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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Matthew 6

Verse 1

Righteousness

This chapter is no longer about the Christian principle in contrast to the law as in Matthew 5, but about our Father with Whom we have to do in secret. The expression “your Father” is used here more than ten times. The disciples are brought into a personal connection with the Father. He understands us, sees everything that happens in and around us, listens to us and gives us advice. Everything shows that He has the deepest concern for us.

The previous chapter deals with the nature of righteousness. This chapter is about doing righteousness. With this, the Lord points out the great danger that we will do righteousness before the eyes of men in order to obtain their appreciation and recognition. That is nothing but hypocrisy.

The Lord goes into three forms of righteousness which are easily practiced in order to garner the glory of men. He speaks of doing righteousness in the forms of giving (Matthew 6:2-Numbers :), prayer (Matthew 6:5-Ezra :) and fasting (Matthew 6:16-Job :). In outward display these forms can impress people, but not God. God seeks inward truth. We receive the reward that the Father pays out in the kingdom of peace. We lose that when we do things before the eyes of people.

Giving is about our attitude towards our fellow human beings, prayer is about our attitude toward God, and fasting is about ourselves. It is as by grace that teaches us that we “live sensibly, righteously and godly” (Titus 2:12). ‘Sensibly’ is about our inner attitude, we are “righteous” towards our fellowmen and we show “godliness” towards God.

Verses 2-4

Giving

The Lord time and again uses the words “I say to you” also in this chapter. He speaks with authority and does not teach them as their scribes.

The Pharisees esteem their generosity highly. They do this in the synagogues, where they teach, and also in public. The Lord calls them “hypocrites”. These people have no eye for God. They are only concerned about the approval and praise of their fellow human beings. Well, they receive it and therewith they get their reward at the same time. They no longer need to expect deferred or future reward.

After the Lord has pointed out the wrong form of giving, He shows what the right way is. With giving the point is that it happens before the Father’s eye. Even though no one knows about it, the Father sees it, appreciates it and will reward it.

Nor should the left hand know what the right hand is doing. That means that we should not give in order to give ourselves a good feeling about it. We won’t tell others, but we are proud of ourselves for giving something. Everything must be done to and before the eye of the Father and not before that of people, not even before our own eye. What happens without people knowing it, will be openly rewarded in the future day.

Verses 5-8

Prayer

God abhors a prayer that serves no other purpose than to give others a ‘prayer demonstration’. In such a prayer, the prayer is addressed to God, but not so that God hears it, but so that others hear it. God does not even listen to it. That prayer is hypocrisy because it gives the impression that it is being made to Him, while it is done to impress people.

The demonstrations are given in buildings and in public. All those who have no relationship with God themselves admire these demonstrations. That admiration is the reward for the one who ‘prays’. God’s reward passes them by. God’s reward is ready for those who do not seek honor from people, but who seek real contact with Him. Contact with God and speaking to Him is not a show. It is a personal and delicate matter. That is why we need to seek solitude. The chance of being disturbed from the outside must also be minimized: the door must be locked. For the time in which we live, it also means switching off the smartphone and similar devices so that we can pray undisturbed.

Another important point is not to use meaningless repetition. The Lord means by this the case that a prayer is made as long as possible by repetition of words. That is a Gentile custom. An example of this is the praying of the ‘rosary’ in the roman catholic church. This does not mean that we should not pray for a long time. However, no one needs to know the duration and intensity of our prayer life. It is therefore good to pray briefly and powerfully in public. We do not pray to make known to God things He does not yet know. He knows everything long before we ask Him anything. We pray to get rid of burdens.

Verses 9-15

The ‘Our Father’

In His teaching on prayer, the Lord now indicates how they can pray. By this he does not mean to give a ‘standard prayer’ that needs to be prayed over and over again. Then the effect could be precisely that which He has just said it should not be. In this prayer he indicates to whom they may address themselves and what the content of their prayer should be.

In the address “our Father who is in heaven”, lies distance. The disciple on earth speaks to the Father in heaven. This shows that it is not primarily intended for Christians. The Christian has free access to God his Father in heaven. There is no distance. There is such a distance between the earthly people of God and God in heaven. This makes this prayer a prayer that is prayed with a view to the coming of the kingdom of peace, while the circumstances are still opposed to it. Although this prayer is mainly meant for the remnant of Israel, we can learn a lot from it.

The announcement of the kingdom of peace by John the baptist and the Lord Himself leads disciples to long for the establishment of His kingdom. For this they have to overcome the difficulties of a hostile world. They must be preserved for the snares of the enemy, while it is necessary to do the will of the Father.

The prayer contains six petitions. First come three petitions that have to do with God. It relates to His Name, His kingdom, and His will. Then come three petitions that have to do with us. It is about our bread, our debts, and our salvation from temptation and deliverance from evil. The heavenly Father and His claims are first and foremost. Our needs come second.

The true disciple will long for the Name of his Father, who is still so often blasphemed and dishonored, to be hallowed everywhere on earth. When the Lord Jesus will reign, the holiness of the Father’s Name will be recognized and spoken with respect by everyone. Disciples find their greatest joy in the fact that their Father, Who is still doing everything in secret, will be openly praised and magnified.

If the Father’s Name is sanctified everywhere, the will of the Father will also be done everywhere. This will be the situation when “Your kingdom”, the kingdom of peace, has come. Then there will also be complete obedience and “Your will” will be done on earth as it has always been done in heaven.

But it's not that time yet. The disciple is still dependent on the care of his Father, while he is surrounded by enemies. Especially in the great tribulation, which immediately precedes the establishment of the kingdom of peace, there will be a great lack of most of daily needs. The Lord says here that every day they may call upon their Father to give them what they need.

They will also be aware that the need they are in is the result of their sins. They ask forgiveness and do so in the spirit of forgiveness that they have shown to their persecutors. At the same time, they acknowledge their weakness to withstand temptation. The Lord says that they may pray if their Father would prevent them from coming into temptation, where they might deny Him. They may at the same time ask their Father to deliver them from the evil one.

In the final words of His teaching about prayer, the Lord returns to forgiveness. The word “for” in Matthew 6:14 indicates a clear connection to the foregoing. It is necessary to have the mind of forgiveness to have the consciousness of forgiveness. If a disciple is not willing to forgive others the wrong they have done to him, the Father cannot show that willingness either. By the lack of willingness to forgive, access to the Father in prayer is blocked.

Verses 16-18

Fasting

Fasting appears several times in the Old Testament (Ezra 8:21; Nehemiah 9:1; Isaiah 58:1-2 Chronicles :). It also appears in the New Testament letters that describe the life of the church. It is usually associated with prayer (Acts 14:23). Also in this chapter it follows directly from prayer. While prayer concerns the spiritual side of man, fasting concerns the physical side. By fasting one feels with his body what occupies him in his mind and soul.

Fasting accompanies humility and is also an expression of sorrow. When someone fasts, he denies himself the enjoyment of earthly things that in themselves he is permitted to enjoy. Whoever fasts, denies himself certain earthly things for a higher purpose during the time of fasting.

Fasting is not a goal in itself. This is how the Pharisees fast. By showing a gloomy face, even neglecting their appearance, they know how to win the appreciation of people. They want people to see how good and pious they live and how they are saddened by the spiritual state of God’s people. The Lord Jesus sees through the true nature of this performance. He calls them “hypocrites” and says that they already have their reward.

You don’t notice real fasting with anyone. It is, like prayer, something between the Father and the disciple. The Father will reward it if someone sympathizes with Him about the situation of His people. Fasting happens for Him and not for others.

Verses 19-21

Treasures in Heaven

The last part of this chapter (Matthew 6:19-Nahum :) is about earthly possessions and the necessary things of life. The Lord gives the necessary exhortations because of the deep tendency in every human being to chase earthly treasures. The admonition not to gather treasures on earth is in contrast to the exhortation to give, which the Lord speaks of at the beginning of this chapter.

There are two reasons for not setting the heart on earthly possessions. Those reasons relate to the two ways in which we can lose our treasures. First of all, they can be spoiled by forces of nature that we cannot control. Secondly, violent people can rob them of us. We can still do our best to defend ourselves against both, but the durability date of our possessions cannot be guaranteed.

The Lord points out other treasures that are not perishable and cannot be stolen from us. These are the treasures in heaven. These treasures are connected with Him, “in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”, that is Himself (Colossians 2:3). What we collect by occupying ourselves with the things that are above (Colossians 3:1-Exodus :), is of eternal, indestructible value.

If we really know the Father in heaven, we have our treasure in heaven and our heart is there too. We only have one heart and that is with the object that appreciates the heart the most.

Verses 22-23

The Lamp of the Body

To estimate the value of the treasure in heaven, we need a clear, or single, eye. Our eye is a lamp. The eye itself is not a source of light, but it catches the light and passes it on to the body. Then the members know what they have to do. In view of the treasure in heaven, we can pray the prayer that Paul also prayed. He prayed for the believers at Ephesus for enlightened eyes of the heart (Ephesians 1:18), so that they might know the riches of heaven.

Nominal Christians, those who say they have a connection with the Lord Jesus, but do not have Him as their life, boast of having light. But their eye is bad. They have no treasure in heaven, but gather treasures on earth. The light they supposedly possess is in reality darkness. Whoever presumes to possess light is in the greatest possible darkness. Such a person completely shuts himself off from God’s light.

Verse 24

God or Wealth

It is not possible to collect treasures in heaven if our eye floats back and forth between the treasures of heaven and the treasures of earth. God and mammon are two masters who want to be served. [Wealth: Gr mamonas, for Aram mamon (mammon); i.e. wealth, etc., personified as an object of worship.] God wants us to serve Him and He is entitled to it. Mammon, the god of money and wealth, wants to entice us to serve him. It is impossible to serve both at the same time.

Many Christians believe it can be done and try it too. The Lord Jesus says here that this is not possible. God and mammon exclude each other completely, they are completely opposed to each other. Whoever says that he serves God, while his life shows that he lives for earthly things, denies his relationship to God. In practice, earthly things will gain more and more ground and so life for the glory of God will lose more and more ground.

Verses 25-34

Worries

These verses are not about the dangers of wealth, but about the worries of life. We can connect this with the petition “give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). The worries of life can take as much of our time as collecting treasures. The danger of worries does not mean that we should not take care of our family, for example, but that we are worrying about our family and mull over it. We may put the worries of life in second place in the confidence that the Lord will provide what we need. He also provides everything that is needed for nature, doesn’t He?

The Lord invites us simply to look at the birds. They all receive their livelihood because our heavenly Father feeds them. We may know that we far exceed the birds in importance. If we are aware of this, the concern for food will disappear. The same goes for the length of our lives, i.e. our lifespan, and our clothes. In order that we might not exaggerate our worry for it, He invites us to look at the lilies and the grass. When we see how God deals with them and what happens to them when they are out of bloom, the burden for these things can fall away from us. The Lord reassures His disciple, he does not have to worry about food or drink or clothing.

The people of the world have nothing else to worry about. They have no treasure in heaven and no Father in heaven and live only for earthly pleasure. It is about the focus on another world. In that light, the importance of food and drink and clothing is diminishing. To make the right choice, the eye must be focused on what is invisible, eternal and heavenly. Otherwise the choice is made for what is visible, temporary and earthly.

A disciple of the Lord may know that His heavenly Father knows that he needs and will take care of all those visible, temporary, earthly things. The first concern of a disciple can therefore be – and should be, for that is his task – for the kingdom of God and His righteousness. The search for the kingdom of God means putting oneself entirely at its service. It is to recognize the lordship of the Lord Jesus over all areas of life. It is doing what He says and saying what He wants and going where He wants us to go. The search for God’s righteousness is the search for the straight path that God shows us to walk and that Christ has gone before us.

If we serve God Who is our heavenly Father, we fall under His watchful and kind care. Our heavenly Father knows all our needs and cares about them. We can therefore be completely free of anxious worries and have complete confidence in His loving care.

The Lord says once again that we do not need to be worried, not even for tomorrow. It also makes no sense to worry about what may come tomorrow. We have enough of the evil of the day we are experiencing now. We don’t need to draw toward us now, the worries that may eventually arise tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, the worry may already have disappeared. And if worry is still there, then God is there too.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Matthew 6". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/matthew-6.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.