Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 6

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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Verse 1

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

These words are similar to Jesus’ previous instructions about doing good works (5:42-48). Works alone merit nothing if they do not proceed from a proper attitude. Attitude is just as important as action.

The remote context of this statement may again be traced to 5:20 where Jesus rebukes the shallow piety of the Jewish elite. Concerned with "form" rather than "substance," the Scribes and Pharisees make a mockery of worshiping God. On one occasion Jesus says, "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with [their] lips; but their heart is far from me" (15:8). Matthew 23 shows the truth of this statement. God wants humble service, but these men want special titles like "Rabbi" and "Master." God wants lowliness of heart, but these men clamor for the special seats at feasts. Sadly, while looking for the fleeting accolades of men, these men miss God’s eternal reward.

Take heed: This term (prosechete—take heed) means to hold the mind on a matter, to take pains with, to be careful of something (Robertson 50). Such advice is paramount for those who will serve the Lord. Because pride begins in the mind, the believer must guard his heart against such evil. Biblical history is filled with those whose quest for glory brings about their utter defeat. Israel’s king Saul discovers too late that God demands humility (1 Samuel 15:17; 1 Samuel 15:23). Nebuchadnezzar’s proud heart is made like that of the wild beasts (Daniel 5). Likewise, Haman’s pride and arrogance are ultimately rewarded with death (Esther 5:9-14).

that ye do not your alms before men: Good works are not for show. In this context, these leaders were giving only to the poor, aiding the downtrodden, and casting money into the Temple treasury to be noticed publicly. It is not their works that Jesus condemns but their attitude and motive as they do these works. It is not necessarily wrong for these works to be done publicly. Jesus commands His followers to do works so that others will see and glorify God (5:16). Likewise, Jesus commends the poor widow by pointing out her good works to His disciples (Mark 12:42). Paul also uses the Macedonian churches as a public example to encourage the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 8:1-7). In each of these examples, however, the works are done so God will be praised and others will be spurred to godliness. What Jesus condemns here is the Pharisees’ efforts to glorify themselves.

to be seen of them: The term Jesus uses for "to be seen" (theathenai—be seen) has the same basic meaning as our modern word "theatrical" (Robertson 50). Like actors on a stage, these men don masks of piety and parade their works. They seem unaware that God looks not on the outward appearance but on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

Verse 2

Therefore when thou doest [thine] alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

Therefore when thou doest [thine] alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee: Good deeds, such as giving to the Temple or to the poor, are to be done quietly. It is difficult to determine whether sounding the trumpet is to be taken literally or figuratively. It is certainly possible that the Pharisees’ pride causes them to resort to such ostentation as blowing a trumpet. McGarvey holds to such a literal interpretation (61). Others, however, believe the reference is to the blowing of trumpets at fasts and on other religious occasions. Vincent suggests the allusion is to the thirteen "trumpet shaped" coffers of the Temple treasury (Vincent 43; see also Luke 21:2). Other scholars, on the other hand, believe that since the Pharisees are too shrewd for such openness, these words are hyperbole, designed to humorously poke fun at scribal hypocrisy (Fowler 328). Robertson notes that Jewish writings seem to give little evidence that such a literal practice actually exists in New Testament times. Thus the better interpretation may be figurative (Robertson 50).

as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets: Jesus reserves the harshest criticism for these leaders, calling them "hypocrites." The word "hypocrite" (hupokritai) denotes "acting." Robertson says it carries with it the idea of pretending, feigning, or wearing a mask (51). When taken with verse 1, this verse paints a clear picture of these pious pretenders. Like actors on a stage, these Pharisees pose as godly performers. Their show is spectacular, but backstage, behind the curtain, their director is Satan.

They have their reward: This remark might be more accurately translated, "they have in full their reward," implying that the praise of men is the only reward they will receive (McGarvey 61). Instead of seeking God’s eternal approval, these religious leaders choose the fleeting and fickle praise of men. Ironically, if the commoners see through the Pharisees’ thin religious veneer, then the Pharisees have no reward from God or man. Jesus’ statement may be intended to remove this veneer and thus remove all reward.

Verses 3-4

But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

But when thou doest alms: This is not a statement of possibility but of certainty. Jesus assumes His followers will give to others. God has always expected His people to be benevolent. The Old Testament not only encourages the giving of alms, but also regulates it (Leviticus 25:35; Deuteronomy 15:7-11). In New Testament times the church continues with the same spirit (Acts 2:45; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8; Galatians 2:10). Today the believer must do the same (James 2:15; 1 John 3:16-18). The perfect example of giving is found in God’s gift to the world (John 3:16). Christianity is built on sacrifice, and such is to be the nature of God’s children.

let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: In much the same style as verse 2, Jesus uses exaggeration. Since hands cannot think, neither the right nor the left hand knows anything of itself. Each acts only because the mind directs it to. Thus we should interpret Jesus’ words figuratively. With humor, Jesus drives home His point: alms giving is to be private, an action between the giver and God. Under certain circumstances not even the receiver may know who the donor is. While it is not necessarily wrong for others to notice our giving, such must never be our motivation (see comments on verse 1). Lenski comments:

The whole matter is in the heart, it is not a mechanical rule about hiding our gifts. For one might hide all his giving in the secret hope of eventually being discovered and then being praised for the saintly secrecy of his gifts (258).

and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly: God knows all and sees all. Here Jesus contrasts the secrecy with which we must do our good deeds with the openness with which God will reward those deeds. Likewise, the term "openly" stands in stark contrast to the "openness" exploited by the Pharisees. To be rewarded openly, however, does not necessarily mean that we will receive the acclaim of men. It does not necessarily mean that our reward is "personal" in the worldly sense of human praise. For the true believer it is reward enough to do good works and to see God’s name glorified. Ultimately the Christian’s reward will be in heaven. Notwithstanding, at the final judgment all mankind will stand exposed before God, and so the reward of the righteous will certainly be a public reward.

Verse 5

Principles for Proper Prayer

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites [are]: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

And when thou prayest: Verses 5 through 15 deal with one of the Christian’s most sacred acts of worship. Prayer is that divine communication which emanates from the heart of the believer and ascends to the portals of God’s throne. It is more than a duty. It is a most blessed privilege. Through this avenue, God has provided humanity access to Deity. When Jesus says, "When thou prayest," He infers that Christians will pray and pray often.

thou shalt not be as the hypocrites: Prayer in Jewish culture is very important. Certain intervals of each day are set aside for such devotion. Usually prayer is held at the third, sixth, and ninth hours (9 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m.) (Acts 3:1; Acts 10:3; Acts 10:30). No matter where he is at these times of day, a Jew will temporarily suspend all other activities to pray (Barnes 64). By Jesus’ day, however, this personal and private act of worship has been turned into a public spectacle. The religious leaders are making long public prayers for show. Jesus calls these men "hypocrites," which literally conveys the idea of an actor on a stage.

for they love to pray standing: The normal position for Jewish prayer is "standing." We find God’s people in the Old Testament offering prayer while kneeling, while lying prostrate, and while standing. God does not prescribe a specific body posture for prayer, but since it is a time of reverence, both words and actions should reflect respect. Today it is customary to close the eyes in prayer, but Scripture does not demand such.

in the synagogues: The first place the Pharisees abuse prayer is in the local house of worship, the synagogue. Besides the Temple, the synagogue is the most important center of Jewish piety. It is to each village what the Temple is to the nation: a place where God’s law is studied and worship is held. The problem is not that the Pharisees pray in the synagogue because this is a natural part of its ceremonies. The problem is their evil motivation. Rather than praying for the glory of God and for the edification of others, they pray to be seen (Luke 18:9-14). Consequently, their prayers ascend no higher than the roof.

and in the corners of the streets: The Pharisees also abuse prayer by making it a street corner event. Jewish life and economy revolve around the outdoor market, thus these "praise seekers" easily capitalize on the street crowds. The word for street Jesus uses here is different than the one in verse 2, which refers to a narrow street (rhume). Here the word refers to a wide, major thoroughfare (plateia). The text seems to indicate that they deliberately plan their day so as to be overtaken in these bustling places when the hour of prayer comes (Matthew 23:7; Matthew 23:14).

Jesus is not prohibiting all public prayers. Indeed there are times when such is appropriate (1 Timothy 2:8). What Jesus condemns is an improper attitude. Prayer should never be offered so the speaker can be glorified. It is for the glory of God, as Jesus will explain in verse 9. Before praying in public, one should review his motives.

As in the case of verse 2, the fickle praise of men, if any, is the only reward the Pharisee’s receive. Sadly, God does not accept their words because they seek to glorify only themselves.

Verse 6

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

But thou: Jesus changes His emphasis in this verse by switching to the singular personal pronoun. His followers are to manifest a different attitude in prayer than the Pharisees have.

when thou prayest, enter into thy closet: Private prayer is to be private! The public should not be privy to these petitions. This fact is illustrated by Jesus’ command to enter our "closet." This word (tameion) originally refers to a storeroom that can be locked—a secret place for valuables. In general, however, it refers to any place of security such as an inner chamber or bedroom.

and when thou hast shut thy door: This further illustrates the fact that private prayer should be private. The world’s peering eyes are not invited. Even Jesus often finds it necessary to escape the public so He can effectively commune with His Father. Some of Jesus’ favorite spots are under the canopy of stars, in the mountains, or in a garden (14:23; 26:36).

Jesus says when "you" enter "your" closet and have shut "your" door, then pray to God. This infers that the believer has a special spot designated for regular prayer. Planning seems to be a part of the prayer process. The believer chooses a spot where distractions will be minimized and where he can pour his heart out to God in secret. In addition, Jesus’ words insinuate that the believer is in the habit of praying. Prayer, like many other Christian duties, is an art that must be cultivated. Dedicating a specific time and place will help in this process.

pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly: Even in the inner closet, God is near. God hears all of His children’s petitions, whether in public or in private, if the prayer is correctly prayed. What God hears in secret He can respond to openly in our lives as He fulfills our requests and guides us by His providence.

Verse 7

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions: The Greek word for "vain repetitions" (battalogeo) refers to stammering, thoughtless chatter or a meaningless repetition of sounds or phrases (Robertson 51). Apparently some Jews of Jesus’ day think that the value of prayer is found in quantity rather than quality. Jesus refutes this concept in Luke 18, where the Publican is justified with only seven words (18:13).

as the heathen [do], for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking: The allusion is to those pagan religions who practice repeatedly calling on their deity’s name in order to cajole or force him into action. The worshipers of Baal do this on Mount Carmel as they cry from morning till noon, "O Baal, hear us!" (1 Kings 18:26). Paul encounters a similar problem as the Ephesians cry out to Diana for two hours (Acts 19:34).

Many modern religions still practice "vain repetitions." Buddhists and Hindus chant their mantras. Charismatics work themselves into religious frenzies by the means of repetitious acts. Likewise Catholics delight in the repetition of "Ave Maria" (Hail Mary) and the "Pater Noster" ("Our Father" of the Lord’s Prayer). Jesus condemns this repetition as being "heathen" and foreign to God’s ears.

The God of the true Christian is not a lifeless god made of wood or stone. He is living and loving. He is not a distant god who has no concern for his creation. He is near to each one of us and understands our needs before we ask (Acts 17:27-29). Isaiah says, "Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear" (Isaiah 59:1). There is no reason to think that our many words will tell God something He does not already know.

Jesus is not condemning all repetition in prayer. He is not suggesting that every prayer be artificially dissimilar to the one before. Jesus Himself repeats prayers. For example, in the garden, as He faces the agony of death, He petitions God three times with the same words (26:39-44). What Jesus is condemning is vain or meaningless repetition. He is condemning the attitude of thinking that we might manipulate or coerce God with human effort.

Persistence in prayer is commendable as long as our motives are sincere. Paul is persistent about his thorn in the flesh until God makes it clear that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:7). Jesus teaches persistence in His parable of the widow and the arrogant judge (Luke 18:1-8). Jesus says, "And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?" Indeed!

Verse 8

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

Be not ye therefore like unto them: Jesus forbids His followers from following the hypocritical practices of their religious leaders.

for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of: God is omniscient. He hears and sees all. His children do not need to coerce Him into action. Unlike the impotent gods of the heathen nations, the Christian’s God is all-powerful and understands their needs.

before ye ask him: The fact that God knows our needs before we speak does not diminish the need for prayers. It is both a privilege and an obligation to approach His throne. When we petition God in sincere prayer, several things happen. First, we are strengthened as we cast our cares on Him. Second, we come to more fully understand our dependence upon Him. Third, we are reminded that we are His children through the blood of Jesus. Thus, prayer is more beneficial for us than for Him. Martin Luther says, "By our praying…we are instructing ourselves more than we are him" (McArthur 369).

Verse 9

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

After this manner therefore pray ye: After instructing His disciples how not to pray, Jesus explains the principles for proper prayer by focusing on eight points. These points, however, are not to be viewed as a ritualistic formula but rather a general pattern for prayer. The prayer Jesus is about to give is not exhaustive. There are many specific items for which the Christian prays (e.g. blessings on the sick, the orphans, the poor). Clearly the early church prays for many things (Acts 1:24; Acts 4:23). On the other hand, any one of the items mentioned in this model prayer might be the subject for an entire prayer. To use Jesus’ prayer as a ritual without regard for individual circumstance or immediate need is to violate the very tenor of the verses that precede this prayer. Prayer should be spontaneous but thoughtful. This will be accomplished as the Christian grows in God’s word and in a relationship with Him.

This prayer is commonly called "The Lord’s Prayer." In reality, however, it is "the disciples’ prayer." As Luke 11:1-8 shows, Jesus gives this prayer in response to the disciples’ request to be taught to pray as John taught his disciples. It is more accurate to refer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17 as "The Lord’s Prayer."

Our Father: Every prayer should include acknowledgement of the One to whom we speak. God, the Father, is the object of Christian praise, prayer, and petition. It is His throne room to which the believer humbly comes.

The word "Father" expresses God’s paternity. Although He is the Creator of all through His Son Jesus Christ (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16), He cares for His own because they are His children. John says, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" (1 John 3:1). Paul says that Christians are adopted as sons by Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:5). Paul also says that believers cry, "Abba, Father" (an Aramaic term of endearment used by children to their father).

Who art in Heaven: Heaven is God’s dwelling place (Psalms 99:5; Psalms 132:7; Isaiah 66:1; Matthew 5:34; Acts 7:49; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 12:2; Revelation 1:5). Thus, by addressing God in this way, we acknowledge His superiority over all earthly things. He is the ruler of all and holds the whole world in His hand.

Because of God’s lofty position, He merits man’s ultimate adoration. Too often people attempt to remove God from His heavenly throne and demote Him to an earthly level. Like the ancient pagans, modern man attempts to recreate God in his own image. Paul condemns this in Romans and labels it idolatry (1:22-24).

Even though God’s abode is heaven, He is also omnipresent. His influence and presence are manifest throughout the universe. We must keep this fact in mind when we approach His throne.

Hallowed be thy name: God’s name must be held in reverence (see notes on 5:33-37). It should never be taken lightly for it is holy. King David says, "He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend [is] his name" (Psalms 111:9). Even Jesus addresses God as "Holy Father" when He prays to Him in John 17:11. If Jesus speaks to God with such reverence, how much more should we!

In many religious circles today there is a disturbing yet growing trend of "casual worship." This trend teaches that God is the Christian’s "buddy" and can be approached as an equal. Many times this movement includes in its worship a casualness of action, speech, and dress that boarders on sacrilege. While it is true that Paul refers to God as "Abba" (Aramiac term of endearment, i.e., Daddy), God is not our equal. He is to be revered at all times. It is true that God is our Friend, but He is not to be worshiped solely on these grounds. He is God. He is Holy. He is the Righteous Judge. We are human. We are sinners. We are undeserving. Any worship that does not manifest itself in total awe is inherently unacceptable. Israel discovers this as they stand in terror at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19). Worship is not a casual act of friendship, but rather it is a sacrifice of transcendent homage.

Irreverence in prayer is only one area where man violates God’s expectations of worship. Casual attendance of church services, absence from worship for ballgames or other secular events, dozing or talking in worship, and letting our minds wander during the Lord’s Supper may all be manifestations of a lack of reverence for the supreme Creator of the universe.

Every prayer and every worship service should include praise and adoration to the Father. The believers’ ceaseless refrain should be that of Revelation 4:8 : "Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty."

Verse 10

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as [it is] in heaven.

Thy kingdom come: The Jews are familiar with the kingdom concept. Their heritage is rich with Messianic expectation. John’s question in Matthew 11:3 depicts their longing desire for a king and kingdom that will dispel the darkness of Roman occupation (see also Matthew 20:21 and Mark 10:37). Unfortunately the Jews as a whole misunderstand the nature of the Messiah’s reign because they think it will be physical. Jesus shows them that the kingdom is not physical but is within the hearts of believers. It is a spiritual kingdom (Luke 17:21). Furthermore, Jesus tells Pilate that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).

As noted in Matthew chapter three, both John the Baptizer and Jesus herald the kingdom. Mark 9:1 records Jesus’ prediction that it will come during the lifetime of the apostles. Matthew 16:13-20 indicates that the kingdom will manifest itself on earth through the establishment of the church. Both of these predictions are fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when the kingdom comes with power (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8).

Because the Day of Pentecost inaugurates the kingdom, it is no longer appropriate for the believer to pray for its coming. Christ now sits on the throne of David (Acts 2:30), He has been crowned in heaven, and He now sits at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33). In spite of prevalent millennial theories, we need not look for another kingdom.

There is a limited sense in which the believer might still pray for the "kingdom to come." Because the term "kingdom" (basillia) simply means "reign," the believer might pray that sinners will obey the gospel and allow Christ to sit on the throne of their hearts. For those who have not obeyed the gospel, the "reign of Christ" is not yet come.

Thy will be done in earth, as [it is] in heaven: Because the kingdom is God’s, His will is to be done. Nevertheless, the discussion of "God’s will" is filled with theological nuances and complexities. In general, however, a discussion on the will of God may be reduced to three general categories.

1. Providential Will

This is God’s ultimate control over all that has and will occur in the universe. This encompasses the creation of man, the great scheme of redemption, the sacrifice of Christ, and the church. Paul beautifully describes this mystery in Ephesians 1:3-12. One of the most magnificent manifestations of God’s providential will is found in the fact that evil men, in direct and hostile opposition to God, actually bring about His plan (1 Corinthians 2:6-8).

An understanding of God’s providence allows the believer to pray "Thy will be done" with confidence, knowing that God is in control. The Christian may not know what tomorrow holds, but he knows the One who holds tomorrow. See Isaiah 14:24; Jeremiah 51:29; Romans 8:28.

2. Preferred Will

This refers to those things that God wants man to do in humble obedience. This "will" may or may not be obeyed since God gives man free moral agency. God desires all to be saved, but man retains power of choice (Luke 13:34; John 5:40; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). Eden’s forbidden tree is evidence of man’s ability to choose (Genesis 2-3).

Citizens of Christ’s kingdom must live in complete harmony and obedience to God (7:21; 12:5). Only in doing His will on earth can we hope to someday do His will in Heaven. Even Jesus obeyed the will of the Father, declaring that such is His food—His very sustenance (John 4:34).

The believer finds the "preferred will" of God in His written word. It is possible for the Christian to say, "Thy will be done" only when he has taken time to study God’s will. Like the Bereans, the believer must daily search God’s revelation for the truth (Acts 17:11). Though Scripture is God-breathed (comes from God), the believer must take it into himself through study and meditation (2 Timothy 3:15-17; Ephesians 5:17).

To pray "Thy will be done" equates to "my will be suspended." No better example of this exists than when Jesus subjects himself to the Cross (Luke 22:42, Philippians 2:8). This part of Jesus’ prayer will only be fulfilled when followers bow their wills to God’s.

3. Permissive Will

This refers to those acts that God neither purposes nor desires but allows man, in his freedom, to do. It is the arena where God allows natural order to reign. This is not to say that God cannot intervene but that, in general, He does not. The Bible reveals God occasionally directing the lives of both Old and New Testament believers. Today, if He chooses, God can alter the natural course of events. If not, then why pray for the healing of the sick and distressed? We must be reminded, however, that not every event of life is the direct production of God. Sickness, disasters, economic setbacks, and other problems are part of living in a sin-laden world. While these events ultimately work for His glory, God is not to be blamed for them.

It is human tendency to attribute everything, whether good or bad, to God. It is assumed that one is blessed because God is pleased with him or that hardship befalls the one with whom God is angry. The book of Job adequately demonstrates the folly of such reasoning. Some modern "evangelicals" have adopted a similar theory in attributing everything to "the Lord’s will" including a divorce, remarriage, the house they live in, or even the car they drive. Clearly such reasoning is faulty. God gives mankind the freedom to act on his own volition. It is unnecessary to blanket our personal decisions and their outcomes with the pseudo-pious idea that "it’s the Lord’s will."

In general, the righteous are thrust into the same realm as the wicked. To both God gives joy, sorrow, birth, death, rain, drought, etc. While the believer has an added source of strength and help, he too lives in a fallen world. God allows all to continue as from the beginning, waiting the final day of judgment (2 Peter 3:1-13).

It is clear that the first two categories of will more readily fit the context of Jesus’ statement in verse 10. In a very limited sense, however, when the believer prays "Thy will be done," he is acknowledging that God is not the cause of evil but allows such to continue so that man might have freedom of choice.

Verse 11

Give us this day our daily bread.

Jesus began His teaching on prayer by discussing correct priorities. Before asking for their own needs, Christians are to first honor God. What now follows, however, is a series of three requests for self.

Jesus beautifully demonstrates in 6:25-34 that God cares for His own. In this particular verse, Jesus mentions one of the obvious ways this care occurs: God gives man’s daily provision for life. David acknowledges this by saying, "I have been young, and [now] am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread" (Psalms 37:25).

Give us this day: Although the word rendered "daily" (epiousion) is extremely rare in the Greek language, Jesus’ point is clear: citizens of Christ’s kingdom look to God to for their immediate needs. Concern about the future is unnecessary (6:34). Israel’s journeys through the wilderness illustrate this concept perfectly. God adequately provides each their "daily bread" (portion of manna). When some fail to trust God and greedily gathering more than their allotted portion, the manna breeds worms and stinks (Exodus 16:20).

A wonderful illustration of this principal is also found with the shepherd and his sheep. Today, as in ancient times, it is not in the northern lush part of Galilee that sheep are the most prevalent but rather in the barren, desert Negev of southern Palestine. Each day the shepherd leads his sheep out of the fold and into the wilderness to forage for food. They must trust him to lead them from one small patch of grass to the next. Only the shepherd knows the next day’s pasture, and the sheep must trust him implicitly. Likewise, the Lord is our Shepherd, and we must trust Him to meet our needs. Christ does not promise us abundance, but He does promise us a sufficient amount.

our daily bread: Bread is the "staff of life." It is that which God daily provides to Israel in the wilderness (Exodus 16:15; Exodus 16:31). It is the basis for physical sustenance, and it is even that which Satan uses to tempt Jesus when He is hungry (4:3). In this verse the term aptly refers to all of our physical needs.

Jesus’ instruction is both practical and necessary. Christ’s kingdom is a kingdom of workers. To work properly, however, His servants need the peace of mind that their needs will be cared for. Jesus promises to fulfill those needs. The Christian never needs to be preoccupied with the cares of this life. Every day the believer can rest assured that if he follows the Lord, he will be led in green pastures (Psalms 23). The Lord will supply his daily spiritual and physical needs.

In this verse Jesus condemns "planning." Even the apostles recognize that a certain amount of forethought is necessary (1 Corinthians 4:19; James 4:13-16), but Christ’s warning is to those who would wrap themselves in life’s concerns. Recall the rich fool who plans for a tomorrow without God only to find that his desire comes true horrifically (Luke 12:13-21).

It is by no coincidence that Jesus’ advice about provision follows so closely to His instruction on providence. His point is that God is in control.

Verse 12

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

And forgive us our debts: Lest we think that God owes us our daily provision through meritorious goodness, Jesus now speaks of man’s sin and God’s pardon. All are sinners (Romans 3:23). All are like sheep that have gone astray (1 Peter 2:25). Man needs a savior. By asking God to forgive our sins, we are accepting responsibility for our sins. God will not heal that of which we refuse to repent. McArthur rightly notes that Jesus cannot wash those feet that are not presented to him (393). The apostle John says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Solomon says, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh [them] shall have mercy" (Proverbs 28:13).

as we forgive our debtors: God’s forgiveness of us is inseparably linked to our forgiveness of others. While forgiveness of others is not meritorious grounds on which we are forgiven, this verse emphasizes the truth of verse 14—the unforgiving cannot be forgiven.

It is sobering to consider our plight if God’s mercy is proportionate to the mercy we show our fellow man. In the fifth beatitude Jesus says, "Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy" (5:7). Thus the mercy and forgiveness we extend to others in part determines the judgment we shall receive.

Verse 13

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

And lead us not into temptation: God is a God of protection. As a Father He both cares for and provides for His children. As David so beautifully sings when he is delivered from the hand of Saul, "The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer" (2 Samuel 22:2; Psalms 18:2). This same idea is the major point of this verse.

The difficulty that must be solved, however, is why one might pray, "Lead us not into temptation" when James clearly states that God leads no man into temptation (James 1:13-14). Why pray for God not to do that which He never does? On the other hand, James also says to count it all joy when we fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces patience (1:2-3).

It should be noted that the word peirasmos (temptation) is in and of itself morally neutral, having no inherent connotation of good or evil. It may thus refer to "testing/proving" or to "inducement to evil." Context determines the meaning.

Scripture demonstrates that God "tests" His children. He allows certain situations to enter the believer’s life so that when their own will is correctly exercised, they grow and mature. Abraham stands as a prime example (Genesis 22). God, however, does not capriciously induce His children to do evil. Furthermore, God knows our individual weaknesses and provides the particular way of escape so that we might emerge from the fiery trial more thoroughly refined (1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15; 2 Peter 2:9).

Jesus’ point is that we should pray that we escape those crises of soul that, in view of our weakness and Satan’s deceit, might bring us to sin (Fowler 353). McGarvey says:

This petition expresses our natural desire not to be thus led, and at the same time by adding, "deliver us from evil," it indicates that we expect to be brought more or less into conflict with evil, notwithstanding our expressed desire to avoid it (64).

but deliver us from evil: The phrase "from the evil (one)" (apo tou penerou) may refer to the devil himself or to evil that can be traced to Satan (Robertson 55). In either case the meaning is the same: Satan is the father of all evil. Therefore, the believer must flee both Satan and his evil devices (2 Corinthians 2:11).

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen: Because the earliest and best Greek manuscripts do not have this phrase, it is very likely not part of Jesus’ mountain sermon. Robertson observes that even the earliest forms of the doxology vary greatly, some being shorter and others being longer than the one recorded in the King James Version. He believes that this extra ending arises as the prayer begins to be cited or chanted in religious liturgy and public worship (55). McGarvey suggests the same by saying it is "rejected on good ground, as an interpolation" (64). Broadus adds that it is "beyond all question spurious, and rightly omitted from the Revised Version" (139). Many modern versions indicate the above by footnotes or marginal references (NKJV, NIV, RSV, NASV, etc.).

In any case, the above statement beautifully and adequately describes the preeminence of the Father. Just as Jesus begins His prayer with praise of the Father in verse 9, so here this particular version brings our minds back to God’s glory.

Verses 14-15

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

As in verse 12, Jesus emphasizes the necessity of forgiveness. Here the term trespasses (paraptomata—to slip or fall) clarifies Jesus’ intent of the word "debts" (opheilema) found in verse 12. The parallel of these verses in Luke 11:4 uses a more common word for sin, hamartias, , which carries the idea of missing the mark (Robertson 55; McArthur 391). When taken together, these words paint a full picture of forgiveness. Each person sustains a moral and spiritual debt to God that is far beyond his ability to pay. If we expect forgiveness when we fall short of God’s excellence, then we must be willing to forgive the trespasses of our fellow man (see comments on verse 12).

Verse 16

Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

Moreover when ye fast: We frequently find fasting in Scripture. For example, Moses fasts 40 days and 40 nights while he waits to receive the tablets from God on Mt. Sinai (Deuteronomy 9:9). The whole camp of Israel fasts before the Lord as they fight the Benjamites (Judges 20). Daniel fasts with sackcloth and ashes as he confesses Israel’s transgressions to God (Daniel 9:3). Darius fasts all night as he regrets his decree to cast Daniel into the den of lions (Daniel 6:18). And, as noted in Matthew 4, Jesus begins His ministry with a 40-day fast in the wilderness of temptation. Additionally, fasting is mentioned some thirty times in the New Testament.

While Mosaic Law never specifically demands fasting, it requires that the Day of Atonement be observed with the "afflicting of the soul" (Leviticus 16:29-34; 23:27; 29:7). This is interpreted in the Law as "fasting." Acts 27:9 calls the Day of Atonement "the fast."

As Israel develops as a nation, sincere Jews come to fast for many reasons and on various occasions. Except for the specific fast on the Day of Atonement, fasting stems more from personal dedication than national piety. The individual Jew can exercise his own discretion regarding the severity, length, purpose, etc. of the fast. One might fast out of remorse for his sins or in the face of some of personal or family calamity. Remember how David fasts when God strikes Bathsheba’s child with illness (2 Samuel 12:16). At times fasting means not taking any food or water while at other times it is partial with only certain foods being rejected. Likewise its duration might extend for a few hours or for several days. God requires no specific formula for personal fasts.

Broadus indicates that by Jesus’ day the Pharisees have reduced this personal form of piety to a formal system (142). Fasting is practiced twice a week as Luke 18:12 indicates. The Talmud suggests that the second and fifth days of the week (Monday and Thursday) be selected due to the tradition that Moses goes up Mt. Sinai on the fifth day and comes down on the second (Broadus 142). McArthur observes, however, that these also just happen to be the two major Jewish market days when cities and towns are crowded (401).

be not, as the hypocrites: As with many of the Pharisees’ practices, the problem with fasting is not the with act itself; rather, it is with the attitude about and motivation for fasting. John’s disciples fast along with the others with no condemnation from Jesus (9:14). In addition, when Jesus says here in verse 16, "when ye fast," He seems to indicate that He expects His disciples to do the same. The problem is the side-show mentality that the religious elite have adopted. They turn fasting, something that is to be private, into a public spectacle just as they do giving and praying.

of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast: The Pharisees go to extreme measures with their fasts. In so doing, they take on the air of actors. Jesus calls them "hypocrites"—a word noted in verse 2 and 5 that means an actor or one who wears a mask. What a mask they wear! They make their faces gloomy and sad. They neglect their appearance by letting their beards and hair go unkempt. At times they even put ashes or dirt on their heads. The tactics Jesus describes reminds the modern reader of a circus clown. The motive is not piety but is simply to attract a crowd.

They have their reward: Once again Jesus says that they have already received their reward in full. What praise men give them, if any, is all they can hope for because God does not glorify them.

Verses 17-18

But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

But thou, when thou fastest: Again we see that Jesus’ expects His followers will fast. Certain rules are to be followed when the believer fasts, however.

As has been noted, fasting is an act of dedication to the Lord. It is not for the benefit of others but for the benefit of one’s own spiritual growth. Even so, fasting without proper dedication, prayer, love for God, and motive is of no value. Asceticism, in and of itself, is not sacred. Paul makes this clear in Colossians 2:8 to Colossians 3:17. Fowler correctly observes that fasting is not so much a duty for its own sake as a physical discipline to prepare one for other duties in God’s service (361).

God does not enjoin on His children the particular length or occasion of their fasts but expects that they will fast as occasion demands.

anoint thine head, and wash thy face: Besides washing one’s face, the hair and skin are often rubbed with various oils to protect against the hot Mediterranean climate and dry air. These are means of refreshment and are a common part of personal hygiene.

That thou appear not unto men to fast: Those of verse 16 apparently neglect such daily hygiene for the sake of looking like they are under distress. Jesus says that when His followers fast they are not to neglect their bodies so as to appear distressed. Daily activities are to go on as usual. Like private prayer (verses 5-9), fasting is to remain between the believer and God.

but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly: See comments on Matthew 6:4.

Verse 19

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth: Jesus literally says, "Do not treasure to yourselves treasures on earth" (me thesaurizete humin thesaurous). He is not condemning the possession of material wealth or goods, nor is He is suggesting that His followers live in abject poverty. Neither is He suggesting that money is somehow inherently evil. Scripture adequately demonstrates that many godly men and women are rich. Although Abraham, for example, has much silver, gold, and cattle (Genesis 13:2) and Job is the richest of the east, both demonstrate exemplary dedication to God.

Wealth is neither morally good nor evil. It is the use of that wealth and the affection that one has toward it that soon turns to vice (1 Timothy 6:9). Throughout His ministry, Jesus repeatedly warns about worldly possessions. He says that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:24). He says that riches can choke out the seed of the kingdom (Mark 4:19). He also warns that one cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24). The key to wealth is one’s attitude toward it. If one’s possessions begin to possess him, then he has forgotten God.

where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: Jesus mentions three things that demonstrate the perishable nature of this world’s goods: moth, rust, and thieves. Each of these three poses a real threat to the rich man of Jesus’ day and aptly pictures His point.

The moth poses a threat because many garments of first century Palestine are made of wool. Since clothing is extremely costly and because the average person has very few changes, Jesus’ illustration is fitting. Then, as now, the size of one’s wardrobe often marks his financial status (Judges 14:13). Clothing is even considered so valuable in ancient times that it is frequently taken as spoil in war (Joshua 7:21).

Rust (brosis) literally refers to something that eats (Robertson 56). Although this might apply to what we commonly call corrosion, its application is broader. Wealth is often measured in production of grain as is evident from Jesus’ parable in Luke 12:17. It is therefore possible that the "eating" Jesus mentions refers to unwanted mice, rats, worms, or other insects that nibble at a farmer’s profit margin.

Thieves pose a threat for those who possess worldly goods (24:43; Luke 12:33; Luke 12:39; John 10:10; John 12:6). Alarm systems, locks, bars on windows, and insurance policies are but a few of the tools we use to protect our valuables. In Jesus’ day, however, one protects his goods by either burying them or placing them inside his home (Matthew 13:44; Matthew 25:25). Homes of this day are often built of dirt or clay hardened by the sun (Barnes 70). The term that Jesus uses for "break through" (diorussousin) literally means to "dig through" as a thief might do in penetrating the wall of one’s home.

Verse 20

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

Heaven is a spiritual realm where our possessions are safe with God. The very forces that adversely affect earth’s goods have no power over the heavenly realm. Heaven is impenetrable to decay and evil; therefore, when one lays up spiritual treasures, he can rest assured that they will not fade or perish (2 Corinthians 4:16; 1 Peter 1:4).

How might one lay up treasures in the heaven?

1. Recognize those things that are of lasting importance. Jesus shows in 6:25-34 that the most important things are not those of this world.

2. Cultivate a deep love for and relationship with God. A believer will find it difficult to put his valuables in the care of someone he does not know and trust (Luke 12:21).

3. Understand that material goods are only given so that God’s cause might be furthered. Paul says that he counts all things of his previous life in Judaism as loss so that he might gain Christ (Philippians 3:7-8). The Christian must be happy to spend and be spent for his Master. He must develop the attitude: "I will value nothing of this world except in relation to its use for God’s service."

4. Give to others freely. While this is not a work that will merit God’s pleasure, it is a practical way of cultivating the proper spirit toward what we have. When one is able to give without regret, afterthought, or hidden motive, then he is well on his way to being rich toward God (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15; 2 Corinthians 9:6-11).

5. Add to your life the fruit of the Spirit for they yield a produce that transcends the material realm (Galatians 5:22-26; Ephesians 5:9).

Verse 21

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

There is a natural link between a man’s treasure and his heart.

The philosophical question that sometimes arises is whether a man’s treasure follows his heart or whether a man’s heart follows his treasure? In other words, will one automatically grow to cherish that on which he spends his time and money or will he spend his time and money on that which already loves?

Both scenarios are potentially true. The worker, for example, may come to care for his job simply because he pours his life into it. Likewise, a Christian, through growth and over time, may become deeply concerned in those aspects of Christianity he once found uninteresting.

Undoubtedly, however, one naturally invests in those things he loves. This is Jesus’ primary point. Our treasure and our hearts will eventually share the same end. If our treasure is in heaven, so will be our affections, longings, and desires. If our treasure is on earth, then our affections, longings, and desires will be there. We must carefully choose what we value because our hearts will follow. Remember Lot’s wife (Luke 17:32).

Christianity is a decision of the heart. It is a change of the mind and will (Romans 12:1-2; Colossians 3:1-3). Ultimately all spiritual problems may be traced back to weak hearts.

Verse 22

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

The light of the body is the eye: Here Jesus switches from the illustration of the heart to the eye. Once again He shows that our focus must be on heavenly things.

The light (literally, "lamp") of the body is the eye, and it is the lens through which we are able to process our environment. If the eye has clear vision we will not stumble. If, however, our vision is double or blurry, it will be difficult to stay on track. The analogy is physical but the lesson is spiritual. If a man has a "single vision" for God, then he will be totally dedicated to Him. When things of this life cloud his vision, however, he will stumble in sin.

if therefore thine eye be single: The word Jesus uses to describe the "single eye" (i.e., good eye) is from a Greek word (haplous) that carries the idea of "healthy" or "clear." Like a clean window, the good eye allows for a clear view.

thy whole body shall be full of light: When the eye sees clearly the whole body is able to process its environment and work effectively. Likewise, if our spiritual vision is singly set on God, all of what we do will be affected. Conversely, if our spiritual eye is myopic and sees only this world’s goods, we will overlook the real treasure of heaven.

Verse 23

But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great [is] that darkness!

But if thine eye be evil: The word Jesus uses for evil (poneros) refers to an eye that is diseased. Spiritually, this is the person that is beset by instability. His eyes do not correctly focus. His spiritual vision is faulty, being blurred by his incessant gaze on material things. Robertson describes this person as one who keeps one eye on his hoarded treasures of earth while he proudly rolls the other up to heaven (57).

thy whole body shall be full of darkness: As in the previous verse, Jesus shows that our spiritual vision affects our entire life. If the spiritual eye does not let in the proper amount of light, the whole body will stumble. Many Christians desire to be spiritual without letting go of their preoccupation with this world’s goods. Jesus says that these people are, in reality, full of darkness.

If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great [is] that darkness: Notice Jesus’ final exclamation: "How great is that darkness!" When the eye is not singly set on heaven, no part of the Christian’s life will be effective. Darkness will permeate. Jesus allows no room for compromise. It is not possible to have one eye that seeks God while the other looks for pleasure. The face that seeks God must have both eyes focused on Him.

Verse 24

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

This verse serves as a bridge between Jesus’ instruction about treasures and priorities (19-23) and His instruction regarding faith in God (25-34). It is impossible for a person to faithfully serve God while being consumed with worldly pursuits because only one will ultimately become his lord. One cannot worship the Creator while giving obeisance to the creation—in this case, money (Romans 1:25).

No man can serve two masters: The Greek verb for "serve" (douleuo) literally means, "is a slave to." The word for "master" (kurios) is one that is often translated "lord" and has reference to one who owns slaves.

Jesus’ point is clear: each one in life has a master. If we do not deliberately place ourselves under God’s control through obeying Him, then we, by default, become the servants of sin. There is no middle ground. Paul says, "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" (Romans 6:16).

Perhaps the biggest problem in Christianity today is the notion that we can pursue this world’s goods and make them our top priority and drag God along for the ride. Many try to use God as a kind of personal talisman or charm. God, however, is not a toy or a tool for our manipulation. He is not our servant—we are His. Just as a master is the total possessor of his slaves, so God must own us. Our allegiance must be total. Every thought, word, and deed must come under His control. A total sacrifice is necessary (Romans 12:1-2). It has been well said, "It doesn’t take much of a man to serve God—but it takes all of him."

he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other: "Hold to one" literally means, "line up face to face with." In other words, one’s master will be right before his eyes, thus making it impossible to serve another. Jesus wants His disciples to "line up" with Him and keep their eyes on His face.

Ye cannot serve God and mammon: The term "mammon" (mamonas) is from an Aramaic term meaning wealth or riches. Some expositors believe that in New Testament times there was an actual deity called "Mammon"—a money god—that was worshiped by the pagans (Robertson 5). We cannot be sure if this is true, but even if this is not the case, wealth has literally become the god of many today.

With this phrase the picture is complete. Two choices stand before us. We either line up our face with God’s, giving Him complete lordship over our lives, or we rebelliously turn from Him and fix our gaze on the world’s goods. It is not wealth that condemns but one’s servitude to it.

Verse 25

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Therefore I say unto you: Because of the truth of verse 24, Jesus now instructs His followers about their attitude toward life and its goods.

Take no thought for your life: "Take no thought" (me merimnate), as in the King James Version, does not adequately express today the intent of Jesus’ words. Jesus is not saying that it is wrong to let the mind consider or plan for the future. Obviously some planning is required to live on this earth (2 Corinthians 12:14; 1 Timothy 5:8, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15). Paul, for example, looks ahead in preaching the gospel and in making travel arrangements (Romans 1:13; 1 Corinthians 4:19; Philemon 1:22). What Jesus is saying is that we ought not worry about or become anxious about worldly things. God is in control. To become worried about this life is, in reality, to put worldly things in control of our minds, thus violating the very warning of verse 24. The world becomes our master.

what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on: Jesus mentions three things that aptly portray the whole of human existence. These three are not luxuries but are the very necessities of life: food, drink, and clothing. Jesus’ point is that if the believer trains his mind to trust in God for the necessities, then all other pursuits come into proper perspective. Paul says, "And having food and raiment let us be therewith content" (1 Timothy 6:8). He further says that he has learned to be content in whatever state he is in. By disciplining oneself to trust in God, one learns contentment (Philippians 4:11). Hebrews 13:15 reads, "[Let your] conversation [be] without covetousness; [and be] content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."

Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment: Life (psuchei) consists of more than filling our bellies. The body (soma) we feed, cloth, entertain, and pamper is not the whole of man. The body is a shell, a tent, in which we dwell until God calls our souls. To spend an inordinate amount of time and energy worrying about the physical body misses the point of our earthly existence. Jesus will now give three illustrations of this fact.

Verse 26

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

Wild birds exemplify of God’s provision. They do not plant their own grain. Neither do they gather a harvest into their own barns. They depend solely on the Creator. But even so, God provides for them.

This verse does not suggest that the believer has no responsibility to make provision for himself and his own (Proverbs 6:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:10; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 5:8). Even the birds labor daily by searching of their food. What Jesus is saying is that if the Creator has set in motion systems of nature to take care of the beasts, how much more will He provide for those created in His image!

Verse 27

Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

Scholars differ about the meaning of, "unto his stature" (epi ten helikian autou). Some believe that Jesus is questioning man’s ability to add actual inches to his height. Others, however, believe that Jesus’ reference is to adding time to one’s lifespan. Robertson indicates that the word Jesus uses, "stature" (helikian) may correctly be interpreted both ways (59).

In either case the question is rhetorical and needs no answer. One cannot make himself taller by worrying about it. Neither can one extend his lifespan by being anxious. Jesus’ question is almost humorous. If we cannot even control the things that pertain to our own bodies, why fret over the much bigger issues of life? We must let God control all of these.

Verse 28

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

This is Jesus’ third illustration to prove that worldly affairs should not overwhelm us.

And why take ye thought for raiment: Raiment is another word for clothing. As noted in verse 25, people often obsess about apparel. Keeping up with the latest styles, securing the finest fabrics, and following the trendy rich is of great interest to the worldly mind. For God’s children, however, these things must not be of primary concern. The body that sports such "fineries" is but a shell for the soul. One might decorate the outside of the tent, but its inner contents are what God will inventory in the final judgment.

Jesus is not suggesting that we give no consideration to covering our nakedness. He demands modesty and decency (1 Timothy 2:9-10). Neither is Jesus condemning the wearing of goodly apparel. There is nothing inherently wrong with fine clothes. Solomon, for example, extols the woman whose industry wraps her family in scarlet and fine linen (Proverbs 31:21). What Jesus warns against is obsession—an attitude that places material things above spiritual and makes the temporal one’s god. Never should fleshly concerns of life take precedent over cultivating the inner heart (1 Timothy 2:9-10).

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: To make His point, Jesus speaks of the spring flowers that paint the Palestinian hillsides in brilliant color. The term "lilies" is probably a general word that includes anemones, poppies, gladioli, irises, and the other wild flowers of the area (Robertson 59). If God wraps these insignificant plants in such beautiful splendor, even though they cannot work or spin a single thread to make clothing, how much more will He provide for His own!

Verse 29

And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

It is well known that Solomon was Israel’s wealthiest king. 1 Kings 10 records his unsurpassed status. So magnificent was his kingdom that the queen of Sheba remarks in awe, "the half was not told me" (1 Kings 10:5; 1 Kings 10:7). Jesus’ use of Solomon’s name, therefore, conjures up the image of opulent wealth.

Jesus, as He does so often, finishes with a shocking statement. Even Solomon’s wealth and royalty do not compare to the natural beauty God gives the lilies. Even with immeasurable wealth, Solomon is unable to "array himself" (Greek, middle voice) in such splendor.

Verse 30

Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, [shall he] not much more [clothe] you, O ye of little faith?

Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field: The "grass of the field" includes all those common plants and weeds that quickly wither in the hot Mediterranean sun (Psalms 90:6).

which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven: Women of that day often use these dried plants in their clay ovens (kilbanos) as they bake the family’s daily bread.

[shall he] not much more [clothe] you: If God gives such beauty to weeds whose life is shortly gone, how much more will He bless His children who are destined for eternal life!

O ye of little faith: This is a common rebuke in the gospels. Jesus rebukes the disciples with these words twice: first, after calming the storm on Galilee (8:26) and secondly, for not remembering the miracle of the loaves (16:8). He also uses these words to rebuke Peter for his failing faith as he walks on the sea (14:31). It is also the disciples’ unbelief that hinders the cure of the demon-possessed epileptic (17:20).

Faithlessness lies at the root of all of man’s problems. The struggle with unbelief is as old as mankind itself. In the end, however, those who persevere and with whom God is most pleased are individuals who cultivate a great faith (Hebrews 11).

In this context Jesus speaks of anxiety or worry over clothing. In reality, however, He is addressing a deeper, spiritual problem. Ultimately all anxiety stems from a lack of spiritual commitment to God. While this unbelief may manifest itself in outward symptoms, the struggle is one of the soul. Anxiety, then, is not simply a trivial concern. It is a sin that chokes out faith and hinders the whole of our existence (Luke 8:14).

Verse 31

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

Once again Jesus says that we are not to be anxious. As in verse 25, He lists the three most obvious and pressing needs of life. By mentioning these three necessities, Jesus implies all of life’s needs.

In this verse Jesus sets up a comparison between God’s children and those of the world. He points out in the next few verses that a higher calling motivates Christians. Their concerns are to be different from those of worldly people.

Verse 32

(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

For after all these things do the Gentiles seek: This parenthetical statement is an interjection of comparison. The point of verses 31 and 32 is that we should not worry because God knows our every need. In the midst of this discussion, however, Jesus draws our minds to the ungodly whose lives are dominated by worldly concerns.

The term "Gentiles" (ethnoi) literally means "peoples" or "multitudes." Here it obviously refers to all those who are not Jews. Today we may interpret it to refer to all those outside of God’s Christian family.

It should take little observation to detect the difference between God’s children and Satan’s. The righteous are those who demonstrate an inner peace and reliance upon God. God’s children pursue heaven’s eternal treasure (see verses 19-21). Heathens, however, are a living testimony to the "one" they follow. Because no peace or lasting contentment is found in the god of this world, the ungodly are consumed with the illusive pursuit of earth’s fleeting fancies.

Verse 33

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God: This refers not only to putting the church first, but to the control (reign) God has over our entire life. When God is in control of our lives, we will live successfully. If we put Him first, He promises to reward us immediately with our daily needs and also eternally (16:24-26). His kingdom, however, must come first. Even basics such as earning a living must not come before Christ. We are Christians first and carpenters, plumbers, technicians, engineers, preachers, elders, deacons, etc. second. Since we have been bought with a price, we are His and must glorify Him with our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:20). Second-best will not be accepted (Luke 9:62; Luke 14:26-27).

and his righteousness: By "righteousness" Jesus means God’s attributes. One cannot profess to be an obedient child of the King without possessing His glorious characteristics (5:48; Philippians 2:15). This righteousness is not an outward show or facade as is condemned in verse 16. Neither is it attained by empty ceremony (Matthew 6:5). It is a surpassing righteousness that is the result of an intense, constant, ongoing, dedication of heart, mind, and soul (5:20).

and all these things shall be added unto you: The context of this statement goes back to the previous verses regarding food and clothing. Jesus promises that when we put God first, He will provide the daily necessities. When we do our part to add to our lives God’s characteristics, He will add to our lives the necessities.

Verse 34

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day [is] the evil thereof.

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: James echoes this same thought when he warns against bragging about the morrow—our lives are as short as a puff of smoke. God must be factored into the equation of living (James 4:13-15). To worry about tomorrow makes one guilty of presumption for who is he that can guarantee another sunrise? The rich fool overlooks this fact, and his concern for the future perishes with him (Luke 12:20). Thus, Solomon correctly instructs, "Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth" (Proverbs 27:1).

Sufficient unto the day [is] the evil thereof: By "evil" Jesus refers to those troubles and trials that daily come upon us. In other words, each day has enough of its own problems without reaching into tomorrow and borrowing more.

This is a lesson hard learned. In an attempt to escape the present, many look to the future. With painstaking efforts they build castles on the borrowed sands of tomorrow. In the most poignant irony, however, those who do so actually compound their misery. Not only must they now deal with their immediate anxiety, but also the uncertainties of an unseen future.

God’s plan is much simpler. He instructs us to trust in Him and to live one day at a time. By so doing, we allow our future to be guided by His providence. Our anxiety flees, our burdens become manageable, and true peace can be experienced.

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Matthew 6". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/matthew-6.html. 1993-2022.
 
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