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Verse 1 warns against practicing righteousness (margin) before men to attract their attention. This is self-righteousness, a mere show. How can we expect the Father to reward what we do merely to impress men? Again, the Lord searches our motives. This is applied in verse 2 specifically to the giving of alms, though verse 1 is of wider application. Hypocrites sounding a trumpet is a graphic expression, indicating their advertising the good they do in order to secure men's adulation. This is the reward they want, and all they will get.
If God has given us an abundance, then certainly it is to be used for the help of others; but the left hand is not to know what the right does in this case. The thing is to be done, and nothing said, no attention drawn to it. For giving is to be done as to the Lord, only for God's approval, not men's, though it is done for the welfare of others.
If this is true in reference to righteousness manward, how much more important in regard to prayer, which is exclusively for God. It is hypocrisy to stand in the synagogues or on a street corner to pray personal prayers to God, as some did in order to advertise their spirituality. Of course there are prayers that must be public, when a man speaks to God on behalf of a gathered company (1 Timothy 2:8; Acts 27:35). But let personal prayer be in secret. If we do not practice secret prayer consistently, we shall be in no state to engage in public prayer.
As to repeating over and over again some formal prayer, this is forbidden. It is tragic error to think that the more often one says his prayers (using different beads, etc. for each different expression), the greater favour he will draw from God. Would any parent want to hear merely this from his child? If unbelievers in their ignorance do this, let us not be in anyway like them. God is concerned about prayers that come from the heart, and desires to see that faith that fully believes that He knows what is good for us. As a Father He knows what we need before we ask, so that our asking should be in a spirit of dependence and confidence. Certainly, repeating empty words will not persuade God to our point of view!
The prayer of verses 9 to 13 is not therefore merely to be repeated word for word. The Lord gives this as an outline of prayer from the viewpoint of the kingdom. He does not say "pray these words," but "after this manner therefore pray ye." This is further confirmed too by the fact that the expression added at the end ("for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever Amen") is not found in the Most Greek Manuscripts, but has evidently been interjected by some copyist who thought this would be a good ending for a prayer.
The prayer has three sections. The first is connected with Gods glory, the second with Gods authority, the last with God's Mercy. In our prayers it is wise to keep this in mind: our blessing is not the most important thing, but God's glory. Secondly, let our prayers be always subject to His authority; then His mercy to us has its proper and precious place.
Each of these sections has three subjects; first, "Our Father," indicating the dignity of His prime place, get at the same time His tender care. "Who art in heaven" shows His supremacy, high above all creation. "Hallowed be thy name" is the reminder of His sublime holiness, as set apart from all others.
"Thy kingdom come" refers, not to the millennial kingdom, but to Christ's delivering up the kingdom to God the father (1 Corinthians 15:24), therefore an eternal kingdom. If we truly desire this, with everything perfectly in subjection to the Father, then our present desires will be subject to His will.
Only when the Father's kingdom comes (an eternal kingdom) will His will be perfectly done on earth as in heaven. Praying for this will prompt our obedience to His will now. "Give us this day our daily bread" is connected also with His authority, for good government Ministers to the necessity of its subjects; but an insubject attitude has no title to benefit by God's just administration.
The forgiveness of verse 12 is connected with the daily life of the believer: he can ask the Father's forgiveness in regard to his debts or failures only if his attitude is one of forgiveness toward others: otherwise his prayer is hypocritical. "Lead us not into temptation" involves our realizing our own sad propensity for failure, and therefore the desire to be kept from the danger of it. Finally "deliver us from evil" is the desire for positive mercy from God in taking us out of those situations where evil threatens us.
Verses 14 and 15 show us that He is not speaking of eternal forgiveness, but governmental. If a believer forgives others, he may count on the Father's forgiveness in regard to restoring him to the joy of communion with Himself when he honestly confesses his failure. If he does not forgive others, he cannot properly enjoy communion with the Father: his very attitude forbids it.
In verses 1 Timothy 4:0 we have seen righteousness manward (including giving); in verses 5 to 15 prayer Godward; now in verses 16 to 18 fasting is the subject. This is selfward, personal self denial; for true self-denial is totally personal, not for display at all. Sometimes fasting is practiced for the sake of one's health, which is of course personal. However, it might be done in order that one can give his time and energy individually to some particular service for the Lord. If so, why should I want any one else to know it beside the Lord?
At least, it should not make me miserable looking, as though it was a burden to miss a meal! If fasting is willingly done, it should certainly be cheer-fully done. If done honestly for the Father's glory, the Father will reward it.
The first 18 verses of this chapter have dealt with three matters (giving, praying and fasting) that are to be kept personal as before the Father's face verses 19 to 34 have to do with our attitude in view of the strong influences of the world. First the Lord warns against earthly-mindedness, the temptation of accumulating on earth what will tend to make us feel secure here and therefore to settle down as though earth were our home. What is merely stored, not used, is subject to "moth and rust"' and where thieves know there is wealth, they are ready to steal it.
The believer's eyes are to be far above the world's level: his true treasure is not material, but of eternal value, nor can it be corrupted or stolen. Today we know that treasure to be vitally connected with Christ Himself raised from the dead and seated in the heavenlies. Is not our heart there too? As we value those things that are eternal, and live and act in view of this, we shall be laying up treasure in heaven.
This gives a single eye, not the duplicity of seeking two contrary things. The eye is the lamp of the body, that is, the receptacle of the light. The light is altogether of God, and to receive that light with singleness of heart, having the one object of rightly sustaining the light, will result in our whole body being full of light, light for our walk, our works, our words, indeed for every department of our existence. This implies simplicity of faith (not duplicity).
But if the eye is evil, perverting what light it receives, there will be no light whatever in the body. In this case the light received is adroitly turned into darkness, a darkness that is "how great!" God's truth must not be trifled with: if perverted, it can plunge one into a state worse than that of ignorance.
It is impossible to serve God and mammon at the same time. Mammon is simply material possessions: these are given to be of service to us, not that we should serve them. If we profess to serve God while really serving mammon, we shell actually despise God and His claims, whether or not we would think of this as hatred. On the one hand, there may be strong feelings of love toward one master and hatred toward the other; or on the other hand, the feeling may not be so strong, but the fact of holding to one and belittling the other will be evident.
It is an arresting word, "take no thought for your life," whether in regard to daily food or necessary clothing. Though necessary, these things must not be allowed to occupy time and thought as though they were vital matters. We have far more than this to live for. The birds are a pointed object lesson for us. They make no preparations for obtaining meals, yet God the Father has provided this necessity for them in such a way that they simply obtain their food as they need it. True it is that we could not exist in the same way, but faith may nevertheless count upon God to provide through giving employment, health, strength, or whatever is required to take care of these things. Faith in a living God is the vital matter here, faith that does not degenerate into anxiety. Man, who is capable of a conscious knowledge of, and communion with, his Creator, is of much more value to God than the birds.
Again, if one has disturbed thoughts because his stature is short, will his thoughts change this so much as one cubit (18 inches)? Worrying therefore is senseless, for it causes confusion and changes nothing.
Similarly as regards clothing: no doubt many in the world are extremely clothes conscious. But faith will thank God for providing what is necessary, and trust Him consistently. The lilies grow spontaneously by the power of God, and are clothed with a beauty surpassing the magnificence of King Solomon's attire, without labour on their part. If God clothes the grass with such beauty, certainly He is able to clothe His own people. Of course faith would not ask Him to give us clothing that would draw attention to ourselves, for faith honours Him, not self. 1 Timothy 2:9; 1 Timothy 2:9 exhorts "that women in decent deportment and dress adorn themselves with modesty and discretion," and certainly men are to be no less discreet. But faith can fully trust God for these essentials.
To "take no thought" as regards our food, drink or clothing does not of course mean to never think of these things, but not to make them the objects of our thoughts as though they were the most important things of life. Gentile nations do this, emphasizing these things of merely minor importance. Our Father knows we need such things, and can be depended on to furnish them in proper time.
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" This is the matter of real importance. God's interests in that sphere of subjection to His authority (His kingdom) should hold the greatest attraction for us. "His righteousness" is added to this, for everything in the world is contaminated by man's unrighteousness, and it requires purpose of heart to seek the purity of God's righteousness in such contrary circumstances. This does take time and thought. All of these instructions of the Lord in the sermon on the mount are basic in regard to what God's righteousness really is. They are worthy of diligently applied thought and study.
But providing for tomorrow requires such thought as this: this may be left for that day to take care of itself. Let us leave with God those things in which He does the ordering. The problems of each day are sufficient for that day: there is no need to import tomorrow's problems into today's program.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Matthew 6". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent