Today we are going to read through the 6th chapter of Matthew and then talk about the first half, verses 1-18. I broke this chapter down because it is full of very important things, and there is sort of a natural pivot in subject or theme at verse 19 on. So let us open our minds and hearts as we read Matthew 6 together.
Matthew 6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
6 “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
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. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.[a]
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. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.[b]
7 “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 “Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.[c]
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And do not bring us to the time of trial,[d]
but rescue us from the evil one.[e]
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
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. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 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.[f]
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[g] consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust[h] consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The Sound Eye
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; 23 but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
Serving Two Masters
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.[i]
Do Not Worry
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,[j] or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?[k] 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God[l] and his[m] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Matthew 6 is a continuation of the sermon found in Matthew 5, “The Sermon on the Mount”. Most scholars seem to agree that it is a continuation of the theme that begins in Matthew 5:20. Jesus is illustrating the differences between what the Pharisee’s and religious elite are doing versus what is proper in the eyes of God. It’s a sermon against self-righteousness, vanity, and greed to give an overly broad summary. We will break the passage down by the section titles in order to more fully go through the chapter.
Concerning Almsgiving: I was struggling with finding a way to summarize this first section succinctly and I came across this quote from an old Bible study that I think sums it up very well: “Jesus warns us not to give “alms before men” just to gain human recognition to ourselves. The one who does righteousness (or gives of his possessions), to the Lord before men merely “to be seen of them” has “no reward” from the Father in heaven. True worship results from the desire to serve God, not men, since pleasing God is far more important than pleasing men. Loss of reward is incurred by gaining the reward of human recognition as an end in itself.” Have you ever witnessed someone bragging or making a big show of the money or help they give to someone in need or what they put in an offering plate? Perhaps have you even been guilty of this on occasion? It’s ok to admit it, we all fall short and succumb sometimes to pride or feeling like we need the attention of others, but it is important to remain vigilant and remind ourselves not to fall into that trap.
Concerning Prayer: Prayer is probably one of the most misunderstood and misused forms of worship, and what makes it worse is that it is the most important form of worship. What Jesus is saying here firstly is that when you pray out loud, it shouldn’t be long and complex to give people the impression that you are super pious. As a minister, I see this sometimes when I am invited to take part in a meal or event and a prayer is offered by a nervous and well-intentioned person. I can almost hear them thinking “crap, the preacher is here, I better make this good with all sorts of churchy words!” Effective and true Prayer is so much simpler than that, it is simply a conversation with God. There is no need for fancy words and long flowery statements, God already knows your heart before your lips even move. Also, being a conversation, you need to allow space for the other participant, God, to speak back to your heart. The prayer given by Jesus here is kind of like a recipe:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name: Acknowledge God the all-powerful creator.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven: Accept and reconcile yourself to the will of God, not the will of humankind.
Give us this day our daily bread: Take care of our needs for today, let us not worry about those needs.
Forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors: Forgive us of our sins and help us to forgive others who have mistreated us. You must Forgive to receive forgiveness. (Important, re-iterated in verses 14-15)
And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one: Ask for strength and wisdom to avoid sin and the devil’s temptations.
Concerning Fasting: Again, Jesus admonishes us to not draw attention to our spiritual practices and worship for the sake of admiration by others. Don’t go on Facebook and announce you are fasting, or what you are giving up for lent. This passage has also been the source of debate amongst Christians about the practice of smearing ash on the forehead on Ash Wednesday as is common in some denominations and regions. What do you think?
In our next Post we will continue our discussion on Matthew 6 by examining the second half of the chapter, verses 19-34. Go ahead and read through it again and see what comes to your mind as you read it. How does it relate to the first half of the chapter? Please do leave a comment or question about this passage, or any post. By talking together through the scriptures we all gain a deeper understanding.