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Sunday, July 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 6

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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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.

Take heed that ye do not your alms, [ eleeemosuneen (G1654)]. But the true reading seems clearly to be 'your righteousness' [ dikaiosuneen (G1343)]. The external authority for both readings is pretty nearly equal; but internal evidence is decidedly in favour of 'righteousness.' The subject of the second verse being 'almsgiving,' that word-so like the other in Greek-might easily be substituted for it by the copyist: whereas the opposite would not be so likely. But it is still more in favour of "righteousness," that if we so read the first verse, it then becomes a general heading for this whole Section of the Discourse, inculcating unostentatiousness in all deeds of righteousness-Almsgiving, Prayer, and Fasting being, in that case, but selected examples of this righteousness; whereas, if we read "Do not your alms," etc., this first verse will have no reference but to that one point. By "righteousness," in this case, we are to understand that same righteousness of the kingdom of heaven, whose leading features-in opposition to traditional perversions of it-it is the great object of this Discourse to open up; that righteousness of which the Lord says, "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20). To "do" this righteousness, was an old and well understood expression. Thus, "Blessed is he that doeth righteousness [ `oseeh (H6213) tsªdaaqaah (H6666); poiountes (G4160) dikaiosuneen (G1343)] at all times" (Psalms 106:3). It refers to the actings, of righteousness in the life-the outgoings of the gracious nature-of which our Lord afterward said to His disciples," "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit: so shall ye be my disciples" (John 15:8).

Before men, to be seen of them, [ pros (G4314) to (G3588) theatheenai (G2300) autois (G846)] - 'with the view' or 'intention of being beheld of them.' See the same expression in Matthew 5:28. True, He had required them to let their light so shine before men that they might see their good works, and glorify their Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:16). But this is quite consistent with not making a display of our righteousness for self-glorification. In fact, the doing of the former necessarily implies our not doing the latter.

Otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. When all duty is done to God-as primarily enjoining and finally judging of it-He will take care that it be duly recognized; but when done purely for ostentation, God cannot own it, nor is His judgment of it even thought of-God accepts only what is done to Himself. So much for the general principle. How follow three illustrations of it.

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. The expression is to be taken figuratively for blazoning it, Hence, our expression to 'trumpet.'

As the hypocrites do. This word [ hupokritees (G5273)] - of such frequent occurrence in Scripture, signifying primarily 'one who sets a part'-denotes one who either pretends to be what he is not (as here), or dissembles what he really is (as in Luke 12:1-2).

In the synagogues and in the streets - the places of religious and of secular resort --

That they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you. In such august expressions, it is the Lawgiver and Judge Himself that we hear speaking to us.

They have their reward. All they wanted was human applause, and they have it-and with it, all they will ever get.

Verse 3

But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth. 'So far from making a display of it, dwell not on it even in thine own thoughts, lest it minister to spiritual pride.'

Verse 4

That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

That thine alms may be in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret [Himself] shall reward thee openly. The word "Himself" [ autos (G846)] appears to be an unauthorized addition to the text, which the sense no doubt suggested. See 1 Timothy 5:25; Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 4:5.

Verse 5

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 [ proseuchee (G4336 )], thou shalt - or, according to the preferable, reading, 'when ye pray [ proseucheesthe (G4336)] ye shall'

Not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets (see the note at Matthew 6:2),

That they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have ... The standing posture in prayer was the ancient practice, alike in the Jewish and in the early Christian Church, as is well known to the learned. But of course this conspicuous posture opened the way for the ostentatious.

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, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, [ tameion (G5009), a 'store-house'-here, a 'place of retirement'],

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. Of course it is not the simple publicity of prayer which is here condemned. It may be offered in any circumstances, however open, if not prompted by the spirit of ostentation, but dictated by the great ends of prayer itself. It is the retiring character of true prayer which is here taught.

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, [ mee (G3361) battologeeseete (G945)]. 'Babble not' would be a better rendering, both for the form of the word-which in both languages is intended to imitate the sound-and for the sense, which expresses not so much the repetition of the same words as a senseless multiplication of them; as appears from what follows.

As the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. This method of pagan devotion is still observed by Hindu and Mohammedan devotees. With the Jews, says Lightfoot, it was a maxim, that 'Everyone who multiplies prayer is heard.' In the Church of Rome, not only is it carried to a shameless extent, but, as Tholuck justly observes, the very Prayer which our Lord gave as an antidote to vain repetitious is the most abused to this superstitious end; the number of times it is repeated counting for so much more merit. Is not this just that characteristic feature of pagan devotion which our Lord here condemns? But praying much, and using at times the same words, is not here condemned, and has the example of our Lord Himself in its favour.

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: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him - and so needs not to be informed of our wants, anymore than to be roused to attend to them by our incessant speaking. What a view of God is here given, in sharp contrast with the gods of the pagan! But let it be carefully noted that it is not as the general Father of Mankind that our Lord says, "Your Father" knoweth what ye need before ye ask it; because it is not men, as such, that He is addressing in this Discourse, but His own disciples-the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, hungry and thirsty souls, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, who allow themselves to have all manner of evil said against them for the Son of Man's sake-in short, the newborn children of God, who, making their Father's interests their own, are here assured that their Father, in return, makes their interests His, and needs neither to be told nor to be reminded of their wants. Yet He will have His children pray to Him, and links all His premised supplies to their petitions for them; thus encouraging us to draw near and keep near to Him, to talk and walk with Him to open our every case to Him, and assure ourselves that thus asking we shall receive-thus seeking we shall find-thus knocking it shall be opened to us.

Verse 9

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

After this manner, [ Houtoos (G3779 ) more simply, 'Thus,'] therefore pray ye. The "ye" [ humeis (G5210)] is emphatic here, in contrast with the pagan prayers. That this matchless prayer was given not only as a model, but as a form, might be concluded from its very nature. Did it consist only of hints or directions for prayer, it could only be used as a directory; but seeing it is an actual prayer-designed, indeed, to show how much real prayer could be compressed into the fewest words, but still, as a prayer, only the more incomparable for that-it is strange that there should be a doubt whether we ought to pray that very prayer. Surely the words with which it is introduced, in the second utterance and varied form of it which we have in Luke 11:2, ought to set this at rest: "When ye pray, say [ legete (G3004)], Our Father." Nevertheless, since the second form of it varies considerably from the first, and since no example of its actual use, or express quotation of its phraseology, occurs in the sequel of the New Testament, we are to guard against a superstitious use of it. How early this began to appear in the church services, and to what an extent it was afterward carried, is known to everyone versed in church history. Nor has the spirit which bred this abuse quite departed from some branches of the Protestant Church, though the opposite and equally condemnable extreme is to be found in other branches of it. According to the Latin fathers and the Lutheran Church, the petitions of the Lord's Prayer are seven in number; according to the Greek fathers, the Reformed Church, and the Westminster divines, they are only six; the two last being regarded-we think less correctly-as one. The first three petitions have to do exclusively with God: "Thy name be hallowed" - "Thy kingdom come" - "Thy will be done." And they occur in a descending scale-from Himself down to the manifestation of Himself in His kingdom; and from His kingdom to the entire subjection of its subjects, or the complete doing of His will. The remaining four petitions have to do with OURSELVES: "Give us our bread" - "Forgive, us, our debts" - "Lead us not into temptation" - "Deliver us from evil." But these latter petitions occur in an ascending scale-from the bodily wants of every day up to our final deliverance from all evil.


Our Father which art in heaven. In the former clause we express His nearness to us; in the latter, His distance from us. (See Ecclesiastes 5:2; Isaiah 66:1.) Holy, long familiarity suggests the one; awful reverence the other. In calling Him "Father," we express a relationship we have all known and felt surrounding us even from our infancy; but, in calling Him our Father "who art in heaven" we contrast Him with the fathers we all have here below, and so raise our souls to that "heaven" where He dwells, and that Majesty and Glory which are there as in their proper home. The first words of the Lord's Prayer-this Invocation with which it opens-what a brightness and warmth does it throw over the whole prayer, and into what a serene region does it introduce the praying believer, the child of God, as he thus approaches Him! It is true that the paternal relationship of God to His people is by no means strange to the Old Testament. (See Deuteronomy 32:6; Psalms 103:13; Isaiah 63:16; Jeremiah 3:4; Jeremiah 3:19; Malachi 1:6; Malachi 2:10.) But these are only glimpses-the "back parts" (Exodus 33:23), if we may so say, in comparison with the "open face" of our Father revealed in Jesus. (See the note at 2 Corinthians 3:18.) Nor is it too much to say, that the view which our Lord gives, throughout this His very first lengthened discourse, of "our Father in heaven" beggars all that was ever taught, even in God's own Word, or conceived before by His saints, on this subject.


Hallowed be, [ hagiastheetoo (G37)] - that is, 'Be held in reverence'-regarded and treated as holy.

Thy name. God's name means 'Himself as revealed and manifested.' Everywhere in Scripture God defines and marks off the faith and love and reverence and obedience He will have from men by the disclosures which He makes to them of what He is; both to shut out false conceptions of Him, and to make all their devotion take the shape and hue of His own teaching. Too much attention cannot be paid to this.


Verse 10

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Thy kingdom come. The kingdom of God is that moral and spiritual kingdom which the God of grace is setting up in this fallen world, whose subjects consist of as many as have been brought into hearty subjection to His gracious sceptre, and of which His Son Jesus is the glorious Head. In the inward reality of it, this kingdom existed ever since there were men who "walked with God" (Genesis 5:24), and "waited for His salvation" (Genesis 49:18); who were "continually with Him, holden by His right hand" (Psalms 73:23), who, even in the valley of the shadow of death feared no evil, when He was with them (Psalms 23:4). When Messiah Himself appeared, it was, as a visible kingdom, "at hand." His death laid the deep foundations of it-His ascension on high, "leading captivity captive and receiving gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell among them," and the Pentecostal effusion of the Spirit, by which those gifts for men descended upon the rebellious, and the Lord God was beheld, in the persons of thousands upon the thousands "dwelling" among men-was a glorious "coming" of this kingdom. But it is still to come, and this petition, "Thy kingdom come," must not cease to ascend so long as one subject of it remains to be brought in. But does not this prayer stretch further forward-to "the glory to be revealed," or that stage of the kingdom called "the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ"? (2 Peter 1:11). Not directly, perhaps, since the petition that follows this - "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" - would then bring us back to this present state of imperfection. Still, the mind refuses to be so bounded by stages and degrees, and in the act of praying "Thy kingdom come," it irresistibly stretches the wings of its faith, and longing, and joyous expectation out to the final and glorious consummation of the kingdom of God.


Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven - or, as the same words are rendered in Luke, 'as in heaven, so upon earth'-as cheerfully, as constantly, as perfectly. But some will ask, Will this ever be? We answer, If the "new heavens and new earth" are to be just our present material system purified by fire and transfigured, of course it will. But we incline to think that the aspiration which we are taught in this beautiful petition to breathe forth has no direct reference to any such organic fulfillment and is only the spontaneous and resistless longing of the renewed soul-put into words-to see the whole inhabited earth in entire conformity to the will of God It asks not if ever it shall be-or if ever it can be-in order to pray this prayer. It must have its holy yearnings breathed forth, and this is just the bold yet simple expression of them. Nor is the Old Testament without prayers which come very near to this, (Psalms 7:9; Psalms 67:1-7; Psalms 72:19, etc.)


Verse 11

Give us this day our daily bread.

Give us this day our daily bread. The compound word here rendered "daily" [ epiousios (G1967)] occurs nowhere else, either in classical or sacred Greek, and so must be interpreted by the analogy of its component parts. But on this critics are divided. To those who would understand it to mean, "Give us this day the bread of tomorrow" - as if the sense thus slid into that of Luke, "Give us day by day" (as Bengel, Meyer, etc.) - it may be answered that the sense thus brought out is scarcely intelligible, if not something less; that the expression "bread of tomorrow" is not at all the same as bread "from day to day" that so understood, it would seem to contradict Matthew 6:34. The great majority of the best critics [taking the word to be compounded of ousia (G3776), 'substance,' or 'being'] understand by it the 'staff of life,' 'the, bread of subsistence;' and so the sense will be, 'Give us this day the bread which this day's necessities require.' In this case, the rendering of our King James Version (after the Vulgate, Luther, and some of the best modern critics) - "our daily bread" - is, in sense, accurate enough. (See Proverbs 30:8.) Among commentators, there was early shown an inclination to understand this as a prayer for the heavenly bread, or spiritual nourishment; and in this they have been followed by many superior expositors, even down to our own times.

But as this is quite unnatural, so it deprives the Christian of one of the sweetest of his privileges-to cast his bodily wants, in this short prayer, by one simple petition, upon his heavenly Father. No doubt the spiritual mind will, from "the meat that perisheth," naturally rise in thought to "that meat which endureth to everlasting life." But let it be enough that the petition about bodily wants irresistibly suggests a higher petition; and let us not rob ourselves-out of a morbid spirituality-of our one petition in this prayer for that bodily provision which the immediate sequel of this discourse shows that our heavenly Father has so much at heart. In limiting our petitions, however, to provision for the day, what a spirit of child-like dependence does the Lord both demand and beget!


Verse 12

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

And forgive us our debts. A vitally important view of sin this-as an offence against God demanding reparation to His dishonoured claims upon our absolute subjection. As the debtor in the creditor's hands, so is the sinner in the hands of God. This idea of sin had indeed come up before in this Discourse-in the warning to agree with our adversary quickly, in case of sentence being passed upon us, adjudging us to payment of the last farthing, and to imprisonment until then (Matthew 5:25-26). And it comes up once and again in our Lord's subsequent teaching-as in the parable of the Creditor and his two debtors (Luke 7:41, etc.), and in the parable of the Unmerciful debtor, (Matthew 18:23, etc.) But by embodying it in this brief Model of acceptable prayer, and as the first of three petitions more or less bearing upon sin, our Lord teaches us, in the most emphatic manner conceivable, to regard this view of sin as the primary and fundamental one. Answering to this is the "forgiveness" which it directs us to seek-not the removal from our own hearts of the stain of sin, nor yet the removal of our just dread of God's anger, or of unworthy suspicious of His love, which is all that some tell us we have to care about-but the removal from God's own mind of His displeasure against us on account of sin, or, to retain the figure, the wiping or crossing out from His "book of remembrance" of all entries against us on this account.

As we forgive our debtors - the same view of sin as before; only now transferred to the region of offences given and received between man and man. After what has been said on Matthew 5:7, it will not be thought that our Lord here teaches that our exercise of forgiveness toward our offending fellow-men absolutely precedes and is the proper ground of God's forgiveness of us. His whole teaching, indeed-as of all Scripture-is the reverse of this. But as no one can reasonably imagine himself to be the object of divine forgiveness who is deliberately and habitually unforgiving toward his fellow-men, so it is a beautiful provision to make our right to ask and expect daily forgiveness of our daily shortcomings and our final absolution and acquittal at the great day of admission into the kingdom, dependent upon our consciousness of a forgiving disposition toward our fellows, and our preparedness to protest before the Searcher of hearts that we do actually forgive them. (See Mark 11:25-26.) God sees His own image reflected in His forgiving children; but to ask God for what we ourselves refuse to men, is to insult Him. So much stress does our Lord put upon this, that immediately after the close of this Prayer, it is the one point in it which He comes back upon (Matthew 6:14-15), for the purpose of solemnly assuring us that the divine procedure in this matter of forgiveness will be exactly what our own is.


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. He who honestly seeks, and has the assurance of, forgiveness for past sin, will strive to avoid committing it for the future. But conscious that "when we would do good evil is present with us," we are taught to offer this sixth petition, which comes naturally close upon the preceding, and flows, indeed, instinctively from it in the hearts of all earnest Christians. There is some difficulty in the form of the petition, as it is certain that God does bring His people-as He did Abraham, and Christ Himself-into circumstances both fitted and designed to try them, or test the strength of their faith. Some meet this by regarding the petition as simply an humble expression of self-distrust and instinctive shrinking from danger; but this seems too weak. Others take it as a prayer against yielding to temptation, and so equivalent to a prayer for 'support and deliverance when we are tempted;' but this seems to go beyond the precise thing intended.

We incline to take it as a prayer against being drawn or sucked, of our own will, into temptation, to which the word here used [ eisenengkees (G1533)] seems to lend some countenance-`Introduce us not.' This view, while it does not put into our mouths a prayer against being tempted-which is more than the divine procedure would seem to warrant-does not, on the other hand, change the sense of the petition into one for support under temptation, which the words will hardly bear; but it gives us a subject for prayer, in regard to temptation, most definite, and of all others most needful. It was precisely this which refer needed to ask, but did not ask, when-of his own accord, and in spite of difficulties-he pressed for entrance into the palace-hall of the high priest, and where, once sucked into the scene and atmosphere of temptation, he fell so foully. And if so, does it not seem pretty clear that this was exactly what our Lord meant His disciples to pray against when he said in the garden - "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation" [ hina (G2443) mee (G3361) eiseltheete (G1525) eis (G1519) peirasmon (G3986)]? (Matthew 26:41).


But deliver us from evil. We can see no good reason for regarding this as but the second half of the sixth petition. With far better ground might the second and third petitions be regarded as one. The "but" [ alla (G235)] connecting the two petitions is an insufficient reason for regarding them as one, though enough to show that the one thought naturally follows close upon the other. Since the expression "from evil" [ apo (G575) tou (G3588) poneerou (G4190)] may be equally well rendered 'from the evil one,' a number of superior critics think the devil is intended, especially from its following close upon the subject of "temptation." But the comprehensive character of these brief petitions, and the place which this one occupies, as that on which all our desires die away, seems to us against so contracted a view of it. Nor can there be a reasonable doubt that the apostle, in some of the last sentences which he penned before he was brought forth to suffer for his Lord, alludes to this very petition in the language of calm assurance - "And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work (compare the Greek of the two passages), and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom" (2 Timothy 4:18). This final petition, then, is only rightly grasped when regarded as a prayer for deliverance from all evil of whatever kind-not only from sin, but from all its consequences-fully and finally. Fitly, then, are our prayers ended with this. For what can we desire which this does not carry with it?

[For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. - If any reliance is to be placed on external evidence, this doxology, we think, can hardly be considered part of the original text. It is wanting in all the most ancient manuscripts; it is wanting in the Old Latin version and in the Vulgate: the former mounting up to about the middle of the second century, and the latter being a revision of it in the fourth century by Jerome, a most reverential and conservative as well as able and impartial critic. As might be expected from this, it is passed by in silence by the earliest Latin fathers; but even the Greek commentators, when expounding this Prayer, pass by the doxology. On the other hand, it is found in a majority of manuscripts, though not the oldest; it is found in all the Syriac versions, even the Peshito-dating probably as early as the second century-although this version wants the "Amen," which the doxology, if genuine, could hardly have wanted; it is found in the Sahidic or Thebaic version made for the Christians of Upper Egypt, possibly as early as the Old Latin; and it is found in perhaps most of the later versions.

On a review of the evidence, the strong probability, we think, is that it was no part of the original text. Not that our Lord could be supposed to direct that this or any prayer should close thus abruptly. But as, ever since David's exuberant doxology in 1 Chronicles 29:11, the Jewish prayers had become rich in such doxologies (as may be seen in all their Liturgies), perhaps our Lord designedly left this model of prayer to be concluded more or less fully as circumstances might direct. This would account for the fact, that this doxology is variously given even in those manuscripts and versions that have it, while some which omit it have the "Amen." On the whole, while we my in this way account for its finding its way into the venerable Peshito Syriac and Old Latin versions, perhaps from the margins of some manuscripts, though not in the original text, it is very hard to conceive how it should have been allowed to drop out of all the most ancient manuscripts if it was originally in the sacred text.]

Verse 14

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

For if ye forgive men ...

Verse 15

But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

But if ye forgive not ... See the note at Matthew 6:12.

Having concluded His supplementary directions on the subject of Prayer with this divine Pattern, our Lord now returns to the subject of Unostentatiousness in our deeds of righteousness, in order to give one more illustration of it, in the matter of Fasting.

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 - referring, probably, to private and voluntary fasting, which was to be regulated by each individual for himself; though in spirit it would apply to any fast.

Be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces - [ afanizousin (G853)] - literally, 'make unseen;' very well rendered "disfigure." They went about with a slovenly appearance, and ashes sprinkled on their head.

That they may appear unto men to fast. It was not the deed, but reputation for the deed which they sought; and with this view those hypocrites multiplied their fasts. And are the exhausting fasts of the Church of Rome, and of Romanizing Protestants, free from this taint?

Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

Verse 17

But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;

But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face - as the Jews did, except when mourning (Daniel 10:3); so that the meaning is, 'Appear us usual'-appear so as to attract no notice.

Verse 18

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.

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], [ en (G1722) too (G3588) faneroo (G5318)]. The "openly" seems evidently a later addition to the text of this verse from Matthew 6:4; Matthew 6:7, though of course the idea is implied.


(1) We have here one of many proofs that the whole teaching of the Epistles of the New Testament is seminally contained in the Gospels. When the apostle bids servants obey their masters, "not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God (Colossians 3:22), what is this but the great precept of this Section, to "do our righteousness" - whatsoever we do in word or deed-to the Lord alone? Not that we are to be indifferent to men's observations on our conduct-quite the reverse-for servants are exhorted so to carry themselves toward their masters as to "please them well in all things" (Titus 2:9). But just as the supreme authority for all duty, and the final judgment on all we do in respect of it, lies with God, so in simple obedience to Him must all duty be done, and to His judicial procedure upon it must all be referred.

(2) As nothing is more hateful to God, and beneath the true dignity of His children, than an ostentations way of performing any duty-while a retiring spirit, and an absorbing desire to please God in all we do, is as beautiful in itself as it is in the divine eye-so at the great day this will be signally manifested, when "they that despise Him shall be lightly esteemed," and as "having had their reward," shall be "sent empty away;" whereas "them that honour Him He will honour" by "rewarding them openly."

(3) What power and warmth is there in the brevity of those prayers which are offered by God's dear children to a Father who wants no information from them, and no stimulus to attend to them, though with equal love and wisdom He has linked all His supplies to their confiding petitions! What "babbling" would this spirit effectually disperse, and what a glorious contrast would at present, not only to the prayers of "the pagan," but to the paganish prayers which one too often hears from professedly Christian lips!

(4) Surely it is not lot nothing that the first three Petitions in the Model-Prayer have respect to GOD; and that not until we have exhaust ed the uttermost desires of the gracious soul for His glory are we directed to seek anything for OURSELVES. This was very early observed by the devout students of this Prayer, and has been often, but cannot be too often, pointed out. The inference is obvious, but weighty-that God must have the first place, as in our prayers, so in the desires of our heart (Psalms 73:25-26).

(5) Are not the fountains of the missionary spirit opened by the first three Petitions of this incomparable Prayer; and must not its living waters spring up into everlasting life within us the oftener we pour them forth from the bottom of our hearts? Can he who says daily, "Hallowed be Thy name," hear that name "continually every day blasphemed," without trying to "come to the help of the Lord against the mighty"? Can he who ceases not to say, "Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven," know that the kingdom of God's enemy embraces, even in this nineteenth century of the Christian era, a majority of the earth's population, and that even where God's kingdom is set visibly up, and where it is had in greatest honour, His will is yet far, O how far! from being done as it is in heaven-and not feel his spirit stirred within him, remembering that to His own disciples did the Master, before he took His flight for glory, commit the evangelization of the world, and that the curse of Meroz (Judges 5:23) rests upon those who come not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty (6) Dear to all the children of God should be the fourth petition of this matchless prayer-in its proper literal sense-because it teaches them that this body, which God thus cares for, is of value in His esteem: because, if they be needy, it gives them "cords of a man, and bands of love," to draw them to the fountain of plenty, and calms their anxious spirits with the assurance that the needed supply will not be withheld; and if they be not needy, but blessed with plenty, it teaches them consideration and compassion for those whose case is the reverse, and identifies them with such-constraining them to feel that for the gift, and the continuance of their abundance, they are as dependent upon their Father in heaven as are the poorest of their brethren for their scanty means.

(7) By directing God's children to say daily, "Forgive us our debts," our Lord rebukes not only those perfectionists who say that as believers "they have no sin" (1 John 1:8), but those who, without going this length, deem it so the privilege of believers to have forgiveness, that to ask it is unbelief. Were this really the case, who that knows the plagues of his own heart would not think it a pity, and would not irresistibly break through the restraint, for the very privilege of crying, "Forgive us our debts"? But that it is not the case, this petition plainly shows. It is true that "he that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit;" but it is just this exceptive "washing the feet," the felt need of which daily makes it such a necessity and such a privilege to say daily, "Forgive us our debts." (See the note at John 13:10.)

(8) O how much hypocrisy is there in multitudes of worshipers, who protest before the Searcher of hearts that they "forgive their debtors!" And if we have just so much forgiveness of God as we ourselves extend to men, may not this be at least one explanation of the inability of some real Christians to attain to the joy of God's salvation?

(9) How strange it is that any real Christians, after saying, "Lead us not into temptation," should deliberately adventure themselves into scenes which not only they ought to know are trying to Christian principle, but from which they themselves have already suffered! It is not enough that what is transacted is not intrinsically sinful. Whatever is found by experience to wound the conscience, or even greatly endanger its purity, ought to be eschewed by all who cry daily from the heart, "Lead us not into temptation."

(10) How precious is the closing petition of this model prayer - "But deliver us from evil," lifting the soul into a region of superiority to evil, even while yet in the midst of it, encouraging it to stretch the neck of its expectation beyond it all, and assuring it, as its believing aspirations are dying away, that the time is drawing nigh when it shall bid an eternal adieu to the last remnant and memorial of it.

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-or hoard not-treasures upon earth, where moth [ sees (G4597) = caac (H5580).] - a 'clothes-moth.' Eastern treasures, consisting partly in costly dresses stored up (Job 27:16); were liable to be consumed by moths (Job 13:28; Isaiah 50:9; Isaiah 51:8). In James 5:2 there is an evident reference to our Lord's words here.

And rust [ broosis (G1035)] my 'eating into' or 'consuming;' here probably 'wear and tear' And rust, [ broosis (G1035)] my 'eating into' or 'consuming;' here, probably, 'wear-and-tear'.

Doth corrupt, [ afanizei (G853)] - 'cause to disappear.' By this reference to moth and rust our Lord would teach how perishable are such earthly treasures.

And where thieves break through and steal. Treasures these, how precarious!

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:

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. The language in Luke (Luke 12:33) is very bold - "Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not," etc.

Where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.

Treasures these imperishable and unassailable! (Compare Colossians 3:2.)

Verse 21

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

For where your treasure is, [that which ye value most], there will your heart be also. [`Thy treasure-thy heart' is probably the true reading here: 'your,' in Luke 12:34, from which it seems to have come in here.] Obvious though this maxim be, by what multitudes who profess to bow to the teaching of Christ is it practically disregard! 'What a man loves,' says Luther, quoted by Tholuck, 'that is his God. For he carries it in his heart, he goes about with it night and day, he sleeps and wakes with it; be it, what it may-wealth or pelf, pleasure or renown.' But because "laying up" is not in itself sinful, nay, in some cases enjoined (2 Corinthians 12:14), and honest industry and sagacious enterprise are usually rewarded with prosperity, many flatter themselves that all is right between them and God while their closest attention, anxiety, zeal, and time are exhausted upon these earthy pursuits. To put this right, our Lord adds what follows, in which there is profound practical wisdom.

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

The light [rather 'The lamp' luchnos (G3088 )], of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, [ haplous (G573)] - 'simple,' 'clear.' As applied to the outward eye, this means general soundness; particularly, not looking two ways. Here, as also in classical Greek, it is used figuratively to denote the simplicity of the mind's eye, singleness of purpose, looking right at its object, as opposed to having two ends in view. (See Proverbs 4:25-27.)

Thy whole body shall be full of light, [ footeinon (G5460)] - 'illuminated.' As with the bodily vision, the man who looks with a good, sound eye walks in light, seeing every object clear; so a simple and persistent purpose to serve and please God in everything will make the whole character consistent and bright.

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, [ poneeros (G4190)] - 'distempered,' or, as we should say, If we have gotten a bad [cf Proverbs 23:6, "an evil eye," [ ra` (H7451) `ayin (H5869)].

Thy whole body shall be full of darkness, [ skoteinon (G4652)] 'darkened.' As a vitiated eye, or an eye that looks not straight and full at its object, sees nothing as it is, so a mind and heart divided between heaven and earth is all dark.

If therefore the light that is in thee [not luchnos (G3088 ) now, but foos (G5457 ) 'light'] be darkness, how great is that darkness! Since the conscience is the regulative faculty, and a man's inward purpose, scope, aim in life, determines his character-if these be not simple and heavenward, but distorted and double, what must all the other faculties and principles of our nature be which take their direction and character from these, and what must the whole man and the whole life be, but a mass of darkness? In Luke (Luke 11:36) the converse of this statement very strikingly expresses what pure, beautiful, broad perceptions the clarity of the inward eye imparts: "If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as the bright shining of a candle cloth give thee light." But now for the application of this.

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.

No man can serve, [ douleuein (G1398)]. The word means to 'belong wholly and be entirely under command to,' 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. Even if the two masters be of one character and have but one object, the servant must take law from one or other: though he may do what is agreeable to both, he cannot, in the nature of the thing, be servant to more than one. Much less if, as in the present case, their interests are quite different, and even conflicting. In this case, if our affections be in the service of the one-if we "love the one" - we must of necessity "hate the other;" if we determine resolutely to "hold to the one," we must at the same time disregard, and, if he insist on his claims upon us, even "despise the other."

Ye cannot serve God and mammon. The word "mammon" - better written with one "m" - is a foreign one, whose precise derivation cannot certainly be determined, though the most probable one gives it the sense of 'what one trusts in.' Here, there can be no doubt it is used for riches, considered as an idol-master or god of the heart. The service of this god and the true God together is here, with a kind of indignant curtness, pronounced impossible. But since the teaching of the preceding verses might seem to endanger our falling short of what is requisite for the present life, and so being left destitute, our Lord now comes to speak to that point.

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, Take no thought, [ mee (G3361) merimnate (G3309)]. 'Be not solicitous' The English word "thought,") when our version was made, expressed this idea of 'solicitude,' 'anxious concern'-as may be seen in any old English classic; and in the same sense it is used in 1 Samuel 9:5, etc. But this sense of the word has now nearly gone out, and so the mere English reader is apt to be perplexed. Thought or forethought, for temporal things-in the sense of reflection, consideration-is required alike by Scripture and common sense. It is that anxious solicitude, that carking care, which springs from unbelieving doubts and misgivings, which alone is here condemned. (See Philippians 4:6.)

For your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. In Luke (Luke 12:29) our Lord adds, 'neither be ye unsettled' [ meteoorizesthe (G3349)] - not "of doubtful, mind," as in our version. When "careful (or 'full of care') about nothing," but committing all in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving unto God, the apostle assures us that "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep our hearts and minds [ noeemata (G3540)] in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7); that is, shall guard both our feelings and our thoughts from undue agitation, and keep them in a holy calm. But when we commit our whole temporal condition to the wit of our minds, we get into that "unsettled", state against which our Lord exhorts His disciples.

Is not the life more than meat [or food trofees (G5160 )], and the body than raiment? If God, then, give and keep up the greater-the life, the body-will He withhold the less, food to sustain life and raiment to clothe the body?

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?

Behold the fowls of the air - in Matthew 6:28 'observe well' [ katamathete (G2648)], and in Luke 12:24, "consider" [ katanoeesate (G2657)] - so as to learn wisdom from them.

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? - nobler in yourselves and dearer to God. The argument here is from the greater to the less; but how rich in detail! The brute creation-void of reason-are incapable of sowing, reaping, and storing; yet your heavenly Father suffers them not helplessly to perish, but sustains them without any of those processes: Will He see, then, His own children using all the means which reason dictates for procuring the things needful for the body-looking up to Himself at every step-and yet leave them to starve?

Verse 27

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

Which of you, by taking thought ('anxious solicitude') can add one cubit unto his stature, [ heelikian (G2244)]? "Stature" can hardly be the thing intended here: first, because the subject is the prolongation of life, by the supply of its necessaries of food and clothing; and next, because no one would dream of adding a cubit-or a foot and a half-to his stature, while in the corresponding passage in Luke (Luke 12:25-26), the thing intended is represented as "that thing which is least." But if we take the word in its primary sense of 'age' (for 'stature' is but a secondary sense) the idea will be this, 'Which of you, however anxiously you vex yourselves about it, can add so much as a step to the length of your life's journey?' To compare the length of life to measures of this nature is not foreign to the language of Scripture, (cf. Psalms 39:5; 2 Timothy 4:7, etc.) So understood, the meaning is clear and the connection natural. In this the best critics now agree.

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:

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider ('observe well') the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not - as men, planting and preparing the flax, "neither do they spin" - as women.

Verse 29

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

And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. What incomparable teaching!-best left in its own transparent clearness and rich simplicity.

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 [the 'herbage' chorton (G5528 )] of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven - wild flowers cut with the grass, withering by the heat, and used for fuel. (See James 1:11)

Shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little, faith? The argument here is something fresh. 'Gorgeous as is the array of the flowers that deck the fields, surpassing all artificial human grandeur, it is for but a brief moment; you are ravished with it today, and tomorrow it is gone; your own hands have seized and cast it into the oven: Shall, then, God's children, so dear to Him, and instinct with a life that cannot die, be left naked?' He does not say, Shall they not be more beauteously arrayed? but, Shall He not much more clothe them? that being all He will have them regard as secured to them (cf. Hebrews 13:5). The expression, 'Little-faithed ones' [ oligopistoi (G3640)], which our Lord applies once and again to His disciples (Matthew 8:26; Matthew 14:31; Matthew 16:8), can hardly be regarded as rebuking any actual manifestations of unbelief at that early period, and before such an audience, It is His way of gently chiding the spirit of unbelief, so natural even to the best, who are surrounded by a world of sense, and of kindling a generous desire to shake it off.

Verse 31

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

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

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), [ epizeetei (G1934)] - rather 'pursue,' Knowing nothing definitely beyond the present life to kindle their aspirations and engage their supreme attention, the pagan naturally pursue present objects as their chief, their only good. To what an elevation above these does Jesus here lift His disciples!

For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. How precious this word! Food and raiment are pronounced needful to God's children; and He who could say, "No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him" (Matthew 11:27), says with an authority which none but Himself could claim, "Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things" Will not that suffice you, O ye needy ones of the household of faith?

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, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. This is the great summing up. Strictly speaking, it has to do only with the subject of the present Section-the right state of the heart with reference to heavenly and earthly things; but being couched in the form of a brief general directory, it is so comprehensive in its grasp as to embrace the whole subject of this Discourse. And, as if to make this the more evident, the two key-notes of this great Sermon seem purposely struck in it - "the KINGDOM" and "the RIGHTEOUSNESS" of the kingdom-as the grand objects, in the supreme pursuit of which all things needful for the present life will be added to us. The precise sense of every word in this golden verse should be carefully weighed. "The kingdom of God" is the primary subject of the Sermon on the Mount-that kingdom which the God of heaven is erecting in this fallen world, within which are all the spiritually recovered and inwardly subject portion of the family of Adam, under Messiah as its divine Head and King. "The righteousness thereof" is the character of all such, so amply described and variously illustrated in the foregoing portions of this Discourse, The "seeking" of these is the making them the object of supreme choice and pursuit; and the seeking of them "first" is the seeking of them before and above all else, The "all these things" which shall in that case be added to us are just the "all these things" which the last words of the preceding verse assured us "our heavenly Father knoweth that we have need of;" that is, all we require for the present life. And when our Lord says they shall be "added," it is implied, as a matter of course, that the seekers of the kingdom and its righteousness shall have these as their proper and primary portion; the rest being their gracious reward for not seeking them. (See an illustration of the principle of this in 2 Chronicles 1:11-12.) What follows is but a reduction of this great general direction into a practical and ready form for daily use.

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 ('anxious care') for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself (or according to other authorities, 'for itself'-shall have its own causes of anxiety.

Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. An admirable practical maxim, and better rendered in our version than in almost any other, not excepting the preceding English ones. Every day brings its own cares; and to anticipate is only to double them,


(1) Worldly-mindedness is as insidious as it is destructive to spirituality in the Christian. The innocence of secular occupations is the plea on which inordinate attention to them is permitted to steal away the heart. And thus it is that the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the pleasures of this life-silently but surely-choke the word, and no fruit is brought to perfection (see the note at Mark 4:7).

(2) What vanity and folly might be written over the life of many persons in high repute for religion; made up as it is of a long struggle to solve an impossible problem-how to serve two masters! But this is not the worst of their case. For,

(3) This dividedness of heart vitiates and darkens their whole inner man; making them strangers to that glorious light which irradiates the path of the just, whose one aim in life is to serve and glorify their Father who is in heaven.

(4) Since the whole animal and vegetable creation-so liberally fed and so gorgeously clad-is silently, perpetually, and charmingly preaching to the children of God the duty of confidence in their Father who is in heaven, what a noble field of devout study do these kingdoms of nature open up to us; and what a monstrous misuse of this study is made by those who study themselves into an Atheistic Naturalism, which not only make the laws of nature their sole object of pursuit, but drearily rests in them as the ultimate account of all physical things!

(5) In this Discourse we find our Lord telling us what "the pagan" do, that He may teach us how differently He expected His own disciples to do. The pagan "babble" their prayers, and the pagan pursue this present world as their all. But if so, O how many pagan are there in the visible Christian Church; and what a paganish formality in devotion and secularity in the business of life do too many of the children of God suffer to invade and to mar the spirituality, and liberty, and joy, and strength of their Christian life!

(6) As honesty is the best policy, so spirituality of mind in the prosecution of the business of life is the true secret of all real temporal prosperity. "The blessing of the Lord it maketh rich; and he addeth no sorrow with it" (Proverbs 10:22) - not, He addeth no sorrow with the blessing; but none with the riches-whereas unblest riches are full of sorrow.

(7) Let it never be forgotten that what our Lord here condemns is not attention to business, nor any amount or (7) Let it never be forgotten that what our Lord here condemns is not attention to business, nor any amount or range of thought on the subject of it which may be necessary for its most successful prosecution; but only such attention to it is due exclusively to heavenly things, and cannot possibly be given to both; and such anxiety of mind about the means of life as springs from distrust from God, and corrodes the heart, while it does not in the least advance the object we have in view. Nor is riches spoken against here, but only the setting of the heart upon them, which the poor may do and the rich not. (See Psalms 62:10; 1 Timothy 6:17-19.)

That these verses are entirely supplementary is the simplest and most natural view of them. All attempts to make out any evident connection with the immediately preceding context are, in our judgment, forced. But, though supplementary, these counsels are far from being of subordinate importance. On the contrary, they involve some of the most delicate and vital duties of the Christian life. In the vivid form in which they are here presented, perhaps they could not have been introduced with the same effect under any of the foregoing heads; but they spring out of the same great principles, and are but other forms and manifestations of the same evangelical "righteousness."

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 6". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/matthew-6.html. 1871-8.
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