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Be careful. Jesus condemns those who “show off’ and make a parade of their works of charity. He then gives three illustrations of what he is saying. The Christian is not forbidden to do his religious duties in public, but he is forbidden to do them just to be seen and honored.
So when you give something. A hypocrite is one who “shows off” and tries to make people think he is important. The Greek word meant an actor on the stage—one who acted a part. The world praises the millionaire who gives a few thousands, but ignores those who really sacrifice to give a dollar or two. They have already been paid in fall. They did not do this to praise God, but to honor themselves. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
But when you help a needy person. If you do not plan your works of charity to honor yourself, your motive will be right.
But it will be a private matter. Not that you must hide what you do, but that you avoid “showing off” your good works. And your Father . . . will reward you. At the Last Day. See Matthew 25:31-46.
When you pray. The second example. All should pray. The wrong way is to “show off” to make others see your “piety.” So that everyone will see them The Pharisees like to stand up in public places and pray, to attract attention to themselves. This was the only reward they wanted, and it was all they would get.
But when you pray. This does not prohibit public prayers, but it emphasizes the fact that it is the prayer itself which is important. Your own room is a good place to pray, because there you will not be trying to impress anyone. Jesus went off by himself to pray many times, and at other times, he prayed in public. “Your room” can be any quiet place. Once Peter’s “room” was on the roof of a house; the Savior’s on a mountain alone. Will reward you. See Matthew 6:4.
Do not use a lot of meaningless words. It is not a torrent of prayer, nor long prayer which is forbidden (Jesus did both), but the making of the number of prayers said, their length, and the amount of time spent in prayer—a thing of merit. 1 Kings 18:26 gives an example of meaningless long prayer. Some religious people still believe there is special merit in repeating certain prayers a set number of times.
Your Father already knows. Here is a good reason for short prayers. It isn’t necessary for us to inform God of what is taking place in his world. But he does wish us to pray to him!
This, then, is how you should pray. The priests commonly did the praying. Luke says: “One time Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’” What Jesus gives next is not a “set form,” but an example. Our Father in heaven. This shows the close relationship between God and the true worshiper. We pray as a child speaks to the Father. May your holy name be honored. This, and the two phrases which follow, praise God and honor his purpose. Only one who truly loves God can pray these three phrases.
May your Kingdom come. Messiah’s Kingdom had not yet come. Jesus had said it was near. It did speedily come in the victory of the Cross and the power of Pentecost. The reason sin and evil exist is that the Lord is patiently waiting, wishing all to be saved (2 Peter 3:9).
May your will be done. It would be mockery to pray this, if we have not merged our will with his. Read the example of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46).
Give us today the food we need. This, and the phrases which follow speak to our individual needs. It is right and proper to pray for material things. Note that we pray for “today,” not for future years (see Matthew 6:34).
Forgive us the wrongs. This asks God to forgive us the wrongs that we have done—in exactly the same way which we forgive others! That is, we ask God to do to us just what we have done to others.
Do not bring us to hard testing. The thought is that God may hold us back from temptations that might destroy us. He has promised to do this (1 Corinthians 10:13). But no one can pray this, who does not himself try to keep out of trouble. [Liturgical usage of this prayer added: “For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. “]
If you forgive others. Our Lord makes it a condition of forgiveness that we show a spirit of mercy and forgiveness to others.
And when you fast. This is the third example of the right and wrong way of doing religious duties. The same principle of avoiding a “show off” attitude applies here. Fasting can be useful, but not when we do it to impress people. A hungry look. Some commonly put ashes and dust on their head, wore sackcloth [a very coarse cloth woven of fibers, which was symbolic of sorrow], and tried to impress others with their “great suffering.” This sham is condemned. When you go without food. Wash your face, comb your hair—appear normal. What we do must be for the eyes of God, not men. He will reward you, if you do it to honor him.
Do not save riches. This does not forbid having a bank account, but it does forbid the piling up of wealth for worldly purposes. It is not money which is the root of evil, but the LOVE of money (1 Timothy 6:10). Moths eat clothes. Rust will destroy, robbers break in. The treasures of earth will all disappear.
Save riches for yourself in heaven. Only in this way can you preserve your wealth. Our true wealth is in USING money, property, and especially yourself (Romans 12:1-2) in the service of God. This is a positive principle of life.
For your heart will always be. This is a universal truth. The thing which you value the most will be the center of your attention. If your wealth is in heaven, your mind will always be looking up to God.
The eyes are like a lamp. This continues the same line of thinking. If your eyes are diseased, everything you see will be distorted. Symbolically the eyes represent the mind and conscience. If these are diseased, the light of Truth will not be able to illuminate your life.
No one can be a slave to two masters. In the world of the first century, slavery was common. All could understand this figure of speech. A slave caught between two masters could not serve either successfully. You cannot serve both God and money. Money is here spoken of as a person—an idol. If you do not worship God, something else will take his place and you will worship it. For many people, it will be money.
Do not be worried. Christ does not here forbid looking to the future and being ready to meet its challenge. But you should avoid being “worried sick” about material things that are continually being used up. God gave us life, and that is more important than food. God gave us our body, and that is more important than clothes. Therefore trust God to make food and clothing available.
Look at the birds. God feeds the birds without their growing any crops. They fulfill their mission, and God feeds them. We must fulfill our mission in life. God will make a way for us, too.
Which one of you. No one can prolong his life by worrying about it. Anxiety is no help at all!
Look how the wild flowers grow. No “hustle and bustle” as we humans do. Yet they do fulfill their mission.
Not even Solomon. To the Jew, Solomon was legendary for great opulence. The splendor of his reign was recorded in Jewish writings, in all Asian literature, and is still proverbial throughout the Eastern world. Yet these wild flowers are more beautiful and colorful than he was at his best. Likely both the birds and the flowers were clearly visible as Jesus said this.
Here today, gone tomorrow. Scarcity of fuel made dried grass and weeds a vital source to heat ovens. If God gives such beauty to so temporary a things as this, will he not take care of you?
So do not start worrying. Worry is a form of unbelief. Worry also diverts your mind from important things, and prevents you from using your full abilities.
These are the things. The heathen [people who were not aware of the One True God] were hated by the Jews. Jesus is saying that such behavior in the heathen might be overlooked, but you have a heavenly Father and you know that he knows your need of all these things. You have no excuse for failing to trust him.
Be concerned. God’s Kingdom [church] ought to be your first concern. He requires faith, love, holy living, and such things from you. (1) You must put him first in point of time. Some expect to first make their fortune, build a fine house, and then look to God. You must put God first and allow all else to fall in line. (2) You must put him first in importance. Everything else must be secondary to his requirements. (3) You must make him first in your love. There is still plenty of room for family and friends. Just make certain that he is in FIRST PLACE.
So do not worry about tomorrow. Do not make the mistake of worrying yourself sick about what might happen. There is no need to add. Solving the problems of today will keep you busy. You really don’t need the added burden of tomorrow’s problems. Don’t “borrow trouble.” Besides, most of what you worry about won’t happen anyway. Remember: worry is a form of unbelief!
These files are public domain.
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Matthew 6". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16