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A basic principle 6:1
"Righteousness" means what is in harmony with the will of God, and righteous deeds are those that are pleasing to Him. Jesus warned His disciples about the possibility of doing good deeds for the wrong reason as He began His teaching about righteous behavior. If one does what God approves to obtain human approval, that one will not receive a reward for his good deed from God. Notice again that disciples’ rewards will vary. Some disciples will receive more reward from God than others. Disciples should practice good works publicly (Matthew 5:16), but they should not draw special attention to them.
The rabbis considered almsgiving, prayer, and fasting as the three chief acts of Jewish piety. [Note: C. G. Montefiore and H. Loewe, A Rabbinic Anthology, pp. 412-39; G. F. Moore, Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era, 2:162-79.] Jesus dealt with each of these aspects of worship similarly. He first warned His disciples not to do the act for man’s praise. Then He assured them that if they disregarded His warning they would get human praise but no more. Third, He taught them how to do the act for God alone, secretly (not for public applause). Finally, He assured them that the Father who sees in secret would reward their righteous act openly.
Righteousness and the Father 6:1-18
Jesus moved from correcting popular misinterpretations of selected Old Testament texts that speak of righteous conduct (Matthew 5:17-48) to correcting popular misconceptions about righteous conduct. He moved from ethical distinctions to the practice of religion. Throughout this entire section proper motivation for actions is a constant emphasis.
Alms were gifts of money to the needy. What Jesus said on this subject is applicable to all types of giving.
Interpreters have understood the practice of sounding a trumpet to announce alms-giving metaphorically and literally. Metaphorically it would mean that Jesus was using a figure of speech to picture showy giving, something like "blowing your own horn." However, His description seems to have had a custom behind it. There is old evidence that during this period the Jewish priests blew trumpets in the Temple when they collected funds for some special need. [Note: David Hill, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 133.] Alternatively, this may be a reference to the metal horn-shaped collection receptacles in the Temple that noisily announced contributions that people tossed into them. [Note: Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, p. 26; J. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, p. 170, n. 73.] However, Jesus mentioned the synagogues and streets, not the Temple. Probably Jesus referred to the blowing of trumpets in the streets that announced fasts that included alms-giving. [Note: Adolf Buchler, "St. Mathew vi 1-6 and Other Allied Passages," Journal of Theological Studies 10 (1909):266-70.]
The idea of not letting the left hand know what the right hand does pictures secrecy (cf. Matthew 25:35-40). The way to avoid hypocrisy is to let no other people know when we give. We can carry this to the extreme, of course, but Jesus’ point was that we should not draw attention to ourselves when we give. Hypocrisy does not just involve giving an impression that is incorrect, such as that one gives alms when he really does not. It also involves deceiving oneself even if one deceives no one else. A third kind of hypocrisy involves deceiving oneself and others into thinking that what one does is for a certain purpose when it is really for a different purpose. This seems to be the type of hypocrisy in view here.
"They were not giving, but buying. They wanted the praise of men, they paid for it." [Note: Davies and Allison, 1:582.]
"The hypocrites are not identified here, but Matthew 23 clearly indicates that they are the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:13-15; Matthew 23:23; Matthew 23:25; Matthew 23:27; Matthew 23:29). A clearer illustration of a facet of Matthew’s style can hardly be found. First he intimates a fact, then he builds on it, and finally he establishes it. Here the intimation concerns the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees." [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 107.]
"As ’leaders,’ the religious leaders evince their evilness most prominently by showing themselves to be ’hypocritical.’ Hypocrisy in Matthew’s story is the opposite of being ’perfect.’ To be perfect is to be wholehearted, or single-hearted, in the devotion with which one serves God (Matthew 5:48; Deuteronomy 18:13). To be hypocritical is to be ’divided’ in one’s fealty to God. Hypocrisy, then, is a form of inner incongruity, to wit: paying honor to God with the lips while the heart is far from him (Matthew 15:7-8); making pronouncements about what is right while not practicing them (Matthew 23:3 c); and appearing outwardly to be righteous while being inwardly full of lawlessness (Matthew 23:28)." [Note: Kingsbury, Matthew as . . ., p. 20.]
Jesus assumed that His disciples would pray, as He assumed they would give alms (Matthew 6:2) and fast (Matthew 6:16). Again He warned against ostentatious worship. The synagogues and streets were public places where people could practice their righteousness with an audience. The motive is what matters most. Obviously Jesus was not condemning public prayer per se (cf. Matthew 15:36; Matthew 18:19-20; 1 Timothy 2:8). Praying out loud was common among the Jews, though one could still pray out loud in a private place. [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 238.]
"The public versus private antithesis is a good test of one’s motives; the person who prays more in public than in private reveals that he is less interested in God’s approval than in human praise." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p,. 165.]
Jesus alluded to the Septuagint version of Isaiah 26:20 where the private room is a bedroom (cf. 2 Kings 4:33). Any private setting will do. Jesus was not discouraging public praying but praying to be admired for it.
Praying 6:5-15 (cf. Luke 11:1-13)
Jesus digressed briefly to give a further warning about repetitious prayer (Matthew 6:7-8) and a positive example of proper prayer (Matthew 6:9-15). Jesus’ disciples can fall into prayer practices that characterize the pagans. Jesus Himself prayed long prayers (Luke 6:12), and He repeated Himself in prayer (Matthew 26:44). These practices were not the objects of His criticism. He was attacking the idea that the length of a prayer makes it efficacious. Pagan prayer commonly relies on length and repetition for effectiveness, the sheer quantity of words.
Jesus’ disciples do not need to inform their omniscient Father of their needs in prayer. He already knows what they are. Why pray then? Jesus did not answer that question here. Essentially we pray for the same reasons children speak to their parents: to share concerns, to have fellowship, to obtain help, and to express gratitude, among other reasons.
Jesus gave His disciples a model prayer known commonly as "The Lord’s Prayer." Obviously it was not His prayer in the sense that He prayed it, but it was His prayer in the sense that He taught it. He introduced the model as such. Here is a way to pray that is neither too long, ostentatious, nor unnecessarily repetitious.
One of Jesus’ unique emphases, as I have already mentioned, was that His disciples should think of God as their heavenly Father. It was not characteristic of believers to address God as their Father until Jesus taught them to do so. [Note: J. Jeremias, The Prayers of Jesus, p. 11.]
"Only fifteen times was God referred to as the Father in the Old Testament. Where it does occur, it is used of the nation Israel or to the king of Israel. Never was God called the Father of an individual or of human beings in general (though isolated instances occur in second temple Judaism, Sirach 51:10). In the New Testament numerous references to God as Father can be found." [Note: Mark L. Bailey, "A Biblical Theology of Paul’s Pastoral Epistles," in A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, p. 342. Cf. H. F. D. Sparks, "The Doctrine of the Divine Fatherhood of God in the Gospels," in Studies in the Gospels: Essays in Memory of R. H. Lightfoot, pp. 241-62; and James Barr, "Abba Isn’t Daddy," Journal of Theological Studies 39 (1988):28-47.]
"The overwhelming tendency in Jewish circles was to multiply titles ascribing sovereignty, lordship, glory, grace, and the like to God . . ." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 169.]
"Our" Father indicates that Jesus expected His disciples to pray this prayer aware of their group context, as part of His disciples. Private use of this prayer is all right, but the context in which Jesus taught it was corporate, so He gave a corporate address. The "our" does not include Himself since it is part of Jesus’ teaching concerning how to pray.
The way we think of God as we pray to Him is very important. In prayer we should remember that He is a loving Father who will respond as such to His children. Some modern individuals advocate thinking of God as our Mother. However this runs contrary to what Jesus taught and to the thousands of references to God that God has given us in the masculine gender in both Testaments. God is not a sexual being. Nevertheless He is more like a father to us than a mother. Thinking of Him primarily as a mother will result in some distortion in our concept of God. It will also result in some confusion in our thinking about how God relates to us and how we should relate to Him. [Note: See Aída Besançon Spencer, "Father-Ruler: The Meaning of the Metaphor ’Father’ for God in the Bible," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 39:3 (September 1996):433-42.] Thinking of God as our Father will also remind us of our privileged access into His presence and of our need to treat Him respectfully.
"In heaven" reminds us of His transcendence and sovereignty. Our address to God in prayer does more to prepare us for proper praying than it does to secure the desired response from Him. [Note: Stott, p. 146.]
The first three petitions deal with God and the last three with us. This pattern indicates that disciples should have more concern for God than we do for ourselves. We should put His interests first in our praying as in all our living. All the petitions have some connection with the kingdom. The first three deal with the coming of the kingdom, and the last three are appeals in view of the coming kingdom. [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 107.]
The first petition (Matthew 6:9 c) is that everyone would hold God’s name (His reputation, everything about Him) in reverence. He is already holy. We do not need to pray that He will become more holy. What is necessary is that His creatures everywhere recognize and acknowledge His holiness. This petition focuses on God’s reputation. People need to hallow it, to treat it as special. By praying these words we affirm God’s holiness.
God’s reputation and the kingdom had close connections in the Old Testament (Isaiah 29:23; Ezekiel 36:23).
"In one respect His name is profaned when His people are ill-treated. The sin of the nation which brought about the captivity had caused a profanation of the Name, Is. 43:25; 49:11; Ezekiel 36:20-23. By their restoration His name was to be sanctified. But this sanctification was only a foreshadowing of a still future consummation. Only when the ’kingdom’ came would God’s name be wholly sanctified in the final redemption of His people from reproach." [Note: Allen, p. 58.]
The second petition (Matthew 6:10 a) is that the messianic kingdom will indeed come quickly (cf. Mark 15:43; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Revelation 11:17). It was appropriate for Jesus’ first disciples to pray this petition since the establishment of the kingdom was imminent. It is also appropriate for modern disciples to pray it since the inauguration of that kingdom will begin the righteous rule of Messiah on the earth, which every believer should anticipate eagerly. This kingdom has not yet begun. If it had, Jesus’ disciples would not need to pray for it to come. Christ will rule over His kingdom, the Davidic kingdom, from the earth, and He is now in heaven. This petition focuses on God’s kingdom. People need to prepare for it.
"Those who maintain that for Jesus himself the kingdom of God had already come in his own person and ministry inevitably treat this second petition of the Lord’s prayer in a rather cavalier fashion. It must be interpreted, they say, in line with other sayings of Jesus. Why? And what other sayings? When all the evidence in the sayings of Jesus for ’realized eschatology’ is thoroughly tested, it boils down to the ephthasen eph humas [’has come upon you’] of Matthew 12:28 and Luke 11:20. Why should that determine the interpretation of Matthew 6:10 and Luke 11:2? Why should a difficult, obscure saying establish the meaning of one that is clear and unambiguous? Why not interpret the ephthasen [’has come,’ Matthew 12:28] by the elthato [’come,’ Matthew 6:10]; or rather, since neither can be eliminated on valid critical grounds, why not seek an interpretation that does equal justice to both?" [Note: Millar Burrows, "Thy Kingdom Come," Journal of Biblical Literature 74 (January 1955):4-5.]
"Jesus’ conception of God’s kingdom is not simply that of the universal sovereignty of God, which may or may not be accepted by men but is always there. That is the basis of his conception, but he combines with it the eschatological idea of the kingdom which is still to come. In other words, what Jesus means by the kingdom of God includes what the rabbinic literature calls the coming age." [Note: Ibid., p. 8.]
These are accurate and interesting conclusions coming from a non-dispensationalist.
The third petition (Matthew 6:10 b-c) is a request that what God wants to happen on earth will indeed transpire on earth as it now does in heaven. That condition will take place most fully when Christ sets up His kingdom on the earth. However this should be the desire of every disciple in the inter-advent age while Jesus is still in heaven. Nothing better can happen than whatever God’s will involves (Romans 12:1). God’s "will" (Gr. thelema) includes His righteous demands (Matthew 7:21; Matthew 12:50; cf. Psalms 40:8) as well as His determination to cause and permit certain events in history (Matthew 18:14; Matthew 26:42; cf. Acts 21:14). This petition focuses on God’s will. People need to do it.
"This difference [between God’s heavenly universal rule and His earthly millennial rule] arises out of the fact that rebellion and sin exist upon the earth, sin which is to be dealt with in a way not known in any other spot in the universe, not even among the angels which sinned. It is here that the great purpose of what I have named the Mediatorial Kingdom appears: On the basis of mediatorial redemption it must ’come’ to put down at last all rebellion with its evil results, thus finally bringing the Kingdom and will of God on earth as it is in heaven." [Note: McClain, p. 35.]
The remaining petitions (Matthew 6:11-13) focus on the disciples’ needs. Notice the "Thy," "Thy," "Thy," in Matthew 6:9-10 and the "us," "us," "us," in Matthew 6:11-13. Some believers have concluded that prayer should not include anything selfish, so they do not make personal petitions. However, Jesus commanded His disciples to bring their personal needs to God in prayer. The first three petitions stand alone, but the last three have connecting "ands" that bind them together. We need all three of these things equally; we cannot get along without any of them.
The bread in view (Matthew 6:11) probably refers to all our food and even all our physical needs. [Note: Walvoord, Matthew: . . ., p. 53.] Bread has this larger significance in the Bible (cf. Proverbs 30:8; Mark 3:20; Acts 6:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:12; James 2:15). Even today we speak of bread as "the staff of life." Daily bread refers to the necessities of life, not its luxuries. This is a prayer for our needs, not our greeds. The request is for God to supply our needs day by day (cf. Exodus 16:4-5; Psalms 104:14-15; Psalms 104:27-28; Proverbs 30:8). The expression "this day [or today] our daily bread" reflects first century life in which workers received their pay daily. It also reminds disciples that we only live one day at a time, and each day we are dependent on God to sustain us. Asking God to provide our needs does not free us from the responsibility of working, however (cf. Matthew 6:25-34; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). God satisfies our needs partially by giving us the ability and the opportunity to earn a living. Ultimately everything comes from Him. Having to live from hand to mouth one day at a time can be a blessing if it reminds us of our total dependence on God. This is especially true since we live in a world that glorifies self-sufficiency.
The fifth petition requests forgiveness from debts (Matthew 6:12). "Debts" (Gr. opheilemata) probably translates the Aramaic word hoba that was a common synonym for sins. [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 172.] Viewing sins as debts was thoroughly Jewish (cf. Psalms 51:4). [Note: M’Neile, p. 80.] The second clause in the sentence does not mean that we must earn God’s forgiveness with our own. Our forgiveness of others demonstrates our felt need of forgiveness. The person who does not forgive a brother’s offenses does not appreciate how much he himself needs forgiveness.
"Once our eyes have been opened to see the enormity of our offense against God, the injuries which others have done to us appear by comparison extremely trifling. If, on the other hand, we have an exaggerated view of the offenses of others, it proves that we have minimized our own." [Note: Stott, pp. 149-50. Cf. Matthew 18:21-35.]
Some Christians have wondered why we should ask for God’s forgiveness since the New Testament clearly reveals that God forgives all sins-past, present, and future-when He justifies us (Acts 10:43; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). That is judicial or forensic forgiveness. However as forgiven believers we need to ask for forgiveness to restore fellowship with God (cf. 1 John 1:9). Forensic forgiveness brings us into God’s family. Family forgiveness keeps our fellowship with God intimate within God’s family.
"Personal fellowship with God is in view in these verses (not salvation from sin). One cannot walk in fellowship with God if he refuses to forgive others." [Note: Barbieri, p. 32.]
Some interpreters view Matthew 6:13 as containing one petition while others believe Jesus intended two. Probably one is correct in view of the close connection of the ideas. They are really two sides of one coin.
"Temptation" is the Greek peirasmos and means "testing." It refers not so much to solicitation to evil as to trials that test the character. God does not test (peirasmos) anyone (James 1:13-14). Why then do we need to pray that He will not lead us into testing? Even though God is not the instrumental cause of our testing He does permit us to experience temptation from the world, the flesh, and the devil (cf. Matthew 4:1; Genesis 22:1; Deuteronomy 8:2). Therefore this petition is a request that He minimize the occasions of our testing that may result in our sinning. It articulates the repentant disciple’s felt weakness to stand up under severe trials in view of our sinfulness (cf. Proverbs 30:7-9). [Note: Rick W. Byargeon, "Echoes of Wisdom in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 41:3 (September 1998):353-65.]
"But" introduces the alternative. "Deliver us" could mean "spare us from" or "deliver us out of." The meaning depends on what "evil" means. Is this a reference to evil generally or to the evil one, Satan? When the Greek preposition apo ("from") follows "deliver," it usually refers to deliverance from people. When ek ("from") follows it, it always refers to deliverance from things. [Note: J. B. Bauer, "Libera nos a malo," Verbum Domini 34 (1965):12-15.] Here apo occurs. Also, the adjective "evil" has an article modifying it in the Greek text, which indicates that it is to be taken as a substantive: "the evil one." God does not always deliver us from evil, but He does deliver us from the evil one. [Note: See Page, pp. 458-59.]
However the Old Testament predicted that a time of great evil would precede the establishment of the kingdom (Jeremiah 30). Some commentators, including non-premillenarians, have understood the evil in this petition as a reference to Satanic opposition that will come to its full force before the kingdom begins. [Note: E.g., Theodore H. Robinson, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 52; M’Neile, p. 81; and T. Herbert Bindley, "Eschatology in the Lord’s Prayer," The Expositor 17 (October 1919):319-20.] God later revealed through Paul that Christians will not go through this Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; et al.). Consequently we do not need to pray for deliverance from it but from other occasions of testing.
Some have seen a veiled reference to the Trinity in these last three petitions. The Father provides our bread through His creation and providence, the Son’s atonement secures our forgiveness, and the Spirit’s enablement assures our spiritual victory.
The final doxology appears in many ancient manuscripts, but there is so much variation in it that it was probably not originally a part of Matthew’s Gospel. Evidently pious scribes added it later to make the prayer complete liturgically. They apparently adapted the wording of David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 29:11. [Note: See also Thomas L. Constable, "The Lord’s Prayer," in Giving Ourselves to Prayer, compiled by Dan R. Crawford (Terre Haute, Ind.: PrayerShop Publishing, 2005), pp. 70-75.]
These verses explain the thought of the fifth petition (Matthew 6:12) more fully. Repetition stresses the importance of forgiving one another if we want God’s forgiveness (cf. Matthew 18:23-35). Our horizontal relationships with other people must be correct before our vertical relationship with God can be.
"Prayer is straightforward and simple for those who have experienced the grace of the kingdom in Christ. In prayer the disciple does not try to coerce or manipulate God. There are no magical words or formulae, nor does an abundance of words count with God. Short, direct, and sincere prayers are adequate." [Note: Hagner, p. 152.]
"The sample prayer, it can be concluded, is given in the context of the coming kingdom. The first three requests are petitions for the coming of the kingdom. The last three are for the needs of the disciples in the interim preceding the establishment of the kingdom." [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 112.]
Fasting in Israel involved going without food to engage in a spiritual exercise, usually prayer, with greater concentration. Fasting fostered and indicated self-humiliation before God, and confession often accompanied it (Nehemiah 9:1-2; Psalms 35:13; Isaiah 58:3; Isaiah 58:5; Daniel 9:2-20; Daniel 10:2-3; Jonah 3:5; Acts 9:9). People who felt anguish, danger, or desperation gave up eating temporarily to present some special petition to the Lord in prayer (Exodus 24:18; Judges 20:26; 2 Samuel 1:12; 2 Chronicles 20:3; Ezra 8:21-23; Esther 4:16; Matthew 4:1-2; Acts 13:1-3; Acts 14:23). Some pious believers fasted regularly (Luke 2:37). The Pharisees fasted twice a week (Luke 18:12). God only commanded the Israelites to fast on one day of the year, the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31; Leviticus 23:27-32; Numbers 29:7). However during the Exile the Israelites instituted additional regular fasts (Zechariah 7:3-5; Zechariah 8:19). Fasting occurred in the early church and seems to have been a normal part of Christian self-discipline (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Philippians 3:19; 1 Peter 4:3). Hypocritical fasting occurred in Israel long before Jesus’ day (Isaiah 58:1-7; Jeremiah 14:12; Zechariah 7:5-6), but the Pharisees were notorious for it.
"Fasting emphasized the denial of the flesh, but the Pharisees were glorifying their flesh by drawing attention to themselves." [Note: Barbieri, p. 32.]
Jesus’ point in this verse was that His disciples should avoid drawing attention to themselves when they fasted. He did not question the genuine contrition of some who fasted, but He pointed out that the hypocrites wanted the admiration of other people even more than they wanted God’s attention. Since that is what they really wanted, that is all they would get.
Jesus assumed His disciples would fast as He assumed they would give alms and pray. He said nothing to discourage them from fasting (cf. Matthew 9:14-17). He only condemned ostentatious fasting. To avoid any temptation to pander to the adulation of onlookers Jesus counseled His disciples to do nothing that would attract attention to the fact that they were fasting when they fasted. Again, the Father who sees the worship that His children offer in secret will reward them.
The three major acts of Jewish worship-alms-giving, prayer, and fasting-were only representative of many other acts of worship that Jesus’ disciples performed. His teaching in this section of the Sermon (Matthew 6:1-18) stressed lessons they should apply more broadly. In His teaching about each of these three practices, Jesus first warned His disciples not to do the act for man’s praise. Then He assured them that if they disregarded His warning they would get human praise but no more. Third, He taught them how to do the act secretly. Finally, He assured them that the Father who sees in secret would reward their righteous act openly. He thereby explained what it means to seek first the kingdom and its righteousness (Matthew 6:33).
Righteousness and the world 6:19-7:12
Thus far in the Sermon Jesus urged His disciples to base their understanding of the righteousness God requires on the revelation of Scripture, not the traditional interpretations of their leaders (Matthew 5:17-48). Then He clarified that true righteousness involved genuine worship of the Father, not hypocritical, ostentatious worship (Matthew 6:1-18). Next, He revealed what true righteousness involves as the disciple lives in the world. He dealt with four key relationships: the disciple’s relationship to wealth (Matthew 6:19-34), to his or her brethren (Matthew 7:1-5), to his or her antagonists (Matthew 7:6), and to God (Matthew 7:7-12).
In view of the imminence of the kingdom, Jesus’ disciples should "stop laying up treasures on earth." [Note: Nigel Turner, Syntax, p. 76.] Jesus called for a break with their former practice. Money is not intrinsically evil. The wise person works hard and makes financial provision for lean times (Proverbs 6:6-8). Believers have a responsibility to provide for their needy relatives (1 Timothy 5:8) and to be generous with others in need. We can enjoy what God has given us (1 Timothy 4:3-4; 1 Timothy 6:17). What Jesus forbade here was selfishness. Misers hoard more than they need (James 5:2-3). Materialists always want more. It is the love of money that is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).
"What Jesus precludes here is the accumulation of massive amounts of treasure as a life goal." [Note: Bock, Jesus according . . ., p. 142.]
It is foolish to accumulate great quantities of goods because they are perishable. Moths eat clothing, a major form of wealth in the ancient Near East. "Rust" (Gr. brosis) refers to the destructive force of rats and mildew as well as the corrosion that eats metal. [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 177.] Thieves can carry off just about anything in one way or another.
The treasures in heaven Jesus spoke of were the rewards God will give His faithful followers (Matthew 5:12; Matthew 5:30; Matthew 5:46; Matthew 6:6; Matthew 6:15; cf. Matthew 10:42; Matthew 18:5; Matthew 25:40; 2 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Timothy 6:13-19). They are the product of truly good works. These are secure in heaven, and God will dispense them to the faithful at His appointed time (cf. 1 Peter 1:4).
The thing that a person values most highly inevitably occupies the center of his or her heart. The heart is the center of the personality, and it controls the intellect, emotions, and will. [Note: A Dictionary of New Testament Theology, s.v. "kardia," by T. Sorg, 2:180-84.]
"If honour is reckoned the supreme good, the minds of men must be wholly occupied with ambition: if money, covetousness will immediately predominate: if pleasure, it will be impossible to prevent men from sinking into brutal indulgence." [Note: John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke , 1:334.]
On the other hand if a person values eternal riches most highly, he or she will pursue kingdom values (cf. Colossians 3:1-2; Revelation 14:13). Some Christians believe that it is always carnal to desire and to work for eternal rewards, but Jesus commanded us to do precisely that (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Serving the Lord to obtain a reward to glorify oneself is obviously wrong, but to serve Him to obtain a reward that one may lay at His feet as an act of worship is not (cf. Revelation 4:10).
"What does it mean to lay up treasures in heaven? It means to use all that we have for the glory of God. It means to ’hang loose’ when it comes to the material things of life. It also means measuring life by the true riches of the kingdom and not by the false riches of this world." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:28.]
The disciple’s relationship to wealth 6:19-34 (cf. Luke 12:13-34)
Having made several references to treasure in heaven, Jesus now turned to focus on wealth. In the first part of chapter 6 His main emphasis was on sincerity. In this part of the chapter it is on single-mindedness.
The body finds its way through life with the aid of the eye. In that sense the eye is the lamp of the body (cf. Luke 11:34-36). A clear or good eye admits light into the body, but a bad eye leaves the body in darkness. Evidently Jesus meant the eye is similar to the heart (Matthew 6:21). The heart fixed on God (Psalms 108:1-2) is similar to the eye fixed on God’s law (Psalms 119:18; Psalms 119:148).
"Eyes are the expression of the soul, not its intake, although certainly the two ideas are related. What Jesus stresses in this saying is that a good eye acts in a healthy way. It is the sign of a healthy soul." [Note: Bock, Jesus according . . ., p. 143.]
A bad eye is a miserly eye (Proverbs 28:22). Jesus was speaking metaphorically. He probably meant that the person who is stingy and selfish cannot really see where he is going but is morally and spiritually blind (cf. Matthew 6:19-21). [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 178.] However, He may have meant that the person who is double-minded, dividing his loyalties between God and money, will have no clear vision but will lack direction (cf. Matthew 6:24). [Note: Floyd V. Filson, A Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew, p. 100.] Metaphorically the body represents the whole person. The light within is the vision that the eye with divided loyalties, a selfish attitude, provides.
The choice between two masters is behind the choice between two treasures and the choice between two visions. "Mammon" is the transliteration of the emphatic form of the Aramaic word mamona meaning wealth or property. The root word mn in both Hebrew and Aramaic indicates something in which one places confidence. Here Jesus personified it and set it over against God as a competing object of confidence. Jesus presented God and Mammon as two slave owners, masters.
". . . single ownership and fulltime service are of the essence of slavery." [Note: Tasker, p. 76.]
A person might be able to work for two different employers at the same time. However, God and Mammon are not employers but slave owners. Each demands single-minded devotion. To give either anything less is to provide no true service at all.
"Attempts at divided loyalty betray, not partial commitment to discipleship, but deep-seated commitment to idolatry." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 179.]
"The principle of materialism is in inevitable conflict with the kingship of God." [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 263.]
"Therefore" draws a conclusion from what has preceded (Matthew 6:19-24). Since God has given us life and a body, He will certainly also provide what we need to maintain them (cf. Luke 12:22-31; Philippians 4:6-7; Hebrews 13:5; 1 Peter 5:7). This argument is a fortiori, or qal wahomer, "How much more . . .?" It is wrong, therefore, for a disciple to fret about such things. We should simply trust and obey God and get on with fulfilling our divinely revealed calling in life.
If we fret constantly about having enough food and clothing, we show that we have not yet learned a very basic lesson that nature teaches us: God provides for His creatures’ needs. Furthermore God is the heavenly Father of believers. Consequently He will take special care of them. This argument is a minori ad maius, "From the lesser to the greater." This does not mean we can disregard work, but it does mean we should disregard worry.
Fretting cannot lengthen life any more than it can put food on the table or clothes on the back (Matthew 6:27). Worry really shortens life.
The lilies of the field were probably the wild crocuses that bloom so abundantly in Galilee during the spring. However, Jesus probably intended them to represent all the wildflowers. His point was that God is so good that He covers the ground with beautiful wildflowers that have no productive value and only last a short time.
"Once dried, grass became an important fuel source in wood-poor Palestine." [Note: Guelich, The Sermon . . ., p. 340.]
God’s providential grace should not make the disciple lazy but confident that He will provide for His children’s needs similarly. God often dresses the simplest field more beautifully than Israel’s wealthiest king could adorn himself. Therefore anxiety about the essentials of life really demonstrates lack of faith in God.
Since God provides so bountifully for His own, it is not only foolish but pagan to fret about the basic necessities of life. The fretting disciple lives as an unbeliever who disbelieves and disregards God. Such a person devotes too much of his or her attention to the accumulation of material goods and disregards the more important things in life.
"The key to avoiding anxiety is to make the kingdom one’s priority (Matthew 6:33)." [Note: Hagner, p. 166.]
Rather than refraining from the pursuit of material things the disciple should replace this with a pursuit having much greater significance. Seeking the kingdom involves pursuing the things about the kingdom for which Jesus taught His disciples to pray, namely, God’s honor, His reign, and His will (Matthew 6:9-10). This is one of only five places in Matthew where we read "kingdom of God" rather than "kingdom of heaven" (cf. Matthew 12:28; Matthew 19:24; Matthew 21:31; Matthew 21:43). In each case the context requires a more personal reference to God rather than a more oblique reference to heaven. Seeking God’s righteousness means pursuing righteousness in life in submission to God’s will (cf. Matthew 5:6; Matthew 5:10; Matthew 5:20; Matthew 6:1). It does not mean seeking justification, in view of Jesus’ use of "righteousness" in the context.
"In the end, just as there are only two kinds of piety, the self-centered and the God-centered, so there are only two kinds of ambition: one can be ambitious either for oneself or for God. There is no third alternative." [Note: Stott, p. 172.]
The "things" God will add are the necessities of life that He provides providentially, about which Jesus warned His disciples not to fret (Matthew 5:45; Matthew 6:11). Here God promises to meet the needs of those who commit themselves to seeking the furtherance of His kingdom and righteousness.
In view of this promise how can we explain the fact that some animals, plants, and committed believers have perished for lack of food? There is a wider sphere of context in which this promise operates. We all live in a fallen world where the effects of sin pervade every aspect of life. Sometimes the godly, through no fault of their own, get caught up in the consequences of sin and perish. Jesus did not elaborate this dimension of life here but assumed it as something His hearers would have known and understood.
Since we have such a promise backed up by the testimony of divine providence, we should not fret about tomorrow. Today has enough trouble or evil for us to deal with. Moreover the trouble we anticipate tomorrow may never materialize. God provides only enough grace so we can deal with life one day at a time. Tomorrow He will provide enough grace (help) for what we will face then.
To summarize, the disciple’s relationship to wealth should be trust in God and single-minded commitment to the affairs of His kingdom and righteousness. It should not be hoarding or pursuing wealth for its own sake. God, not Mammon, should be the magnet of the believer’s life. The fruit of such an attitude will be freedom from anxiety about daily material needs.
"It is impossible to be a partially committed or part-time disciple; it is impossible to serve two masters, whether one of them be wealth or anything else, when the other master is meant to be God." [Note: Hagner, p. 160.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 6". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11