HAVING INTRODUCED His disciples to God in this new light at the end of Matthew 5:1-48, we notice that all the teaching in Matthew 6:1-34 is in reference to it. The expression “your Father,” in slightly varying terms, occurs no less than twelve times. The teaching falls into four sections: almsgiving (1-4), prayer (5-15), fasting (16-18), earthly possessions and the necessary things of life (19-34). All four things touched the practical life of the Jew at many points, and their tendency and habit was to take up the first three in a technical, perfunctory way, and to lay all the stress and pay all the attention to item number four. The Lord Jesus sets them all in the light which His earlier words had shed. In chapter 5. He had shown them a God who deals with the inward motions of the heart as much as with outward actions, and yet that God is to be known as a heavenly Father. Still we notice how He repeats, “I say unto you.” He does not teach as did the scribes, basing their assertions on the traditions of the ancients, but we have to take what He says, just because He says it.
If tradition rules us, we may easily get into just the position in which the Jews were found in regard to their alms-givings, their prayers and their fastings. To them it had all become a matter of outward observance, as meeting the eyes and ears of men. If we, on the other hand, lift our thoughts to the Father in heaven, who has an intimate concern as to us, all must become real and vital, and be done for His ear and eye. Three times over the Lord says of the mere formalist, “They have their reward.” Their reward is the approbation and praise of their fellows. This they have; it is all in the present, and there is nothing more to come. He, who gives or prays or fasts unknown to men but known to God, will be rewarded openly in the day to come.
As to prayer, He teaches not only secrecy but brevity, which lies at the heart of reality. A man, who asks with intense reality and earnestness, inevitably goes straight to the point with the fewest words. He cannot possibly wander in a maze of circumlocutions. Verses Matthew 6:9-13 give us the model prayer, exactly suitable to the disciples in their then circumstances. There are six petitions. The first three have to do with God; His name, His kingdom, His will. The second three have to do with us; our bread, our debts, our deliverance. The heavenly Father and His claims must be first, and our needs second. The blessing of men on earth depends upon His will being done on earth, and that will only come to pass when His kingdom is established.
The forgiveness spoken of in verses Matthew 6:14-15 is connected with the debts of verse Matthew 6:12. In the heavenly Father’s holy government of His children the unforgiving spirit comes under His chastisement. If someone commits an offence against us and we refuse to forgive, we shall miss God’s governmental forgiveness. It is not a question here of forgiveness for eternity, since those to whom the Lord was speaking were disciples, with whom that great matter was already settled.
Very searching words as to earthly possessions are next spoken. No tendency is more deep-seated with all men than that of pursuing, grasping at, and laying up treasures upon earth, though they waste under the action of natural forces as well as the action of violent men. If we really know the Father in heaven, we shall find our treasure in heaven, and there our heart will be; and we have only to have the single eye to see this, and to see all else clearly. Then too our bodies become full of light: that is, we become luminous ourselves. We shall either be dominated by God or by mammon, for we cannot serve two masters. God and mammon are too utterly opposed for that.
Serving God, who is indeed a heavenly Father, we come under His watchful and kindly care. He knows all our needs and concerns Himself about them. We are impotent; unable to add a cubit to our height, or to array ourselves like the grass of the field. Our Father has infinite wisdom and power, and cares for the humblest creatures of His hand: we may have absolute confidence therefore in His loving care for us. Hence we are to be free from all anxious care. The men of the world are grasping at the treasure of this world which wastes so quickly, and they are full of care as to its preservation and use. We are to be resting in our Father’s care and love, and therefore free of anxiety.
Now this is mainly negative. We are to be free of the anxious care which fills so many hearts; but this is in order that we may be free to seek the kingdom of God, and to seek it first. Instead of peering into tomorrow with apprehension, we are to be filling up today with the things of the kingdom and that kingdom leads us in the ways of righteousness.
This was God’s pleasure for the disciples who followed our Lord during His days upon earth: it is no less His pleasure for us who follow Him now that His work is fully accomplished and He is gone into the heavens. The spirit He thus inculcated was quite foreign to the religion of the Pharisee of His day, as also it is foreign to outward and worldly religion today.
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Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Matthew 6". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany