an advantage. The Father has the highest status in the universe, before and above the entire universe, which he created. His character is perfection itself. Now down here on earth you walk and live as an ambassador in his name, in his stead, for he is no longer living on earth through his Son, so you have to represent him down here. We are his ambassadors who stand in for his name (2 Cor. 5:20). The good news is that he did not leave you without power and authority. He gave you the power and authority of his Son Jesus. Now you represent him in his name—his person, power and authority. Therefore under his authority we have his full authority to preach the gospel and set people free from bondages and satanic spirits and heal them of diseases.
“holy”: William Mounce in his Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says the Hebrew adjective for holy is qadosh and is used 117 times. “It describes that which is by nature sacred or that which has been admitted to the sphere of the sacred by divine rite. It describes, therefore, that which is distinct or separate from the common or profane” (p. 337).
Renewal theologian J. Rodman Williams teaches that the basic connotation of holy and holiness in the Old Testament is that of separation / apartness from the common, mundane, and profane things of everyday life. This true of God in His total otherness, also of persons and things set apart for Him and His service (vol. 1, p. 60, note 41).
God’s majesty speaks of God’s awesomeness and majesty. “At the heart of divine majesty is the white and brilliant light of His utter purity. There is in God utterly no taint of anything unclean and impure” (p. 61).
In simple English, it means God is completely different and separate from earthbound things. But this does not mean that he is so far up in heaven that he ignores us. As our holy Father, he is involved in our lives. So we have a perfect balance of God’s unique holiness and his fatherhood. Further, he likewise calls us to be holy or separate from the world’s pollution, but involved in the world. Be in the world, but not of it.
I really like Turner’s comments on 9a:
God is “our Father in heaven” because God has come near to his children by his grace, establishing a covenant relationship of intimacy and community. Yet God is at the same time “our Father in heaven”; he remains distant from his children because of his glory, which leads his disciples to approach him with awe. This God deserves the utmost devotion flowing from love and reverence for the one who perfectly and harmoniously possessed goodness and greatness, grace and power, immanence and transcendence. When prayer is made, God’s goodness and greatness must be carefully balanced to achieve intimacy without sentimentality on the one hand, and reverence without austerity on the other.
“kingdom”: What is it? As noted in other verses that mention the kingdom in this commentary, the kingdom is God’s power, authority, rule, reign and sovereignty. He exerts all those things over all the universe but more specifically over the lives of people. It is his invisible realm, and throughout the Gospels Jesus is explaining and demonstrating what it looks like before their very eyes and ears. It is gradually being manifested from the realm of faith to the visible realm, but it is not political in the human sense. It is a secret kingdom because it does not enter humanity with trumpets blaring and full power and glory. This grand display will happen when Jesus comes back. In his first coming, it woos people to surrender to it. We can enter God’s kingdom by being born again (John 3:3, 5), by repenting (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:5), by having the faith of children (Matt. 18:4; Mark 10:14-15), by being transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son whom God loves (Col. 1:13), and by seeing their own poverty and need for the kingdom (Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20; Jas. 2:5).
Here it is the already and not-yet. The kingdom has already come in part at his First Coming, but not yet with full manifestation and glory and power until his Second Coming.
1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (begin a ten-part series)
“come”: it is a standard verb. Whatever is done in heaven should be done on earth. But some critics suggest that we have no death in heaven, so should we pray realistically that people on earth never die? There is no evangelism in heaven, so no evangelism on earth? No marriage or sex or raising children properly or money in heaven; therefore, since there is none of those things in heaven, should we pray for them to come down to earth? And therefore, say the critics, this verse in the Lord’s Model Prayer is not carte balance to ask for everything in heaven to come down to earth. But the critics miss the point. The kingdom, as we just learned, is not fully manifested, but it will be at the Second Coming.
Until the kingdom comes in full power and manifestation, we need our daily bread and the forgiveness of sins, both ours and those who have sinned against us. And those two things are just representative samples. We need better marriages and child-rearing skills and wisdom, more evangelism. We pray for kingdom harmony in our marriages. Evangelism: we pray down kingdom power to enable us to fulfill it. As for death, it will end at the Second Coming. We pray down kingdom life in us, not to live forever in our earth suits (bodies), but to sustain us while we live in them. We live on earth, and we can indeed pray down from heaven the things we need on earth in the current dispensation (I’m no dispensationalist in the convoluted sense of the term). We let other Scriptures guide us to pray down heavenly things down on earth to us.
So don’t let the misguided critics boss you around or mislead you, as they misread and overread things with utmost literalness and fail to capture the intent.
However, don’t be disappointed if the partial yet powerful manifestation of heaven and the kingdom does not happen right now, particularly healing. Yes, pray in faith for healing, but the polluted world and our weak bodies may not be healed at this time.
Bottom line: Jesus is telling us to pray for the full manifestation of the kingdom, and it has not happened yet and will not happen until he returns. We see through a mirror dimly and know in part, and the perfect has not yet come (1 Cor. 13:9-12). He is telling us to pray for God to come through his Son at the Second Coming; only then will his kingdom come in its earth-shattering fulness. But we can also pray for the little things of the kingdom to come down right now to meet our needs right now.
“be done”: it is the very flexible verb ginomai (pronounced gee-noh-my, and the “g” is hard as in “get”). It could just as easily be translated as “let your will happen” or “let your will be,” the two more frequent definitions of the verb.
“as in heaven, also on earth”: that is a literal translation, and I like the brevity; “it is” is supplied by other translations: “as it is in heaven.” And they even switch things around: “on earth, as it is in heaven.” I can’t quarrel with their translations, and I’m sure theirs is better, but I like to keep things literal. It is strong in its brevity.
“So while this second petition includes a desire that the kingdom come upon unbelievers (i.e. evangelism) and that God’s people experience the kingdom in a new way (i.e. spiritual growth), it primarily centers on a desire for this world to end … So this prayer asks for the present kingdom to manifest in new ways, but especially asks that God end this present order and bring the kingdom to fullness” (Osborne, comment on 6:10). In other words, the prayer is about the inaugurated kingdom, which Jesus was introducing right then and there, and the future kingdom. Present and future.
In his commentary on Luke’s Gospel and the parallel Model prayer, Darrell L. Bock quotes the Kaddish, an eschatological Jewish prayer that ended the ancient synagogue services:
Exalted and hallowed be his great name
In the world which he created according to his will.
May he let his kingdom rule
In your lifetime and in your days and in the lifetime
Of the whole house of Israel, speedily and soon.
Luke 9:51-24:53. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 2. (Baker 1996), p. 1052.
“give”: The verb is in the imperative or command form, but it is only a grammatical point. We must not believe that we can command God, but we can ask with authority. We should have confidence when we ask God for our food and other supplies.
“bread”: it stands in for our other basic needs. In Greek it is the first word in the sentence, for emphasis. It stands in for all of our need for supplies, like a job or groceries—whatever nourishes us and puts a roof over our head.
We can pray every day for our daily need. Or you can divide it up weekly—“Lord, give my family our weekly need. I also ask that you promote myself and my husband at my and his job.” Or pray for your daily bread every day.
“for living”: it is the extremely rare noun that means “necessary for existence”; “for the following day”; or “for the future” (Culy, Parsons, and Stigall in the Gospel of Luke, p. 374), and it is used only here and in the other version of the Lord’s Model Prayer (Luke 11:3). Let’s appropriate the word to teach us to pray for the necessities of life for the next day and the future. The Greek phrasing also has the word today in it. You can pray for tomorrow’s bread or supplies that exist in the future. No, this does not allow heavy credit card debt, for that is presumptuous. But God’s supply exists in his time, which for us appears like the future because we have a limited perspective (we’re not omniscient). In any case, God sees what we need today, and he is preparing things tomorrow to give them to us. Today and tomorrow are one for God since he has an eternal perspective.
Carson: “the prayer is for our needs, not our greed.” He also reminds us that the common laborer worked daily and got paid daily, but often the work was seasonal. And if he fell ill, it would be a tragedy (comment on v. 11).
“forgive”: it comes from the verb aphiēmi (pronounced ah-fee-ay-mee), and BDAG, considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, defines it with the basic meaning of letting go: (1) “dismiss or release someone or something from a place or one’s presence, let go, send away”; (2) “to release from legal or moral obligations or consequence, cancel, remit, pardon”; (3) “to move away with implication of causing a separation, leave, depart”; (4) “to leave something continue or remain in its place … let someone have something” (Matt. 4:20; 5:24; 22:22; Mark 1:18; Luke 10:30; John 14:18); (5) “leave it to someone to do something, let, let go, allow, tolerate.” The Shorter Lexicon adds “forgive.” In sum, God lets go, dismisses, releases, sends away, cancels, pardons, and forgives our sins. His work is full and final. Don’t go backwards or dwell on it. Clearly the most significant definition in this context is the second one and the Shorter Lexicon’s. It means to forgive.
Please read these verses for how forgiving God is:
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:10-12)
And these great verses are from Micah:
18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:18-19, ESV)
In this verse 12, here in the Lord’s Model Prayer, you forgive as you have (already) been forgiven. Note the verb tense. It goes along with vv. 14-15, below.
“debts”: it could be translated as “morally indebted” to us, which adds up to sin. Here it is sin that put the person in a moral debt or obligation to you. So someone wrongs you, and you believe he owes you an apology, but what if he is unwilling to give it or is even unaware that he has wronged you? You still need to forgive his moral debt to you. Unforgiveness is poison in your soul, not his. Forgive the other person, and God will purge out the poison.
“Since the Spirit led Jesus into a time of testing (4:1), this petition is not so much for God not to lead the disciple into a moral test as it is for the disciple to be delivered from Satan so as not to yield to temptation” (Turner, comment on 6:13).
“bring”: it could be translated as “lead,” but the basic meaning is to “bring.”
“temptation”: it is the noun peirasmos (pronounced pay-rahss-moss), and it can be translated in one context as “test, trial” (to see what is in a person) and in another context as “temptation, enticement” (to sin) in another context. Since it does not seem possible that God would lead people into temptation, it may be better to translate the word as a “time of trial.” On the other hand, though God does not do the tempting (Jas. 1:13-14), he may allow the devil to attack our frail, sinful human nature, to see what is in us (Job 1-2). Do we have the power to resist? I pray nearly every day something like this, based on Jer. 15:20: “Lord, I proclaim over my heart and soul the inner strength and power and anointing to stand and not to fold or flag during satanic or broken-human attacks.” It works. I have become stronger.
“evil”: it could be translated as “evil one,” that is, Satan.
These verses are strong and clear. There is no other way to read them than in their plain sense. You simply have to forgive others, or else your Father won’t forgive you. Are you ready to forgive? If not, consider all the sins of which your Father in heaven has forgiven you. Many and deep sins. Your walk with God will suffer greatly if you do not forgive. Your walk with him will thrive the moment you do forgive. Pray that you can be made willing to forgive, and then do it. Sometimes an evil spirit can attack your mind and deepen the unforgiveness and bitterness you already have. You can rebuke Satan off of your mind, as part of the process.
Now let me get a little theological and practical. Will God forgive you if you hold bitterness even at your death? How far do we take these two stark verses? The context here is not about the afterlife and final judgment, but about life in the kingdom here and now, so I am reluctant to apply them outside of their down-to-earth context. I’m not clear what God would say to you at judgment if you had not forgiven your aunt (for example) for what she did to you. I somehow doubt he would throw you in hell for it, when you had still walked with God and confessed Jesus as Lord throughout all the other areas of life. My hunch is that he would not reward you but give you “special instruction” for your refusal to forgive. However, please don’t test the Lord about this. Jesus is speaking strong words here to throw water in your face and warn and wake you up. Forgive right now!
“forgive”: see 12 for more comments on the verb.
“people”: used twice in these two verses, and see v. 1 for more comments.
GrowApp for Matt. 6:5-15
A.. Check your prayer life. Is it nonexistent, occasional, or regular?
B.. Read Eph. 4:32. Forgiveness is so important that the Father demands it from you, or else you’ll put yourself in the prison of unforgiveness. How do you escape it?
Teaching about Fasting (Matt. 6:16-18)
16 Whenever you fast, do not become as the gloomy hypocrites, for they do up their faces in order to appear to people to be fasting. I tell you the truth: they have their reward. 17 But you, as you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to people to be fasting, but only to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“whenever”: it is atemporal. There is no command here. But it does assume that kingdom citizens do fast.
“do up”: it could be translated as “hide,” since the root meaning of the verb means to “appear.” So Jesus is drawing a contrast between public appearance of fasting and a relationship with the Father among people who are so secure in this relationship that they can fast in private and not appear to be fasting, as they go out in public. Jesus is against ostentatious display and for private devotion.
People into ostentatious display have their cheap reward down here on earth, when people pay them the utmost respect. But that’s all they get. They get no heavenly reward for their fasting.
“hypocrites”: see v. 2 for more information.
“people” see v. 1 for more comments.
“I tell you the truth: see v. 2 for more comments.
Here we begin the contrast. Don’t be like the hypocrites, but be like kingdom citizens who have a relationship with their Father and understand his ways.
“you”: it is singular in Greek. You can fast by yourself.
“anoint”: people used oil for cleanliness and also for going through a public ceremony, like being anointed for the priesthood (Lev. 8:12) or for kingship. (See the post What Is the ‘Anointing’?)Therefore when we fast, we should live life as we are celebrating God, not by looking gloomy. “Oh, look at me! I’m fasting! I’m suffering for God! Pay attention to me! Praise me for my devotion to God!” Instead, do the opposite. Wash your face and put oil in your hair as if you are ready to celebrate something.
“people”: see v. 1 for more comments.
“This does not contradict 9:14-15, which says the disciples weren’t fasting, for Jesus says there that this would last only so long as ‘the bridegroom … is with them.’ Afterwards, the disciples would return to fasting” (Osborne, comment on 6:17)
The Greek phrasing is elliptical (omitting some elements) because it has case endings. So it could be more fully translated: “So that you don’t appear to people to be fasting, but that you appear to your Father to be fasting.” “But” is a strong contrast in Greek. Also, the Greek really does say that “your Father who is in secret.” But this could be translated more fully: “your Father who sees in secret,” which overlaps with the next clause, but that’s the intent. But again I like the brevity. And I like the idea that your Father meets you in secret, he lives there with you. He is there in your private fasting as you live your everyday life, but who knows? … maybe we can expand the meaning to include the idea that he is there in secret with you during your pain. But the context is about fasting, so I’ll leave it there.
Before I end this pericope on fasting, let’s explore it more thoroughly.
There are all sorts of ways to fast:
Eating no food, but drinking water only, which is standard;
No food and no water, but only for a short time (Acts 9:9);
No delicacies (Dan. 10:3);
Sometimes people fast from TV or social media, which is a good idea.
And anything in between.
In the OT the purposes of fasting were, as follows:
Preparing for God’s law (Ex. 34:28; Dt. 9:9, 18);
Preparing for the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29, 31);
Showing grief at time of death (1 Sam. 31:13; 2 Sam. 1:12);
Showing remorse for sin (1 Kings 21:27; Neh. 9:1; Ps. 35:13);
Praying in time of national need (2 Chron. 20:3; Ezr. 8:21; Est. 4:16; Joel 2:15-17);
Praying for personal reasons (2 Sam. 12:16, 21; Neh. 1:4; Dan. 9:3-4);
But be warned: prophets criticized fasting for outward show (Is. 58:3-7; Jer. 14:12; Zec. 7:4-10).
In the NT, the purposes of fasting were as follows:
Jesus fasted to overcome temptation and prepare for his ministry (Matt. 4:1-11 // Luke 4:1-13);
Saul fasted after his conversion to humble himself and work out the massive change in his worldview (Acts 9:9);
Part of worship (in Acts 13:2);
Preparing for ministry (here in Acts 13:1-3; 14:23);
Sending off for ministry (here in Acts 13:3; 14:23);
Jesus’s disciples did not fast while he was there, but when he was gone, they would fast (Matt. 9:14-15);
Jesus criticized fasting for its outward show (Matt. 6:16-18; Luke 18:9-14).
“Whenever fasting becomes a performance, it ceases to be righteous activity. Private activity with the Father is the true goal of fasting. Reward from God is predicated on the right attitude and motivation” (Osborne, comment on 6:18).
GrowApp for Matt. 6:16-18
A.. Have you ever fasted? What kind of fast? From food? From TV and social media? What was your fast like?
Treasure in Heaven (Matt. 6:19-21)
19 Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust disfigure and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust disfigure and where thieves do not break through nor steal. 21 For where your treasure is there will be your heart.
This is a pericope of contrasts.
“store up: it is related to the noun treasure, so it could be translated: “Don’t treasure up for yourselves treasure.”
The picture is of thieves burrowing through the wall and breaking through to get what you have stored up. Treasure must include clothing; otherwise, moths would be irrelevant here.
The opposite of v. 19 is spelled out here in v. 20. Thieves and rust are unable to get into heaven, so they cannot damage any spiritual treasure.
The hyper-prosperity teachers cannot like this verse, or else they have to explain it away. Yes, I believe God wants to prosper your business by lawful business means. You produce a good product and learn to market it successfully. Prosperity. But notice how you don’t ask people to give you ten percent. They voluntarily buy your product, without manipulation. Streamlined and honest.
The hyper-prosperity teachers in contrast do indeed ask for ten percent or more off gross pay, so that Joe Factoryworker and Jane Shopkeeper can, in turn, be prosperous. You give in order to get more money. I’ve heard of one church that has a slogan, “Money cometh.” I saw a hyper-prosperity yell out into the air, “Money, come forth!”
My take: if hyper-prosperity teachers live in penthouse apartments or gigantic houses and drive expensive cars and brag about their jets in which to fly around from conference to conference (they’re too important to take commercial airlines), instead of living modestly and prudently, then don’t give to their ministries.
I have along post on the topic about giving:
GrowApp for Matt. 6:19-21
A.. Check your heart about money. Do you want prosperity for the right motives?
The Light of the Body (Matt. 6:22-23)
22 The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be light. 23 If your eye is bad, your whole body is darkness. If therefore ‘the light’ in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
This is an illustration about truth (light) v. falsehood (darkness) and true perception (light) v. self-deception (darkness), impacting (or infecting) your inner being. Here, as usual, Jesus’s teaching does not emphasize philosophical thinking, but moral living and one’s relationship with God. In their context, vv. 14-23, in which Jesus’s critics believed he had expelled demons by the prince of demons, he here explains by metaphors how wrong and deceived they were. Their minds were so darkened that that actually believed that his authority came from Satan, so that Satan’s kingdom would be effective if it were divided against itself! Their “light” really was darkness. Further, in vv. 24-26 Jesus taught that a swept and ordered person can undergo further, stronger attacks. Here he expands on the idea with moral truths through the images of light and darkness.
In my view, this is how the images can be transposed:
Light = truth = Christ’s message
Darkness = falsehood = Satan’s message
Eye = gateway to or perception of the mind
Whole body = whole inner being
One could also add that Jesus himself is the light of the world (Luke 2:32; John 1:9; 3:19; 8:12).
Now what about your mind and total inner being? Do they receive light or darkness?
In this verse the eye takes in the light, just as the mind takes in truths or falsehoods. In your initial intake of truth or falsehood, the mind can become light or dark, which in turn impacts your entire inner being. When your perception and mind take in moral truths and relational knowledge of God, your whole being is light (an adjective, not in the nominative). When your perception and mind take in moral falsehoods and false beliefs about moral truths and relational knowledge of God, then your whole being will become dark.
“In short, the reader thinks of the physiological first and then is drawn by the context to the moral aspect” (Osborne, comment on 6:22).
People can be so self-deluded that the “light” in them is actually dark, but they do not perceive their self-deception. That is self-deception to the furthest degree. It is tough to break. To break self-deception, follow the basic foundations listed in. v. 26.
I put the word light in quotation marks because Jesus is stating an odd phenomenon. Literally, a light cannot be darkness, but morally one’s ‘light’ can appear to the person to be bright, but it is really dark. Self-deception is powerful.
GrowApp for Matt. 6:22-23
A.. What can you do to prevent self-deception and darkness from entering your whole being?
B.. What can you do to allow true perception and light to enter your whole being?
God and Mammon (Matt. 6:24)
24 No one is able to serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You are unable to serve God and mammon.
No servant can serve two masters. Why not?
Paraphrase: Either he will hate one and love the other vs. he will be loyal to one and despise the other.
Who are the two masters? Jesus reveal them: God vs. Mammon. The Shorter Lexicon suggests that here Mammon should be personified or turned into a personal being of some kind, as if it is lurking to devour you. In Gen. 4:7 sin is depicted as crouching, lurking by the door, ready to attack Cain.
You cannot—are unable—to serve God and Mammon.
The Greek word for serve is more closely related “to be a slave to.” Whose slave are you? In his comment on v. 24, R. T. France says we should translate it: “You cannot be slaves of both God and wealth.” He says we can work two jobs, so it’s better to translate it as he has it, but that misses the point. Yes, we can work two jobs, but if we are greedy and lust for money over God, then we are heading for trouble. He is right, however, in saying that Jesus means we cannot be doubleminded. We have to be totally committed to God and his kingdom. Finally, he is skeptical about Mammon being a god or spirit of some kind. “There is no evidence that anyone in the ancient world thought of an actual being called ‘Mammon.’” Yet, the Shorter Lexicon says it can mean this. You can decide on this one.
Finally, 1 Tim. 6:17-19 is relevant:
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works and to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life (1 Tim. 6:17-19, ESV).
So the rich converts to Christianity are called to use their money generously, do good with it, and to be rich in good works, so they can store up for themselves treasures in heaven.
Be faithful with worldly wealth, but don’t serve it. Let it serve God, and you should serve God. And then you can stand on top of money, as you look up to God.
I like Blomberg here:
Against those who might protest that they can accumulate both spiritual and earthly treasures, Jesus replies that they have only two options. They must choose between competing loyalties. “Master” suggests a slaveowner who required total allegiance. People could not serve two masters in the way in which people today often work two jobs. “Money” is more literally mammon, referring to all of a person’s material resources. Of course, many people do try to cherish both God and mammon, but ultimately only one will be chosen. The other will be “hated,” even if only by neglect. “Love” and “hate” in Semitic thought are often roughly equivalent to choose and not choose. (comment on 6:24, emphasis original)
“Love” and “hate” = “choose” and “not choose.” Don’t over-work the verbiage “love” and “hate.”
GrowApp for Matt. 6:24
A.. Study 1 Tim. 6:10 and 17-19. How are rich Christians called to use worldly wealth? What should your attitude be about money?
Do Not Be Anxious But Seek His Kingdom (Matt. 6:25-34)
25 Because of this, I tell you: do not worry about your life, about what you should eat or what you should drink, nor about your body, what you should wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes? 26 Observe the birds of the sky: they do not sow nor harvest nor gather in barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you much more valuable then they? 27 And who of you by worrying is able to add one cubit to your height? 28 Why do you worry about clothing? Observe well the lilies of the field: how they grow and not labor nor spin, 29 But I tell you that Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 If therefore God in this way clothes the grass of the field which exists today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, won’t he much more clothe you, you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, “What should you eat?” Or “What should we drink?” Or “What should we wear?” 32 For all these things the pagans pursue. Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 Therefore, don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. The trouble for each day is sufficient on its own.
Osborne insightfully translates the first part of v. 25: “Because of this I am telling you, do not ever worry ….”
“I tell you”: this clause also denotes a solemn and authoritative pronouncement that may surprise the listeners or make them uncomfortable.
“worry”: it is the verb merminaō (pronounced mair-mee-nah-oh), and it means, depending on the context: “to be apprehensive, have anxiety, be anxious, be (unduly) concerned” In other contexts, it can mean “to attend to, care for, be concerned about” (BDAG). Here it clearly means the first definition.
This verse could be translated something like this: “don’t worry, in regards to your life, what you will eat, and in regard to your body what you will wear.” Here Jesus makes a distinction between food for sustaining your whole life—life could be translated as soul—and the body. Whether food or clothing, they don’t matter. Life and body are more important than these exterior material objects. In other words, Jesus is about to teach us: focus on more important things, like our relationship with the Father. Fads comes and go every five years or so. But on what basis can he issue such a radical statement? God our Father is the basis of his statement, as the rest of pericope says.
Jesus uses the “how much more” argument. Since God gives us life, how much more will he give us food. Since God gives us a body, how much more will he give us clothing (and food). (Osborne, on 6:25).
Then he probably saw a flock of birds fly overhead or land nearby, and he used them as object lessons. He tells his disciples to “look at” or “observe,” or “notice” them (all in a spiritual sense). He observed their nature in a spiritual sense and related them to our lives, in a sharp contrast between them and us.
Do birds sow seeds of grain and harvest the crops? Do they own a storeroom or a barn? Obviously not. Yet God feeds them—as the Greek literally says—but usually translators say that God provides food for them because God does not literally throw out refuse or dead animals or seeds for them to feed on them.
Instead, we are to understand that God allows nature to take its course, and the crows on their own can feed on the throwaway or dead things. God has set up the world of nature in this way. Allowing nature to take its course is called secondary causes, as distinct from the Primary Cause (God himself) directing everything in detail.
We are supposed to learn from this verse that we are much more valuable than birds, yet God cares for and feeds them. The argument again goes from the lesser (birds) to the greater (we humans). How much more will he feed and provide for us, his highest earthly creation (Ps. 8), made in his image (Gen. 1:26-27)!
One day, while I was needing work, God whispered to my heart to apply at such-and-such a college. By then, I had been abused by colleges many times because I’m conservative in my politics, and the authoritarian left dominates colleges and universities, so I got squeezed out. However, in this latest round of job searching I was not filled with anxiety about God’s provision. He saw the injustices committed against me. Through practice I learned he would take care of me. I delayed in applying to the college, so the Spirit urged me to “apply, now!” I did, and they hired me. It’s amazing to think he clearly led me to apply at that specific college that was closer to home, because he could see in advance that I would be accepted by them. My need for an income was met. He provided. I’m happy to report at the time of this writing that my recent student evaluations were through the roof. The dean was thrilled. God is faithful.
Jesus is deploying the obvious truths about what worrying cannot accomplish. We cannot add a cubit to our height by sitting in a rocking chair—a symbol of worrying, because we do a lot of moving, but we go nowhere! (Incidentally, a cubit is about 18 inches or .462m). Can we accomplish anything meaningful by worrying? Of course not! Jesus uses this absurd idea of adding a cubit because we can’t come anywhere near that height, despite all of our most strenuous efforts, though we might be able to add a couple of inches with platform shoes, like they used to wear in the 1970s! Or maybe we could add more than cubit if we walked on stilts, but then we cannot live life that way!
All humor aside, if we can’t do a small or minor thing like adding a cubit to our height, which is an ironical idea Jesus poses, then we mustn’t worry about the rest of the things. In other words, stop worrying about big or small things.
I should add that some scholars drop the idea of adding a cubit to one’s height and instead translate it that we cannot add one hour to our lifespan. That makes sense. Either way, we should not expend energy worrying about things that we cannot change or control.
Lilies were beautiful, but since they are equated with grass, they were probably wildflowers.
Solomon was a very rich man, the richest of his time (1 Kings 10:14-29). After describing his wealth in gold and ivory, but not silver because “silver was not considered anything in the days of Solomon” (v. 21, ESV), the historian of 1 Kings writes: “Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom” (v. 23, ESV). No doubt he ordered weavers and spinners to makes clothes for him. But lilies do not work or spin. Yet Solomon in all his splendor could not match them in their natural, delicate beauty.
“spin”: it is the verb nēthō (pronounced nay-thoh). It is used only here and in Luke 12:27, which parallels this verse. It is related to the verb neō, which has the image of a spider spinning a web or the Greek Fates spinning out the threads of life. The lilies don’t spin out threads to make clothing for themselves. Their Father provides for them.
“I tell you”: see v. 25 for more comments.
“grass”: it could be translated as “blade” or “stock of grain.” Whichever one you go with, it is here today and gone tomorrow.
He calls us “you of little faith.” Faith and worry are opposites. If we spin our minds to make threads that we don’t use—mental, useless threads, then we do not have faith. Let’s not exhaust our mind with anxiety, but instead learn who the Father is. What is he willing to do for us? Verses 31 and 32 will tell us, but here in v. 28 God provides for the lilies, so he provides for us. Again, it is the lesser to greater argument. He provides for the lilies (lesser), so he will provide for us humans, made in his image, his highest earthly creation (the greater).
Then Jesus circles back around and repeats his commands not to worry about food or clothing.
Once again, he exhorts or strongly urges and advises us not to pursue the basics, like eating or drinking. Of course, he does not mean we should never go grocery shopping, for example, but we should not pursue such things with anxiety.
Don’t hang in midair, between doubt and the solid earth. People who float around cannot be settled in their walk with God. Walking with God happens on the ground.
The pagan nations of the world pursue such trivial things. Jesus is speaking to kingdom citizens, and he contrasted their life under God’s watchful care against the pagans or Gentiles around their (known) world. He did see differences between pagans and God’s kingdom subjects. Jesus is telling his disciples that they were copying the pagans in their anxiety, and his followers had to up their game.
But why should they raise their sights without anxiety? On what basis? He tells them—because their Father knows that they need those things. God is omniscient, a big word meaning “all-knowing” (omni– means “all,” and scient– stem is related to “knowing”). He sees and knows exactly what you need.
Recall my own story (see v. 26). God saw and knew the injustice that was about to happen to me. He spoke to me to apply at a college, and the door opened up. He rescued me.
This verse from Jeremiah is relevant: “Then you call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you” (Jer. 29:12-13, ESV).
“kingdom”: see v. 10 for more information.
“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” We are supposed to seek God’s righteousness, not the kind of righteousness that we can generate.
France translate the clause “seek first” as “make it your priority to find” the kingdom (p. 270). Excellent. Place the kingdom as your top priority.
Consider Jer. 29:13-14: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord (Jer. 29:13-14, NIV).
This is a great command, but only mature kingdom citizens can carry if off, after they have entered God’s kingdom. Let tomorrow worry about itself.
The Greek syntax is difficult to translate into English. Here are options: “Trouble is sufficient each of its days.” Or “Trouble of its own is sufficient each day.” I like the latter one. You can check out other translations online.
GrowApp for Matt. 6:25-34
A.. This section of Scripture is all about anxiety and God’s providence. How has he taken care of you?
B.. Read Phil. 4:6-7. How does Paul recommend we purge out anxiety?
C.. Go back to Matt. 6:33. How does Jesus recommend that we purge out anxiety? Where should our priorities lie?
Summary and Conclusion
The main point of vv. 1-18 is our performing our good deeds without ostentatious display, but to keep things private, because God sees everything we do. He is pleased when our motives have been purified, and our perspective has been set right. We must trust God to reward us.
Reward is another theme in Matt. 6. Make no mistake. God will reward us, and he will withhold rewards from us when we pursue rewards down here on earth. Many prominent and public pastors will be shocked when they get to heaven. One of them boasted that he will drive a jeweled and gold-plated chariot, but then on another broadcast he boasted that he drove a super-expensive sports car and lived in a luxurious penthouse in a high-rise apartment. He’s wrong about the hyped up heavenly chariot. He is getting his reward down here. The best chariots will be reserved for the persecuted and the martyrs.
The Lord’s Model Prayer is taught here. Many repeat the words verbatim, and I won’t quarrel about this. But the prayer is a guideline for our expanded prayer life. We are supposed to declare God’s name as holy. We remember that he is our holy Father, and we must sanctify his name in public, by our words and life. Then we pray for his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. We can indeed pray for heavenly kingdom things to come down on earth, so let’s not allow critics to scare us off from that great biblical truth. Most importantly we must forgive people. Of all the different topic he could have mentioned, like world peace and the gospel to go around the world, he brings up forgiveness. If we don’t forgive people their trespasses, neither will our heavenly Father forgive us. That’s serious and heavy. It is a warning. Take it seriously.
When we fast, let’s dress up as if we are celebrating, not put on a gloomy appearance. Here’s what we do not want to say: “I’m suffering for the Lord! Look at me! I’m so devout that I’m willing to give up food and other things! Now praise me!” These ostentatious people will have their reward down here on earth. Our Father is in secret, Jesus said. He is waiting for you there. So let’s keep things private. He will reward us when we have the right perspective.
We are supposed to lay up treasures in heaven. Tell that to the hyper-prosperity teachers. I believe in prosperity, when it is honestly earned. Abraham was wealthy, but he did not demand money from his neighbors after he ministered to them. He did not preach at them, but God blessed him because the patriarch used astute agricultural practices to achieve his prosperity, not by taking offerings with the guarantee of wealth to his donors. We cannot serve God and Mammon. The hyper-prosperity teachers are giving it their best effort, however! We’ll see what reward they’ll get in heaven at judgment.
In ten verses Jesus revealed a deep yet clear teaching on anxiety and trust in God’s providence. The two are opposites and cannot coexist in the same heart. We are not to be anxious but trust God and seek his kingdom and righteousness. Yes, his righteousness is given to us after we enter his kingdom. It is his righteousness, not ours by ostentatious display or by doing all those good deeds throughout the previous two chapters and the next one. Yes, righteousness does come out in righteous deeds, but not to show off. We should not worry about tomorrow but let tomorrow worry about itself. Great teaching for us, daily applied.
I refer to a community of Bible scholars. They are many kilometers ahead of me in understanding the text. They are excellent, but their commentaries are too often too technical. I hope I have simplified matters.
Blomberg, Craig L. Matthew. The New American Commentary. Vol. 22 (Broadman, 1992).
Carson, D. A. Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. Ed. by Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland. Vol. 9. (Zondervan, 2010).
France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew: New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Eerdmans 2007).
Garland, David E. Reading Matthew: A Literary and Theological Commentary (Smyth and Helways, 2001).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 2014).
Keener, Craig. A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. (Eerdmans 1999).
Olmstead, Wesley G. Matthew 1-14: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Baylor UP, 2019).
Osborne, Grant R. Matthew: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. (Zondervan, 2010).
Turner, David L. Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Baker Academic, 2008).