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Nave's Topical Bible - Blessing; Food; Gifts from God; Lord's Prayer; Motive; Prayer; Religion; Thompson Chain Reference - Bread; Lord's; Prayer; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Bread; Gifts of God, the; Prayer; Works, Good;
Verse Matthew 6:11. Give us this day our daily bread — The word επιουσιαν has greatly perplexed critics and commentators. I find upwards of thirty different explanations of it. It is found in no Greek writer before the evangelists, and Origen says expressly, that it was formed by them, αλλ' εοικε πεπλασθαι υπο των ευαγγελιστων. The interpretation of Theophylact, one of the best of the Greek fathers, has ever appeared to me to be the most correct, Αρτος επι τη ουσιᾳ και συστασει ημων αυταρκης, Bread, sufficient for our substance and support, i.e. That quantity of food which is necessary to support our health and strength, by being changed into the substance of our bodies. Its composition is of επι and ουσια, proper or sufficient for support. Mr. Wakefield thinks it probable, that the word was originally written επιουσιαν, which coalesced by degrees, till they became the επιουσιον of the MSS. There is probably an allusion here to the custom of travellers in the east, who were wont to reserve a part of the food given them the preceding evening to serve for their breakfast or dinner the next day. But as this was not sufficient for the whole day, they were therefore obliged to depend on the providence of God for the additional supply. In Luke 15:12-13, ουσια signifies, what a person has to live on; and nothing can be more natural than to understand the compound επιουσιος, of that additional supply which the traveller needs, to complete the provision necessary for a day's eating, over and above what he had then in his possession. See Harmer.
The word is so very peculiar and expressive, and seems to have been made on purpose by the evangelists, that more than mere bodily nourishment seems to be intended by it. Indeed, many of the primitive fathers understood it as comprehending that daily supply of grace which the soul requires to keep it in health and vigour: He who uses the petition would do well to keep both in view. Observe
1. God is the author and dispenser of all temporal as well as spiritual good.
2. We have merited no kind of good from his hand, and therefore must receive it as a free gift: Give us, c.
3. We must depend on him daily for support we are not permitted to ask any thing for to-morrow: give us to-day.
4. That petition of the ancient Jews is excellent: "Lord, the necessities of thy people Israel are many, and their knowledge small, so that they know not how to disclose their necessities: Let it be thy good pleasure to give to every man, what sufficeth for food!" Thus they expressed their dependence, and left it to God to determine what was best and most suitable.
We must ask only that which is essential to our support, God having promised neither luxuries nor superfluities.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Matthew 6:11". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/matthew-6.html. 1832.
41. Giving, praying and fasting (Matthew 6:1-18; Luke 11:1-4)
If the followers of Jesus give help to the needy with the aim of winning people’s praise, their giving is of no value in God’s sight. They will have their reward in the praise they seek, but will miss out on any reward from God. They should keep matters of giving secret from even their closest friends (Matthew 6:1-4).
Prayer also is a private matter. Believers do not need to make a show of prayerful zeal, as if their heavenly Father needs long and impressive prayers to rouse him to action. He is not like the lifeless idols of the heathen, but is a loving Father who understands his children’s needs (Matthew 6:5-8).
In encouraging believers to pray confidently, Jesus provides a model for them to follow. Although they can speak to God with the freedom of children speaking to a father, they should do so reverently, remembering that he is holy. An expression of worship ensures that his glory comes before their needs (Matthew 6:9). Believers should pray for God’s rule in their lives and in the lives of others, whether as individuals or among people in general. Their prayers may concern great things such as the completion of God’s eternal plan, or small things such as the provision of daily needs (Matthew 6:10-11). They should confess their sins, remembering that God will forgive them only if they forgive others. They should also ask for God’s control in the affairs of life, so that difficulties they meet will not cause them to fall into sin (Matthew 6:12-15).
If at any time believers accompany their prayers with fasting, they should not try to impress others by making themselves look sad. Their fasting will be of no value in God’s sight if they use it to win people’s praise. When they fast they should act and dress normally (Matthew 6:16-18).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Matthew 6:11". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/matthew-6.html. 2005.
This passage contains the Lord’s prayer, a composition unequalled for comprehensiveness and for beauty. It is supposed that some of these petitions were taken from those in common use among the Jews. Indeed some of them are still to be found in Jewish writings, but they did not exist in this beautiful combination. This prayer is given as a “model.” It is designed to express the “manner” in which we are to pray, evidently not the precise words or petitions which we are to use. The substance of the prayer is recorded by Luke, Luke 11:2-4. In Luke, however, it varies from the form given in Matthew, showing that he intended not to prescribe this as a form of prayer to be used always, but to express the substance of our petitions, or to show what petitions it would be proper to present to God. That he did not intend to prescribe this as a form to be invariably used is further evident from the fact that there is no proof that either he or his disciples ever used exactly this form of prayer, but clear evidence that they prayed often in other language. See Matthew 26:39-42, Matthew 26:44; Luke 22:42; John 17:0; Acts 1:24.
Our Father - God is called a Father,
1.As he is the Creator and the Great Parent of all;
2.The Preserver of the human family and the Provider for their wants, Matthew 5:45; Matthew 6:32;
3.In a special sense he is the Father of those who are adopted into his family; who put confidence in him; who are the true followers of Christ, and made heirs of life, Romans 8:14-17.
Hallowed be thy name - The word “hallowed” means to render or pronounce holy. God’s name is essentially holy; and the meaning of this petition is, “Let thy name be celebrated, venerated, and esteemed as holy everywhere, and receive from all people proper honor.” It is thus the expression of a wish or desire, on the part of the worshipper, that the name of God, or that God himself, should be held everywhere in proper veneration.
Thy kingdom come - The word “kingdom” here means “reign.” Note, Matthew 3:2. The petition is the expression of a wish that God may “reign” everywhere; that his laws may be obeyed; and especially that the gospel of Christ may be advanced everywhere, until the world shall be filled with his glory.
Thy will be done - The will of God is, that people should obey his law, and be holy. The word “will,” here, has reference to his law, and to what would be “acceptable” to him. To pray, then, that his will may be done, on earth as in heaven, is to pray that his “law,” his “revealed will,” may be obeyed and loved. His law is perfectly obeyed in heaven, and his true children most ardently desire and pray that it may also be obeyed on the earth.
The object of these three “first” petitions, is, that God’s name should be glorified and his kingdom established; and by being placed first, we learn that his glory and kingdom are of more consequence than our wants, and that these should be first in our hearts and petitions before a throne of grace.
Give us this day ... - The word “bread,” here, denotes doubtless everything necessary to sustain life. See the notes at Matthew 4:4. Compare Deuteronomy 8:3. This petition implies our dependence on God for the supply of our wants. As we are dependent on him one day as much as another, it was evidently the intention of the Saviour that prayer should be offered every day. The petition, moreover, is expressed in the plural number - give us - and it is evidently therefore, intended to be used by more than one, or by some community of people. No community or congregation can meet every day for worship but families. It is therefore evident that this prayer contains a strong implied command for daily family prayer. It can nowhere else be used so as fully to come up to the meaning of the original intention; and nowhere else can it be breathed forth with so much propriety and beauty as from the lips of a father, the venerable priest of his household, and the pleader with God for those rich blessings which a parental bosom desires on his beloved offspring.
And forgive us our debts ... - The word “debts” is used here figuratively.
It does not mean “literally” that we are “debtors to God,” but that our sins have a resemblance to debts. Debtors are those who are bound to others for some claim in commercial transactions; for something which we have had, and for which we are bound to pay according to contract. “Literally” there can be no such transaction between God and us. It must be used figuratively. We have not met the claims of law. We have violated its obligations. We are exposed to its penalty. We are guilty, and God only can forgive, in the same way as none but a “creditor” can forgive a debtor. The word “debts” here, therefore, means “sins,” or offences against God - offences which none but God can forgive. In the parallel place in Luke 11:4, the word sins is used. The measure by which we may expect forgiveness is that which we use in reference to others See Psalms 18:25-26; Matthew 18:23; Mark 11:26; Luke 11:4.
This is the invariable rule by which God dispenses pardon He that comes before him unwilling to forgive, harboring dark and revengeful thoughts, how can he expect that God will show him that mercy which he is unwilling to show to others? It is not, however, required that we should forgive “debts” in a pecuniary sense. To them we have a right, though they should not be pushed with an overbearing and oppressive spirit; not so as to sacrifice the feelings of mercy in order to secure the claims of justice. No one has a right to oppress; and when a debt cannot be paid, or when it would greatly distress a debtor’s wife and children, or a widow and an orphan, or when calamity has put it out of the power of an honest man to pay the debt, the spirit of Christianity requires that it should be forgiven. To such cases this petition in the Lord’s prayer doubtless extends. But it was probably intended to refer principally to injuries of character or person which we have received from others. If we cannot from the heart forgive them, we have the assurance that God will never forgive us.
And lead us not into temptation - A petition similar to this is offered by David, Psalms 141:4; “Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with the workers of iniquity.” God tempts no man. See James 1:13. This phrase, then, must be used in the sense of “permitting.” Do not “suffer” us, or “permit” us, to be tempted to sin. In this it is implied that God has such control over the tempter as to save us from his power if we call upon him. The word “temptation,” however (see the note at Matthew 4:1), means sometimes “trial, affliction,” anything that “tests” our virtue. If this be the meaning here, as it may be, then the import of the prayer is, “Do not afflict or try us.” It is not wrong to pray that we may be saved from suffering if it be the will of God. See Luke 22:42.
Deliver us from evil - The original in this place has the article - deliver us from the evil - that is, as has been supposed, the Evil One, or Satan. He is elsewhere called, by way of eminence, the “Evil One,” Matthew 13:19; 1 John 2:13-14; 1 John 3:12. The meaning here is, “deliver us from his power, his snares, his arts, his temptations.” He is supposed to be the great parent of evil, and to be delivered from him is to be safe. Or it may mean, “deliver us from the various evils and trials which beset us, the heavy and oppressive calamities into which we are continually liable to fall.”
Thine is the kingdom - That is, thine is the reign or dominion. Thou hast control over all these things, and canst so order them as to answer these petitions.
Thine is the power - Thou hast power to accomplish what we ask. We are weak, and cannot do it; but thou art Almighty, and all things are possible with thee.
Thine is the glory - That is, thine is the honor or praise. Not for “our honor,” but that thy glory, thy goodness, may be displayed in providing for our wants; thy power exerted in defending us; thy praise be celebrated by causing thy kingdom to spread through the earth.
This “doxology,” or ascription of praise, is connected with the prayer by the word “for,” to signify that all these things - the reign, power, and glory of God - will be manifested by granting these petitions. It is not because we are to be benefited, but that God’s name and perfections may be manifested. His glory is, then, the first and principal thing which we are to seek when we approach him. We are to suffer our concerns to be lost sight of in the superior glory and honor of his name and dominion. We are to seek temporal and eternal life chiefly because the honor of our Maker will be promoted, and his name be more illustriously displayed to his creatures. He is to be “first, last, supremest, best,” in our view; and all selfish and worldly views are to be absorbed in that one great desire of the soul that God may be “all in all.” Approaching him with these feelings, our prayers will be answered; our devotions will ascend like incense, and the lifting up our hands will be like the evening sacrifice.
Amen - This is a word of Hebrew origin, from a verb signifying “to be firm, secure, to be true and faithful.” It is a word expressing consent or strong approbation; a word of strong asseveration. It means “verily, certainly, so be it.” It is probable that this word was used by the people in the synagogue to signify their assent to the prayer that was uttered by the minister, and, to some extent, it was probably so used in the Christian Church. See 1 Corinthians 14:16.
It may be proper to remark that this doxology, “for thine is the kingdom,” etc., is missing in many manuscripts, and that its authenticity is doubtful.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 6:11". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/matthew-6.html. 1870.
11. Give us today our daily bread Of the form of prayer which Christ has prescribed to us this may be called, as I have said, the Second Table. I have adopted this mode of dividing it for the sake of instruction. (437) The precepts which relate to the proper manner of worshipping God are contained in the First Table of the law, and those which relate to the duties of charity in the Second. Again, in this prayer, — “I have formerly divided it thus, in order to instruct more familiarly.” our Lord first instructs us to seek the glory of God, and then points out, in the second part, what we ought to ask for ourselves. But it must be observed, that the prayers which we offer for our salvation, or for our own advantage, ought to have this for their ultimate object: for we must not be so exclusively occupied with what is advantageous to ourselves, as to omit, in any instance, to give the first place to the glory of God. When we pray, therefore, we must never turn away our eyes from that object.
There is this difference, however, between the two kinds of petitions which we have mentioned. When we pray for the kingdom of God and the sanctification of his name, our eyes ought to be directed upwards, so as to lose sight of ourselves, and to be fixed on God alone. We then come down to ourselves, and connect with those former petitions, which look to God alone, solicitude about our own salvation. Though the forgiveness of sins is to be preferred to food, (438) as far as the soul is more valuable than the body, yet our Lord commenced with bread and the supports of an earthly life, that from such a beginning he might carry us higher. We do not ask that our daily bread may be given to us before we ask that we may be reconciled to God, as if the perishing food of the belly were to be considered more valuable than the eternal salvation of the soul: but we do so that we may ascend, as it were by steps, from earth to heaven. Since God condescends to nourish our bodies, there can be no doubt whatever, that he is far more careful of our spiritual life. This kind and gentle manner of treating us raises our confidence higher.
Some are of opinion, that τὸν ἄζτον ἡμῶν ἐπιούσιον means our supersubstantial bread This is exceedingly absurd. The reason assigned by Erasmus is not only frivolous, but inconsistent with piety. He reckons it improbable that, when we come into the presence of God, Christ should enjoin us to make mention of food. As if this manner of instruction were not to be found in every part of Scripture, to lead us to the expectation of heavenly blessings, by giving us a taste of temporal blessings. It is indeed the true proof of our faith, when we ask nothing but from God, and not only acknowledge him to be the only fountain of all blessings, but feel that his fatherly kindness extends to the smallest matters, so that he does not disdain to take care even of our flesh.
That Christ speaks here of bodily food may easily be inferred: first, because otherwise the prayer would be defective and incomplete. We are enjoined, in many passages, to throw all our cares into the bosom of God, and he graciously promises, that “ he will withhold from us no good thing,” (Psalms 84:11.) In a perfect rule of prayer, therefore, some direction must be laid down as to the innumerable wants of the present life. Besides, the word σήμερον , today, means that we are to ask from God no more than is necessary for the day: (439) for there is no doubt, that he intended to restrain and guide our desire of earthly food, to which we are all immoderately addicted. Again, a very frequent Synecdoche occurs in the word bread, under which the Hebrews include every description of food. But here it has a still more extensive meaning: for we ask not only that the hand of God may supply us with food, but that we may receive all that is necessary for the present life.
The meaning is now obvious. We are first commanded to pray, that God would protect and cherish the life which he has given to us in the world, and, as we need many supports, that he would supply us with every thing that he knows to be needful. Now, as the kindness of God flows in uninterrupted succession to feed us, the bread which he bestows is called ἐπιούσιος, that is, continual: (440) for so it may be rendered. This word suggests to us such a petition as the following: “O Lord, since our life needs every day new supplies, may it please thee to grant them to us without interruption.” The adverb today, as I said a little ago, is added to restrain our excessive desire, and to teach us, that we depend every moment on the kindness of God, and ought to be content with that portion which he gives us, to use a common expression, “from day to day.”
But here an objection may be urged. It is certain, that Christ has given a rule for prayer, which belongs equally to all the godly. Now, some of their number are rich men, who have their yearly produce laid up in store. Why does he command them to ask what they have at home, and to ask every day those things of which they have an abundant supply for a year? The reply is easy. These words remind us that, unless God feed us daily, the largest accumulation of the necessaries of life will be of no avail. Though we may have abundance of corn, and wine, and every thing else, unless they are watered by the secret blessing of God, they will suddenly vanish, or we will be deprived of the use of them, or they will lose their natural power to support us, so that we shall famish in the midst of plenty. There is therefore no reason to wonder, if Christ invites the rich and poor indiscriminately to apply to their Heavenly Father for the supply of their wants. No man will sincerely offer such a prayer as this, unless he has learned, by the example of the Apostle Paul, “to be full and to be hungry, to abound and to suffer need,” (Philippians 4:12,) to endure patiently his poverty or his humble condition, and not to be intoxicated by a false confidence in his abundance.
Does any one inquire, why we ask that bread to be given to us, which we call OUR bread? I answer: It is so called, not because it belongs to us by right, but because the fatherly kindness of God has set it apart for our use. It becomes ours, because our Heavenly Father freely bestows it on us for the supply of our necessities. The fields must, no doubt, be cultivated, labor must be bestowed on gathering the fruits of the earth, and every man must submit to the toil of his calling, in order to procure food. But all this does not hinder us from being fed by the undeserved kindness of God, without which men might waste their strength to no purpose. We are thus taught, that what we seem to have acquired by our own industry is his gift. We may likewise infer from this word, that, if we wish God to feed us, we must not take what belongs to others: for all who have been taught of God, (John 6:45,) whenever they employ this form of prayer, make a declaration that they desire nothing but what is their own.
(437) “ Je l’ay ainsi divisee par ci devant pour enseigner plus familierement.”
(438) “ Combien que la remission des pechez est bien a preferer a la nourriteurde cette vie.” — “though the forgiveness of sins is greatly to be preferred to the nourishment of this life.”
(439) “ Sinon au pris que le jour vient l’un apres l’autre;” — “only as far as one day comes after another.”
(440) “ Superveniens;” — “ survenant, ou venant par chacun jour;”— “succeeding, or coming by each day.” We subjoin an extract from the Dissertations of Witsius on the Lord‘s Prayer. After mentioning several views of Commentators on this petition, he says: This great variety of expositions has been principally occasioned by the Greek word ἐπιούσιος. That word occurs nowhere else in Scripture, and the most learned men have been unable to discover it in any profane writings. As it is not known to what Hebrew word employed by our Lord it corresponds, it is not surprising that different persons should have assigned to it different acceptations. — I shall not now enter into a critical examination of the very numerous expositions of that word which have been given by learned men. An exposition more copious and learned than any that had previously appeared, has been given by a very celebrated and learned man, JOHN MARCK, formerly my much esteemed colleague in the University of Friesland. It forms a part of his Juvenile Dissertations, as he is pleased to style them, but which contain much profound wisdom. The simplest and most probable of the various etymologies, I have always thought, is that which supposes ἐπιόσιος to be compounded of ἐπὶ and οὐσί α , as περιούσιος is compounded of περὶ and οὐσία The analogy of composition of such words presents no difficulty: for it does not require that the ι in the word ἐπὶ shall be dropped before a vowel. This is proved by the words ἐπιεικὴς, ἐπιόγδοος, ἐπιόρκος, ἐπιόπτομαι, ἐπιοῦρος, and many of the same form. This derivation being granted, which has nothing unusual or anomalous, considerable progress has been made in the investigation of the subject. For as τὸ περιούσιον signifies what is more than enough, and beyond what the preservation of existence requires, so τὸ ἐπιούσιον signifies what is enough. Such is the meaning assigned to it by the ancient Greek writers, who were deeply skilled in their own language. “ ́̓Αρτου ἐπιούσιον, (says Chrysostom, Hom. 30, Ton. 5.) τουτέστιν ἐπὶ τὴν οὐσίαν τοῦ σώματος διαζαίνοντα, καὶ συγκρατὢσαι ταύτην δυνάμενον, — “that is, what passes to the substance of the body, and is able to support it.” Ζητεῖν προσετάχθημεν , (says Gregory Nyssen,) τὸ πρὸν τὴν συντήρησιν ἐξαρκοῦν τὢν σωματικὢν οὐσίαν “We have been commanded to seek what is sufficient for the support of the bodily existence.” Basil explains it to be τὸν πρὸς τὴν ἐφήμερον ζωὴν τὢ οὐσία ἡμῶν χρησιμεύοντα, “what is useful to our existence for daily life.” (After referring to Suiceri Thesaurus, and quoting from Cyril of Alexandria and from Theodoret, he concludes ἄρτον ἐπιούσιον to be equivalent to the phrase used by the Apostle James, (James 2:15,) τὴν ἐφήμερον τροφὴν , (daily food ) — Bibli ca1 Cabinet, vol. 24, pp. 266, 272-274. — Ed.
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Matthew 6:11". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/matthew-6.html. 1840-57.
Tonight let's take a look at Matthew, chapter six. We are in the section of the book of Matthew that is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount because it was delivered to the disciples of Jesus on the mountainside there above the Sea of Galilee. "Seeing the multitudes, he went into a mountain: and he was set, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth and he taught them, saying," ( Matthew 5:1-2 ).
So the first thing we note is that this Sermon on the Mount is not for general world consumption. It is not a system of laws and all that the world should inaugurate or can inaugurate. The Sermon on the Mount is to the disciples of Jesus Christ, and it is only those who have been described in the first part of the sermon that can really put these things into practice and that only through the power of the Holy Spirit.
And so there is, first of all, a description of the person of which Jesus is speaking and that description comes in the form of the Beatitudes as Jesus describes the person to whom the sermon is applicable: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, Blessed are they that mourn, Blessed are the meek, Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, Blessed are the merciful, Blessed are the pure in heart, Blessed are the peacemakers"( Matthew 5:3-9 ). These are the children of God. These are the disciples of Jesus Christ. These are the characteristics of the disciples of Jesus Christ.
And then Jesus tells them what the reaction of the world will be towards them. And that is of persecution, not understanding them, reviling them, saying of all manner of evil against them falsely. But their response to the world's reviling is to be rejoicing and to be exceeding glad. And then he tells them the effect that they are to have upon the earth; ye are the salt or the preserving influence in a corrupting society. You are the light in the darkness. You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth.
And then Jesus gets into an area that surely was mind-boggling to each of the disciples as he begins to talk to them concerning the law and it's relationship to the believer. And he declares to them that he did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill the law. But then that mind-boggling statement when Jesus said to his disciples, "Except your righteousness exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven." ( Matthew 5:20 ) The scribes and the Pharisees spent their entire life trying to keep every little part of the law. And so to have Jesus make this kind of a statement, immediately the first reaction I could be would just be that of giving up. Well that's it. I've had it. There's no sense trying to go any further. There's no way I can be more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees.
And then Jesus went on to explain what he meant, for he began to give them five illustrations of the law as it was being taught and practiced by the scribes and the Pharisees. And he contrasted that with the law as it was intended when it was first given by God.
And the basic difference between the way the law was being practiced and taught by the Pharisees, and the way the law was intended by God in each case was that the Pharisees were teaching and practicing the law in a strict outward observance. They were keeping the law from an outward aspect but the way God intended was spiritual and not understand the law to be spiritual and governing my spirit, my attitude. They developed a whole wrong reaction to the law. As they looked at the law and their outward fulfillment of the requirements of the law, they felt very self-satisfied, very self-righteous and very proud and judgmental against all other men.
Jesus aptly described the attitude of the Pharisee when he said the Pharisee went into the temple to pray and he said, "Oh God, I thank you that I'm not like other men. I'm not an extortioner or I'm a blasphemer but I pay my tithes and I do this and I do that"( Luke 18:11 ). And he is perfectly describing the attitude that the Pharisee had as far as the law was concerned; the very smug, self-righteous attitude. But the law was not given by God to make men smug and self-righteous. The law was given by God to reveal to man the exceeding sinfulness of sin and to make the whole world guilty before God.
So their interpreting of the law was totally wrong and it was creating a completely wrong reaction on their part to the law. Rather than to make them feel guilty sinners before God and cry out "Oh God have mercy on me a sinner," because of the way they interpreted it they were able to fulfill the law. But the law being spiritual, though they may have fulfilled the outer or outward aspects, yet the spiritual aspects they had totally disobeyed.
So in the contrast that Jesus was giving, the way that the law was being taught; "You heard that it hath been said Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever kills is in danger of judgement: But I say unto you, whosoever hates his brother"( Matthew 5:22 ). You see, it's the hatred from which murder comes. And you can be guilty of the law, "thou shalt not murder" if you have hatred in your heart against your brother. If you consider your brother a worthless fellow you've destroyed him in your own mind. He's worth nothing, you know, but your mind violated the law "thou shalt not murder".
"Thou shalt not commit adultery". Well, Jesus said look that isn't just the physical act. If you're looking at a woman and you desire her, then you've committed adultery already in your heart. The law was intended to make us guilty before God.
And as Paul the apostle said you know there was a time when he thought that, as far as the law was concerned he was perfect, he wrote to the Philippians and he said, "Concerning the righteousness which is the law" ( Philippians 3:6 ). Man I had it, I had it made. But writing to the Romans he said, "I did not know that to desire or to covet was wrong except the law said, Thou shalt not covet" ( Romans 7:7 ). So when I came to the realization that the law was governing the desires, hey, sin revived and I died. In other words, it killed me. It condemned me to death. I was guilty. Now he thought he wasn't guilty for so long but when he realized that the law was spiritual and I am carnal, hey I have failed.
And that's basically what Jesus is showing, is that the law is spiritual. And thus man cannot and has not fulfilled the law of God, and thus your righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees if you're gonna enter the kingdom of heaven. But how can your righteousness exceed the scribes and the Pharisees? Well, theirs was a righteousness of works and if you are trying to achieve a righteousness by works, there's no way you're going to exceed them. They've outworked you a long time ago. But God has established another basis for righteousness and that is the righteousness that God imparts or God accounts to a man by that man's faith in the finished work of God. By a man's faith in Jesus Christ, God accounts his faith for righteousness.
And Paul said, "I gladly threw over that righteousness that I once had which was of the law. Those things which were gained to me under the law I counted loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ for whom I suffered the loss of all things and do count them but refuse that I may know him and to be found in him; not having my own righteousness which is of the law but the righteousness which is through faith"( Philippians 3:8-9 ).
So this new relationship with God: righteous by the faith and by believing in Jesus Christ and God having imparted to me then that, or God accounting to me righteousness; thereby, my righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees because God has imparted to me the righteousness of Jesus Christ, exceeding that of the scribes and Pharisees. And therein is my only hope of entering into the kingdom of heaven: my faith in God's finished work through Jesus Christ in achieving for me that righteous standing before God.
Now, we get into chapter six and here Jesus, first of all, enunciates a principle, and as is the method of great teachers, there is statement of the principle and then the illustration and amplification of that principle. The principle is this:
Take heed to yourself, be careful that you do not your righteous deeds ( Matthew 6:1 )
The alms being the righteous acts.
before men, to be seen of men( Matthew 6:1 ):
Now he's talking here about the motives for which you do things, for which you do your righteous things. Make sure that the motive by which you are prompted to do these things does not come from your desire to be recognized and noted by men. Take heed that you do not your righteous act to be seen of men.
The Bible tells us that we are all going to stand before the judgement seat of Christ and our works are going to be judged of what sort they are. Our works will be judged actually by the motives behind the work; what motivated me to do it. And if my motivations in doing my righteous deeds are wrong, than those deeds are worthless and they will be burned and consumed as wood, hay and stubble. For all of our works will be tried by fire. Many of our works that we have done for the Lord will just be consumed. They'll go up in smoke. Now, those things which I've done out of a pure heart and pure motive before God, those that remain the testing of fire, I'll receive a reward for them. But all of our works are to be judged of what sort or what motivation is behind the works.
Now Paul the apostle speaks of that which motivated him, he said, "For the love of Christ constrains me" ( 2 Corinthians 5:14 ). And really love is the greatest motivator for Christian service and the only valid motivator for Christian service.
I can be doing a lot of wonderful things but if I don't do it in love, they become worthless. You see, I can even sell everything that I have, distribute all of the profit to the poor, but I can do it in such a way that I call the newspaper and say, "Hey send a reporter out here. I got my house for sale and I'm going to give everything to the poor". And then once I sold my house, I put up a big sign, you know, "Chuck's relief program", and I invite all the poor in and all the photographers and everything else and I start giving out, you know, all of my goods and I feed the poor and I stand there smiling for the photographers. Channel seven and channel five come out you know, and they take their pictures and I get my face in. This is wonderful. Look what this man has done. Oh how glorious, he sold everything and gave to the poor. But you see my motive was to get my smiling face before the public and have everybody say, "Oh, isn't that marvelous". That's my reward, everybody is saying "Oh isn't that marvelous" and I better listen carefully and tune in on that "Oh isn't that grand?" because that's all the reward I'm gonna get.
And when I come up before God and stand before God and give him that Pepsident smile, you know, that I gave to the TV cameras, you know. Pin it on me Lord, I'm ready now to receive. And he looks at the account and he says, "Well, I don't see anything here, Chuck". I say, "Wait a minute Lord. What do you mean you don't see anything? Didn't you watch channel seven? Didn't you hear those people raving about how marvelous I was?" "Oh yes I remember. That was your reward".
And that's basically what Jesus is saying here. Now be careful what your motive is. Don't do things in such a way as to draw attention to yourself. That is, to draw the praise of people and the applause of the crowd. For if that is what's behind it and you're doing it in such a way as to attract attention to your good works, then the attention that you've attracted is all the reward you're gonna get. So take head that you don't do your righteous act to be seen of men, before men to be seen of them.
Now, there is a balance here because earlier Jesus said, "Ye are the light of the world" ( Matthew 5:14 ) and you can't hide a light. Therefore what you do is going to be seen; it's going to be noticed. You can't hide the light. You're the light of the world, but "let your light so shine before men that when they see your good works they glorify your Father which is in heaven" ( Matthew 5:16 ). Now that's not always easy to do, but we are to seek to do those good works in such a way that when people see what we are doing, they won't be glorifying us but they'll be glorifying God. And that has to be of course, the motive behind it all to bring glory to God because I love God. I want to serve God. I'm doing it for him, that is the motive that God will honor. But if my motive is to receive glory and praise and credit for man, then the glory, praise and credit that I receive is my reward.
Now, there are those who say that we should not be interested in rewards, that we should be good just for goodness sake and that's, well that's again a very magnanimous thing to say. And people usually say that in order that they might appear to be very magnanimous, and thus they have their reward when they have said it, because people say, "Oh, isn't that marvelous? What pure heart he has. Oh, what a pure motive" you know. "He doesn't want any reward, he just wants to be good because he's good. Oh that's sweet" you know. That's sickly and it's unscriptural.
Jesus speaks many times here about rewards and how that we should be concerned for rewards, those rewards that come from our heavenly Father. So there is a place of reward in the Christian experience. Now, salvation is not a reward. Salvation is a gift of God through his grace towards us in Christ Jesus. And salvation is something that God gives to me through my faith in Jesus Christ, and it's nothing to do with my works or my effort or anything else. It only has to do with my simply believing on Jesus Christ and God gives to me that glorious gift of eternal life. God doesn't reward me with eternal life; that is a gift of God. I don't earn eternal life, I can't work for eternal life; it's a gift of God and not of works lest any man should boast.
But, as a child of God, there are responsibilities that God places upon me. There are opportunities that God gives me of serving him. And I will stand before God and I will be rewarded according to my faithfulness in the fulfilling of those obligations and responsibilities that God has placed before me while I am here. And so it is proper for me to desire that reward from God and to seek after that reward from God.
Now, Jesus said if you do your righteousness before men to be seen of men, basically you have your reward in the fact that men see what you're doing and acknowledge it and they praise you for it. And then Jesus gives three illustrations to this basic principle as he deals with the three basic righteous things that men do. And that is the giving of their alms, their prayer and the mortifying of their flesh. And there is a right way and there is a wrong way to do each of these things. There's a right way to give to God; there's a wrong way to give to God. You give the wrong way and you've received your reward. You give the right way and God will reward you. And so it all depends on where and from what source you want your rewards. You want your reward from God or you want your reward from man?
Now there are a lot of people who are satisfied and desire the reward of man. In a few days, the fourth of July, we're going to see tremendous pyrotechnic displays and these skyrockets are, they're getting more exotic every year. And as you watch these bursts of colors in the air, you hear the boom and you see all of these colors bursting out and these little things squirreling away and everybody says, "Oh". You're sitting there in the Anaheim stadium, perhaps, and this thing goes off and everybody "Ah" you know. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Big flash, big burst, everybody's awing over it, but oh, it burns out so rapidly. You know it's just for a moment, boom; it's gone.
So the glory of the world, it's like a skyrocket. You know, you come on the world seen and we've watched it, you've lived long enough to see those who came on the world scene and everybody say "Ah, oh" and a big flash, but oh what a quick burnout. Now they're gone. They're being replaced by the new flashing stars. And the glory of the world is so shallow; it passes so rapidly.
But you know, up there in the sky, there are trillion displays of fire and glory. Those stars, oh, I tell ya; if you could just look at them closely enough you'd see fantastic, spectacular displays of glory and beauty and they just keep going on and on and on. And long after the skyrockets have expended their glory and fallen in ashes to the ground, the stars are still there.
Daniel said, "And they who are wise will lead many to righteousness and they shall shine as the stars forever and ever"( Daniel 12:3 ). And, it all depends on which sky you want to shine. You can do your works before man in such a way that everybody says, "Ah, oh" you know, big flash, everybody's all excited and, and everybody's going around saying "Oh, did you know what he did? Oh, isn't that wonderful? Oh, he's so glorious" you know. You're soon ashes, everybody's forgotten and they're looking for the next flash. Or you can do it in such a way that forever in God's kingdom shinning in that glory of his splendor and his beauty.
So, when you give, don't sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have the glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward ( Matthew 6:2 ).
Now, I don't know if Jesus is exaggerating here or not. I have never really heard of anybody hiring a band to go before them when they are carrying their gift to church, you know, ready to drop your money in the offering and have the guy stand up and give a trumpet fanfare, you know, and so you come forward and place your gift in.
However, however, I have seen services where the evangelist will say; "Now God has revealed to me ye, that there are fifteen people here tonight that are going to give a thousand dollars to my ministry. Bless God. Hallelujah. I want you fifteen that God is speaking to your heart now to give that thousand dollars. I want you to stand to your feet" you know. And they harangue and they harass and they go until, "Praise God, look there's a brother over there. Oh, praise God brother, hallelujah". And the guy's standing there holding up his check, you know, and the evangelist runs back and gets it because I'll personally receive, you know. I'll personally take it out of your hand, you know. Greedy soul.
Now, as far as God is concerned, you will receive no reward from God for that thousand-dollar offering that you just gave. You already have your reward because, in a sense, you've sounded a trumpet. You've made a big public display out of your giving and everybody knows how generous you were. You stood to your feet; you received the applause of the people. Just drink it in because that's all the reward you're gonna get. Now to me, it is indeed sad and tragic that there are many people who actually encourage people to give with that kind of motivation because even in their receiving the peoples funds, using that as the motivator behind it, they have robbed those people from the reward that God would give them for the gifts that they have made. And I hold the evangelists responsible. They should know better. Sheep are often dumb and they don't know any better, but those people who are receiving money that way should know better and they are responsible. The Lord said you shouldn't be giving with a fanfare in a way to be seen of men. Not to make a parade, not to make a big to do over what you have given to God.
But when you give your alms, really, just don't even let your right hand know what your left hand is doing ( Matthew 6:3 ):
Just give. Don't make a big deal over it
That your alms may be in secret: and your Father which sees in secret shall reward thee openly ( Matthew 6:4 ).
So in our giving is to be simple, with simplicity. Our giving to God, Paul tells us in the Corinthian epistle, is never to be out of constraint or pressure. We should never feel pressured to give to God. God doesn't want people to give to him motivated by pressure. Oh here's the finance committee coming to the door and they're going to get our annual pledge. Oh no. What are we gonna just say this time, you know. And of course I'm under the pressure.
Here are these important people; there's the banker there and there's the attorney and here's my doctor, you know and they're sitting there and I'm on the hot seat because I've gotta make my pledge to the church for the year. And these guys are all gonna know what I'm gonna pledge. And I don't want to look like a skinny skinflint. And so, what am I gonna do, you know. So I feel the pressure and I say, "Well, this year I think we're gonna try and give a thousand dollars to the church". And I here my banker sort of ahem, hum, hmm, a thousand dollars. Well, you know we're really wanting to add a few programs to the church this year so we really need -- well, maybe I can give twelve hundred, you know.
So then comes the first month and I owe a hundred bucks and oh no, I can't afford this hundred dollars. Oh, but I got to do it. I promised I'd do it, you know. And every month I find myself gritting and struggling over trying to make my pledge, and I'm griping about it and I'm upset about it. Hey, God doesn't appreciate anything given to him that you gripe about. You'd be much better off not to give than to give and gripe. Let them think that you're tight, let them think that you're not benevolent, let them think what they want, but don't give to God out of pressure.
Paul said, "Therefore, as everyone is purposed in his own heart so let him set it aside and let him give hilariously because God loves a hilarious giver"( 2 Corinthians 9:7 ). Whatever you can give to God hilariously, give. What you can't give to God hilariously, keep. God doesn't want it and God doesn't need it. And thus, the giving to God should always be a personal matter between the Lord and our family and it is something that we do because we love the Lord and we're motivated by our love for him, but we're not looking for credit from man or not looking to receive from man great accolades because of our generosity and giving to God.
Now, the question of the tithe envelopes then. This is a necessity that is laid upon us by the U.S. Government The Internal Revenue Services, just one of the other evils that come from the IRS. A, I don't believe that we should pay more taxes than what are due. I think we should pay what are due but I don't think we should pay anymore than our due. And thus, for the purposes of the IRS we make out checks or we fill out an envelope that we might keep a record in case the IRS questions concerning your giving. But those files are strictly confidential. They are something that is between you and the Lord. And those are things that we only send you, your receipt at the end of the year and it is something that only you and the Lord know. I don't even know. I don't bother to go through those files. I'm not concerned. It's something between you and God and it's a personal thing. And we want to keep the giving just as personal as possible.
And so your giving, let it be with simplicity, let it be out of a cheerful heart and let it be motivated by your love for the Lord and not your desire to be seen by men.
Then when you pray ( Matthew 6:5 ),
There's a wrong and a right way to pray.
Now don't be as the hypocrites: for they love to pray standing in the synagogue and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of man. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward ( Matthew 6:5 ).
Now prayer was a very important thing in the life of the Jew. Twice a day he had to say the Shima, which comprised of three sections of the Old Testament scriptures beginning with Deuteronomy six there, "The Lord our God is one Lord and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy might, with all thy strength". And he had to say that, the first thing in the morning and he had to say it the last thing at night. He was to say it before nine o'clock in the morning and he was to say it before nine o'clock in the evening but twice a day he would say the Shima.
Then there was the second form of prayers, the Shiminoph. The Shiminoph was actually eighteen separate prayers, later on they added the nineteenth but they kept the word shiminoph, eighteen. And there were eighteen prayers that they would memorize as a child and they had to say three times a day; nine o'clock in the morning, twelve at noon and three o'clock in the afternoon.
Now because they had to say these same prayers every day, morning, afternoon and evening, it became a custom, as anything that you know we do by custom. It became something that, to many of them, was totally meaningless. I mean, it's a duty. I've gotta do it so you race through these eighteen prayers saying them just as rapidly as you can. You know, it's a duty. I gotta perform, you know, it's nine o'clock and okay, here we go, you know, and you race through the eighteen prayers. And then it's twelve o'clock; time to do it again and you race through the same eighteen prayers.
Now, with that as a background, you see, there were those who would time themselves so that when nine o'clock in the morning came they would be in a very conspicuous place on the street corner. Nine o'clock, oops, you know, and prayer shawl comes on, schwoop, schwoop, wrap themselves up and, and so they go through the eighteen prayers. And everybody says, oh ain't that wonderful? He stops right in the middle of his busy day right there in the street corner going through his eighteen prayers. Oh, he must be spiritual.
And it is possible that as you're going through your eighteen prayers you're thinking, oh, I know they're all watching me and they know how spiritual I am. They know that I'm a holy man. Isn't this glorious, you know, that everybody knows how righteous I am. Hmm, Lord I thank you, you know.
Now anything that we do repeat over and over again, the same words can easily become meaningless. You know, we set the little group patterns in our brain and all we have to do is tune in to that particular channel and set the, push the button and you can just say it without even thinking. "Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take" you know. I mean it; you push the button and it goes. It's like pulling the string on little dollies. I mean it's just something that's programmed in, you know. "God is great, God is good, we thank you Father for our food" you know. And you can mouth these words without even--you can be thinking about something else entirely as you're saying these words. I don't have to be thinking about what I say because I can just say these words by rote. And thus they become empty repetition of words. So first of all when I pray, I'm not to seek to get in some conspicuous place so everybody will see that I am a man of prayer.
I heard the reputation of a minister. Everybody said oh, he's such a man of prayer. And I was anxious to meet this fellow because I'd heard his reputation of being a man of prayer. And so it happened that I was at a summer camp speaking and he was also at that same summer camp. And I found out how he got his reputation as a man of prayer. Every morning at six o'clock down in the chapel, you could hear this fellow praying; all over camp you can hear him praying. And from six to seven you could hear him praying down there in the chapel, crying out to the Lord.
And I often wondered does God want us to have a reputation of a man of prayer? Is it not better to
go into the closet, and shut the door, and pray to the Father who sees in secret; and the Father who sees in secret then will be the one who rewards us ( Matthew 6:6 ).
I would not be surprised, but what the reward that that man gets from his prayer life is not the fact that he has a tremendous reputation of being a man of prayer. And he loves that reputation and he's doing everything to keep that reputation alive by praying in such a way that everybody is noticing the fact that he is praying.
Now we've got to be careful about motivation. Even in prayer, what I pray for is tested by motivation. James said, "You have not because you ask not" and then he added, "And you ask and receive not because you ask amiss that you might consume it on your own lusts" ( James 4:3 ). In other words, it's possible for me to even have the wrong motivation for praying what I'm praying for. Motivation is such an important thing. That's why the Bible said, "Let every man examine himself, for if we will judge ourselves we will not be judged of God" ( 1 Corinthians 11:28 , 1 Corinthians 11:31 ). And it's good to examine, "Why did I do that?"
Now I do not always know. It's possible for me to deceive myself. And David, realizing the possibility of deceiving himself concerning his own personal motivations said Lord, "You have searched me. You know me. You know my down sittings, my uprisings. You understand my thoughts in their origins" he said, "such knowledge is too great for me. I cannot attain it. I really don't know myself Lord". And so he concludes that Psalm by saying, "Search me O God and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts and see if there be some wicked way in me" ( Psalms 139:23 ).
O God you search me, God you show me, God you reveal what is in my heart because I can be deceiving myself. But I'm not deceiving God, for he searches the hearts, the reins. He knows what are the motives behind everything I do. And God knows I don't want to waste my time. If I'm gonna do it, I want to be doing it out of the right motivation and I want to receive the rewards from the Lord for doing it.
And so in our prayers, be careful that we do not seek to pray drawing attention to ourselves or praying to impress people that they might be seen of men. The idea behind it is they're trying to impress people. Be careful that you don't pray to impress people. Prayer is not intended to impress people; it's intended to impress God. "Go into your closet, shut the door. Your Father which sees in secret will reward you openly".
The second negative is
Don't use the vain repetitions ( Matthew 6:7 ),
As they were doing in those days
thinking that you'll be heard for your much speaking ( Matthew 6:7 ).
It isn't the length of prayer nor is it the time or the amount of time spent in prayer that makes prayer valid. Those prayers that are recorded in the Bible are all, have been very short. So many times we think that prayer doesn't really become effective until we've been on our knees for an hour; not so. There's no sense in just filling up the time with meaningless little stereotype phrases when I'm talking to God. When you come in to God sit down, declare your business to God, declare your heart; open it to him, lay it out before him and be brief, be concise.
Because the Lord knows what you have need of, before you ever ask him ( Matthew 6:8 ).
Prayer's not information time where I'm now gonna inform you God of everything that's gone wrong in my life today. God knows everything that's gone wrong. I don't have to rehearse it for him nor do I have to go over a long list of my needs. God knows what I have need of before I ever ask him. And so don't use vain repetitions just to fill up time. The heathen think that they're gonna be heard for their much speaking, but it isn't the much speaking.
Now Jesus then gave to us a model prayer. It is tragic that many people have taken this model prayer and use it in vain repetition. And so they say this model prayer over and over again and they are encouraged many times to do so, as far as their penance is concerned, you know, so many hail Mary's and so many Our Father's, which are nothing but vain repetition. The very thing that Jesus spoke against: thinking that you'll be heard for your much speaking. No, you won't.
And just to repeat the Lord's prayer out of memory really has no value. There's tremendous value if you'll take it very slowly, phrase by phrase and really think upon it and meditate upon it. But basically, he's giving to us a model prayer. And as he gives to us the model prayer - first of all, prayer always is dependent upon relationship, and thus it is significant that the prayer opens expressing relationship,
Our Father ( Matthew 6:9 )
And if he is not your Father then you have no right to call on Him.
The blind man said to the Pharisees when they were challenging him on how he was healed. He said "Well this man came and he laid his hands on me and I can see". Well what did he do? "Well, I told ya." And they said, "Well, as far as the man... " they said, "Give this glory to God. As far as this man we don't know anything about him"( John 9:15 , John 9:24 ). I said ain't that a marvelous thing? Here's someone you don't know anything about and he's opening the eyes of the blind. He's doing the work of the Messiah. And they got angry at the man. The man says, hey, we know that God doesn't hear, you know, the prayers of sinners. He must be doing something right if God's answering his prayers.
Now, notice that that isn't necessarily Biblical truth. This is the statement of a blind man to the Pharisees because in reality God does hear the prayer of sinners. One prayer at least, "God be merciful to me a sinner". Thank God he hears that prayer. And yet, David said "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord does not hear me when I pray". That's divine truth. "God's hand is not short that he cannot save, neither is his ear heavy that he cannot hear but your sin has separated between you and your God" that's divine truth. Sin separates a man from God. However, there is relationship involved in prayer. And that relationship is a child coming to the Father. And I'm a child of God through my faith in Jesus Christ. And so I can say, "Father".
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name ( Matthew 6:9 ).
The word "hallowed" could also be translated reverend. You know the Jews had a very high respect for the name of God. In fact, they had such a high respect for the name of God that they came to the place where they felt that their lips were unworthy to utter the name of God. Ultimately they came to the place where they thought that their minds were unworthy to even think of the name of God, to think it in their minds. So as the scribes, in copying the scriptures, would come to the name of God instead of writing the vowels they only wrote the consonance: YHVH. Try and pronounce that. Without the vowels you don't know how it is pronounced. And so to the present date we do not know how to pronounce the name of God.
But before the scribes would even write the YHVH in their manuscript, they would go in, take a bath, put on fresh clothes, take a new pen, dip it in fresh ink and then write those consonants YHVH. And imagine in a passage where you have the name of the Lord listed five or six times. Yet it became a little tradition among them that when they were copying they would always go and take this ritual bath and put on fresh clothes and then write those consonance YHVH. Now, whether or not the name was pronounced Jehovah or Yahweh, we're really not sure. Most scholars think that it was Yahweh. But the pronunciation of God's name has been lost as the result of this tradition among the Jews. But, oh, how highly did they esteem his name.
In the psalms it's the psalmist declared, "Holy and reverend is thy name"( Psalms 111:9 ). Here, basically, the same thing is being said in the Lord's prayer. Hallowed or reverend it be thy name. Now, where in the world men ever got the tradition of tacking reverend on the name of a man, I do not know. But I really do not consider myself as reverend Chuck Smith. I don't think there's anything reverend about the name Chuck. But it's unfortunate, you know, they start out and they say reverend Chuck Smith, and then you know they're trying to puff you up a little more and they say, "The reverend Chuck Smith". And then they try to puff you up a little more and they say, "The most reverend Chuck Smith" you know and "the most right reverend Chuck Smith". And you know they start adding all these titles to man. Oh how tragic, how sad. I really don't care for a title.
The name of the Lord is reverend; it's hallowed, but surely not the name of any man. Now a lot of people take the title in ignorance and I don't accept that. A lot of people in writing to me write "Dear reverend Smith" or "reverend Smith" or whatever and I just laugh and I know that they don't know me because I don't consider myself reverend at all. I do reverence God and I reverence his name but there's nothing reverend about my name. And so I don't make a big deal over it but I mean it's just something that you know, it's one of those things that people started and they carry on. It's the exalting of man and I don't believe in the exalting of man. I believe, you know, that no flesh should glory in his sight. Let's exalt the Lord. Hold his name reverend and hallowed but let's not be exalting man. For he that exalts himself, the Lord will abase.
So, recognition is next. First of all, relationship; "Our Father". Recognition. "Which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name". Holy and reverend is thy name. I'm talking now to God who has created the universe. He said to Jeremiah, "Behold I am the Lord. Is there anything too hard for me?"( Jeremiah 32:27 ) I need to remember that when I pray because so often when I pray, I carry my own limitations in. This thing is too tough for me, it's too much for me; I can't handle it. And I'm prone many times to carry that sense of defeat or overwhelmed by the problem into my prayer life with God as though it's overwhelmed me. Surely it's gonna overwhelm God.
And so recognition of the one that I'm talking to is so important in prayer. We are told in Hebrews, "For he that cometh unto God must believe that he is"( Hebrews 11:6 ). That he is what? That he is the eternal God who sees as Jesus said, who knows as Jesus said, who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all I ask of God.
Now, "Hallowed it be thy name" is actually a petition. It's praying that God's name be reverenced and held in high esteem or hallowed by men.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven ( Matthew 6:10 ).
Two more petitions, but the first three petitions all relate to God. They do not relate to me. In prayer, my primary thrust in prayer should be that desire to get God's will accomplished. It is wrong to think of prayer as an agency by which I can get my wishes fulfilled. God never intended prayer to be a means by which my wishes can be granted. God intended prayer as a means whereby I might work in cooperation with him in getting his will done on this rebellious planet earth. And true prayer begins with God. The purpose and the plan of God and prayer is never intended as changing the purposes of God.
I believe that every right thing that I have ever prayed for and received, God had already purposed and planned to give it to me before I ever prayed. You say then why pray? Because God has made me a free moral agent. God has given me the capacity of choice and God honors my choice and will not violate my free will. God will only do for me what I am willing for Him to do for me and what I allow Him to do for me. Therefore, prayer is opening the door to God to do the things for me that he was planning and wanting to do all the while but would not do against my will.
Jesus said to his disciples in John the fifteenth chapter "Now you have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should be my disciples and that you should bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever you ask the Father in my name, he may [not shall] he may give it to you." ( John 15:16 ) God wants to give it to you, God wants to do for you but He will not cross or violate your free will which he gave to you. But prayer opens the door then for God to do for you what he's been wanting to do the whole time but will not violate or cross your will to do it.
So prayer begins with God, the purposes of God. And the real thrust of prayer is not my will be done --and this is the fallacy of these teachers today who have become so popular on television and in the full gospel circle. And that's the tragedy of the full gospel circles is the lack of theological depth. The people are so shallow they are chasing after every new wind of doctrine. It's like cunning of men who are going around with some new concept and everybody begins to traipse after them. And now it's the old, you know, thing that prayer is you know, your grabbing the scepter and ruling the world. You demand that God do it, you know, and you insist and you press and you pray and you believe and God's gotta do whatever you ask him to do. Not so.
God is no little genie that has to fulfill your wishes. He is the sovereign Lord of the universe and in control of the universe. And let me say that I thank God for all of my unanswered prayers. I would've had this world in a big mess had God answered all my prayers because I was praying about things about which I really did not fully understand because I could only see partially. And I was sure that I had full knowledge but only had partial knowledge. And I was praying according to my partial knowledge and when I got full knowledge I said, "Whoa, thank God he didn't answer that one. Boy what a mess I'd have been in" you know. Let God be sovereign, let God be God. Honor him as God and realize that the real thrust of prayer is not to fulfill my wishes but is to get his will done; "Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven."
Yes I do have needs and yes it is proper and right that I petition God for my own needs. And so, we have these petitions that deal with our own needs.
Give us this day our daily bread ( Matthew 6:11 ).
Those provisions that are so essential for life and the maintenance of life.
Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors ( Matthew 6:12 ).
And forgiveness is such an important thing. Notice, the first one deals with the present. It's my present needs, give us this day. The second one deals with the past, the forgiveness. That's one of the things that I've done wrong up to this moment. Forgive us our debts, that deals with past; and then
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one ( Matthew 6:13 ):
That's in the future. God, take over the reigns and guide my life through the future. So in these petitions they deal with the past, the present the future. They deal with my provisions, with my forgiveness, with my guidance and with my deliverance, these personal petitions. And those are the basic issues that I need to come to God for concerning my own personal life; the provisions, the forgiveness and the guidance and deliverance.
But then prayer goes back to God.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen ( Matthew 6:13 ).
Now, prayer actually takes three forms. Prayer is worship. Prayer is just that awareness and awe of the greatness and the glory of God. And this is an important part of prayer, just that worshiping the Lord for what he is. Not asking him for anything but just that worshiping God as I am aware and conscience of his greatness and of his glory and his power. It's that sense that you feel when you look up into a desert sky. Oh God is so great. Oh he's so vast. And just that awareness and consciousness and awe of that greatness of God. It's that sense that you get when you look at a beautiful flower and oh, He's so beautiful in his creative designs. It's that awe you get when you see a child born. Oh, he's so wise in his design of the life forms. Worship. But prayer is also a petition. In a narrow sense, the asking of God for my own needs. But in its third form, prayer is intercession. Where I am seeking then and petitioning God for the needs of the lost world around me.
And all three of these are brought forth in this model prayer for Jesus, "My kingdom come, My will be done on earth as it is in heaven" intercession for the kingdom. "Give us this day our daily bread" a petition for my own need. "Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever" that awe, the wonder and the glory and the greatness of God; the worship. Notice prayer begins with worship, ends with worship. Now we usually give petition first and then we move into intercession, but in the model prayer we have intercession first and then it moves into petition. I don't think the order is important but I think that all three forms should be followed when we pray. I think that we should spend time worshiping God. I think that we should spend time in intercessory prayer, and I think that we should spend time in the petitioning of God for our own individual needs.
Now it is interesting that in these various petitions that we make, that the petitions for forgiveness is predicated upon our forgiveness. "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" ( Matthew 6:12 ). And immediately there comes the question, is this then works? And does my forgiving another depend upon or does God forgiving me depend upon my forgiving another? And if so, then is forgiveness dependent upon works? And so you have a knotty theological problem. What does Jesus say?
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses ( Matthew 6:14-15 ).
Now, do you want me to change that? You want me to be responsible for changing the words of Jesus? You say, "But I don't understand". Wait a minute, he didn't call you to understand, he just called you to believe. And so I believe that it's very vital that we understand the importance of forgiveness and that we are to forgive not as a matter of mathematics as Peter thought. "Lord, how often shall I forgive my brother the same offense? Seven times?" and I'm sure that Peter thought he was growing in grace when he suggested seven times, that he can actually conceive of forgiving a guy the same thing for seven times. And Jesus said, "No Peter. Seventy times seven"( Matthew 18:21-22 ). Four hundred and ninety, aye, aye, aye Lord.
Now, forgiveness is not a matter of mathematics. Jesus figured he'd lose count before he got to four hundred and ninety and realize that forgiveness is just a matter of the spirit of the child of God. Having been forgiven so much, it is incumbent upon me to forgive. And Jesus gave an interesting illustration one time in which he uses, as he so often did, the ludicrous to illustrate his point.
There was a certain man who owed his master sixteen million dollars. And the master called him in and said, "Well you're time is up on this loan, pay me what you owe me" and this fella said, "Oh, I just don't have it to pay. I can't do it right now. Give me a little more time". The master said, "Oh forget it, just cancel the debt" and he crossed out his sixteen million-dollar debt. This servant went out and got a fellow servant that owed him twenty-five bucks and he took him by the throat and said, "All right, you pay me what you owe me". The guy said, "Oh my wife's been sick and I've had to pay the doctor bills. I don't have the money right now but just give me a little time and I'll pay ya". "Oh no, you've had all the time you're gonna get". And he calls you know, the sheriff and he gets thrown in the debtors prison.
Now the Lord of that servant heard what he did and he called him in and he said, "Um, how much did you owe me?" and he said, "sixteen million dollars". He said, "Did I not forgive your debt?" "Yup." "How is it then that I hear that you've had a fellow servant thrown into the debtors prison for a twenty-five dollar debt?" And he called the sheriff and he said, "Throw him in until he's paid the uttermost farthing" every last half penny. ( Matthew 18:23-34 )
And then again Jesus emphasized the fact that you have been forgiven so much by God, who are you to hold a debt against your brother? So having been forgiven we forget, and if we forgive then we are forgiven. If we don't forgive, Jesus said, we are not forgiven. I have no intention of modifying the statement of Jesus Christ. I just intend to follow it and to be forgiving and to forgive. God help me, that's against my nature. My own nature wants to get even. My own nature wants everything that's coming. My own nature just doesn't want to forgive.
Someone has taken a key and scratched a whole side of my car and I don't want to forgive that person, whoever they are. Someone took, stole two suits out of my car and they were dirty. I didn't even take them to the cleaners yet. And what they can do with a suit my size, I don't know but anyhow they ripped them off. I had them in the car ready to take them to the cleaners and I don't know who did it. Yet, you see, my own nature just doesn't want to forgive it. I'd like to get a hold of that person that scratched that side with a key. And yet thank God he's put in my heart that spirit of, oh well, it's all gonna burn, you know.
And there is a certain price that you've got to pay for people knowing you. And the more people know you, the more people hate you. You know percentage wise, there's a percentage of people are gonna hate you. And so the more exposure you have to people, the more enemies you're gonna create. And so I suppose someone saw the license "Calvary" and realized my car and said, "Awe you know, we'll fix him". Poor person, you know, that they would have that kind of hatred and bitterness that they would do malicious kinds of damage like that but, I've got to forgive. I can't, I can't let that bother me. I can't just let that, you know, boil inside because you know what it'll do? If I am just thinking of this and musing on this and just getting angrier on this and "boy uh oh" you know and this.
I have certain little glands that start producing chemicals that'll start eating me up inside, start destroying me inwardly. It's important, Jesus knew that it was important that we forgive, that we not be bitter, that we not hold these feelings of bitterness or animosity or anger within because Jesus knew the chemical system inside. And he knows the chemicals, the destructive chemicals that are created by my glands when I have these thoughts of bitterness or anger or revenge or whatever.
And so it's for your own good that you forgive that you're not holding in your mind some evil intent against someone who did you wrong way back when. It's tragic that many people have just destroyed themselves physically over unforgiving spirits, over bitterness that they have held. So forgive.
Now the third righteous action was that of fasting. And again, a right way and a wrong way.
Don't be 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. But when you fast, anoint your head, wash your face; that you appear not unto men to fast, but unto your Father which is in secret: and your Father, which sees in secret, shall reward you openly ( Matthew 6:16-18 ).
So again, don't draw attention to yourself or don't be doing it in such a way that you are receiving from man that awe and wonder because you are so spiritual because you fast. It used to be in the earlier days of my ministry that I fasted quite often. Obviously I don't fast much anymore.
But in those early days of the ministry, many times I'd be fasting and I'd go on my pastoral calls and some sweet lady would offer me a piece of homemade cake, you know. And I was fasting you know, for the last couple of days and what are ya gonna do? Well, thank you but I'm fasting. No, I'd just break the fast and eat the cake. Because I figure, hey, if you go ahead and just say, oh no I can't eat that I'm fasting, then you have your reward anyhow. And I wasn't really looking for the reward of man. I was wanting, you know, to receive the reward from God. And so offered something to eat, if I could get out of it I would, but you know, when they bake a cake you can't really get out of it. They want their reward, oh this cake is delicious, you know.
Now Jesus moves into a different realm in this sermon as he talks to us concerning our treasures. And basically negatively,
Don't lay up for yourself treasures upon earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal ( Matthew 6:19 ):
A few years ago there was a great, um, move by many people to buy gold and silver. And they created, through their buying, a demand, an artificial price. Because of inflation, they began to purchase the gold and silver as a hedge against inflation. And all of these men who are writing these McKeeber letters and all were encouraging the people to buy the gold and silver as a hedge against inflation. And they were glad to take the worthless dollars that these people had and to sell them gold and silver in exchange for their worthless dollars, or their dollars that would soon be worthless. And they were so magnanimous.
I was always a little suspicious of why they would take my worthless dollars and give me gold instead. If gold was going to be so valuable and the dollars weren't going to be any good, why would they then be so nice to me as to take my worthless dollars for their good gold? Yet they were, however, I didn't buy any. Because in James it said, "Go to now ye rich, weep and howl" talking about the last days "for the misery that has come upon you. Because you've laid up your gold and silver for the last days" ( James 5:1 , James 5:3 ). But now your gold and silver is corrupted; it's not worth anything.
Boy, if O'Hunt had only read that. How he wept and howled when the silver market broke and he lost billions of dollars on the future that he had purchased in silver. If he had only read James instead of McKeeber, he could have spared himself a lot of misery. And now silver's five dollars an ounce again and gold is down around three hundred dollars. And so you watch all of your value dissipating. Gold that was eight hundred dollars an ounce, now three hundred dollars an ounce. Oh, oh, how I feel sorry for those who bought gold at eight hundred bucks an ounce. Hang on to it, gold will come back. No.
The Lord says hey, don't lay up for yourselves treasures on earth. The value of gold is apt to depreciate, silver is apt to depreciate; moth and rust can corrupt it, thieves can break through and steal.
But lay up for yourself treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal ( Matthew 6:20 ):
Now, he has a reason behind this. Why should you be laying up treasures in heaven instead of here upon the earth? The whole reason is this,
Wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also ( Matthew 6:21 ).
And if you've laid up your treasures upon earth then your heart is going to be in the material things of this world. If you laid up your treasures in heaven then your heart's gonna be in the things in heaven, the spiritual things. Now one is temporal, the other is eternal. And if you lay up your treasures on earth they, at best are temporal; you lay up your treasures in heaven, they are eternal.
Jesus gave a very interesting parable that is very difficult for people to understand and, um, we'll be getting to it when we get to Luke. It's about the fellow who was going to get fired from his job. And so he was the accountant for his boss and so he called the creditors in and he said, "How much do you owe my boss? A hundred barrels of oil. Here, let me change your ticket" and he wrote fifty barrels. "How much do you owe my boss?" you know "Ten measures of flour." "Here, let me change it." He made it five measures of flour. And he brought all of the debtors in and he halved their debts because he knew that in two weeks he's gonna be out of a job.
So, when he was out of a job he would be able to go around and say, "Hey, you remember that bill where I cut it in half? You know, I'm sort of needing a little bit". And these people would be obligated to him because of what he had done. Now Jesus said, "The lord of that servant commended the servant, not for his dishonesty but for his wisdom saying that "the children of this generation are wiser than the children of light"( Luke 16:1-8 ).
You see he was using his present position to establish his future. Jesus is telling you pretty much the same thing. Use the present to establish the future. Take opportunities of the present because you cannot add anything to your spiritual account once you die. I mean, the treasures that you lay up in heaven, that which you are doing now, once you die then you can't say "Oh Lord but I want to leave it all to you." Everything I have belongs to the Lord, but he lets me use it, you know. And I use it all and he doesn't get anything left.
No, the Lord says, "lay up" take advantage now. "Lay up for your treasures in, yourself treasures in heaven." And the reason is, "where your treasure is there your heart will be also".
The light of the body is the eye: if your eye is single [single purposed], the whole body is full of light. But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness. Now if the light is in you and is dark [oh man,] then how great is your darkness! And no man can serve two masters: either he'll hate the one, and love the other; else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon ( Matthew 6:22-24 ).
So this all has to do with laying up treasures. If mammon is your, where your heart is, if that is the thing that has mastered your life, if you are mastered by your possessions, you cannot then be a servant of God also. You cannot serve God and mammon. You cannot be mastered by two masters. You begin to neglect the one along the line; you'll hold the one and hate the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Man have tried to do it but you can't do it.
Now, the Lord then talks to us about worrying.
Don't worry, take no thought ( Matthew 6:25 )
The idea is take no anxious thought or don't be worried.
about your life, what you're going to eat, what you're going to drink; or don't worry about your body, what you are going to put on. For your life is more than meat, and your body is more than clothes ( Matthew 6:25 )
First of all,
Behold the fowls of the air: because they do not sow, nor do they reap, nor do they gather into barns; and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they? ( Matthew 6:26 )
So he is telling us, "Don't worry. Look at the birds. They don't sow, they don't reap nor do they gather in the barns". Now the Lord isn't actually advocating then that we're not to plant and we're not to harvest, we're not to work, that is not at all what he is saying. Nor are we to be totally passive as far as the needs; our needs being fulfilled or supplied. You don't see a little bird standing on top of a telephone pole with its mouth open waiting for the worm to fly in. He is active. He does go down and he pecks on the ground and he finds the worm and he eats it. He isn't totally passive and the Lord isn't teaching us a total passivity here. You know, you can just cruise, lay back, do nothing, God will take care of you. That's not scriptural.
Paul said if you don't work you shouldn't eat ( 2 Thessalonians 3:10 ). And the Lord has given us the strength and the ability to work and like my little granddaughter says, "God gave me a bwrain and he wants me to use it". And God's given us the capacity and he wants us to use them. But don't worry, don't be fretting. Don't say, "Oh, what are we gonna do? How are we gonna pay? What are we gonna do?" you know. And don't be worried about these things because your Father knows that you have need of these things and your Father sees that the birds are taken care of .
Now, if your Father sees that the birds are taken care of he'll surely see that you're taken care of because he's your Father. And you're more important to him than birds. And so if your Father makes sure the birds are fed, you can be sure your Father will see that you are fed. So don't worry about that.
Now, which of you by worrying can add one cubit [which is about eighteen inches] to his height? ( Matthew 6:27 )
Oh, I'm so worried about being a shorty. Oh, you know, I wish I were tall, oh. And which of you by just worrying about it and sitting there wishing can add eighteen inches to your height? Can't do it. Worry doesn't you know, worry -- the Lord's just saying hey, worry really doesn't have any value. Just there's no value in worry. Why worry?
And why do you take thought [or why are you worried] about your clothes? ( Matthew 6:28 )
Oh, is my wife here?
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin ( Matthew 6:28 ):
Now you get the idea of the spindle and the ladies, of course, had to make their own thread. They made their own cloth. Jesus said, "Look at the lilies of the field, they don't toil, they don't sit at the spindle".
Yet, even Solomon in all of his glory was not arrayed like one of these ( Matthew 6:29 ).
I mean, Solomon with all of his wealth and all of his glory wasn't dressed as beautifully as that lily out there in the field.
Now, if God so clothes the grass of the field, which exists today, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe ye, O ye of little faith? ( Matthew 6:30 )
Now, you see Jesus is now bringing in the contrast of worrying to faith. If you really have faith you will not worry. If you worry it is an indication that you're lacking faith. Faith and worry are mutually exclusive. "O ye of little faith".
God clothes that beautiful grass of the field which today exists and tomorrow will be cast in the oven, burned. How much more will he take care of and see that you are clothed? And incidentally, I made a joke about my wife but I thank God those are the things that Kay has come to a place with Christ a long time ago. And I thank God for her and for the spiritual example that she is to me and to the ladies in the church, as one who is not overly concerned at all with dress or with anything else. We live very simple lives and I thank God that He has given me such a partner who sees as I see, the simple life that the Lord would have us to live in Christ Jesus. And I, I kid her. I use her just to get a laugh but that's probably not right, but God forgive me. I'm sorry. Otherwise she'll say to me "Hmm, you say that I do this, then I'm gonna go ahead and do it," you know.
Therefore take no anxious thought [or don't be worried], saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, What shall we wear? (For after all of these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things ( Matthew 6:31-32 ).
Your Father knows you need these things. Don't worry about them, your Father knows you need them. And thus, that is not to be our primary concern. We're not to be seeking those things as the paramount issues in life. But what are we to be seeking?
But seek ye first ( Matthew 6:33 )
Now the Gentiles seek those things. Oh, the fashion of this world. The word "Gentiles" is also translated "heathen"; the heathen are all seeking. I mean, look at the eateries today, the gourmets, all of the emphasis of the magazines upon food, upon clothes. It's amazing the interest that the heathen world has in these things.
But you, seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness ( Matthew 6:33 );
Priority, oh how important. Put first things first and God will take care of the rest. If you will seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness;
all these other things will be added ( Matthew 6:33 )
God will take care of those. You don't have to worry about those. All you have to do is seek God first and foremost in your life. The kingdom of God, his righteousness, and God will take care of everything else.
Now, if you look at our lives and if you look at the time that we spend and are concerned in purchasing the clothes, in purchasing the food, in getting the money to purchase clothes and the food and these things; you'll find that so much of our time is absorbed because we are exposed constantly to the pressures of Madison Avenue to be conscience of the style, the width of our lapel, or the width of our ties or whatever, because you know, this is what's in style, this is what is vogue. And so we get rid of clothes before they are really worn out because they're no longer in style.
And we have become the victims of this whole commercial system. And we've become lazy in our food preparation and so we pay a dollar and twenty-five cents to get a loaf of bread when if you want to do just a little bit of work you can by raw wheat for six and a half cents a pound and you can grind it and you can make a healthy loaf of bread for nineteen cents. But oh, you know, that takes a little extra effort.
But don't worry about these things basically, and that's what the Lord's saying. Don't let this be the paramount issue. Don't let these things be the primary things of your life. Let the primary thing be the kingdom of God and his righteousness and God'll take care of all these other things. You don't have to worry about them. The Lord knows that you need these things. Again, remember Jesus said, "When you pray don't think that you have to pray a long time" God knows what you need before you ever ask him and the Lord knows that you need these things.
Therefore don't worry about tomorrow ( Matthew 6:34 ):
And isn't that interesting that most of our worry is about tomorrow. Our worry is always more about tomorrow than it is about today. I'm in today and here I am and I ate and you know I've got clothes and I, I don't worry so much about today but what am I gonna do tomorrow? What am I gonna do when that bill comes due next week? And it's usually about the future that our worry is generated.
But the Lord said,
Don't worry about tomorrow: for tomorrow will take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof ( Matthew 6:34 ).
I'm reminded of the exhortation from James in his epistle when he said, "Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves"( James 1:22 ).
Now as we finish the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says much the same thing as he likens those who hear his words and do them. They're liken to a wise man who when he built his house, first of all, dug deep and laid his foundation on the rock. Contrasted with the foolish man who hears the words but doesn't do them. And he's like the man who just builds his house upon the sand.
And so may the Lord help us as we look at this great manifesto that was laid out for us by Jesus Christ, that we won't be just hearers of the word say, oh my isn't that marvelous? Oh yes, that's so true. Oh yes, I really shouldn't be worried about these things. Oh yes, I should lay up treasures in heaven. Oh yes, you know, and I agree to it and I say, oh yes, yes, yes. But I don't do it. I'm foolish. I'm building on the sand. I'm building a superstructure that's gonna collapse in the storm. It's important that I be a doer of the Word and not hearer only.
So may God help each of us as we go out this week that, rather than admiring the Sermon on the Mount that we might, in reality, live the Sermon on the Mount. That these principles might become realities in our own lives and that we might abide by these words of Jesus Christ. That we might indeed be the children of the Father and thus the recipients of all of those blessings and joys and goodness that the Father bestows upon his children. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Matthew 6:11". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/matthew-6.html. 2014.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Jesus began His teaching on prayer by discussing correct priorities. Before asking for their own needs, Christians are to first honor God. What now follows, however, is a series of three requests for self.
Jesus beautifully demonstrates in 6:25-34 that God cares for His own. In this particular verse, Jesus mentions one of the obvious ways this care occurs: God gives man’s daily provision for life. David acknowledges this by saying, "I have been young, and [now] am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread" (Psalms 37:25).
Give us this day: Although the word rendered "daily" (epiousion) is extremely rare in the Greek language, Jesus’ point is clear: citizens of Christ’s kingdom look to God to for their immediate needs. Concern about the future is unnecessary (6:34). Israel’s journeys through the wilderness illustrate this concept perfectly. God adequately provides each their "daily bread" (portion of manna). When some fail to trust God and greedily gathering more than their allotted portion, the manna breeds worms and stinks (Exodus 16:20).
A wonderful illustration of this principal is also found with the shepherd and his sheep. Today, as in ancient times, it is not in the northern lush part of Galilee that sheep are the most prevalent but rather in the barren, desert Negev of southern Palestine. Each day the shepherd leads his sheep out of the fold and into the wilderness to forage for food. They must trust him to lead them from one small patch of grass to the next. Only the shepherd knows the next day’s pasture, and the sheep must trust him implicitly. Likewise, the Lord is our Shepherd, and we must trust Him to meet our needs. Christ does not promise us abundance, but He does promise us a sufficient amount.
our daily bread: Bread is the "staff of life." It is that which God daily provides to Israel in the wilderness (Exodus 16:15, 31). It is the basis for physical sustenance, and it is even that which Satan uses to tempt Jesus when He is hungry (4:3). In this verse the term aptly refers to all of our physical needs.
Jesus’ instruction is both practical and necessary. Christ’s kingdom is a kingdom of workers. To work properly, however, His servants need the peace of mind that their needs will be cared for. Jesus promises to fulfill those needs. The Christian never needs to be preoccupied with the cares of this life. Every day the believer can rest assured that if he follows the Lord, he will be led in green pastures (Psalm 23). The Lord will supply his daily spiritual and physical needs.
In this verse Jesus condemns "planning." Even the apostles recognize that a certain amount of forethought is necessary (1 Corinthians 4:19; James 4:13-16), but Christ’s warning is to those who would wrap themselves in life’s concerns. Recall the rich fool who plans for a tomorrow without God only to find that his desire comes true horrifically (Luke 12:13-21).
It is by no coincidence that Jesus’ advice about provision follows so closely to His instruction on providence. His point is that God is in control.
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Matthew 6:11". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ctf/matthew-6.html. 1993-2022.
Righteousness and the Father 6:1-18
Jesus moved from correcting popular misinterpretations of selected Old Testament texts that speak of righteous conduct (Matthew 5:17-48) to correcting popular misconceptions about righteous conduct. He moved from ethical distinctions to the practice of religion. Throughout this entire section proper motivation for actions is a constant emphasis.
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Praying 6:5-15 (cf. Luke 11:1-13)
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Jesus gave His disciples a model prayer known commonly as "The Lord’s Prayer." Obviously it was not His prayer in the sense that He prayed it, but it was His prayer in the sense that He taught it. He introduced the model as such. Here is a way to pray that is neither too long, ostentatious, nor unnecessarily repetitious.
One of Jesus’ unique emphases, as I have already mentioned, was that His disciples should think of God as their heavenly Father. It was not characteristic of believers to address God as their Father until Jesus taught them to do so. [Note: J. Jeremias, The Prayers of Jesus, p. 11.]
"Only fifteen times was God referred to as the Father in the Old Testament. Where it does occur, it is used of the nation Israel or to the king of Israel. Never was God called the Father of an individual or of human beings in general (though isolated instances occur in second temple Judaism, Sirach 51:10). In the New Testament numerous references to God as Father can be found." [Note: Mark L. Bailey, "A Biblical Theology of Paul’s Pastoral Epistles," in A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, p. 342. Cf. H. F. D. Sparks, "The Doctrine of the Divine Fatherhood of God in the Gospels," in Studies in the Gospels: Essays in Memory of R. H. Lightfoot, pp. 241-62; and James Barr, "Abba Isn’t Daddy," Journal of Theological Studies 39 (1988):28-47.]
"The overwhelming tendency in Jewish circles was to multiply titles ascribing sovereignty, lordship, glory, grace, and the like to God . . ." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 169.]
"Our" Father indicates that Jesus expected His disciples to pray this prayer aware of their group context, as part of His disciples. Private use of this prayer is all right, but the context in which Jesus taught it was corporate, so He gave a corporate address. The "our" does not include Himself since it is part of Jesus’ teaching concerning how to pray.
The way we think of God as we pray to Him is very important. In prayer we should remember that He is a loving Father who will respond as such to His children. Some modern individuals advocate thinking of God as our Mother. However this runs contrary to what Jesus taught and to the thousands of references to God that God has given us in the masculine gender in both Testaments. God is not a sexual being. Nevertheless He is more like a father to us than a mother. Thinking of Him primarily as a mother will result in some distortion in our concept of God. It will also result in some confusion in our thinking about how God relates to us and how we should relate to Him. [Note: See Aída Besançon Spencer, "Father-Ruler: The Meaning of the Metaphor ’Father’ for God in the Bible," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 39:3 (September 1996):433-42.] Thinking of God as our Father will also remind us of our privileged access into His presence and of our need to treat Him respectfully.
"In heaven" reminds us of His transcendence and sovereignty. Our address to God in prayer does more to prepare us for proper praying than it does to secure the desired response from Him. [Note: Stott, p. 146.]
The first three petitions deal with God and the last three with us. This pattern indicates that disciples should have more concern for God than we do for ourselves. We should put His interests first in our praying as in all our living. All the petitions have some connection with the kingdom. The first three deal with the coming of the kingdom, and the last three are appeals in view of the coming kingdom. [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 107.]
The first petition (Matthew 6:9 c) is that everyone would hold God’s name (His reputation, everything about Him) in reverence. He is already holy. We do not need to pray that He will become more holy. What is necessary is that His creatures everywhere recognize and acknowledge His holiness. This petition focuses on God’s reputation. People need to hallow it, to treat it as special. By praying these words we affirm God’s holiness.
God’s reputation and the kingdom had close connections in the Old Testament (Isaiah 29:23; Ezekiel 36:23).
"In one respect His name is profaned when His people are ill-treated. The sin of the nation which brought about the captivity had caused a profanation of the Name, Is. 43:25; 49:11; Ezekiel 36:20-23. By their restoration His name was to be sanctified. But this sanctification was only a foreshadowing of a still future consummation. Only when the ’kingdom’ came would God’s name be wholly sanctified in the final redemption of His people from reproach." [Note: Allen, p. 58.]
The second petition (Matthew 6:10 a) is that the messianic kingdom will indeed come quickly (cf. Mark 15:43; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Revelation 11:17). It was appropriate for Jesus’ first disciples to pray this petition since the establishment of the kingdom was imminent. It is also appropriate for modern disciples to pray it since the inauguration of that kingdom will begin the righteous rule of Messiah on the earth, which every believer should anticipate eagerly. This kingdom has not yet begun. If it had, Jesus’ disciples would not need to pray for it to come. Christ will rule over His kingdom, the Davidic kingdom, from the earth, and He is now in heaven. This petition focuses on God’s kingdom. People need to prepare for it.
"Those who maintain that for Jesus himself the kingdom of God had already come in his own person and ministry inevitably treat this second petition of the Lord’s prayer in a rather cavalier fashion. It must be interpreted, they say, in line with other sayings of Jesus. Why? And what other sayings? When all the evidence in the sayings of Jesus for ’realized eschatology’ is thoroughly tested, it boils down to the ephthasen eph humas [’has come upon you’] of Matthew 12:28 and Luke 11:20. Why should that determine the interpretation of Matthew 6:10 and Luke 11:2? Why should a difficult, obscure saying establish the meaning of one that is clear and unambiguous? Why not interpret the ephthasen [’has come,’ Matthew 12:28] by the elthato [’come,’ Matthew 6:10]; or rather, since neither can be eliminated on valid critical grounds, why not seek an interpretation that does equal justice to both?" [Note: Millar Burrows, "Thy Kingdom Come," Journal of Biblical Literature 74 (January 1955):4-5.]
"Jesus’ conception of God’s kingdom is not simply that of the universal sovereignty of God, which may or may not be accepted by men but is always there. That is the basis of his conception, but he combines with it the eschatological idea of the kingdom which is still to come. In other words, what Jesus means by the kingdom of God includes what the rabbinic literature calls the coming age." [Note: Ibid., p. 8.]
These are accurate and interesting conclusions coming from a non-dispensationalist.
The third petition (Matthew 6:10 b-c) is a request that what God wants to happen on earth will indeed transpire on earth as it now does in heaven. That condition will take place most fully when Christ sets up His kingdom on the earth. However this should be the desire of every disciple in the inter-advent age while Jesus is still in heaven. Nothing better can happen than whatever God’s will involves (Romans 12:1). God’s "will" (Gr. thelema) includes His righteous demands (Matthew 7:21; Matthew 12:50; cf. Psalms 40:8) as well as His determination to cause and permit certain events in history (Matthew 18:14; Matthew 26:42; cf. Acts 21:14). This petition focuses on God’s will. People need to do it.
"This difference [between God’s heavenly universal rule and His earthly millennial rule] arises out of the fact that rebellion and sin exist upon the earth, sin which is to be dealt with in a way not known in any other spot in the universe, not even among the angels which sinned. It is here that the great purpose of what I have named the Mediatorial Kingdom appears: On the basis of mediatorial redemption it must ’come’ to put down at last all rebellion with its evil results, thus finally bringing the Kingdom and will of God on earth as it is in heaven." [Note: McClain, p. 35.]
The remaining petitions (Matthew 6:11-13) focus on the disciples’ needs. Notice the "Thy," "Thy," "Thy," in Matthew 6:9-10 and the "us," "us," "us," in Matthew 6:11-13. Some believers have concluded that prayer should not include anything selfish, so they do not make personal petitions. However, Jesus commanded His disciples to bring their personal needs to God in prayer. The first three petitions stand alone, but the last three have connecting "ands" that bind them together. We need all three of these things equally; we cannot get along without any of them.
The bread in view (Matthew 6:11) probably refers to all our food and even all our physical needs. [Note: Walvoord, Matthew: . . ., p. 53.] Bread has this larger significance in the Bible (cf. Proverbs 30:8; Mark 3:20; Acts 6:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:12; James 2:15). Even today we speak of bread as "the staff of life." Daily bread refers to the necessities of life, not its luxuries. This is a prayer for our needs, not our greeds. The request is for God to supply our needs day by day (cf. Exodus 16:4-5; Psalms 104:14-15; Psalms 104:27-28; Proverbs 30:8). The expression "this day [or today] our daily bread" reflects first century life in which workers received their pay daily. It also reminds disciples that we only live one day at a time, and each day we are dependent on God to sustain us. Asking God to provide our needs does not free us from the responsibility of working, however (cf. Matthew 6:25-34; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). God satisfies our needs partially by giving us the ability and the opportunity to earn a living. Ultimately everything comes from Him. Having to live from hand to mouth one day at a time can be a blessing if it reminds us of our total dependence on God. This is especially true since we live in a world that glorifies self-sufficiency.
The fifth petition requests forgiveness from debts (Matthew 6:12). "Debts" (Gr. opheilemata) probably translates the Aramaic word hoba that was a common synonym for sins. [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 172.] Viewing sins as debts was thoroughly Jewish (cf. Psalms 51:4). [Note: M’Neile, p. 80.] The second clause in the sentence does not mean that we must earn God’s forgiveness with our own. Our forgiveness of others demonstrates our felt need of forgiveness. The person who does not forgive a brother’s offenses does not appreciate how much he himself needs forgiveness.
"Once our eyes have been opened to see the enormity of our offense against God, the injuries which others have done to us appear by comparison extremely trifling. If, on the other hand, we have an exaggerated view of the offenses of others, it proves that we have minimized our own." [Note: Stott, pp. 149-50. Cf. Matthew 18:21-35.]
Some Christians have wondered why we should ask for God’s forgiveness since the New Testament clearly reveals that God forgives all sins-past, present, and future-when He justifies us (Acts 10:43; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). That is judicial or forensic forgiveness. However as forgiven believers we need to ask for forgiveness to restore fellowship with God (cf. 1 John 1:9). Forensic forgiveness brings us into God’s family. Family forgiveness keeps our fellowship with God intimate within God’s family.
"Personal fellowship with God is in view in these verses (not salvation from sin). One cannot walk in fellowship with God if he refuses to forgive others." [Note: Barbieri, p. 32.]
Some interpreters view Matthew 6:13 as containing one petition while others believe Jesus intended two. Probably one is correct in view of the close connection of the ideas. They are really two sides of one coin.
"Temptation" is the Greek peirasmos and means "testing." It refers not so much to solicitation to evil as to trials that test the character. God does not test (peirasmos) anyone (James 1:13-14). Why then do we need to pray that He will not lead us into testing? Even though God is not the instrumental cause of our testing He does permit us to experience temptation from the world, the flesh, and the devil (cf. Matthew 4:1; Genesis 22:1; Deuteronomy 8:2). Therefore this petition is a request that He minimize the occasions of our testing that may result in our sinning. It articulates the repentant disciple’s felt weakness to stand up under severe trials in view of our sinfulness (cf. Proverbs 30:7-9). [Note: Rick W. Byargeon, "Echoes of Wisdom in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 41:3 (September 1998):353-65.]
"But" introduces the alternative. "Deliver us" could mean "spare us from" or "deliver us out of." The meaning depends on what "evil" means. Is this a reference to evil generally or to the evil one, Satan? When the Greek preposition apo ("from") follows "deliver," it usually refers to deliverance from people. When ek ("from") follows it, it always refers to deliverance from things. [Note: J. B. Bauer, "Libera nos a malo," Verbum Domini 34 (1965):12-15.] Here apo occurs. Also, the adjective "evil" has an article modifying it in the Greek text, which indicates that it is to be taken as a substantive: "the evil one." God does not always deliver us from evil, but He does deliver us from the evil one. [Note: See Page, pp. 458-59.]
However the Old Testament predicted that a time of great evil would precede the establishment of the kingdom (Jeremiah 30). Some commentators, including non-premillenarians, have understood the evil in this petition as a reference to Satanic opposition that will come to its full force before the kingdom begins. [Note: E.g., Theodore H. Robinson, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 52; M’Neile, p. 81; and T. Herbert Bindley, "Eschatology in the Lord’s Prayer," The Expositor 17 (October 1919):319-20.] God later revealed through Paul that Christians will not go through this Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; et al.). Consequently we do not need to pray for deliverance from it but from other occasions of testing.
Some have seen a veiled reference to the Trinity in these last three petitions. The Father provides our bread through His creation and providence, the Son’s atonement secures our forgiveness, and the Spirit’s enablement assures our spiritual victory.
The final doxology appears in many ancient manuscripts, but there is so much variation in it that it was probably not originally a part of Matthew’s Gospel. Evidently pious scribes added it later to make the prayer complete liturgically. They apparently adapted the wording of David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 29:11. [Note: See also Thomas L. Constable, "The Lord’s Prayer," in Giving Ourselves to Prayer, compiled by Dan R. Crawford (Terre Haute, Ind.: PrayerShop Publishing, 2005), pp. 70-75.]
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THE REWARD MOTIVE IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE ( Matthew 6:1-18 )
When we study the opening verses of Matthew 6:1-34, we are immediately confronted with one most important question-- What is the place of the reward motive in the Christian life? Three times in this section Jesus speaks of God rewarding those who have given to him the kind of service which he desires ( Matthew 6:4,; Matthew 6:18). This question is so important that we will do well to pause to examine it before we go on to study the chapter in detail.
It is very often stated that the reward motive has no place whatsoever in the Christian life. It is held that we must be good for the sake of being good, that virtue is its own reward, and that the whole conception of reward must be banished from the Christian life. There was an old saint who used to say that he would wish to quench all the fires of hell with water, and to bum up all the joys of heaven with fire, in order that men seek for goodness nor nothing but goodness' sake, and in order that the idea of reward and punishment might be totally eliminated from life.
On the face of it that point of view is very fine and noble; but it is not the point of view which Jesus held. We have already seen that three times in this passage Jesus speaks about reward. The right kind of almsgiving, the right kind of prayer, and the right kind of fasting will all have their reward.
Nor is this an isolated instance of the idea of reward in the teaching of Jesus. He says of those who loyally bear persecution, who suffer insult without bitterness, that their reward will be great in heaven ( Matthew 5:12). He says that whoever gives to one of these little ones a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple will not lose his reward ( Matthew 10:42). At least part of the teaching of the parable of the talents is that faithful service will receive its reward ( Matthew 25:14-30). In the parable of the last judgment the plain teaching is that there is reward and punishment in accordance with our reaction to the needs of our fellow-men ( Matthew 25:31-46). It is abundantly clear that Jesus did not hesitate to speak in terms of rewards and punishments. And it may well be that we ought to be careful that we do not try to be more spiritual than Jesus was in our thinking about this matter of reward. There are certain obvious facts which we must note.
(i) It is an obvious rule of life that any action which achieves nothing is futile and meaningless. A goodness which achieves no end would be a meaningless goodness. As has been very truly said: "Unless a thing is good for something, it is good for nothing." Unless the Christian life has an aim and a goal which it is a joy to obtain, it becomes largely without meaning. He who believes in the Christian way and the Christian promise cannot believe that goodness can have no result beyond itself
(ii) To banish all rewards and punishments from the idea of religion is in effect to say that injustice has the last word. It cannot reasonably be held that the end of the good man and the end of the bad man are one and the same. That would simply mean that God does not care whether men are good or not. It would mean, to put it crudely and bluntly, that there is no point in being good, and no special reason why a man should live one kind of life instead of another. To eliminate all rewards and punishments is really to say that in God there is neither justice nor love.
Rewards and punishments are necessary in order to make sense of life. A. E. Housman wrote:
Yonder, on the morning blink,
The sun is up, and so must 1,
To wash and dress and eat and drink
And look at things and talk and think
And work, and God knows why.
And often have I washed and dressed,
And what's to show for all my pain?
Let me lie abed and rest;
Ten thousand times I've done my best,
And all's to do again."
If there are no rewards and no punishments, then that poem's view of life is true. Action is meaningless and all effort goes unavailingly whistling down the wind.
(i) The Christian Idea Of Reward
But having gone this length with the idea of reward in the Christian life, there are certain things about which we must be clear.
(i) When Jesus spoke of reward, he was very definitely not thinking in terms of material reward. It is quite true that in the Old Testament the idea of goodness and prosperity are closely connected. If a man prospered, if his fields were fertile and his harvest great, if his children were many and his fortune large, it was taken as a proof that he was a good man.
That is precisely the problem at the back of the Book of Job. Job is in misfortune; his friends come to him to argue that that misfortune must be the result of his own sin; and Job most vehemently denies that charge. "Think now," said Eliphaz, "who that was innocent ever perished?" ( Job 4:7) "If you are pure and upright," said Bildad, "surely then he would rouse himself for you and reward you with a rightful habitation" ( Job 8:6). "For you say, My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in God's eyes," said Zophar, "but oh that God would speak and open his lips to you" ( Job 11:4). The very idea that the Book of Job was written to contradict is that goodness and material prosperity go hand in hand.
"I have been young, and now am old," said the Psalmist, "yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, or his children begging bread" ( Psalms 37:25). "A thousand may fall at your side," said the Psalmist, "and ten thousand at your right hand; but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your habitation, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent" ( Psalms 91:7-10). These are things that Jesus could never have said. It was certainly not material prosperity which Jesus promised his disciples. He in fact promised them trial and tribulation, suffering, persecution and death. Quite certainly Jesus did not think in terms of material rewards.
(ii) The second thing which it is necessary to remember is that the highest reward never comes to him who is seeking it. If a man is always seeking reward, always reckoning up that which he believes himself to be earning, then he will in fact miss the reward for which he is seeking. And he will miss it because he is looking at God and looking at life in the wrong way. A man who is always calculating his reward is thinking of God in terms of a judge or an accountant, and above all he is thinking of life in terms of law. He is thinking of doing so much and earning so much. He is thinking of life in terms of a credit and debit balance sheet. He is thinking of presenting an account to God and of saying, "I have done so much. Now I claim my reward."
The basic mistake of this point of view is that it thinks of life in terms of law, instead of love. If we love a person deeply and passionately, humbly and selflessly, we will be quite sure that if we give that person all we have to give, we will still be in default, that if we give that person the sun, the moon and the stars, we will still be in debt. He who is in love is always in debt; the last thing that enters his mind is that he has earned a reward. If a man has a legal view of life, he may think constantly in terms of reward that he has won; if a man has a loving view of life, the idea of reward will never enter his mind.
The great paradox of Christian reward is this--the person who looks for reward, and who calculates that it is due to him, does not receive it; the person whose only motive is love, and who never thinks that he has deserved any reward, does. in fact, receive it. The strange fact is that reward is at one and the same time the by-product and the ultimate end of the Christian life.
(ii) The Christian Reward
We must now go on to ask: What are the rewards of the Christian life?
(i) We begin by noting one basic and general truth. We have already seen that Jesus Christ does not think in terms of material reward at all. The rewards of the Christian life are rewards only to a spiritually minded person. To the materially minded person they would not be rewards at all. The Christian rewards are rewards only to a Christian.
(ii) The first of the Christian rewards is satisfaction. The doing of the right thing, obedience to Jesus Christ, the taking of his way, whatever else it may or may not bring, always brings satisfaction. It may well be that, if a man does the right thing, and obeys Jesus Christ, he may lose his fortune and his position, he may end in gaol or on the scaffold, he may finish up in unpopularity, loneliness and disrepute, but he will still possess that inner satisfaction, which is greater than all the rest put together. No price-ticket can be put upon this; this is not to be evaluated in terms of earthly currency, but there is nothing like it in all the world. It brings that contentment which is the crown of life.
The poet George Herbert was a member of a little group of friends who used to meet to play their musical instruments together like a little orchestra. Once he was on his way to a meeting of this group, when he passed a carter whose cart was stuck in the mud of the ditch. George Herbert laid aside his instrument and went to the help of the man. It was a long job to get the cart out, and lie finished covered with mud. When he arrived at the house of his friends, it was too late for music. He told them what had detained him on the way. One said: "You have missed all the music." George Herbert smiled. "Yes," he said. "but I will have songs at midnight." He had the satisfaction of having done the Christlike thing.
Godfrey Winn tells of a man who was the greatest plastic surgeon in Britain. During the war, he gave up a private practice, which brought him in 10,000 British pounds per year, to devote all his time to remoulding the faces and the bodies of airmen who had been burned and mutilated in battle. Godfrey Winn said to him, "What's your ambition, Mac?" Back came the answer, "I want to be a good craftsman." The 10,000 British pounds per year was nothing compared with the satisfaction of a selfless job well done.
Once a woman stopped Dale of Birmingham on the street. "God bless you, Dr. Dale," she said. She absolutely refused to give her name. She only thanked him and blessed him and passed on. Dale at the moment had been much depressed. " But," he said, "the mist broke, the sunlight came; I breathed the free air of the mountains of God." In material things he was not one penny the richer, but in the deep satisfaction, which comes to the preacher who discovers he has helped someone, he had gained wealth untold.
The first Christian reward is the satisfaction which no money on earth can buy.
(iii) The second reward of the Christian life is still more work to do. It is the paradox of the Christian idea of reward that a task well done does not bring rest and comfort and ease; it brings still greater demands and still more strenuous endeavours. In the parable of the talents the reward of the faithful servants was still greater responsibility ( Matthew 25:14-30). When a teacher gets a really brilliant and able scholar, he does not exempt him from work; he gives him harder work than is given to anyone else. The brilliant young musician is given, not easier, but harder music to master. The lad who has played well in the second eleven is not put into the third eleven, where he could walk through the game without breaking sweat; he is put into the first eleven where he has to play his heart out. The Jews had a curious saying. They said that a wise teacher will treat the pupil "like a young heifer whose burden is increased daily." The Christian reward is the reverse of the world's reward. The world's reward would be an easier time; the reward of the Christian is that God lays still more and more upon a man to do for him and for his fellow-men. The harder the work we are given to do, the greater the reward.
(iv) The third, and the final, Christian reward is what men all through the ages have called the vision of God. For the worldly man, who has never given a thought to God, to be confronted with God will be a terror and not a joy. If a man takes his own way, he drifts farther and farther from God; the gulf between him and God becomes ever wider, until in the end God becomes a grim stranger, whom he only wishes to avoid. But, if a man all his life has sought to walk with God, if he has sought to obey his Lord, if goodness has been his quest through all his days, then all his life he has been growing closer and closer to God, until in the end he passes into God's nearer presence, without fear and with radiant joy--and that is the greatest reward of all.
Right Things From The Wrong Motive ( Matthew 6:1)
6:1 Take care not to try to demonstrate how good you are in the presence of men, in order to be seen by them. If you do, you have no reward with your Father in heaven.
To the Jew there were three great cardinal works of the religious life, three great pillars on which the good life was based--almsgiving, prayer and fasting. Jesus would not for a moment have disputed that; what troubled him was that so often in human life the finest things were done from the wrong motives.
It is the strange fact that these three great cardinal good works readily lend themselves to wrong motives. It was Jesus' warning that, when these things were done with the sole intention of bringing glory to the doer, they lost by far the most important part of their value. A man may give alms, not really to help the person to whom he gives, but simply to demonstrate his own generosity, and to bask in the warmth of some one's gratitude and all men's praise. A man may pray in such a way that his prayer is not really addressed to God, but to his fellow-men. His praying may simply be an attempt to demonstrate his exceptional piety in such a way that no one can fail to see it. A man may fast, not really for the good of his own soul, not really to humble himself in the sight of God, but simply to show the world what a splendidly self-disciplined character he is. A man may practise good works simply to win praise from men, to increase his own prestige, and to show the world how good he is.
As Jesus saw it, there is no doubt at all that that kind of thing does receive a certain kind of reward. Three times Jesus uses the phrase, as the Revised Standard Version has it: "Truly I say to you, they have their reward" ( Matthew 6:2; Matthew 6:5; Matthew 6:16). It would be better to translate it: "They have received payment in full." The word that is used in the Greek is the verb apechein ( G568) , which was the technical business and commercial word for receiving payment in full. It was the word which was used on receipted accounts. For instance, one man signs a receipt given to another man: "I have received (apecho, G568) from you the rent of the olive press which you have on hire." A tax collector gives a receipt, saying, "I have received (apecho, G568) from you the tax which is due." A man sells a slave and gives a receipt, saying, "I have received (apecho, G568) the whole price due to me."
What Jesus is saying is this: "If you give alms to demonstrate your own generosity, you will get the admiration of men--but that is all you will ever get. That is your payment in full. If you pray in such a way as to flaunt your piety in the face of men, you will gain the reputation of being an extremely devout man--but that is all you will ever get. That is your payment in full. If you fast in such a way that all men know that you are fasting, you will become known as an extremely abstemious and ascetic man--but that is all you will ever get. That is your payment in full." Jesus is saying, "If your one aim is to get yourself the world's rewards, no doubt you will get them--but you must not look for the rewards which God alone can give." And he would be a sadly short-sighted creature who grasped the rewards of time, and let the rewards of eternity go.
How Not To Give ( Matthew 6:2-4)
6:2-4 So, when you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. This is the truth I tell you--they are paid in full. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms-giving may be in secret, and your Father who sees what happens in secret will give you your reward in full.
To the Jew almsgiving was the most sacred of all religious duties. How sacred it was may be seen from the fact that the Jews used the same word--tsedaqah ( H6666) --both for righteousness and almsgiving. To give alms and to be righteous were one and the same thing. To give alms was to gain merit in the sight of God, and was even to win atonement and forgiveness for past sins. "It is better to give alms than to lay up gold; almsgiving doth deliver from death, and it purges away all sin" ( Tob_12:8 ).
"Almsgiving to a father shall not be blotted out,
And as a substitute for sins it shall stand firmly planted.
In the day of affliction it shall be remembered to thy credit.
It shall obliterate thine iniquities as the heat, the
hoar-frost." ( Sir_3:14-15 ).
There was a rabbinic saying: "Greater is he who gives alms than he who offers all sacrifices." Almsgiving stood first in the catalogue of good works.
It was then natural and inevitable that the man who desired to be good should concentrate on almsgiving. The highest teaching of the Rabbis was exactly the same as the teaching of Jesus. They too forbade ostentatious almsgiving. "He who gives alms in secret," they said, "is greater than Moses." The almsgiving which saves from death is that "when the recipient does not know from whom he gets it, and when the giver does not know to whom he gives it." There was a Rabbi who, when he wished to give alms, dropped money behind him, so that he would not see who picked it up. "It were better" they said, "to give a man nothing, than to give him something, and to put him to shame." There was one particularly lovely custom connected with the Temple. In the Temple there was a room called The Chamber of the Silent. People who wished to make atonement for some sin placed money there; and poor people from good families who had come down in the world were secretly helped by these contributions.
But as in so many other things practice fell far short of precept. Too often the giver gave in such a way that all men might see the gift, and gave far more to bring glory to himself than to bring help to someone else. During the synagogue services, offerings were taken for the poor, and there were those who took good care that others should see how much they gave. J. J. Wetstein quotes an eastern custom from the ancient days: "In the east water is so scarce that sometimes it had to be bought. When a man wanted to do a good act, and to bring blessing on his family, he went to a water-carrier with a good voice, and instructed him: 'Give the thirsty a drink.' The water-carrier filled his skin and went to the market-place. 'O thirsty ones,' he cried, 'come to drink the offering.' And the giver stood by him and said, 'Bless me, who gave you this drink.'" That is precisely the kind of thing that Jesus condemns. He talks about the hypocrites who do things like that. The word hupokrites ( G5273) is the Greek word for an actor. People like that put on an act of giving which is designed only to glorify themselves.
The Motives Of Giving ( Matthew 6:2-4 Continued)
Let us now look at some of the motives which lie behind the act of giving.
(i) A man may give from a sense of duty. He may give not because he wishes to give, but because he feels that giving is a duty which he cannot well escape. It may even be that a man can come--perhaps unconsciously--to regard the poor as being in the world to allow him to carry out this duty, and thus to acquire merit in the sight of God.
Catherine Carswell in her autobiography, Lying Awake, tells of her early days in Glasgow: "The poor, one might say, were our pets. Decidedly they were always with us. In our particular ark we were taught to love, honour and entertain the poor." The key-note, as she looked back upon it, was superiority and condescension. Giving was regarded as a duty, but often with the giving there was a moral lecture which provided a smug pleasure for the man who gave it. In those days Glasgow was a drunken city on a Saturday night. She writes: "Every Sunday afternoon, for some years, my father went a round of the cells of the police station, bailing out the week-end drunks with half-crowns, so that they might not lose their jobs on Monday morning. He asked each one to sign the pledge, and to return his half-crown out of the next week's wages." No doubt he was perfectly right, but he gave from a smug eminence of respectability, and included a moral lecture in the giving. He clearly felt himself to be in a quite different moral category from those to whom he gave. It was said of a great, but superior man: "With all his giving he never gives himself" When a man gives, as it were, from a pedestal, when he gives always with a certain calculation, when he gives from a sense of duty, even a sense of Christian duty, he may give generously of things, but the one thing he never gives is himself, and therefore the giving is incomplete.
(ii) A man may give from motives of prestige. He may give to get to himself the glory of giving. The chances are that, if no one is to know about it, or, if there is no publicity attached to it, he would not give at all. Unless he is duly thanked and praised and honoured, he is sadly disgruntled and discontented. He gives, not to the glory of God, but to the glory of himself. He gives, not primarily to help the poor person, but to gratify his own vanity and his own sense of power.
(iii) A man may give simply because he has to. He may give simply because the overflowing love and kindliness in his heart will allow him to do no other. He may give because, try as he may, he cannot rid himself of a sense of responsibility for the man in need.
There was a kind of vast kindliness about Dr. Johnson. There was a poverty-stricken creature called Robert Levett. Levett in his day had been a waiter in Paris and a doctor in the poorer parts of London. He had an appearance and manners, as Johnson said himself, such as to disgust the rich and to terrify the poor. Somehow or other he became a member of Johnson's household. Boswell was amazed at the whole business, but Goldsmith knew Johnson better. He said of Levett: "He is poor and honest which is recommendation enough for Johnson. He is now become miserable, and that insures the protection of Johnson." Misfortune was a passport to Johnson's heart.
Boswell tells this story of Johnson. "Coming home late one night he found a poor woman lying on the street, so much exhausted that she could not walk: he took her upon his back and carried her to his house, where he discovered that she was one of these wretched females, who had fallen into the lowest state of vice, poverty and disease. Instead of harshly upbraiding her, he had her taken care of with all tenderness for a long time, at considerable expense, till she was restored to health, and endeavoured to put her in a virtuous way of living." All that Johnson got out of that was unworthy suspicions about his own character, but the heart of the man demanded that he should give.
Surely one of the loveliest pictures in literary history is the picture of Johnson, in his own days of poverty, coming home in the small hours of the morning, and, as he walked along the Strand, slipping pennies into the hands of the waifs and strays who were sleeping in the doorways because they had nowhere else to go. Hawkins tells that one asked him how he could bear to have his house filled with "necessitous and undeserving people." Johnson answered: "If I did not assist them no one else would, and they must not be lost for want." There you have real giving, the giving which is the upsurge of love in the heart of a man, the giving which is a kind of overflow of the love of God.
We have the pattern of this perfect giving in Jesus Christ himself. Paul wrote to his friends at Corinth: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich" ( 2 Corinthians 8:9). Our giving must never be the grim and self-righteous outcome of a sense of duty, still less must it be done to enhance our own glory and prestige among men; it must be the instinctive outflow of the loving heart; we must give to others as Jesus Christ gave himself to us.
How Not To Pray ( Matthew 6:5-8)
6:5-8 And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, for they are fond of praying standing in the synagogues and at the corners of the streets, so that they may be seen by people. This is the truth I tell you--they are paid in full. But when you pray, go into your private room, and shut the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what happens in secret will give you your reward in full. When you pray, do not pile up meaningless phrases, as the Gentiles do, for their idea is that they will be heard because of the length of their words. So, then, do not be like them, for your Father knows the things you need before you ask him.
No nation ever had a higher ideal of prayer than the Jews had; and no religion ever ranked prayer higher in the scale of priorities than the Jews did. "Great is prayer," said the Rabbis, "greater than all good works." One of the loveliest things that was ever said about family worship is the Rabbinic saying, "He who prays within his house surrounds it with a wall that is stronger than iron." The only regret of the Rabbis was that it was not possible to pray all the day long.
But certain faults had crept into the Jewish habits of prayer. It is to be noted that these faults are by no means peculiar to Jewish ideas of prayer; they can and do occur anywhere. And it is to be noted that they could only occur in a community where prayer was taken with the greatest seriousness. They are not the faults of neglect; they are the faults of misguided devotion.
(i) Prayer tended to become formalized. There were two things the daily use of which was prescribed for every Jew.
The first was the Shema (compare H8088) , which consists of three short passages of scripture-- Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 11:13-21; Numbers 15:37-41. Shema is the imperative of the Hebrew word to hear ( H8085) , and the Shema takes its name from the verse which was the essence and center of the whole matter: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord."
The full Shema had to be recited by every Jew every morning and every evening. It had to be said as early as possible. It had to be said as soon as the light was strong enough to enable a man to distinguish between blue and white, or, as Rabbi Eliezer said, between blue and green. In any event it had to be said before the third hour, that is, 9 a.m.; and in the evening it had to be said before 9 p.m. If the last possible moment for the saying of the Shema had come, no matter where a man found himself, at home, in the street, at work, in the synagogue, he must stop and say it.
There were many who loved the Shema and who repeated it with reverence and adoration and love; but inevitably there were still more who gabbled their way through it, and went their way. The Shema had every chance of becoming a vain repetition, which men mumbled through like some spell or incantation. We Christians are but ill-qualified to criticise, for everything that has been said about formally gabbling through the Shema can be said about grace before meat in many a family.
The second thing which every Jew must daily repeat was called the Shemoneh 'Esreh which means The Eighteen. It consisted of eighteen prayers, and was, and still is, an essential part of the synagogue service. In time the prayers became nineteen, but the old name remains. Most of these prayers are quite short, and nearly all of them are very lovely.
The twelfth runs:
"Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be showed upon the upright, the
humble, the elders of thy people Israel, and the rest of its
teachers; be favourable to the pious strangers amongst us, and
to us all. Give thou a good reward to those who sincerely trust
in thy name, that our lot may be cast among them in the world
to come, that our hope be not deceived. Praised be thou, O Lord,
who art the hope and confidence of the faithful."
The fifth runs:
Bring us back to thy law, O our Father; bring us back, O King, to
thy service; bring us back to thee by true repentance. Praised
be thou, O Lord who dost accept our repentance,
No Church possesses a more beautiful liturgy than the Shemoneh 'Esreh The law was that the Jew must recite it three times a day, once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once in the evening. The same thing happened again. The devout Jew prayed it with loving devotion; but there were many to whom this series of lovely prayers became a gabbled formula. There was even a summary supplied which a man might pray, if he had not the time or the memory to repeat the whole eighteen. The repetition of the Shemoneh 'Esreh became nothing more than the superstitious incantation of a spell. Again, we Christians are ill-qualified to criticise, for there are many occasions when we do precisely the same with the prayer which taught us to pray.
How Not To Pray ( Matthew 6:5-8 Continued)
(ii) Further, the Jewish liturgy supplied stated prayers for all occasions. There was hardly an event or a sight in life which had not its stated formula of prayer. There was prayer before and after each meal; there were prayers in connection with the light, the fire, the lightning, on seeing the new moon, comets, rain, tempest, at the sight of the sea, lakes, rivers, on receiving good news, on using new furniture, on entering or leaving a city. Everything had its prayer. Clearly there is something infinitely lovely here. It was the intention that every happening in life should be brought into the presence of God.
But just because the prayers were so meticulously prescribed and stated, the whole system lent itself to formalism, and the danger was for the prayers to slip off the tongue with very little meaning. The tendency was glibly to repeat the right prayer at the right time. The great Rabbis knew that and tried to guard against it. "If a man," they said, "says his prayers, as if to get through a set task, that is no prayer." "Do not look on prayer as a formal duty, but as an act of humility by which to obtain the mercy of God." Rabbi Eliezer was so impressed with the danger of formalism that it was his custom to compose one new prayer every day, that his prayer might be always fresh. It is quite clear that this kind of danger is not confined to Jewish religion. Even quiet times which began in devotion can end in the formalism of a rigid and ritualistic timetable.
(iii) Still further, the devout Jew had set times for prayer. The hours were the third, the sixth and the ninth hours, that is, 9 a.m., 12 midday and 3 p.m. In whatever place a man found himself he was bound to pray. Clearly he might be genuinely remembering God, or he might be carrying out an habitual formality. The Mohammedans have the same custom. There is a story of a Mohammedan who was pursuing an enemy with drawn knife to kill him. The muezzin rang out; he stopped, unrolled his prayer mat, knelt and raced through his prayer; and then rose to continue his murderous pursuit. It is a lovely thing that three times a day a man should remember God; but there is very real danger that it may come to no more than this that three times a day a man gabbles his prayers without a thought of God.
(iv) There was a tendency to connect prayer with certain places, and especially with the synagogue. It is undeniably true that there are certain places where God seems very near, but there were certain Rabbis who went the length of saying that prayer was efficacious only if it was offered in the Temple or in the synagogue. So there grew up the custom of going to the Temple at the hours of prayer. In the first days of the Christian Church, even the disciples of Jesus thought in terms like these, for we read of Peter and John going up to the Temple at the hour of prayer ( Acts 3:1).
There was a danger here, the danger that a man might come to think of God as being confined to certain holy places and that he might forget that the whole earth is the temple of God. The wisest of the Rabbis saw this danger. They said, "God says to Israel, pray in the synagogue of your city; if you cannot, pray in the field; if you cannot, pray in your house; if you cannot, pray on your bed; if you cannot, commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still."
The trouble about any system lies, not in the system, but in the men who use it. A man may make any system of prayer an instrument of devotion or a formality, glibly and unthinkingly to be gone through.
(v) There was amongst the Jews an undoubted tendency towards long prayers. That was a tendency by no means confined to the Jews. In 18th century worship in Scotland length meant devotion. In such a Scottish service there was a verse by verse lecture on scripture which lasted for an hour, and a sermon which lasted for another hour. Prayers were lengthy and extempore. Dr. W. D. Maxwell writes, "The efficacy of prayer was measured by its ardour and its fluency, and not least by its fervid lengthiness." Rabbi Levi said, "Whoever is long in prayer is heard." Another saying has it: "Whenever the righteous make their prayer long, their prayer is heard."
There was--and still is--a kind of subconscious idea that if men batter long enough at God's door, he will answer; that God can be talked, and even pestered, into condescension. The wisest Rabbis were well aware of this danger. One of them said, "It is forbidden to lengthen out the praise of the Holy One. It says in the Psalms: 'Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord, or show forth all his praise?' ( Psalms 106:2). There only he who can may lengthen out and tell his praise--but no one can." "Let a man's words before God always be few, as it is said, 'Be not rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter a word before God; for God is in heaven, and you upon earth, therefore let your words be few'" ( Ecclesiastes 5:2). "The best adoration consists in keeping silence." It is easy to confound verbosity with piety, and fluency with devotion, and into that mistake many of the Jews fell.
How Not To Pray ( Matthew 6:5-8 Continued)
(vi) There were certain other forms of repetition, which the Jews, like all eastern peoples, were apt to use and to overuse. The eastern peoples had a habit of hypnotising themselves by the endless repetition of one phrase or even of one word. In 1 Kings 18:26 we read how the prophets of Baal cried out, "O Baal answer us," for the space of half a day. In Acts 19:34 we read how the Ephesian mob, for two hours, kept shouting, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians." The Mohammedans will go on repeating the sacred syllable HE for hours on end, running round in circles, until they drive themselves to ecstasy, and finally fall down unconscious in total exhaustion. The Jews did that with the Shema. It is a kind of substitution of self-hypnotism for prayer.
There was another way in which Jewish prayer used repetition. There was an attempt to pile up every possible title and adjective in the address of the prayer to God. One famous prayer begins:
"Blessed, praised, and glorified, exalted, extolled and honoured,
magnified and lauded be the name of the Holy One."
There is one Jewish prayer which actually begins with sixteen different adjectives attached to the name of God. There was a kind of intoxication with words. When a man begins to think more of how he is praying than of what he is praying, his prayer dies upon his lips.
(vii) The final fault which Jesus found with certain of the Jews was that they prayed to be seen of men. The Jewish system of prayer made ostentation very easy. The Jew prayed standing, with hands stretched out, palms upwards, and with head bowed. Prayer had to be said at 9 a.m., 12 midday, and 3 p.m. It had to be said wherever a man might be, and it was easy for a man to make sure that at these hours he was at a busy street comer, or in a crowded city square, so that all the world might see with what devotion he prayed. It was easy for a man to halt on the top step of the entrance to the synagogue, and there pray lengthily and demonstratively, so that all men might admire his exceptional piety. It was easy to put on an act of prayer which all the world might see.
The wisest of the Jewish Rabbis fully understood and unsparingly condemned this attitude. "A man in whom is hypocrisy brings wrath upon the world, and his prayer is not heard." "Four classes of men do not receive the face of the glory of God--the mockers, the hypocrites, the liars, and the slanderers." The Rabbis said that no man could pray at all, unless his heart was attuned to pray. They laid it down that for perfect prayer there were necessary an hour of private preparation beforehand, and an hour of meditation afterwards. But the Jewish system of prayer did lend itself to ostentation, if in a man's heart there was pride.
In effect, Jesus lays down two great rules for prayer.
(i) He insists that all true prayer must be offered to God. The real fault of the people whom Jesus was criticising was that they were praying to men and not to God. A certain great preacher once described an ornate and elaborate prayer offered in a Boston Church as "the most eloquent prayer ever offered to a Boston audience." The preacher was much more concerned with impressing the congregation than with making contact with God. Whether in public or in private prayer, a man should have no thought in his mind and no desire in his heart but God.
(ii) He insists that we must always remember that the God to whom we pray is a God of love who is more ready to answer than we are to pray. His gifts and his grace have not to be unwillingly extracted from him. We do not come to a God who has to be coaxed, or pestered, or battered into answering our prayers. We come to one whose one wish is to give. When we remember that, it is surely sufficient to go to God with the sigh of desire in our hearts, and on our lips the words, "Thy will be done."
The Disciple's Prayer ( Matthew 6:9-15)
6:9-15 So, then, pray in this way: Our Father in heaven, let your name be held holy: Let your Kingdom come: Let your will be done, as in heaven, so upon earth: Give us to-day bread for the coming day: Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors: And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One. For, if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you too; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Before we begin to think about the Lord's Prayer in detail there are certain general facts which we will do well to remember about it.
We must note, first of all, that this is a prayer which taught his disciples to pray. Both Matthew and Luke are clear about that. Matthew sets the whole Sermon on the Mount in the context of the disciples ( Matthew 5:1); and Luke tells us that Jesus taught this prayer in response to the request of one of his disciples ( Luke 11:1). The Lord's Prayer is a prayer which only a disciple can pray; it is a prayer which only one who is committed to Jesus Christ can take upon his lips with any meaning.
The Lord's Prayer is not a child's prayer, as it is so often regarded; it is, in fact, not meaningful for a child. The Lord's Prayer is not the Family Prayer as it is sometimes called, unless by the word family we mean the family of the Church. The Lord's Prayer is specifically and definitely stated to be the disciple's prayer; and only on the lips of a disciple has the prayer its full meaning. To put it in another way, the Lord's Prayer can only really be prayed when the man who prays it knows what he is saying, and he cannot know that until he has entered into discipleship.
We must note the order of the petitions in the Lord's Prayer. The first three petitions have to do with God and with the glory of God; the second three petitions have to do with our needs and our necessities. That is to say, God is first given his supreme place, and then, and only then, we turn to ourselves and our needs and desires. It is only when God is given his proper place that all other things fall into their proper places. Prayer must never be an attempt to bend the will of God to our desires; prayer ought always to be an attempt to submit our wills to the will of God.
The second part of the prayer, the part which deals with our needs and our necessities, is a marvellously wrought unity. It deals with the three essential needs of man, and the three spheres of time within which man moves. First, it asks for bread, for that which is necessary for the maintenance of life, and thereby brings the needs of the present to the throne of God. Second, it asks for forgiveness and thereby brings the past into the presence of God. Third, it asks for help in temptation and thereby commits all the future into the hands of God. In these three brief petitions, we are taught to lay the present, the past, and the future before the footstool of the grace of God.
But not only is this a prayer which brings the whole of life to the presence of God; it is also a prayer which brings the whole of God to our lives. When we ask for bread to sustain our earthly lives, that request immediately directs our thoughts to God the Father, the Creator and the Sustainer of all life. When we ask for forgiveness, that request immediately directs our thoughts to God the Son, Jesus Christ our Saviour and Redeemer. When we ask for help for future temptation, that request immediately directs our thoughts to God the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Strengthener, the Illuminator, the Guide and the Guardian of our way.
In the most amazing way this brief second part of the Lord's Prayer takes the present, the past, and the future, the whole of man's life, and presents them to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, to God in all his fulness. In the Lord's Prayer Jesus teaches us to bring the whole of life to the whole of God, and to bring the whole of God to the whole of life.
The Father In Heaven ( Matthew 6:9 )
6:9 Our Father in Heaven.
It might well be said that the word Father used of God is a compact summary of the Christian faith. The great value of this word Father is that it settles all the relationships of this life.
(i) It settles our relationship to the unseen world. Missionaries tell us that one of the greatest reliefs which Christianity brings to the heathen mind and heart is the certainty that there is only one God. It is the heathen belief that there are hordes of gods, that every stream and river, and tree and valley, and hill and wood, and every natural force has its own god. The heathen lives in a world crowded with gods. Still further, all these gods are jealous, and grudging, and hostile. They must all be placated, and a man can never be sure that he has not omitted the honour due to some of these gods. The consequence is that the heathen lives in terror of the gods; he is "haunted and not helped by his religion."
The most significant Greek legend of the gods is the legend of Prometheus. Prometheus was a god. It was in the days before men possessed fire; and life without fire was a cheerless and a comfortless thing. In pity Prometheus took fire from heaven and gave it as a gift to men. Zeus, the king of the gods, was mightily angry that men should receive this gift. So he took Prometheus and he chained him to a rock in the middle of the Adriatic Sea, where he was tortured with the heat and the thirst of the day, and the cold of the night. Even more, Zeus prepared a vulture to tear out Prometheus' liver, which always grew again, only to be torn out again.
That is what happened to the god who tried to help men. The whole conception is that the gods are jealous, and vengeful, and grudging; and the last thing the gods wish to do is to help men. That is the heathen idea of the attitude of the unseen world to men. The heathen is haunted by the fear of a horde of jealous and grudging gods. So, then, when we discover that the God to whom we pray has the name and the heart of a father it makes literally all the difference in the world. We need no longer shiver before a horde of jealous gods; we can rest in a father's love.
(ii) It settles our relationship to the seen world, to this world of space and time in which we live. It is easy to think of this world as a hostile world. There are the chances and the changes of life; there are the iron laws of the universe which we break at our peril; there is suffering and death; but if we can be sure that behind this world there is, not a capricious, jealous, mocking god, but a God whose name is Father, then although much may still remain dark, all is now bearable because behind all is love. It will always help us if we regard this world as organized not for our comfort but for our training.
Take, for instance, pain. Pain might seem a bad thing, but pain has its place in the order of God. It sometimes happens that a person is so abnormally constituted that he is incapable of feeling pain. Such a person is a danger to himself and a problem to everyone else. If there were no such thing as pain, we would never know that we were ill, and often we would die before steps could be taken to deal with any disease or illness. That is not to say that pain cannot become a bad thing, but it is to say that times without number pain is God's red light to tell us that there is danger ahead.
Lessing used to say that if he had one question to ask the Sphinx, it would be: "Is this a friendly universe?" If we can be certain that the name of the God who created this world is Father, then we can also be certain that fundamentally this is a friendly universe. To call God Father is to settle our relationship to the world in which we live.
(iii) If we believe that God is Father, it settles our relationship to our fellow-men. If God is Father, he is Father of all men. The Lord's Prayer does not teach us to pray My Father; it teaches us to pray Our Father. It is very significant that in the Lord's Prayer the words I, me, and mine never occur; it is true to say that Jesus came to take these words out of life and to put in their place we, us, and ours. God is not any man's exclusive possession. The very phrase Our Father involves the elimination of self. The fatherhood of God is the only possible basis of the brotherhood of man.
(iv) If we believe that God is Father, it settles our relationship to ourselves. There are times when every man despises and hates himself. He knows himself to be lower than the lowest thing that crawls upon the earth. The heart knows its own bitterness, and no one knows a man's unworthiness better than that man himself.
Mark Rutherford wished to add a new beatitude: "Blessed are those who heal us of our self-despisings." Blessed are those who give us back our self-respect. That is precisely what God does. In these grim, bleak, terrible moments we can still remind ourselves that, even if we matter to no one else, we matter to God; that in the infinite mercy of God we are of royal lineage, children of the King of kings.
(v) If we believe that God is Father, it settles our relationship to God. It is not that it removes the might, majesty and power of God. It is not that it makes God any the less God; but it makes that might, and majesty, and power, approachable for us.
There is an old Roman story which tells how a Roman Emperor was enjoying a triumph. He had the privilege, which Rome gave to her great victors, of marching his troops through the streets of Rome, with all his captured trophies and his prisoners in his train. So the Emperor was on the march with his troops. The streets were lined with cheering people. The tall legionaries lined the streets' edges to keep the people in their places. At one point on the triumphal route there was a little platform where the Empress and her family were sitting to watch the Emperor go by in all the pride of his triumph. On the platform with his mother there was the Emperor's youngest son, a little boy. As the Emperor came near the little boy jumped off the platform, burrowed through the crowd, tried to dodge between the legs of a legionary, and to run out on to the road to meet his father's chariot. The legionary stooped down and stopped him. He swung him up in his arms: "You can't do that, boy," he said. "Don't you know who that is in the chariot? That's the Emperor. You can't run out to his chariot." And the little lad laughed down. "He may be your Emperor," he said, "but he's my father." That is exactly the way the Christian feels towards God. The might, and the majesty, and the power are the might, and the majesty, and the power of one whom Jesus taught us to call Our Father.
So far we have been thinking of the first two words of this address to God--Our Father, but God is not only Our Father, He is Our Father who is in heaven. The last words are of primary importance. They conserve two great truths.
(i) They remind us of the holiness of God. It is very easy to cheapen and to sentimentalize the whole idea of the fatherhood of God, and to make it an excuse for an easy-going, comfortable religion. "He's a good fellow and all will be well." As Heine said of God: "God will forgive. It is his trade." If we were to say Our Father, and stop there, there might be some excuse for that; but it is Our Father in heaven to whom we pray. The love is there, but the holiness is there, too.
It is extraordinary how seldom Jesus used the word Father in regard to God. Mark's gospel is the earliest gospel, and is therefore the nearest thing we will ever have to an actual report of all that Jesus said and did; and in Mark's gospel Jesus calls God Father only six times, and never outside the circle of the disciples. To Jesus the word Father was so sacred that he could hardly bear to use it; and he could never use it except amongst those who had grasped something of what it meant.
We must never use the word Father in regard to God cheaply, easily, and sentimentally. God is not an easy-going parent who tolerantly shuts his eyes to all sins and faults and mistakes. This God, whom we can call Father, is the God whom we must still approach with reverence and adoration, and awe and wonder. God is our Father in heaven, and in God there is love and holiness combined.
(ii) They remind us of the power of God. In human love there is so often the tragedy of frustration. We may love a person and yet be unable to help him achieve something, or to stop him doing something. Human love can be intense--and quite helpless. Any parent with an erring child, or any lover with a wandering loved one knows that. But when we say, 'Our Father in heaven,' we place two things side by side. We place side by side the love of God and the power of God. We tell ourselves that the power of God is always motivated by the love of God, and can never be exercised for anything but our good; we tell ourselves that the love of God is backed by the power of God, and that therefore its purposes can never be ultimately frustrated or defeated. It is love of which we think, but it is the love of God. When we pray Our Father in heaven we must ever remember the holiness of God, and we must ever remember the power which moves in love, and the love which has behind it the undefeatable power of God.
The Hallowing Of The Name ( Matthew 6:9 Continued)
6:9 Let your name be held holy.
"Hallowed be Thy name"--it is probably true that of all the petitions of the Lord's Prayer this is the one whose meaning we would find it most difficult to express. First, then, let us concentrate on the actual meaning of the words.
The word which is translated hallowed is a part of the Greek verb hagiazesthai ( G37) . The Greek verb hagiazesthai is connected with the adjective hagios ( G40) , and means to treat a person or a thing as hagios. Hagios is the word which is usually translated holy; but the basic meaning of hagios is different or separate. A thing which is hagios ( G40) is different from other things. A person who is hagios is separate from other people. So a temple is hagion ( G39) because it is different from other buildings. An altar is hagios ( G40) because it exists for a purpose different from the purpose of ordinary things. God's day is hagios ( G40) because it is different from other days. A priest is hagios ( G40) because he is separate from other men. So, then, this petition means, "Let God's name be treated differently from all other names; let God's name be given a position which is absolutely unique."
But there is something to add to this. In Hebrew the name does not mean simply the name by which a person is called-- John or James, or whatever the name may be. In Hebrew the name means the nature, the character, the personality of the person in so far as it is known or revealed to us. That becomes clear when we see how the Bible writers use the expression.
The Psalmist says, "Those who know thy name put their trust in thee" ( Psalms 9:10). Quite clearly that does not mean that those who know that God is called Jehovah will trust in him. It means that those who know what God is like, those who know the nature and the character of God will put their trust in him. The Psalmist says, "Some boast of chariots and some of horses, but we boast of the name of the Lord our God" ( Psalms 20:7). Quite clearly that does not mean that in a time of difficulty the Psalmist will remember that God is called Jehovah. It means that at such a time some will put their trust in human and material aids and defences, but the Psalmist will remember the nature and the character of God; he will remember what God is like, and that memory will give him confidence.
So, then, let us take these two things and put them together. Hagiazesthai ( G37) , which is translated to hallow, means to regard as different, to give a unique and special place to. The name is the nature, the character, the personality of the person in so far as it is known and revealed to us. Therefore, when we pray "Hallowed be Thy name," it means, "Enable us to give to thee the unique place which thy nature and character deserve and demand."
The Prayer For Reverence ( Matthew 6:9 Continued)
Is there, then, one word in English for giving to God the unique place which his nature and character demand? There is such a word, and the word is reverence. This petition is a prayer that we should be enabled to reverence God as God deserves to be reverenced. In all true reverence of God there are four essentials.
(i) In order to reverence God we must believe that God exists. We cannot reverence someone who does not exist; we must begin by being sure of the existence of God.
To the modern mind it is strange that the Bible nowhere attempts to prove the existence of God. For the Bible God is an axiom. An axiom is a self-evident fact which is not itself proved, but which is the basis of all other proofs. For instance, 'A straight line is the shortest distance between two points,' and, 'Parallel lines, however far produced, will never meet,' are axioms.
The Bible writers would have said that it was superfluous to prove the existence of God, because they experienced the presence of God every moment of their lives. They would have said that a man no more needed to prove that God exists than he needs to prove that his wife exists. He meets his wife every day, and he meets God every day.
But suppose we did need to try to prove that God exists, using our own minds to do so, how would we begin? We might begin from the world in which we live. Paley's old argument is not yet completely outdated. Suppose there is a man walking along the road. He strikes his foot against a watch lying in the dust. He has never in his life seen a watch before; he does not know what it is. He picks it up; he sees that it consists of a metal case, and inside the case a complicated arrangement of wheels, levers, springs and jewels. He sees that the whole thing is moving and working in the most orderly way. He sees further that the hands are moving round the dial in an obviously predetermined routine. What then does he say? Does he say: "All these metals and jewels came together from the ends of the earth by chance, by chance made themselves into wheels and levers and springs, by chance assembled themselves into this mechanism, by chance wound themselves up and set themselves going, by chance acquired their obvious orderly working"? No. He says, "I have found a watch; somewhere there must be a watch-maker."
Order presupposes mind. We look at the world; we see a vast machine which is working in order. Suns rise and set in an unvarying succession. Tides ebb and flow to a timetable. Seasons follow each other in an order. We look at the world, and we are bound to say, "Somewhere there must be a world-maker." The fact of the world drives us to God. As Sir James Jeans has said, "No astronomer can be an atheist." The order of the world demands the mind of God behind it.
We might begin from ourselves. The one thing man has never created is life. Man can alter and rearrange and change things, but he cannot create a living thing. Where then did we get our life? From our parents. Yes, but where did they get theirs? From their parents. But where did all this begin? At some time life must have come into the world; and it must have come from outside the world for man cannot create life; and once again we are driven back to God.
When we look in upon ourselves and out upon the world we are driven to God. As Kant said long ago, "the moral law within us, and the starry heavens above us," drive us to God.
(ii) Before we can reverence God, we must not only believe that God is, we must also know the kind of God he is. No one could reverence the Greek gods with their loves and wars, their hates and their adulteries, their trickeries and their knaveries. No one can reverence capricious, immoral, impure gods. But in God as we know him there are three great qualities. There is holiness; there is justice; and there is love. We must reverence God, not only because he exists, but because he is the God whom we know him to be.
(iii) But a man might believe that God is; he might be intellectually convinced that God is holy, just and loving; and still he might not have reverence. For reverence there is necessary a constant awareness of God To reverence God means to live in a God-filled world, to live a life in which we never forget God. This awareness is not confined to the Church or to so-called holy places; it must be an awareness which exists everywhere and at all times.
Wordsworth spoke of it in Lines composed near Tintern Abbey:
"And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things."
One of the finest of modern devotional poets is Henry Ernest Hardy who wrote under the name of Father Andrew. In The Mystic Beauty he writes:
"O London town has many moods,
And mingled 'mongst its many broods
A leavening of saints,
And ever up and down its streets,
If one has eyes to see one meets
Stuff that an artist paints.
I've seen a back street bathed in blue,
Such as the soul of Whistler knew:
A smudge of amber light,
Where some fried fish-shop plied its trade,
A perfect note of colour made--
Oh, it was exquisite!
I once came through St. James' Park
Betwixt the sunset and the dark,
And oh the mystery
Of grey and green and violet!
I would I never might forget
That evening harmony.
I hold it true that God is there
If beauty breaks through anywhere;
And his most blessed feet,
Who once life's roughest roadway trod.,
Who came as man to show us God,
Still pass along the street."
God in the back street, God in St. James' Park, God in the fried fish-shop--that is reverence. The trouble with most people is that their awareness of God is spasmodic, acute at certain times and places, totally absent at others. Reverence means the constant awareness of God.
(iv) There remains one further ingredient in reverence. We must believe that God exists; we must know what kind of a God he is; we must be constantly aware of God. But a man might have all these things and still not have reverence. To all these things must be added obedience and submission to God. Reverence is knowledge plus submission. In his catechism Luther asks, "How is God's name hallowed amongst us?" and his answer is, "When both our life and doctrine are truly Christian," that is to say, when our intellectual convictions, and our practical actions, are in full submission to the will of God.
To know that God is, to know what kind of a God he is, to be constantly aware of God, and to be constantly obedient to him--that is reverence and that is what we pray for when we pray: "Hallowed be thy name." Let God be given the reverence which his nature and character deserve.
God's Kingdom And God's Will ( Matthew 6:10 )
6:10 Let your Kingdom come: Let your will be done, as in heaven, so also on earth.
The phrase The Kingdom of God is characteristic of the whole New Testament. No phrase is used oftener in prayer and in preaching and in Christian literature. It is, therefore, of primary importance that we should be clear as to what it means.
It is evident that the Kingdom of God was central to the message of Jesus. The first emergence of Jesus on the scene of history was when he came into Galilee preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God ( Mark 1:14). Jesus himself described the preaching of the kingdom as an obligation laid upon him: "I must preach the good news of the Kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose" ( Luke 4:43; Mark 1:38). Luke's description of Jesus' activity is that he went through every city and village preaching and showing the good news of the Kingdom of God ( Luke 8:1). Clearly the meaning of the Kingdom of God is something which we are bound to try to understand.
When we do try to understand the meaning of this phrase we meet with certain puzzling facts. We find that Jesus spoke of the Kingdom in three different ways. He spoke of the Kingdom as existing in the past. He said that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets were in the Kingdom ( Luke 13:28; Matthew 8:11). Clearly therefore the Kingdom goes far back into history. He spoke of the Kingdom as present. "The Kingdom of God," he said, "is in the midst of you" ( Luke 17:21). The Kingdom of God is therefore a present reality here and now. He spoke of the Kingdom of God as future, for he taught men to pray for the coming of the Kingdom in this his own prayer. How then can the Kingdom be past, present and future all at the one time? How can the Kingdom be at one and the same time something which existed, which exists, and for whose coming it is our duty to pray?
We find the key in this double petition of the Lord's Prayer. One of the commonest characteristics of Hebrew style is what is technically known as parallelism. The Hebrew tended to say everything twice. He said it in one way, and then he said it in another way which repeated or amplified or explained the first way. Almost any verse of the Psalms will show this parallelism in action. Almost every verse of the Psalms divides in two in the middle; and the second half repeats or amplifies or explains the first half.
Let us take some examples and the thing will become clear:
"God is our refuge and strength--a very present help in trouble ( Psalms 46:1).
"The Lord of Hosts is with us--the God of Jacob is our refuge ( Psalms 46:7).
"The Lord is my shepherd--I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures--He leads me beside
still waters" ( Psalms 23:1-2).
Let us apply this principle to these two petitions of the Lord's Prayer. Let us set them down side by side:
"Thy Kingdom come--Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven."
Let us assume that the second petition explains, and amplifies, and defines the first. We then have the perfect definition of the Kingdom of God--The Kingdom of God is a society, upon earth where Gods will is as perfectly done as it is in heaven. Here we have the explanation of how the Kingdom can be past, present and future all at the one time. Any man who at any time in history perfectly did God's will was within the Kingdom; any man who perfectly does God's will is within the Kingdom; but since the world is very far from being a place where God's will is perfectly and universally done, the consummation of the Kingdom is still in the future and is still something for which we must pray.
To be in the Kingdom is to obey the will of God. Immediately we see that the Kingdom is not something which primarily has to do with nations and peoples and countries. It is something which has to do with each one of us. The Kingdom is in fact the most personal thing in the world. The Kingdom demands the submission of my will, my heart, my life. It is only when each one of us makes his personal decision and submission that the Kingdom comes.
The Chinese Christian prayed the well-known prayer, "Lord, revive thy Church, beginning with me," and we might well paraphrase that and say, "Lord, bring in thy Kingdom, beginning with me." To pray for the Kingdom of Heaven is to pray that we may submit our wills entirely to the will of God.
God's Kingdom And God's Will ( Matthew 6:10 Continued)
From what we have already seen it becomes clear that the most important thing in the world is to obey the will of God; the most important words in the world are "Thy will be done." But it is equally clear that the frame of mind and the tone of voice in which these words are spoken will make a world of difference.
(i) A man may say, "Thy will be done," in a tone of defeated resignation. He may say it, not because he wishes to say it, but because he has accepted the fact that he cannot possibly say anything else; he may say it because he has accepted the fact that God is too strong for him, and that it is useless to batter his head against the walls of the universe. He may say it thinking only of the ineluctable power of God which has him in its grip. As Omar Khayyam had it:
"But helpless Pieces of the Game He plays
Upon this Checkerboard of Nights and Days;
Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays,
And one by one back in the closet lays.
The Ball no question makes of Ayes and Noes,
But Here or There as strikes the Player goes;
And He that Toss'd you down into the Field,
He knows about it all--He knows--HE knows!"
A man may accept the will of God for no other reason than that he has realized that he cannot do anything else.
(ii) A man may say, "Thy will be done," in a tone of bitter resentment. Swinburne spoke of men feeling the trampling of the iron feet of God. He speaks of the supreme evil, God. Beethoven died all alone; and it is said that when they found his body his lips were drawn back in a snarl and his fists were clenched as if he were shaking his fists in the very face of God and of high heaven. A man may feel that God is his enemy, and yet an enemy so strong that he cannot resist. He may therefore accept God's will, but he may accept it with bitter resentment and smouldering anger.
(iii) A man may say, "Thy will be done," in perfect love and trust. He may say it gladly and willingly, no matter what that will may be. It should be easy for the Christian to say, "Thy will be done," like that; for the Christian can be very sure of two things about God.
(a) He can be sure of the wisdom of God. Sometimes when we want something built or constructed, or altered or repaired, we take it to the craftsman and consult him about it. He makes some suggestion, and we often end up by saying, "Well, do what you think best. You are the expert." God is the expert in life, and his guidance can never lead anyone astray.
When Richard Cameron, the Scottish Covenanter, was killed his head and his hands were cut off by one Murray and taken to Edinburgh. "His father being in prison for the same cause, the enemy carried them to him, to add grief unto his former sorrow, and inquired at him if he knew them. Taking his son's head and hands, which were very fair (being a man of fair complexion like himself), he kissed them and said, 'I know them--I know them. They are my son's--my own dear son's. It is the Lord. Good is the will of the Lord, who cannot wrong me or mine, but hath made goodness and mercy to follow us all our days.'" When a man can speak like that, when he is quite sure that his times are in the hands of the infinite wisdom of God, it is easy to say, "Thy will be done."
(b) He can be sure of the love of God. We do not believe in a mocking and a capricious God, or in a blind and iron determinism. Thomas Hardy finishes his novel Tess with the grim words: "The President of the Immortals had finished his sport with Tess." We believe in a God whose name is love. As Whittier had it:
"I know not where His islands lift
Their fronded palms in air.
I only know I cannot drift
Beyond His love and care."
As Browning triumphantly declared his faith:
"God, Thou art love! I build my faith on that ...
I know thee who has kept my path and made
Light for me in the darkness, tempering sorrow
So that it reached me like a solemn joy.
It were too strange that I should doubt thy love."
And as Paul had it: "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?" ( Romans 8:32). No man can look at the Cross and doubt the love of God, and when we are sure of the love of God, it is easy to say, "Thy will be done."
Our Daily Bread ( Matthew 6:11 )
6:11 Give us to-day bread for the coming day.
One would have thought that this is the one petition of the Lord's Prayer about the meaning of which there could have been no possible doubt. It seems on the face of it to be the simplest and the most direct of them all. But it is the fact that many interpreters have offered many interpretations of it. Before we think of its simple and obvious meaning, let us look at some of the other explanations which have been offered.
(i) The bread has been identified with the bread of the Lord's Supper. From the very beginning the Lord's Prayer has been closely connected with the Lord's Table. In the very first orders of service which we possess it is always laid down that the Lord's Prayer should be prayed at the Lord's Table, and some have taken this petition as a prayer to be granted the daily privilege of sitting at the Table of our Lord, and of eating the spiritual food which a man receives there.
(ii) The bread has been identified with the spiritual food of the word of God. We sometimes sing the hymn:
Break thou the bread of life,
Dear Lord, to me,
As thou didst break the loaves
Beside the sea.
Beyond the sacred page
I seek thee, Lord,
My spirit pants for thee,
O living word."
So this petition has been taken to be a prayer for the true teaching, the true doctrine, the essential truth, which are in the scriptures and the word of God, and which are indeed food for a man's mind and heart and soul.
(iii) The bread has been taken to stand for Jesus himself. Jesus called himself the bread of life ( John 6:33-35), and this has been taken to be a prayer that daily we may be fed on him who is the living bread. It was in that way that Matthew Arnold used the phrase, when he wrote his poem about the saint of God he met in the east end of London one suffocating day:
"'Twas August, and the fierce sun overhead
Smote on the squalid streets of Bethnal Green,
And the pale weaver, through his windows seen,
In Spitalfields, look'd thrice dispirited.
I met a preacher there I knew and said:
'Ill and o'er worked, how fare you in this scene?'
'Bravely!' said he, 'for I of late have been
Much cheer'd with thoughts of Christ, the living
So then this petition has been taken as a prayer that we too might be cheered and strengthened with Christ the living bread.
(iv) This petition has been taken in a purely Jewish sense. The bread has been taken to be the bread of the heavenly kingdom. Luke tells how one of the bystanders said to Jesus: "Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God" ( Luke 14:15). The Jews had a strange yet vivid idea. They held that when the Messiah came, and when the golden age dawned, there would be what they called the Messianic banquet, at which the chosen ones of God would sit down. The slain bodies of the monsters Behemoth and Leviathan would provide the meat and the fish courses of the banquet. It would be a kind of reception feast given by God to his own people. So, then, this has been taken to be a petition for a place at the final Messianic banquet of the people of God.
Although we need not agree that any one of these explanations is the main meaning of this petition, we need not reject any of them as false. They all have their own truth and their own relevance.
The difficulty of interpreting this petition was increased by the fact that there was very considerable doubt as to the meaning of the word epiousios ( G1967) , which is the word which the Revised Standard Version translates "daily." The extraordinary fact was that, until a short time ago, there was no other known occurrence of this word in the whole of Greek literature. Origen knew this, and indeed held that Matthew had invented the word. It was therefore not possible to be sure what it precisely meant. But not very long ago a papyrus fragment turned up with this word on it; and the papyrus fragment was actually a woman's shopping list! And against an item on it was the word epiousios ( G1967) . It was a note to remind her to buy supplies of a certain food for the coming day. So, very simply, what this petition means is: "Give me the things we need to eat for this coming day. Help me to get the things I've got on my shopping list when I go out this morning. Give me the things we need to eat when the children come in from school, and the men folk come in from work. Grant that the table be not bare when we sit down together to-day." This is a simple prayer that God will supply us with the things we need for the coming day.
Our Daily Bread ( Matthew 6:11 Continued)
When we see that this is a simple petition for the needs of the everyday, certain tremendous truths emerge from it.
(i) It tells us that God cares for our bodies. Jesus showed us that; he spent so much time healing men's diseases and satisfying their physical hunger. He was anxious when he thought that the crowd who had followed him out into the lonely places had a long road home, and no food to eat before they set out upon it. We do well to remember that God is interested in our bodies. Any teaching which belittles, and despises, and slanders the body is wrong. We can see what God thinks of our human bodies, when we remember that he himself in Jesus Christ took a human body upon him. It is not simply soul salvation, it is whole salvation, the salvation of body, mind and spirit, at which Christianity aims.
(ii) This petition teaches us to pray for our daily bread, for bread for the coming day. It teaches us to live one day at a time, and not to worry and be anxious about the distant and the unknown future. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray this petition, there is little doubt that his mind was going back to the story of the manna in the wilderness ( Exodus 16:1-21 http://www.crossbooks.com/verse.asp?ref=Ex+16%3A1-21) . The children of Israel were starving in the wilderness. and God sent them the manna. the food from heaven; but there was one condition--they must gather only enough for their immediate needs. If they tried to gather too much, and to store it up, it went bad. They had to be satisfied with enough for the day. As one Rabbi put it: "The portion of a day in its day, because he who created the day created sustenance for the day." And as another Rabbi had it: "He who possesses what he can eat to-day, and says, 'What shall I eat to-morrow?' is a man of little faith." This petition tells us to live one day at a time. It forbids the anxious worry which is so characteristic of the life which has not learned to trust God.
(iii) By implication this petition gives God his proper place. It admits that it is from God we receive the food which is necessary to support life. No man has ever created a seed which will grow. The scientist can analyse a seed into its constituent elements, but no synthetic seed would ever grow. All living things come from God. Our food, therefore, is the direct gift of God.
(iv) This petition very wisely reminds us of how prayer works. If a man prayed this prayer, and then sat back and waited for bread to fall into his hands, he would certainly starve. It reminds us that prayer and work go hand in hand and that when we pray we must go on to work to make our prayers come true. It is true that the living seed comes from God, but it is equally true that it is man's task to grow and to cultivate that seed. Dick Sheppard used to love a certain story. There was a man who had an allotment; he had with great toil reclaimed a piece of ground, clearing away the stones, eradicating the rank growth of weeds, enriching and feeding the ground, until it produced the loveliest flowers and vegetables. One evening he was showing a pious friend around his allotment. The pious friend said, "It's wonderful what God can do with a bit of ground like this, isn't it?" "Yes." said the man who had put in such toil, "but you should have seen this bit of ground when God had it to himself!" God's bounty and man's toil must combine. Prayer, like faith, without works is dead. When we pray this petition we are recognizing two basic truths--that without God we can do nothing, and that without our effort and co-operation God can do nothing for us.
(v) We must note that Jesus did not teach us to pray: "Give me my daily bread." He taught us to pray: "Give us our daily bread." The problem of the world is not that there is not enough to go round; there is enough and to spare. The problem is not the supply of life's essentials; it is the distribution of them. This prayer teaches us never to be selfish in our prayers. It is a prayer which we can help God to answer by giving to others who are less fortunate than we are. This prayer is not only a prayer that we may receive our daily bread; it is also a prayer that we may share our daily bread with others.
Forgiveness Human And Divine ( Matthew 6:12 ; Matthew 6:14-15 )
6:12,14,15 Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors ... For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you too; but, if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Before a man can honestly pray this petition of the Lord's Prayer he must realize that he needs to pray it. That is to say, before a man can pray this petition he must have a sense of sin. Sin is not nowadays a popular word. Men and women rather resent being called, or treated as, hell-deserving sinners.
The trouble is that most people have a wrong conception of sin. They would readily agree that the burglar, the drunkard, the murderer, the adulterer, the foul-mouthed person is a sinner. But they are guilty of none of these sins; they live decent, ordinary, respectable lives, and have never even been in danger of appearing in court, or going to prison, or getting some notoriety in the newspapers. They therefore feel that sin has nothing to do with them.
The New Testament uses five different words for sin.
(i) The commonest word is hamartia ( G266) . This was originally a shooting word and means a missing of the target. To fail to hit the target was hamartia. Therefore sin is the failure to be what we might have been and could have been.
Charles Lamb has a picture of a man named Samuel le Grice. Le Grice was a brilliant youth who never fulfilled his promise. Lamb says that there were three stages in his career. There was a time when people said, "He will do something." There was a time when people said, "He could do something if he would." There was a time when people said, "He might have done something, if he had liked." Edwin Muir writes in his Autobiography: "After a certain age all of us, good and bad, are grief stricken because of powers within us which have never been realized: because, in other words, we are not what we should be."
That precisely is hamartia ( G266) ; and that is precisely the situation in which we are all involved. Are we as good husbands or wives as we could be? Are we as good sons or daughters as we could be? Are we as good workmen or employers as we could be? Is there anyone who will dare to claim that he is all he might have been, and has done all he could have done? When we realise that sin means the failure to hit the target, the failure to be all that we might have been and could have been, then it is clear that every one of us is a sinner.
(ii) The second word for sin is parabasis ( G3847) , which literally means a stepping across. Sin is the stepping across the line which is drawn between right and wrong.
Do we always stay on the right side of the line which divides honesty and dishonesty? Is there never any such thing as a petty dishonesty in our lives?
Do we always stay on the right side of the line which divides truth and falsehood? Do we never, by word or by silence, twist or evade or distort the truth?
Do we always stay on the right side of the line which divides kindness and courtesy from selfishness and harshness? Is there never an unkind action or a discourteous word in our lives?
When we think of it in this way, there can be none who can claim always to have remained on the right side of the dividing line.
(iii) The third word for sin is paraptoma ( G3900) , which means a slipping across. It is the kind of slip which a man might make on a slippery or an icy road. It is not so deliberate as parabasis ( G3847) . Again and again we speak of words slipping out; again and again we are swept away by some impulse or passion, which has momentarily gained control of us, and which has made us lose our self-control. The best of us can slip into sin when for the moment we are off our guard.
(iv) The fourth word for sin is anomia ( G458) , which means lawlessness. Anomia is the sin of the man who knows the right, and who yet does the wrong; the sin of the man who knows the law, and who yet breaks the law. The first of all the human instincts is the instinct to do what we like; and therefore there come into any man's life times when he wishes to kick over the traces, and to defy the law, and to do or to take the forbidden thing. In Mandalay, Kipling makes the old soldier say:
Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
Where there aren't no Ten Commandments, an' a man can raise a
Even if there are some who can say that they have never broken any of the Ten Commandments, there are none who can say that they have never wished to break any of them.
(v) The fifth word for sin is the word opheilema ( G3783) which is the word used in the body of the Lord's Prayer; and opheilema means a debt. It means a failure to pay that which is due, a failure in duty. There can be no man who will ever dare to claim that he has perfectly fulfilled his duty to man and to God: Such perfection does not exist among men.
So, then, when we come to see what sin really is, we come to see that it is a universal disease in which every man is involved. Outward respectability in the sight of man, and inward sinfulness in the sight of God may well go hand in hand. This, in fact, is a petition of the Lord's Prayer which every man needs to pray.
Forgiveness Human And Divine ( Matthew 6:12 ; Matthew 6:14-15 Continued)
Not only does a man need to realize that he needs to pray this petition of the Lord's Prayer; he also needs to realize what he is doing when he prays it. Of all petitions of the Lord's Prayer this is the most frightening.
"Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." The literal meaning is : "Forgive us our sins in proportion as we forgive those who have sinned against us." In Matthew 6:14-15 Jesus says in the plainest possible language that if we forgive others, God will forgive us; but if we refuse to forgive others, God will refuse to forgive us. It is, therefore, quite clear that, if we pray this petition with an unhealed breach, an unsettled quarrel in our lives, we are asking God not to forgive us.
If we say, "I will never forgive so-and-so for what he or she has done to me," if we say, "I will never forget what so-and-so did to me," and then go and take this petition on our lips, we are quite deliberately asking God not to forgive us. As someone has put it: "Forgiveness, like peace, is one and indivisible." Human forgiveness and divine forgiveness are inextricably intercombined. Our forgiveness of our fellow-men and God's forgiveness of us cannot be separated; they are interlinked and interdependent. If we remembered what we are doing when we take this petition on our lips, there would be times when we would not dare to pray it.
When Robert Louis Stevenson lived in the South Sea Islands he used always to conduct family worship in the mornings for his household. It always concluded with the Lord's Prayer. One morning in the middle of the Lord's Prayer he rose from his knees and left the room. His health was always precarious, and his wife followed him thinking that he was ill. "Is there anything wrong?" she said. "Only this," said Stevenson, "I am not fit to pray the Lord's Prayer today." No one is fit to pray the Lord's Prayer so long as the unforgiving spirit holds sway within his heart. If a man has not put things right with his fellow-men, he cannot put things right with God.
If we are to have this Christian forgiveness in our lives, three things are necessary.
(i) We must learn to understand. There is always a reason why a person does something. If he is boorish and impolite and cross-tempered, maybe he is worried or in pain. If he treats us with suspicion and dislike, maybe he has misunderstood, or has been misinformed about something we have said or done. Maybe the man is the victim of his own environment or his own heredity. Maybe his temperament is such that life is difficult and human relations a problem for him. Forgiveness would be very much easier for us, if we tried to understand before we allowed ourselves to condemn.
(ii) We must learn to forget. So long as we brood upon a slight or an injury, there is no hope that we will forgive. We so often say, "I can't forget what so-and-so did to me," or "I will never forget how I was treated by such-and-such a person or in such-and-such a place." These are dangerous sayings, because we can in the end make it humanly impossible for us to forget. We can print the memory indelibly upon our minds.
Once the famous Scottish man of letters, Andrew Lang, wrote and published a very kind review of a book by a young man. The young man repaid him with a bitter and insulting attack. About three years later Andrew Lang was staying with Robert Bridges, the Poet Laureate. Bridges saw Lang reading a certain book. "Why," he said, "that's another book by that ungrateful young cub who behaved so shamefully to you." To his astonishment he found that Andrew Lang's mind was a blank on the whole affair. He had completely forgotten the bitter and insulting attack. To forgive, said Bridges, was the sign of a great man, but to forget was sublime. Nothing but the cleansing spirit of Christ can take from these memories of ours the old bitterness that we must forget.
(iii) We must learn to love. We have already seen that Christian love, agape ( G26) , is that unconquerable benevolence, that undefeatable good-will, which will never seek anything but the highest good of others, no matter what they do to us, and no matter how they treat us. That love can come to us only when Christ, who is that love, comes to dwell within our hearts--and he cannot come unless we invite him.
To be forgiven we must forgive, and that is a condition of forgiveness which only the power of Christ can enable us to fulfil.
The Ordeal Of Temptation ( Matthew 6:13 )
6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One.
There are two matters of meaning at which we must look before we begin to study this petition in detail.
(i) To modern ears the word tempt is always a bad word; it always means to seek to seduce into evil But in the Bible the verb peirazein ( G3985) is often better translated by the word test than by the word tempt. In its New Testament usage to tempt a person is not so much to seek to seduce him into sin, as it is to test his strength and his loyalty and his ability for service.
In the Old Testament we read the story of how God tested the loyalty of Abraham by seeming to demand the sacrifice of his only son Isaac. In the King James Version the story begins: "And it came to pass that God did tempt Abraham" ( Genesis 22:1). Obviously the word tempt cannot there mean to seek to seduce into sin, for that is something that God would never do. It means rather to submit to a test of loyalty and obedience. When we read the story of the temptations of Jesus, it begins: "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil" ( Matthew 4:1). If we take the word tempt there in the sense of to seduce into sin, it makes the Holy Spirit a partner in an attempt to compel Jesus to sin. Time and again in the Bible we will find that the word tempt has the idea of testing in it, at least as much as the idea of seeking to lead into sin.
Here, then, is one of the great and precious truths about temptation. Temptation is not designed to make us fall. Temptation is designed to make us stronger and better men and women. Temptation is not designed to make us sinners. It is designed to make us good. We may fail in the test, but we are not meant to. We are meant to emerge stronger and finer. In one sense temptation is not so much the penalty of being a man; it is the glory of being a man. If metal is to be used in a great engineering project, it is tested at stresses and strains far beyond those which it is ever likely to have to bear. So a man has to be tested before God can use him greatly in his service.
All that is true; but it is also true that the Bible is never in any doubt that there is a power of evil in this world. The Bible is not a speculative book, and it does not discuss the origin of that power of evil, but it knows that it is there. Quite certainly this petition of the Lord's Prayer should be translated not, "Deliver us from evil," but, "Deliver us from the Evil One." The Bible does not think of evil as an abstract principle or force, but as an active, personal power in opposition to God.
The development of the idea of Satan in the Bible is of the greatest interest. In Hebrew the word Satan simply means an adversary. It can often be used of men. A man's adversary is his Satan. In the King James Version the Philistines are afraid that David may turn out to be their Satan ( 1 Samuel 29:4): Solomon declares that God has given him such peace and prosperity that there is no Satan left to oppose him ( 1 Kings 5:4); David regards Abishai as his Satan ( 2 Samuel 19:22). In all these cases Satan means an adversary or opponent. From that the word Satan goes on to mean one who pleads a case against someone. Then the word leaves earth and, as it were, enters heaven. The Jews had the idea that in heaven there was an angel whose charge it was to state the case against a man, a kind of prosecuting angel; and that became the function of Satan. At that stage Satan is not an evil power; he is part of the judgment apparatus of heaven. In Job 1:6, Satan is numbered among the sons of God: "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them." At this stage Satan is the divine prosecutor of man.
But it is not so very far a step from stating a case against a man to making up a case against a man. And that is the next step. The other name of Satan is the Devil; and Devil comes from the Greek word Diabolos ( G1228) , which is the regular word for a slanderer. So Satan becomes the Devil, the slanderer par excellence, the adversary of man, the power who is out to frustrate the purposes of God and to ruin mankind. Satan comes to stand for everything which is anti-man and anti-God. It is from that ruining power that Jesus teaches us to pray to be delivered. The origin of that power is not discussed; there are no speculations. As someone has put it: "If a man wakes up and finds his house on fire, he does not sit down in a chair and write or read a treatise on the origin of fires in private houses; he attempts to try to extinguish the fire and to save his house." So the Bible wastes no time in speculations about the origin of evil. It equips man to fight the battle against the evil which is unquestionably there.
The Attack Of Temptation ( Matthew 6:13 Continued)
Life is always under attack from temptation, but no enemy can launch an invasion until he finds a bridgehead. Where then does temptation find its bridgehead? Where do our temptations come from? To be forewarned is to be forearmed, and, if we know whence the attack is likely to come, we will have a better chance to overcome it.
(i) Sometimes the attack of temptation comes from outside us. There are people whose influence is bad. There are people in whose company it would be very difficult even to suggest doing a dishonourable thing, and there are people in whose company it is easy to do the wrong things. When Robert Burns was a young man he went to Irvine to learn flax-dressing. There he fell in with a certain Robert Brown, who was a man who had seen much of the world, and who had a fascinating and a dominating personality. Burns tells us that he admired him and strove to imitate him. Burns goes on: "He was the only man I ever saw who was a greater fool than myself when Woman was the guiding star.... He spoke of a certain fashionable failing with levity, which hitherto I had regarded with horror.... Here his friendship did me a mischief." There are friendships and associations which can do us a mischief. In a tempting world a man should be very careful in his choice of friends and of the society in which he will move. He should give the temptations which come from outside as little chance as possible.
(ii) It is one of the tragic facts of life that temptations can come to us from those who love us; and of all kinds of temptation this is the hardest to fight. It comes from people who love us and who have not the slightest intention of harming us.
The kind of thing that happens is this. A man may know that he ought to take a certain course of action; he may feel divinely drawn to a certain career; but to follow that course of action may involve unpopularity and risk; to accept that career may be to give up all that the world calls success. It may well be that in such circumstances those who love him will seek to dissuade him from acting as he knows he ought, and they will do so because they love him. They counsel caution, prudence, worldly wisdom; they want to see the one they love do well in a worldly sense; they do not wish to see him throw his chances away; and so they seek to stop him doing what he knows to be right for him.
In Gareth and Lynette Tennyson tells the story of Gareth, the youngest son of Lot and Bellicent. Gareth wishes to join this brothers in the service of King Arthur. Bellicent his mother does not wish him to go. "Hast thou no pity on my loneliness?" she asks. His father Lot is old and lies "like a log all but smouldered out." Both his brothers have gone to Arthur's court. Must he go too? If he will stay at home, she will arrange the hunt, and find him a princess for his bride, and make him happy. It was because she loved him that she wished to keep him; the tempter was speaking with the very voice of love. But Gareth answers:
How can you keep me tethered to you--shame.
Man am I grown, and man's work must I do.
Follow the deer? Follow the Christ the King.
Live pure, speak true, right wrong, follow the King--
Else, wherefore born?"
The lad went out, but the voice of love tempted him to stay.
That was what happened to Jesus. "A man's foes," said Jesus, "will be those of his own household" ( Matthew 10:36). They came and they tried to take him home, because they said that he was mad ( Mark 3:21). To them he seemed to be throwing his life and his career away; to them he seemed to be making a fool of himself; and they tried to stop him. Sometimes the bitterest of all temptations come to us from the voice of love.
(iii) There is one very odd way in which temptation can come, especially to younger people. There is in most of us a queer streak, which, at least in certain company, makes us wish to appear worse than we are. We do not wish to appear soft and pious, namby-pamby and holy. We would rather be thought daredevil, swashbuckling adventurers, men of the world and not innocents. Augustine has a famous passage in his confessions: "Among my equals I was ashamed of being less shameless than others, when I heard them boast of their wickedness.... And I took pleasure not only in the pleasure of the deed but in the praise.... I made myself worse than I was, that I might not be reproached, and when in anything I had not sinned as the most abandoned ones, I would say that I had done what I had not done, that I might not seem contemptible." Many a man has begun on some indulgence, or introduced himself to some habit, because he did not wish to appear less experienced in worldliness than the company in which he happened to be. One of the great defences against temptation is simply the courage to be good.
The Attack Of Temptation ( Matthew 6:13 Continued)
(iv) But temptation comes not only from outside us; it comes from inside us too. If there was nothing in us to which temptation could appeal then it would be helpless to defeat us. In every one of us there is some weak spot; and at that weak spot temptation launches its attack.
The point of vulnerability differs in all of us. What is a violent temptation to one man, leaves another man quite unmoved; and what leaves one man quite unmoved may be an irresistible temptation to another. Sir James Barrie has a play called The Will. Mr. Davizes, the lawyer, noticed that an old clerk, who had been in his service for many years, was looking very ill. He asked him if anything was the matter. The old man told him that his doctor had informed him that he was suffering from a fatal and incurable disease.
Mr Devizes [uncomfortably]: I'm sure it's not what you fear.
Any specialist would tell you so.
Surtees [without looking up]: I've been to one, sir--yesterday.
Mr Devizes: Well?
Surtees: It's--that, sir.
Mr Devizes: He couldn't be sure.
Surtees: Yes, sir.
Mr Devizes: An operation--
Surtees: Too late for that, he said. If I had been operated on
long ago, I might have had a chance.
Mr Devizes: But you didn't have it long ago.
Surtees: Not to my knowledge, sir; but he says it was there all
the same, always in me, a black spot, not as big as a pin's
head, but waiting to spread and destroy me in the fulness of
Mr Devizes [helplessly]: It seems damnably unfair.
Surtees [humbly]: I don't know, sir. He says there is a spot of
that kind in pretty nigh all of us, and, if we don't look out,
it does for us in the end.
Mr Devizes: No. No. No.
Surtees: He called it the accursed thing. I think he meant we
should know of it, and be on the watch.
In every man there is the weak spot, which, if he is not on the watch, can ruin him. Somewhere in every man there is the flaw, some fault of temperament which can ruin life, some instinct or passion so strong that it may at any time snap the leash, some quirk in our make-up that makes what is a pleasure to someone else a menace to us. We should realize it, and be on the watch.
(v) But, strangely enough, temptation comes sometimes not from our weakest point, but from our strongest point. If there is one thing of which we are in the habit of saying. "That is one thing anyway which I would never do," it is just there that we should be upon the watch. History is full of the stories of castles which were taken just at the point where the defenders thought them so strong that no guard was necessary. Nothing gives temptation its chance like over-confidence. At our weakest and at our strongest points we must be upon the watch.
The Defense Against Temptation ( Matthew 6:13 Continued)
We have thought of the attack of temptation; let us now assemble our defences against temptation.
(i) There is the simple defence of self-respect. When Nehemiah's life was in danger, it was suggested that he should quit his work and shut himself in the Temple until the danger was past. His answer was: "Should such a man as I flee? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in" ( Nehemiah 6:11). A man may escape many things, but he cannot escape himself. He must live with his memories, and if he has lost his self-respect life becomes intolerable. Once President Garfield was urged to take a profitable, but dishonourable, course of action. It was said, "No one will ever know." His answer was, "President Garfield will know--and I've got to sleep with him." When a man is tempted, he may well defend himself by saying, "Is a man like me going to do a thing like that?"
(ii) There is the defence of tradition. No man can lightly fail the traditions and the heritage into which he has entered, and which have taken generations to build up. When Pericles, the greatest of the statesmen of Athens, was going to address the Athenian Assembly, he always whispered to himself: "Pericles, remember that you are an Athenian and that you go to speak to Athenians."
One of the epics of the Second World War was the defence of Tobruk. The Coldstream Guards cut their way out of Tobruk, but only a handful of them survived, and even these were just shadows of men. Two hundred survivors out of two battalions were being cared for by the R.A.F. A Coldstream Guards officer was in the mess. Another officer said to him, "After all, as Foot Guards, you had no option but to have a go." And an R.A.F. man standing there said, "It must be pretty tough to be in the Brigade of Guards, because tradition compels you to carry on irrespective of circumstances."
The power of a tradition is one of the greatest things in life. We belong to a country, a school, a family, a Church. What we do affects that to which we belong. We cannot lightly betray the traditions into which we have entered.
(iii) There is the defence of those whom we love and those who love us. Many a man would sin, if the only penalty he had to bear was the penalty he would have to bear himself; but he is saved from sin because he could not meet the pain that would appear in someone's eyes, if he made shipwreck of his life.
Laura Richards has a parable like this:
"A man sat by the door of his house smoking his pipe, and his
neighbour sat beside him and tempted him. 'You are poor,' said
the neighbour, 'and you are out of work and here is a way of
bettering yourself. It will be an easy job and it will bring in
money, and it is no more dishonest than things that are done
every day by respectable people. You will be a fool to throw
away such a chance as this. Come with me and we will settle the
matter at once.' And the man listened. Just then his young wife
came to the door of the cottage and she had her baby in her
arms. 'Will you hold the baby for a minute,' she said. 'He is
fretful and I must hang out the clothes to dry.' The man took
the baby and held him on his knees. And as he held him, the
child looked up, and the eyes of the child spoke: 'I am flesh of
your flesh,' said the child's eyes. 'I am soul of your soul.
Where you lead I shall follow. Lead the way, father. My feet
come after yours.' Then said the man to his neighbour: 'Go,
and come here no more.'"
A man might be perfectly willing to pay the price of sin, if that price affected only himself. But if he remembers that his sin will break someone else's heart, he will have a strong defence against temptation.
(iv) There is the defence of the presence of Jesus Christ. Jesus is not a figure in a book; he is a living presence. Sometimes we ask, "What would you do, if you suddenly found Christ standing beside you ? How would you live, if Jesus Christ was a guest in your house?" But the whole point of the Christian faith is that Jesus Christ is beside us, and he is a guest in every home. His is the unescapable presence, and, therefore, we must make all life fit for him to see. We have a strong defence against temptation in the memory of the continual presence of Jesus Christ.
How Not To Fast ( Matthew 6:16-18)
6:16-18 When you fast, don't put on a sad face, as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces, so that all men may see that they are fasting. This is the truth I tell you--they are paid in full. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that to men you may not look as if you were fasting, but to your Father who is in secret; and your Father, who sees what happens in secret, will give you your reward in full.
To this day fasting is an essential part of the religious life in the east. The Mohammedan strictly keeps the fast of Ramadan, which falls in the ninth month of the Mohammedan year, and which commemorates the first revelation which came to Mohammed. The fast lasts from dawn--when it is light enough to distinguish a white thread from a black thread--until sunset. Bathing, drinking, smoking, smelling perfumes, eating, every unnecessary indulgence is forbidden. Nurses and pregnant women are exempt. Soldiers and those on a journey are excused, but must at some other time fast for an equivalent number of days. If for health's sake a man must have food, he must make good his breach of the law of fasting by giving alms to the poor.
The Jewish fasting customs were exactly the same. It is to be noted that, as we have said, fasting lasted from dawn to sunset; outside that time normal meals could be eaten. For the Jew, in the time of Jesus, there was only one compulsory fast, the fast on the Day of Atonement. On that day from morning to evening, all men had "to afflict themselves" ( Leviticus 16:31). The Jewish scribal law lays it down: "On the Day of Atonement it is forbidden to eat, or to drink, or to bathe, or to anoint oneself, or to wear sandals, or to indulge in conjugal intercourse." Even young children had to be trained to some measure of fasting on the Day of Atonement so that, when they grew up, they would be prepared to accept the national fast.
But, although there was only the one compulsory, universal day of fasting, the Jews made great use of private fasting.
There was the fasting which was connected with mourning. Between the time of death and burial mourners must abstain from all flesh and wine. There was fasting to expiate some sin. It was said, for instance, the Reuben fasted for seven years for his share in the selling of Joseph: "He drank no wine or other liquor; no flesh passed his lips, and he ate no appetising food" (The Testament of Reuben 1: 10). For the same reason, "Simeon afflicted his soul with fasting for two years, because he had hated Joseph" (The Testimony of Simeon 3: 4). In repentance of his sin with Tamar, it was said that Judah to his old age "took neither wine nor flesh, and saw no pleasure" (The Testament of Judah 15: 4). It is fair to say that Jewish thought saw no value in fasting apart from repentance. The fast was only designed to be the outer expression of an inward sorrow. The writer of Ecclesiasticus ( Sir_31:30 ) says, "A man who fasts to get rid of his sins, and goes again and does the same thing--who will listen to his prayer, and what profit is there in his humbling himself?"
In many cases fasting was an act of national penitence. So the whole nation fasted after the disaster of the civil war with Benjamin ( Judges 20:26). Samuel made the people fast because they had strayed away after Baal ( 1 Samuel 7:6). Nehemiah made the people fast and confess their sins ( Nehemiah 9:1). Again and again the nation fasted as a sign of national penitence before God.
Sometimes fasting was a preparation for revelation. Moses in the mountain fasted for forty days and forty nights ( Exodus 24:15). Daniel fasted as he awaited God's word ( Daniel 9:3). Jesus himself fasted as he awaited the ordeal of temptation ( Matthew 4:2). This was a sound principle, for when the body is most disciplined, the mental and the spiritual faculties are most alert. Sometimes fasting was an appeal to God. If, for instance, the rains failed and the harvest was in jeopardy, a national fast would be called as an appeal to God.
In Jewish fasting there were really three main ideas in the minds of men.
(i) Fasting was a deliberate attempt to draw the attention of God to the person who fasted. This was a very primitive idea. The fasting was designed to attract God's attention, and to make him notice the person who thus afflicted himself.
(ii) Fasting was a deliberate attempt to prove that penitence was real. Fasting was a guarantee of the sincerity of words and prayers. It is easy to see that there was a danger here, for that which was meant to be a proof of repentance could very easily come to be regarded as a substitute for repentance.
(iii) A great deal of fasting was vicarious. It was not designed to save a man's own soul so much as to move God to liberate the nation from its distresses. It was as if specially devoted people said, "Ordinary people cannot do this. They are too involved in work and in the world. We will do this extra thing to counterbalance the necessary deficiency of piety in others."
Such then was the Jewish theory and practice of fasting.
How Not To Fast ( Matthew 6:16-18 Continued)
High as the ideal of fasting might be, the practice of it involved certain inevitable dangers. The great danger was that a man might fast as a sign of superior piety, that his fasting might be a deliberate demonstration, not to God, but to men, of how devoted and disciplined a person he was. That is precisely what Jesus was condemning. He was condemning fasting when it was used as an ostentatious parade of piety. The Jewish days of fasting were Monday and Thursday. These were market days, and into the towns and villages, and especially into Jerusalem, there crowded the people from the country; the result was that those who were ostentatiously fasting would on those days have a bigger audience to see and admire their piety. There were many who took deliberate steps to see that others could not miss the fact that they were fasting. They walked through the streets with hair deliberately unkempt and dishevelled, with clothes deliberately soiled and disarrayed. They even went the length of deliberately whitening their faces to accentuate their paleness. This was no act of humility; it was a deliberate act of spiritual pride and ostentation.
The wisest of the Rabbis would have condemned this as unsparingly as Jesus did. They were quite clear that fasting for its own sake was valueless. They said that a vow of abstinence was like an iron collar which prisoners had to wear; and he who imposed on himself such a vow was said to be like a man who found such a collar lying about, and who misguidedly stuck his head into it, thereby voluntarily undertaking a useless slavery. One of the finest things ever said is the Rabbinic saying, "A man will have to give an account on the judgment day for every good thing which he might have enjoyed, and did not."
Dr. Boreham has a story which is a commentary on the wrong idea of fasting. A traveller in the Rocky mountains fell in with an old Roman Catholic priest; he was amazed to find so aged a man struggling amidst the rocks and the precipices and the steep passes. The traveller asked the priest, "What are you doing here?" The old man answered, "I am seeking the beauty of the world." "But," said the traveller, "surely you have left it very late in life?" So the old man told his story. He had spent nearly all his life in a monastery; he had never been further outside it than the cloisters. He fell seriously Hi, and in his illness he had a vision. He saw an angel stand beside his bed. "What have you come for?" he asked the angel. "To lead you home," the angel said. "And is it a very beautiful world to which I am going?" asked the old man. "It is a very beautiful world you are leaving," said the angel. "And then," said the old man, "I remembered that I had seen nothing of it except the fields and the trees around the monastery." So he said to the angel, "But I have seen very little of the world which I am leaving." "Then," said the angel, "I fear you will see very little beauty in the world to which you are going." "I was in trouble," said the old man, "and I begged that I might stay for just two more years. My prayer was granted, and I am spending all my little hoard of gold, and all the time I have, in exploring the world's loveliness--and I find it very wonderful!"
It is the duty of a man to accept and enjoy the world's loveliness, and not to reject it. There is no religious value in fasting undertaken for its own sake, or as an ostentatious demonstration of superior piety.
The True Fasting ( Matthew 6:16-18 Continued)
Although Jesus condemned the wrong kind of fasting, his words imply that there is a wise fasting, in which he expected that the Christian would take part. This is a thing of which few of us ever think. There are very few ordinary people in whose lives fasting plays any part at all. And yet there are many reasons why a wise fasting is an excellent thing.
(i) Fasting is good for health. Many of us live a life in which it is easy to get soft and flabby. It is even possible for a man to reach the stage when he lives to eat instead of eating to live. It would do a great many people a great deal of physical good to practise fasting far more than they do.
(ii) Fasting is good for self-discipline. It is easy to become almost completely self-indulgent. It is easy to come to a stage when we deny ourselves nothing which it is in our power to have or to pay for. It would do most people a great deal of good to cease for some time each week to make their wishes and their desires their master, and to exercise a stringent and an antiseptic self-discipline.
(iii) Fasting preserves us from becoming the slaves of a habit. There are not a few of us who indulge in certain habits because we find it impossible to stop them. They have become so essential that we cannot break them; we develop such a craving for certain things that what ought to be a pleasure has become a necessity; and to be cut off from the thing which we have learned so to desire can be a purgatory. If we practiced a wise fasting no pleasure would become a chain, and no habit would become a master. We would be masters of our pleasures, and not our pleasures masters of us.
(iv) Fasting preserves the ability to do without things. One of the great tests of any man's life is the number of things which he has come to regard as essential. Clearly, the fewer things we regard as essentials, the more independent we will be. When all kinds of things become essentials, we are at the mercy of the luxuries of life. It is no bad thing for a man to walk down a street of shop windows, and to look in at them, and remind himself of all the things that he can do without. Some kind of fasting preserves the ability to do without the things which should never be allowed to become essentials.
(v) Fasting makes us appreciate things all the more. It may be that there was a time in life when some pleasure came so seldom that we really enjoyed it when it did come. It may be that nowadays the appetite is blunted; the palate is dulled; the edge is gone off it. What was once a sharp pleasure has become simply a drug which we cannot do without. Fasting keeps the thrill in pleasure by keeping pleasure always fresh and new.
Fasting has gone almost completely out of the life of the ordinary person. Jesus condemned the wrong kind of fasting, but he never meant that fasting should be completely eliminated from life and living. We would do well to practise it in our own way and according to our own need. And the reason for practicing it is,
"So that earth's bliss may be our guide,
And not our chain."
THE TRUE TREASURE ( Matthew 6:19-21 )
6:19-21 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth. where moth and rust destroy them, and where thieves dig through and steal. Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy them, and where thieves do not dig through and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
In the ordinary, everyday management of life it is simple wisdom to get to oneself only those things which will last. Whether we are buying a suit of clothes, or a motor car, or a carpet for the floor, or a suite of furniture, it is common sense to avoid shoddy goods, and to buy the things which have solidity and permanence and craftsmanship wrought into them. That is exactly what Jesus is saying here; he is telling us to concentrate on the things which will last.
Jesus calls up three pictures from the three great sources of wealth in Palestine.
(i) He tells men to avoid the things that the moth can destroy.
In the east, part of a man's wealth often consisted in fine and elaborate clothes. When Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, wished to make some forbidden profit out of Naaman, after his master had cured him, he asked him for a talent of silver and two festal garments ( 2 Kings 5:22). One of the things which tempted Achan to sin was a beautiful mantle from Shinar ( Joshua 7:21).
But such things were foolish things to set the heart upon, for the moths might eat at them, when they were stored away. and all their beauty and their value be destroyed. There was no permanence about possessions like that.
(ii) He tells men to avoid the things that rust can destroy.
The word translated rust is brosis ( G1035) . It literally means an eating away, but it is nowhere else used to mean rust. Most likely the picture is this. In the east many a man's wealth consisted in the corn and the grain that he had stored away in his great barns. But into that corn and rain there could come the worms and the rats and the mice, until the store was polluted and destroyed. In all probability, the reference is to the way in which rats, and mice, and worms, and other vermin, could get into a granary and eat away the grain.
There was no permanence about possessions like that.
(iii) He tells men to avoid the treasure, which thieves can steal by digging through.
The word which is used for "to dig through" (the Revised Standard Version has "break in") is diorussein ( G1358) . In Palestine the walls of many of the houses were made of nothing stronger than baked clay; and burglars did effect an entry by literally digging through the wall. The reference here is to the man who has hoarded up in his house a little store of gold, only to find, when he comes home one day, that the burglars have dug through his flimsy walls and that his treasure is gone.
There is no permanency about a treasure which is at the mercy of any enterprising thief.
So Jesus warns men against three kinds of pleasures and possessions.
(i) He warns them against the pleasures which will wear out like an old suit of clothes. The finest garment in the world, moths or no moths, will in the end disintegrate. All purely physical pleasures have a way of wearing out. At each successive enjoyment of them the thrill becomes less thrilling. It requires more of them to produce the same effect. They are like a drug which loses its initial potency and which becomes increasingly less effective. A man is a foolish man who finds his pleasures in things which are bound to offer diminishing returns.
(ii) He warns against the pleasures which can be eroded away. The grain store is the inevitable prey of the marauding rats and mice who nibble and gnaw away the grain. There are certain pleasures which inevitably lose their attraction as a man grows older. It may be that he is physically less able to enjoy them; it may be that as his mind matures they cease in any sense to satisfy him. In life a man should never give his heart to the joys the years can take away; he should find his delight in the things whose thrill time is powerless to erode.
(iii) He warns against the pleasures which can be stolen away. All material things are like that; not one of them is secure; and if a man builds his happiness on them, he is building on a most insecure basis. Suppose a man arranges his life in such a way that his happiness depends on his possession of money; suppose a crash comes and he wakes up to find his money gone; then, with his wealth, his happiness has gone.
If any man is wise, he will build his happiness on things which he cannot lose, things which are independent of the chances and the changes of this life. Burns wrote of the fleeting things:
"But pleasures are like poppies spread:
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white--then melts for ever."
Any one whose happiness depends on things like that is doomed to disappointment. Any man whose treasure is in things is bound to lose his treasure, for in things there is no permanence, and no thing lasts forever.
TREASURE IN HEAVEN ( Matthew 6:19-21 continued)
The Jews were very familiar with the phrase treasure in heaven. They identified such treasure with two things in particular.
(i) They said that the deeds of kindness which a man did upon earth became his treasure in heaven.
The Jews had a famous story about a certain King Monobaz of Adiabdne who became a convert to Judaism. "Monobaz distributed all his treasures to the poor in the year of famine. His brothers sent to him and said, 'Thy fathers gathered treasures, and added to those of their fathers, but thou hast dispersed yours and theirs.' He said to them, 'My fathers gathered treasures for below, I have gathered treasures for above; they stored treasures in a place over which the hand of man can rule, but I have stored treasures in a place over which the hand of man cannot rule; my fathers collected treasures which bear no interest, I have gathered treasures which bear interest; my fathers gathered treasures of money, I have gathered treasures in souls; my fathers gathered treasures for others, I have gathered treasures for myself; my fathers gathered treasures in this world, I have gathered treasures for the world to come.'"
Both Jesus and the Jewish Rabbis were sure that what is selfishly hoarded is lost, but that what is generously given away brings treasure in heaven.
That was also the principle of the Christian Church in the days to come. The Early Church always lovingly cared for the poor, and the sick, and the distressed, and the helpless, and those for whom no one else cared. In the days of the terrible Decian persecution in Rome, the Roman authorities broke into a Christian Church. They were out to loot the treasures which they believed the Church to possess. The Roman prefect demanded from Laurentius, the deacon: "Show me your treasures at once." Laurentius pointed at the widows and orphans who were being fed, the sick who were being nursed, the poor whose needs were being supplied, "These," he said, "are the treasures of the Church."
The Church has always believed that "what we keep, we lose, and what we spend, we have."
(ii) The Jews always connected the phrase treasure in heaven with character. When Rabbi Yose ben Kisma was asked if he would dwell in a heathen city on condition of receiving very high pay for his services, he replied that he would not dwell anywhere except in a home of the Law, "for," he said, "in the hour of a man's departure neither silver, nor gold, nor precious stones accompany him, but only his knowledge of the Law, and his good works." As the grim Spanish proverb has it, "There are no pockets in a shroud."
The only thing which a man can take out of this world into the world beyond is himself; and the finer the self he brings, the greater his treasure in heaven will be.
(iii) Jesus ends this section by stating that where a man's treasure is, his heart is there also. If everything that a man values and sets his heart upon is on earth, then he will have no interest in any world beyond this world; if all through his life a man's eyes are on eternity, then he will evaluate lightly the things of this world. If everything which a man counts valuable is on this earth, then he will leave this earth reluctantly and grudgingly; if a man's thoughts have been ever in the world beyond, he will leave this world with gladness, because he goes at last to God. Once Dr. Johnson was shown through a noble castle and its grounds; when he had seen round it he turned to his companions and said, "These are the things which make it difficult to die."
Jesus never said that this world was unimportant; but he said and implied over and over again that its importance is not in itself, but in that to which it leads. This world is not the end of life, it is a stage on the way; and therefore a man should never lose his heart to this world and to the things of this world. His eyes ought to be for ever fixed on the goal beyond.
THE DISTORTED VISION ( Matthew 6:22-23 )
6:22-23 The light of the body is the eye. So then, if your eye is generous, the whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is grudging, your whole body will be in the dark. If, then, the light which is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
The idea behind this passage is one of childlike simplicity. The eye is regarded as the window by which the light gets into the whole body. The state of a window decides what light gets into a room. If the window is clear, clean. and undistorted, the light will come flooding into the room, and will illuminate every corner of it. If the glass of the window is coloured or frosted, distorted, dirty, or obscure, the light will be hindered, and the room will not be lit up.
The amount of light which gets into any room depends on the state of the window through which it has to pass. So, then, says Jesus, the light which gets into any man's heart and soul and being depends on the spiritual state of the eye through which it has to pass, for the eye is the window of the whole body.
The view we take of people depends on the kind of eye we have. There are certain obvious things which can blind our eyes and distort our vision.
(i) Prejudice can distort our vision. There is nothing which so destroys a man's judgment as prejudice does. It prevents him from forming the clear, reasonable and logical judgment which it is the duty of any man to form. It blinds him alike to the facts and to the significance of the facts.
Almost all new discoveries have had to fight their way against unreasonable prejudice. When Sir James Simpson discovered the virtues of chloroform he had to fight against the prejudice of the medical and religious world of his day. One of his biographers writes: "Prejudice, the crippling determination to walk only in time-worn paths, and to eschew new ways, rose up against it, and did their best to smother the new-found blessing." "Many of the clergy held that to try to remove the primal curse on women was to fight against divine law."
One of the most necessary things in life is the fearless self-examination which will enable us to see when we are acting on principle and when we are the victims of our own unreasonable and unreasoning prejudices. In any man who is swayed by prejudice the eye is darkened and the vision distorted.
(ii) Jealousy can distort our vision. Shakespeare gave us the classic example of that in the tragedy of Othello. Othello, the Moor, won fame by his heroic exploits and married Desdemona, who loved him with utter devotion and complete fidelity. As general of the army of Venice, Othello promoted Cassio and passed over Iago. Iago was consumed with jealousy. By careful plotting and the manipulation of facts Iago sowed in Othello's mind the suspicion that Cassio and Desdemona were carrying on an intrigue. He manufactured evidence to prove it, and moved Othello to such a passion of jealousy that he finally murdered Desdemona by smothering her with a pillow. A. C. Bradley writes, "Such jealousy as Othello's converts human nature into chaos, and liberates the beast in man."
Many a marriage and many a friendship have been wrecked on the rock of a jealousy which distorted perfectly innocent incidents into guilty actions, and which blinded the eye to truth and fact.
(iii) Self-conceit can distort our vision. In her biography of Mark Rutherford, Catherine Macdonald Maclean has a curiously caustic sentence about John Chapman, the bookseller and publisher, who was at one time Mark Rutherford's employer: "Handsome in the Byronic fashion and pleasant-mannered, he was exceedingly attractive to women, and he thought himself even more attractive to them than he actually was."
Self-conceit doubly affects a man's vision, for it renders him incapable of seeing himself as he really is, and incapable of seeing others as they really are. If a man is convinced of his own surpassing wisdom, he will never be able to realise his own foolishness; and if he is blind to everything except his own virtues, he will never be aware of his own faults. Whenever he compares himself with others, he will do so to his own advantage, and to their disadvantage. He will be for ever incapable of self-criticism, and therefore for ever incapable of self-improvement. The light in which he should see himself and see others will be darkness.
THE NECESSITY OF THE GENEROUS EYE ( Matthew 6:22-23 continued)
But here Jesus speaks of one special virtue which fills the eye with light, and one special fault which fills the eye with darkness. The King James Version speaks here about the eye being single and the eye being evil Certainly that is the literal meaning of the Greek, but the words single and evil are here used in a special way which is common enough in the Greek in which scripture is written.
The word for single is haplous ( G573) , and its corresponding noun is haplotes ( G572) . Regularly in the Greek of the Bible these words mean generous and generosity. James speaks of God who gives generously ( James 1:5), and the adverb he uses is haplos ( G574) . Similarly in Romans 12:8, Paul urges his friends to give in liberality (haplos, G574) . Paul reminds the Corinthian Church of the liberality (haplotes, G574) of the Churches in Macedonia, and talks about their own generosity to all men ( 2 Corinthians 9:11). It is the generous eye which Jesus is commending.
The word which is in the King James Version translated evil is poneros ( G4190) . Certainly that is the normal meaning of the word; but both in the New Testament and in the Septuagint poneros ( G4190) regularly means niggardly or grudging. Deuteronomy speaks of the duty of lending to a brother who is in need. But the matter was complicated by the fact that every seventh year was a year of release when debts were cancelled. It might, therefore, very well happen that, if the seventh year was near, a cautious man might refuse to help, lest the person helped might take advantage of the seventh year never to repay his debt. So the law lays it down: "Take heed lest there be a base thought in your heart, and you say, 'The seventh year, the year of release is near,' and your eye be hostile to your poor brother, and you give him nothing" ( Deuteronomy 15:9). Clearly poneros ( G4190) there means niggardly, grudging and ungenerous. It is the advice of the proverb: "Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy" ( Proverbs 23:6). That is to say, "Don't be a guest in the house of a man who grudges you every bite you eat." Another proverb has it: "A miserly man hastens after wealth" ( Proverbs 28:22).
So Jesus is saying, "There is nothing like generosity for giving you a clear and undistorted view of life and of people; and there is nothing like the grudging and ungenerous spirit for distorting your view of life and of people."
(i) We must be generous in our judgments of others. It is characteristic of human nature to think the worst, and to find a malignant delight in repeating the worst. Every day in life the reputations of perfectly innocent people are murdered over the tea-cups by gossiping groups whose judgments are dipped in poison. The world would be saved a great deal of heartbreak, if we would put the best, and not the worst, construction on the actions of other people.
(ii) We must be generous in our actions. In her biography of Mark Rutherford, Catherine Macdonald Maclean speaks of the days when Mark Rutherford came to work in London: "It was about this time that there can be noted in him the beginning of that 'cherishing pity for the souls of men' which was to become habitual with him.... The burning question with him, haunted as he was at times by the fate of many in the district in which he lived, was, 'What can I do? Wherein can I help them?' It seemed to him then, as always, that any kind of action was of more value than the most vehement indignation that spent itself in talk." When Mark Rutherford was with Chapman the publisher, George Eliot, or Marian Evans as her real name was, lived and worked in the same place. One thing impressed him about her: "She was poor. She had only a small income of her own; and, although she hoped to earn a livelihood as a woman of letters, her future was very uncertain. But she was fantastically generous. She was always helping lame dogs over stiles, and the poverty of others pressed on her more than her own. She wept more bitterly because she could not adequately relieve a sister's poverty than because of any of her own privations."
It is when we begin to feel like that that we begin to see people and things clearly. It is then that our eye becomes full of light.
There are three great evils of the ungenerous spirit, of the eye that is grudging.
(i) It makes it impossible to live with ourselves. If a man is for ever envying another his success, grudging another his happiness, shutting his heart against another's need, he becomes that most pitiable of creatures--a man with a grudge. There grows within him a bitterness and a resentment which robs him of his happiness, steals away his peace, and destroys his content.
(ii) It makes it impossible to live with other people. The mean man is the man abhorred by all; the man whom all men despise is the man with the miser's heart. Charity covers a multitude of sins, but the grudging spirit makes useless a multitude of virtues. However bad the generous man may be, there are those who will love him; and however good the mean man may be, all men will detest him.
(iii) It makes it impossible to live with God. There is no one so generous as God, and, in the last analysis, there can be no fellowship between two people who guide their lives by diametrically opposite principles. There can be no fellowship between the God whose heart is afire with love, and the man whose heart is frozen with meanness.
The grudging eye distorts our vision; the generous eye alone sees clearly, for it alone sees as God sees.
THE EXCLUSIVE SERVICE ( Matthew 6:24 )
6:24 No man can be a slave to two owners; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will cleave to the one and despise the other. You cannot be a slave to God and to material things.
To one brought up in the ancient world this is an even more vivid saying than it is to us. The Revised Standard Version translates it: No one can serve two masters. But that is not nearly strong enough. The word which the Revised Standard Version translates "serve" is douleuein ( G1398) ; doulos ( G1401) is a slave; and douleuein ( G1398) means to be a slave to. The word that the Revised Standard Version translates master is kurios ( G2962) , and kurios is the word which denotes absolute ownership. We get the meaning far better, if we translate it: No man can be a slave to two owners.
To understand all that this means and implies we must remember two things about the slave in the ancient world. First, the slave in the eyes of the law was not a person but a thing. He had absolutely no rights of his own; his master could do with him absolutely as he liked. In the eyes of the law the slave was a living tool. His master could sell him, beat him, throw him out, and even kill him. His master possessed him as completely as he possessed any of his material possessions. Second, in the ancient world a slave had literally no time which was his own. Every moment of his life belonged to his master. Under modern conditions a man has certain hours of work, and outside these hours of work his time is his own. It is indeed often possible for a man nowadays to find his real interest in life outside his hours of work. He may be a clerk in an office during the day and play the violin in an orchestra at night; and it may be that it is in his music that he finds his real life. He may work in a shipyard or in a factory during the day and run a youth club at night, and it may be that it is in the youth club that he finds his real delight and the real expression of his personality. But it was far otherwise with the slave. The slave had literally no moment of time which belonged to himself. Every moment belonged to his owner and was at his owner's disposal.
Here, then, is our relationship to God. In regard to God we have no rights of our own; God must be undisputed master of our lives. We can never ask, "What do I wish to do?" We must always ask, "What does God wish me to do?" We have no time which is our own. We cannot sometimes say, "I will do what God wishes me to do," and, at other times, say, "I will do what I like." The Christian has no time off from being a Christian; there is no time when he can relax his Christian standards, as if he was off duty. A partial or a spasmodic service of God is not enough. Being a Christian is a whole-time job. Nowhere in the Bible is the exclusive service which God demands more clearly set forth.
Jesus goes on to say, "You cannot serve God and mammon." The correct spelling is with one m. Mammon was a Hebrew word for material possessions. Originally it was not a bad word at all. The Rabbis, for instance, had a saying, "Let the mammon of thy neighbour be as dear to thee as thine own." That is to say, a man should regard his neighbours material possessions as being as sacrosanct as his own. But the word mammon had a most curious and a most revealing history. It comes from a root which means to entrust; and mammon was that which a man entrusted to a banker or to a safe deposit of some kind. Mammon was the wealth which a man entrusted to someone to keep safe for him. But as the years went on mammon came to mean, not that which is entrusted, but that in which a man puts his trust. The end of the process was that mammon came to be spelled with a capital M and came to be regarded as nothing less than a god.
The history of that word shows vividly how material possessions can usurp a place in life which they were never meant to have. Originally a man's material possessions were the things which he entrusted to someone else for safe-keeping; in the end they came to be the things in which a man puts his trust. Surely there is no better description of a man's god, than to say that his god is the power in whom he trusts; and when a man puts his trust in material things, then material things have become, not his support, but his god.
THE PLACE OF MATERIAL POSSESSIONS ( Matthew 6:24 continued)
This saying of Jesus is bound to turn our thoughts to the place which material possessions should have in life. At the basis of Jesus' teaching about possessions there are three great principles.
(i) In the last analysis all things belong to God. Scripture makes that abundantly clear. "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof; the world and those who dwell therein" ( Psalms 24:1). "For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.... If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world and all that is in it is mine" ( Psalms 50:10; Psalms 50:12).
In Jesus' teaching it is the master who gives his servants the talents ( Matthew 25:15), and the owner who gives the husbandmen the vineyard ( Matthew 21:33). This principle has far-reaching consequences. Men can buy and sell things; men can to some extent alter and rearrange things; but man cannot create things. The ultimate ownership of all things belongs to God. There is nothing in this world of which a man can say, "This is mine." Of all things he can only say, "This belongs to God, and God has given me the use of it."
Therefore this basic principle of life emerges. There is nothing in this world of which any man can say, "This is mine, and I will therefore do what I like with it." Of everything he must say, "This is God's, and I must use it as its owner would have it to be used." There is a story of a city child who was taken for a day in the country. For the first time in her life she saw a drift of bluebells. She turned to her teacher and said, 'Do you think God would mind, if I picked one of his flowers?' That is the correct attitude to life and all things in the world.
(ii) The second basic principle is that people are always more important than things. If possessions have to be acquired, if money has to be amassed, if wealth has to be accumulated at the expense of treating people as things, then all such riches are wrong. Whenever and wherever that principle is forgotten, or neglected, or defied, far-reaching disaster is certain to follow.
In this country we are to this day suffering in the world of industrial relationships from the fact that in the days of the industrial revolution people were treated as things. Sir Arthur Bryant in English Saga tells of some of the things which happened in those days. Children of seven and eight years of age--there is actually a case of a child of three--were employed in the mines. Some of them dragged trucks along galleries on all fours; some of them pumped out water standing knee deep in the water for twelve hours a day; some of them, called trappers, opened and shut the ventilating doors of the shafts, and were shut into little ventilating chambers for as much as sixteen hours a day. In 1815 children were working in the mills from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. without even a Saturday half-holiday, and with half an hour off for breakfast and half an hour off for dinner. In 1833 there were 84,000 children under fourteen in the factories. There is actually a case recorded in which the children whose labour was no longer required were taken to a common and turned adrift. The owners objected to the expression "turned adrift." They said that the children had been set at liberty. They agreed that the children might find things hard. "They would have to beg their way or something of that sort." In 1842 the weavers of Burnley were being paid 7 1/2d. a day, and the miners of Staffordshire 2 shillings 6d. a day. There were those who saw the criminal folly of all this. Carlyle thundered, "If the cotton industry is founded on the bodies of rickety children, it must go; if the devil gets in your cotton-mill, shut the mill." It was pleaded that cheap labour was necessary to keep costs down. Coleridge answered, "You talk about making this article cheaper by reducing its price in the market from 8d. to 6d. But suppose in so doing you have rendered your country weaker against a foreign foe; suppose you have demoralized thousands of your fellow-countrymen, and have sown discontent between one class of society and another, your article is tolerably dear, I take it, after all."
It is perfectly true that things are very different nowadays. But there is such a thing as racial memory. Deep in the unconscious memory of people the impression of these bad days is indelibly impressed. Whenever people are treated as things, as machines, as instruments for producing so much labour and for enriching those who employ them, then as certainly as the night follows the day disaster follows. A nation forgets at its peril the principle that people are always more important than things.
(iii) The third principle is that wealth is always a subordinate good. The Bible does not say that, "Money is the root of all evil," it says that "The love of money is the root of all evils" ( 1 Timothy 6:10). It is quite possible to find in material things what someone has called "a rival salvation." A man may think that, because he is wealthy, he can buy anything, that he can buy his way out of any situation. Wealth can become his measuring-rod; wealth can become his one desire; wealth can become the one weapon with which he faces life. If a man desires material things for an honourable independence, to help his family and to do something for his fellow-men, that is good; but if he desires it simply to heap pleasure upon pleasure, and to add luxury, if wealth has become the thing he lives for and lives by, then wealth has ceased to be a subordinate good, and has usurped the place in life which only God should occupy.
One thing emerges from all this--the possession of wealth, money, material things is not a sin, but it is a grave responsibility. If a man owns many material things it is not so much a matter for congratulation as it is a matter for prayer, that he may use them as God would have him to do.
THE TWO GREAT QUESTIONS ABOUT POSSESSIONS ( Matthew 6:24 continued)
There are two great questions about possessions, and on the answer to these questions everything depends.
(i) How did a man gain his possessions? Did he gain them in a way that he would be glad that Jesus Christ should see, or did he gain them in a way that he would wish to hide from Jesus Christ?
A man may gain his possessions at the expense of honesty and honour. George Macdonald tells of a village shop-keeper who grew very rich. Whenever he was measuring cloth, he measured it with his two thumbs inside the measure so that he always gave short measure. George Macdonald says of him, "He took from his soul, and he put it in his siller-bag." A man can enrich his bank account at the expense of impoverishing his soul.
A man may gain his possessions by deliberately smashing some weaker rival. Many a man's success is founded on someone else's failure. Many a man's advancement has been gained by pushing someone else out of the way. It is hard to see how a man who prospers in such a way can sleep at nights.
A man may gain his possessions at the expense of still higher duties. Robertson Nicoll, the great editor, was born in a manse in the north-east of Scotland. His father had one passion, to buy and to read books. He was a minister and he never had more than 1200 a year. But he amassed the greatest private library in Scotland amounting to 17,000 books. He did not use them in his sermons; he was simply consumed to own and to read them. When he was forty he married a girl of twenty-four. In eight years she was dead of tuberculosis; of a family of five only two lived to be over twenty. That cancerous growth of books filled every room and every passage in the manse. It may have delighted the owner of the books, but it killed his wife and family.
There are possessions which can be acquired at too great a cost. A man must ask himself: "How do I acquire the things which I possess?"
(ii) How does a man use his possessions? There are various ways in which a man may use the things he has acquired.
He may not use them at all. He may have the miser's acquisitiveness which delights simply in possession. His possessions may be quite useless--and uselessness always invites disaster.
He may use them completely selfishly. A man may desire a bigger pay for no other reason than that he wants a bigger car, a new television set, a more expensive holiday. He may think of possessions simply and solely in terms of what they can do for him.
He may use them malignantly. A man can use his possessions to persuade someone else to do things he has no right to do, or to sell things he has no right to sell. Many a young person has been bribed or dazzled into sin by someone else's money. Wealth gives power, and a corrupt man can use his possessions to corrupt others--and that in the sight of God is a very terrible sin.
A man may use his possessions for his own independence and for the happiness of others. It does not need great wealth to do that, for a man can be just as generous with half a crown as with a thousand pounds. A man will not go far wrong, if he uses his possessions to see how much happiness he can bring to others. Paul remembered a saying of Jesus which everyone else had forgotten: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" ( Acts 20:35). It is characteristic of God to give, and, if in our lives giving always ranks above receiving, we will use aright what we possess, however much or however little it may be.
THE FORBIDDEN WORRY ( Matthew 6:25-34 )
6:25-34 I tell you, therefore, do not worry about your life, about what you are to eat, or what you are to drink; and do not worry about your body, about what you are to wear. Is not your life more than food, and your body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air, and see that they do not sow, or reap, or gather things into store-houses, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not better than they? Who of you can add one span to his life by worrying about it? And why do you worry about clothes? Learn a lesson from the lilies of the field, from the way in which they grow. They do not toil or spin; but I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which exists to-day, and which is thrown into the oven to-morrow, shall he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So then do not worry, saying, What are we to eat? or, What are we to drink? or, What are we to wear? The Gentiles seek after all these things. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will come to you in addition. So, then, do not worry about to-morrow; to-morrow will worry about itself. Its own troubles are quite enough for the day.
We must begin our study of this passage by making sure that we understand what Jesus is forbidding and what he is demanding. The King James Version translates Jesus' commandment: Take no thought for the morrow. Strange to say, the King James Version was the first translation to translate it in that way. Wyclif had it: "Be not busy to your life." Tyndale, Crammer and the Geneva Version all had: "Be not careful for your life." They used the word careful in the literal sense of full of care. The older versions were in fact more accurate. It is not ordinary, prudent foresight, such as becomes a man, that Jesus forbids; it is worry. Jesus is not advocating a shiftless, thriftless, reckless, thoughtless, improvident attitude to life; he is forbidding a care-worn, worried fear, which takes all the joy out of life.
The word which is used is the word merimnan ( G3309) , which means to worry anxiously. Its corresponding noun is merimna ( G3308) , which means worry. In a papyrus letter a wife writes to her absent husband: "I cannot sleep at night or by day, because of the worry (merimna, G3308) I have about your welfare." A mother, on hearing of her son's good health and prosperity writes back: "That is all my prayer and all my anxiety (merimna, G3308) ." Anacreon, the poet, writes: "When I drink wine, my worries (merimna, G3308) go to sleep." In Greek the word is the characteristic word for anxiety, and worry, and care.
The Jews themselves were very familiar with this attitude to life. It was the teaching of the great Rabbis that a man ought to meet life with a combination of prudence and serenity. They insisted, for instance, that every man must teach his son a trade, for, they said, not to teach him a trade was to teach him to steal. That is to say, they believed in taking all the necessary steps for the prudent handling of life. But at the same time, they said, "He who has a loaf in his basket, and who says, 'What will I eat tomorrow?' is a man of little faith."
Jesus is here teaching a lesson which his countrymen well knew--the lesson of prudence and forethought and serenity and trust combined.
WORRY AND ITS CURE ( Matthew 6:25-34 continued)
In these ten verses Jesus sets out seven different arguments and defences against worry.
(i) He begins by pointing out ( Matthew 6:25) that God gave us life, and, if he gave us life, surely we can trust him for the lesser things. If God gave us life, surely we can trust him to give us food to sustain that life. If God gave us bodies, surely we can trust him for raiment to clothe these bodies. If anyone gives us a gift which is beyond price, surely we can be certain that such a giver will not be mean, and stingy, and niggardly, and careless, and forgetful about much less costly gifts. So, then, the first argument is that, if God gave us life, we can trust him for the things which are necessary to support life.
(ii) Jesus goes on to speak about the birds ( Matthew 6:26). There is no worry in their lives, no attempt to pile up goods for an unforeseen and unforeseeable future; and yet their lives go on. More than one Jewish Rabbi was fascinated by the way in which the animals live. "In my life," said Rabbi Simeon, "I have never seen a stag as a dryer of figs, or a lion as a porter, or a fox as a merchant, yet they are all nourished without worry. If they, who are created to serve me, are nourished without worry, how much more ought 1, who am created to serve my Maker, to be nourished without worry; but I have corrupted my ways, and so I have impaired my substance." The point that Jesus is making is not that the birds do not work; it has been said that no one works harder than the average sparrow to make a living; the point that he is making is that they do not worry. There is not to be found in them man's straining to see a future which he cannot see, and man's seeking to find security in things stored up and accumulated against the future.
(iii) In Matthew 6:27, Jesus goes on to prove that worry is in any event useless. The verse can bear two meanings. It can mean that no man by worrying can add a cubit to his height; but a cubit is eighteen inches, and no man surely would ever contemplate adding eighteen inches to his height! It can mean that no man by worrying can add the shortest space to his life; and that meaning is more likely. It is Jesus' argument that worry is pointless anyway.
(iv) Jesus goes on to speak about the flowers ( Matthew 6:28-30), and he speaks about them as one who loved them. The lilies of the field were the scarlet poppies and anemones. They bloomed one day on the hillsides of Palestine; and yet in their brief life they were clothed with a beauty which surpassed the beauty of the robes of kings. When they died they were used for nothing better than for burning. The point is this. The Palestinian oven was made of clay. It was like a clay box set on bricks over the fire. When it was desired to raise the temperature of it especially quickly, some handfuls of dried grasses and wild flowers were flung inside the oven and set alight. The flowers had but one day of life; and then they were set alight to help a woman to heat an oven when she was baking in a hurry; and yet God clothes them with a beauty which is beyond man's power to imitate. If God gives such beauty to a short-lived flower, how much more will he care for man? Surely the generosity which is so lavish to the flower of a day will not be forgetful of man, the crown of creation.
(v) Jesus goes on to advance a very fundamental argument against worry. Worry, he says, is characteristic of a heathen, and not of one who knows what God is like ( Matthew 6:32). Worry is essentially distrust of God. Such a distrust may be understandable in a heathen who believes in a jealous, capricious, unpredictable god; but it is beyond comprehension in one who has learned to call God by the name of Father. The Christian cannot worry because he believes in the love of God.
(vi) Jesus goes on to advance two ways in which to defeat worry. The first is to seek first, to concentrate upon, the Kingdom of God. We have seen that to be in the Kingdom and to do the will of God is one and the same thing ( Matthew 6:10). To concentrate on the doing of, and the acceptance of, God's will is the way to defeat worry. We know how in our own lives a great love can drive out every other concern. Such a love can inspire a man's work, intensify his study, purify his life, dominate his whole being. It was Jesus; conviction that worry is banished when God becomes the dominating power of our lives.
(vii) Lastly, Jesus says that worry can be defeated when we acquire the art of living one day at a time ( Matthew 6:34). The Jews had a saying: "Do not worry over tomorrow's evils, for you know not what today will bring forth. Perhaps tomorrow you will not be alive, and you will have worried for a world which will not be yours." If each day is lived as it comes, if each task is done as it appears, then the sum of all the days is bound to be good. It is Jesus' advice that we should handle the demands of each day as it comes, without worrying about the unknown future and the things which may never happen.
THE FOLLY OF WORRY ( Matthew 6:25-34 continued)
Let us now see if we can gather up Jesus' arguments against worry.
(i) Worry is needless, useless and even actively injurious. Worry cannot affect the past, for the past is past. Omar Khayyam was grimly right:
"The moving finger writes, and, having writ,
Moves on; nor all thy piety nor wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it."
The past is past. It is not that a man can or ought to dissociate himself from his past; but he ought to use his past as a spur and a guide for better action in the future, and not as something about which he broods until he has worried himself into a paralysis of action.
Equally, worry about the future is useless. Alistair MacLean in one of his sermons tells of a story which he had read. A London doctor was the hero. "He was paralysed and bedridden, but almost outrageously cheerful, and his smile so brave and radiant that everyone forgot to be sorry for him. His children adored him, and when one of his boys was leaving the nest and starting forth upon life's adventure, Dr. Greatheart gave him good advice: 'Johnny,' he said, 'the thing to do, my lad, is to hold your own end up, and to do it like a gentleman, and please remember the biggest troubles you have got to face are those that never come.'" Worry about the future is wasted effort, and the future of reality is seldom as bad as the future of our fears.
But worry is worse than useless; it is often actively injurious. The two typical diseases of modern life are the stomach ulcer and the coronary thrombosis, and in many cases both are the result of worry. It is a medical fact that he who laughs most lives longest. The worry which wears out the mind wears out the body along with it. Worry affects a man's judgment, lessens his powers of decision, and renders him progressively incapable of dealing with life. Let a man give his best to every situation--he cannot give more--and let him leave the rest to God.
(ii) Worry is blind. Worry refuses to learn the lesson of nature. Jesus bids men look at the birds, and see the bounty which is behind nature, and trust the love that lies behind that bounty. Worry refuses to learn the lesson of history. There was a Psalmist who cheered himself with the memory of history: "O my God," he cries, "my soul is cast down within me." And then he goes on: "Therefore I remember Thee, from the land of Jordan, and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar" ( Psalms 42:6; compare Deuteronomy 3:9). When he was up against it, he comforted himself with the memory of what God had done. The man who feeds his heart on the record of what God has done in the past will never worry about the future. Worry refuses to learn the lesson of life. We are still alive and our heads are still above water; and yet if someone had told us that we would have to go through what we have actually gone through, we would have said that it was impossible. The lesson of life is that somehow we have been enabled to bear the unbearable and to do the undoable and to pass the breaking-point and not to break. The lesson of life is that worry is unnecessary.
(iii) Worry is essentially irreligious. Worry is not caused by external circumstances. In the same circumstances one man can be absolutely serene, and another man can be worried to death. Both worry and serenity come, not from circumstances, but from the heart. Alistair MacLean quotes a story from Tauler, the German mystic. One day Tauler met a beggar. "God give you a good day, my friend," he said. The beggar answered, "I thank God I never had a bad one." Then Tauler said, "God give you a happy life, my friend." "I thank God," said the beggar, "I am never unhappy." Tauler in amazement said, "What do you mean?" "Well," said the beggar, "when it is fine, I thank God; when it rains, I thank God; when I have plenty, I thank God; when I am hungry, I thank God; and since God's will is my will, and whatever pleases him pleases me, why should I say I am unhappy when I am not?" Tauler looked at the man in astonishment. "Who are you?" he asked. "I am a king," said the beggar. "Where then is your kingdom?" asked Tauler. And the beggar answered quietly: "In my heart."
Isaiah said it long ago: "Thou dost keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusts in thee" ( Isaiah 26:3). As the north country woman had it: "I am always happy, and my secret is always to sail the seas, and ever to keep the heart in port."
There may be greater sins than worry, but very certainly there is no more disabling sin. "Take no anxious thought for the morrow"--that is the commandment of Jesus, and it is the way, not only to peace, but also to power.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Matthew 6:11". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/matthew-6.html. 1956-1959.
Give us this day our daily bread. The Arabic version reads it, "our bread for tomorrow"; and Jerom says, that in the Hebrew Gospel, used by the Nazarenes, he found the word מחר, which signifies "tomorrow": but this reading and sense seem to be contradicted by Christ, Matthew 6:34 were it not that it may be observed, that this signifies the whole subsequent time of life, and so furnishes us with a very commodious sense of this petition; which is, that God would give us, "day by day", as Luke expresses it,
Luke 11:3 that is, every day of our lives, to the end thereof, a proper supply of food: or the meaning of it is, that God would give us, for the present time, such food as we stand in need of; is suitable to us, to our nature and constitution, state and condition, and is sufficient and convenient for us: to which agrees the petition of the u Jews:
"The necessities of thy people are great, and their knowledge short; let it be thy good will and pleasure, O Lord, our God, that thou wouldst give to everyone פרנסתו
כדי, "what is sufficient for his sustenance", and to every one's body what it wants.''
"Says R. Jose w, all the children of faith seek "every day" לשאלא מזונייהו, "to ask their food" of the Lord, and to pray a prayer for it.''
By "bread" is meant all the necessaries of life, and for the support of it: it is called "our's"; not that we have a right unto it, much less deserve it, but to distinguish it from that of beasts; and because it is what we need, and cannot do without; what is appointed for us by providence, is our's by gift, and possessed by labour. It is said to be "daily" bread, and to be asked for "day by day"; which suggests the uncertainty of life; strikes at all anxious and immoderate cares for the morrow; is designed to restrain from covetousness, and to keep up the duty of prayer, and constant dependence on God; whom we must every day ask to "give" us our daily bread: for he is the sole author of all our mercies; which are all his free gifts; we deserve nothing at his hands: wherefore we ought to be thankful for what we have, without murmuring at his providences, or envying at what he bestows on others. All kind of food, everything that is eatable, is with the Jews called לחם, "bread" x.
u T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 29. 2. w Zohar in Exod. fol. 26. 2. x Jarchi in Job, vi. 7.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 6:11". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-6.html. 1999.
|The Sermon on the Mount.|
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 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. 14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
When Christ had condemned what was amiss, he directs to do better; for his are reproofs of instruction. Because we know not what to pray for as we ought, he here helps our infirmities, by putting words into our mouths; after this manner therefore pray ye,Matthew 6:9; Matthew 6:9. So many were the corruptions that had crept into this duty of prayer among the Jews, that Christ saw it needful to give a new directory for prayer, to show his disciples what must ordinarily be the matter and method of their prayer, which he gives in words that may very well be used as a form; as the summary or contents of the several particulars of our prayers. Not that we are tied up to the use of this form only, or of this always, as if this were necessary to the consecrating of our other prayers; we are here bid to pray after this manner, with these words, or to this effect. That in Luke differs from this; we do not find it used by the apostles; we are not here taught to pray in the name of Christ, as we are afterward; we are here taught to pray that the kingdom might come which did come when the Spirit was poured out: yet, without doubt, it is very good to use it as a form, and it is a pledge of the communion of saints, it having been used by the church in all ages, at least (says Dr. Whitby) from the third century. It is our Lord's prayer, it is of his composing, of his appointing; it is very compendious, yet very comprehensive, in compassion to our infirmities in praying. The matter is choice and necessary, the method instructive, and the expression very concise. It has much in a little, and it is requisite that we acquaint ourselves with the sense and meaning of it, for it is used acceptably no further than it is used with understanding and without vain repetition.
The Lord's prayer (as indeed every prayer) is a letter sent from earth to heaven. Here is the inscription of the letter, the person to whom it is directed, our Father; the where, in heaven; the contents of it in several errands of request; the close, for thine is the kingdom; the seal, Amen; and if you will, the date too, this day.
Plainly thus: there are three parts of the prayer.
I. The preface, Our Father who art in heaven. Before we come to our business, there must be a solemn address to him with whom our business lies; Our Father. Intimating, that we must pray, not only alone and for ourselves, but with and for others; for we are members one of another, and are called into fellowship with each other. We are here taught to whom to pray, to God only, and not to saints and angels, for they are ignorant of us, are not to have the high honours we give in prayer, nor can give favours we expect. We are taught how to address ourselves to God, and what title to give him, that which speaks him rather beneficent than magnificent, for we are to come boldly to the throne of grace.
1. We must address ourselves to him as our Father, and must call him so. He is a common Father to all mankind by creation, Malachi 2:10; Acts 17:28. He is in a special manner a Father to the saints, by adoption and regeneration (Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 4:6); and an unspeakable privilege it is. Thus we must eye him in prayer, keep up good thoughts of him, such as are encouraging and not affrighting; nothing more pleasing to God, nor pleasant to ourselves, than to call God Father. Christ in prayer mostly called God Father. If he be our Father, he will pity us under our weaknesses and infirmities (Psalms 103:13), will spare us (Malachi 3:17), will make the best of our performances, though very defective, will deny us nothing that is good for us, Luke 11:11-13. We have access with boldness to him, as to a father, and have an advocate with the Father, and the Spirit of adoption. When we come repenting of our sins, we must eye God as a Father, as the prodigal did (Luke 15:18; Jeremiah 3:19); when we come begging for grace, and peace, and the inheritance and blessing of sons, it is an encouragement that we come to God, not as an unreconciled, avenging Judge, but as a loving, gracious, reconciled Father in Christ, Jeremiah 3:4.
2. As our Father in heaven: so in heaven as to be every where else, for the heaven cannot contain him; yet so in heaven as there to manifest his glory, for it is his throne (Psalms 103:19), and it is to believers a throne of grace: thitherward we must direct our prayers, for Christ the Mediator is now in heaven, Hebrews 8:1. Heaven is out of sight, and a world of spirits, therefore our converse with God in prayer must be spiritual; it is on high, therefore in prayer we must be raised above the world, and lift up our hearts, Psalms 5:1. Heaven is a place of perfect purity, and we must therefore lift up pure hands, must study to sanctify his name, who is the Holy One, and dwells in that holy place, Leviticus 10:3. From heaven God beholds the children of men, Psalms 33:13; Psalms 33:14. And we must in prayer see his eye upon us: thence he has a full and clear view of all our wants and burdens and desires, and all our infirmities. It is the firmament of his power likewise, as well as of his prospect, Psalms 150:1. He is not only, as a Father, able to help us, able to do great things for us, more than we can ask or think; he has wherewith to supply our needs, for every good gift is from above. He is a Father, and therefore we may come to him with boldness, but a Father in heaven, and therefore we must come with reverence, Ecclesiastes 5:2. Thus all our prayers should correspond with that which is our great aim as Christians, and that is, to be with God in heaven. God and heaven, the end of our whole conversation, must be particularly eyed in every prayer; there is the centre to which we are all tending. By prayer, we send before us thither, where we profess to be going.
II. The petitions, and those are six; the three first relating more immediately to God and his honour, the three last to our own concerns, both temporal and spiritual; as in the ten commandments, the four first teach us our duty toward God, and the last six our duty toward our neighbour. The method of this prayer teaches us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and then to hope that other things shall be added.
1. Hallowed be thy name. It is the same word that in other places is translated sanctified. But here the old word hallowed is retained, only because people were used to it in the Lord's prayer. In these words, (1.) We give glory to God; it may be taken not as a petition, but as an adoration; as that, the Lord be magnified, or glorified, for God's holiness is the greatness and glory of all his perfections. We must begin our prayers with praising God, and it is very fit he should be first served, and that we should give glory to God, before we expect to receive mercy and grace from him. Let him have praise of his perfections, and then let us have the benefit of them. (2.) We fix our end, and it is the right end to be aimed at, and ought to be our chief and ultimate end in all our petitions, that God may be glorified; all our other requests must be in subordination to this, and in pursuance of it. "Father, glorify thyself in giving me my daily bread and pardoning my sins," c. Since all is of him and through him, all must be to him and for him. In prayer our thoughts and affections should be carried out most to the glory of God. The Pharisees made their own name the chief end of their prayers (Matthew 6:5; Matthew 6:5, to be seen of men), in opposition to which we are directed to make the name of God our chief end; let all our petitions centre in this and be regulated by it. "Do so and so for me, for the glory of thy name, and as far as is for the glory of it." (3.) We desire and pray that the name of God, that is, God himself, in all that whereby he has made himself known, may be sanctified and glorified both by us and others, and especially by himself. "Father, let thy name be glorified as a Father, and a Father in heaven; glorify thy goodness and thy highness, thy majesty and mercy. Let thy name be sanctified, for it is a holy name; no matter what becomes of our polluted names, but, Lord, what wilt thou do to thy great name?" When we pray that God's name may be glorified, [1.] We make a virtue of necessity; for God will sanctify his own name, whether we desire it or not; I will be exalted among the heathen,Psalms 46:10. [2.] We ask for that which we are sure shall be granted; for when our Saviour prayed, Father glorify thy name, it was immediately answered, I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.
2. Thy kingdom come. This petition has plainly a reference to the doctrine which Christ preached at this time, which John Baptist had preached before, and which he afterwards sent his apostles out to preach--the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The kingdom of your Father who is in heaven, the kingdom of the Messiah, this is at hand, pray that it may come. Note, We should turn the word we hear into prayer, our hearts should echo to it; does Christ promise, surely I come quickly? our hearts should answer, Even so, come. Ministers should pray over the word: when they preach, the kingdom of God is at hand, they should pray, Father, thy kingdom come. What God has promised we must pray for; for promises are given, not to supersede, but to quicken and encourage prayer; and when the accomplishment of a promise is near and at the door, when the kingdom of heaven is at hand, we should then pray for it the more earnestly; thy kingdom come; as Daniel set his face to pray for the deliverance of Israel, when he understood that the time of it was at hand, Daniel 9:2. See Luke 19:11. It was the Jews' daily prayer to God, Let him make his kingdom reign, let his redemption flourish, and let his Messiah come and deliver his people. Dr. Whitby, ex Vitringa. "Let thy kingdom come, let the gospel be preached to all and embraced by all; let all be brought to subscribe to the record God has given in his word concerning his Son, and to embrace him as their Saviour and Sovereign. Let the bounds of the gospel-church be enlarged, the kingdom of the world be made Christ's kingdom, and all men become subjects to it, and live as becomes their character."
3. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven. We pray that God's kingdom being come, we and others may be brought into obedience to all the laws and ordinances of it. By this let it appear that Christ's kingdom is come, let God's will be done; and by this let is appear that it is come as a kingdom of heaven, let it introduce a heaven upon earth. We make Christ but a titular Prince, if we call him King, and do not do his will: having prayed that he may rule us, we pray that we may in every thing be ruled by him. Observe, (1.) The thing prayed for, thy will be done; "Lord, do what thou pleasest with me and mine; 1 Samuel 3:18. I refer myself to thee, and am well satisfied that all thy counsel concerning me should be performed." In this sense Christ prayed, not my will, but thine be done. "Enable me to do what is pleasing to thee; give me that grace that is necessary to the right knowledge of thy will, and an acceptable obedience to it. Let thy will be done conscientiously by me and others, not our own will, the will of the flesh, or the mind, not the will of men (1 Peter 4:2), much less Satan's will (John 8:44), that we may neither displease God in any thing we do (ut nihil nostrum displiceat Deo), nor be displeased at any thing God does" (ut nihil Dei displiceat nobis). (2.) The pattern of it, that it might be done on earth, in this place of our trial and probation (where our work must be done, or it never will be done), as it is done in heaven, that place of rest and joy. We pray that earth may be made more like heaven by the observance of God's will (this earth, which, through the prevalency of Satan's will, has become so near akin to hell), and that saints may be made more like the holy angels in their devotion and obedience. We are on earth, blessed be God, not yet under the earth; we pray for the living only, not for the dead that have gone down into silence.
4. Give us this day our daily bread. Because our natural being is necessary to our spiritual well-being in this world, therefore, after the things of God's glory, kingdom, and will, we pray for the necessary supports and comforts of this present life, which are the gifts of God, and must be asked of him, Ton arton epiousion--Bread for the day approaching, for all the remainder of our lives. Bread for the time to come, or bread for our being and subsistence, that which is agreeable to our condition in the world (Proverbs 30:8), food convenient for us and our families, according to our rank and station.
Every word here has a lesson in it: (1.) We ask for bread; that teaches us sobriety and temperance; we ask for bread, not dainties, not superfluities; that which is wholesome, though it be not nice. (2.) We ask for our bread; that teaches us honesty and industry: we do not ask for the bread out of other people's mouths, not the bread of deceit (Proverbs 20:17), not the brad of idleness (Proverbs 31:27), but the bread honestly gotten. (3.) We ask for our daily bread; which teaches us not to take thought for the morrow (Matthew 6:34; Matthew 6:34), but constantly to depend upon divine Providence, as those that live from hand to mouth. (4.) We beg of God to give it us, not sell it us, nor lend it us, but give it. The greatest of men must be beholden to the mercy of God for their daily bread, (5.) We pray, "Give it to us; not to me only, but to others in common with me." This teaches us charity, and a compassionate concern for the poor and needy. It intimates also, that we ought to pray with our families; we and our households eat together, and therefore ought to pray together. (6.) We pray that God would give us this day; which teaches us to renew the desire of our souls toward God, as the wants of our bodies are renewed; as duly as the day comes, we must pray to our heavenly Father, and reckon we could as well go a day without meat, as without prayer.
5. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors, This is connected with the former; and forgive, intimating, that unless our sins be pardoned, we can have no comfort in life, or the supports of it. Our daily bread does but feed us as lambs for the slaughter, if our sins be not pardoned. It intimates, likewise, that we must pray for daily pardon, as duly as we pray for daily bread. He that is washed, needeth to wash his feet. Here we have,
(1.) A petition; Father in heaven forgive us our debts, our debts to thee. Note, [1.] Our sins are our debts; there is a debt of duty, which, as creatures, we owe to our Creator; we do not pray to be discharged from that, but upon the non-payment of that there arises a debt of punishment; in default of obedience to the will of God, we become obnoxious to the wrath of God; and for not observing the precept of the law, we stand obliged to the penalty. A debtor is liable to process, so are we; a malefactor is a debtor to the law, so are we. [2.] Our hearts' desire and prayer to our heavenly Father every day should be, that he would forgive us our debts; that the obligation to punishment may be cancelled and vacated, that we may not come into condemnation; that we may be discharged, and have the comfort of it. In suing out the pardon of our sins, the great plea we have to rely upon is the satisfaction that was made to the justice of God for the sin of man, by the dying of the Lord Jesus our Surety, or rather Bail to the action, that undertook our discharge.
(2.) An argument to enforce this petition; as we forgive our debtors. This is not a plea of merit, but a plea of grace. Note, Those that come to God for the forgiveness of their sins against him, must make conscience of forgiving those who have offended them, else they curse themselves when they say the Lord's prayer. Our duty is to forgive our debtors; as to debts of money, we must not be rigorous and severe in exacting them from those that cannot pay them without ruining themselves and their families; but this means debt of injury; our debtors are those that trespass against us, that smite us (Matthew 5:39; Matthew 5:40), and in strictness of law, might be prosecuted for it; we must forbear, and forgive, and forget the affronts put upon us, and the wrongs done us; and this is a moral qualification for pardon and peace; it encourages to hope, that God will forgive us; for if there be in us this gracious disposition, it is wrought of God, and therefore is a perfection eminently and transcendently in himself; it will be an evidence to us that he has forgiven us, having wrought in us the condition of forgiveness.
6. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. This petition is expressed,
(1.) Negatively: Lead us not into temptation. Having prayed that the guilt of sin may be removed, we pray, as it is fit, that we may never return again to folly, that we may not be tempted to it. It is not as if God tempted any to sin; but, "Lord, do not let Satan loose upon us; chain up that roaring lion, for he is subtle and spiteful; Lord, do not leave us to ourselves (Psalms 19:13), for we are very weak; Lord, do not lay stumbling-blocks and snares before us, nor put us into circumstances that may be an occasion of falling." Temptations are to be prayed against, both because of the discomfort and trouble of them, and because of the danger we are in of being overcome by them, and the guilt and grief that then follow.
(2.) Positively: But deliver us from evil; apo tou ponerou--from the evil one, the devil, the tempter; "keep us, that either we may not be assaulted by him, or we may not be overcome by those assaults:" Or from the evil thing, sin, the worst of evils; an evil, an only evil; that evil thing which God hates, and which Satan tempts men to and destroys them by. "Lord, deliver us from the evil of the world, the corruption that is in the world through lust; from the evil of every condition in the world; from the evil of death; from the sting of death, which is sin: deliver us from ourselves, from our own evil hearts: deliver us from evil men, that they may not be a snare to us, nor we a prey to them."
III. The conclusion: For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, for ever. Amen. Some refer this to David's doxology, 1 Chronicles 29:11. Thine, O Lord, is the greatness. It is,
1. A form of plea to enforce the foregoing petitions. It is our duty to plead with God in prayer, to fill our mouth with arguments (Job 23:4) not to move God, but to affect ourselves; to encourage the faith, to excite our fervency, and to evidence both. Now the best pleas in prayer are those that are taken from God himself, and from that which he has made known of himself. We must wrestle with God in his own strength, both as to the nature of our pleas and the urging of them. The plea here has special reference to the first three petitions; "Father in heaven, thy kingdom come, for thine is the kingdom; thy will be done, for thine is the power; hallowed be thy name, for thine is the glory." And as to our own particular errands, these are encouraging: "Thine is the kingdom; thou hast the government of the world, and the protection of the saints, thy willing subjects in it;" God gives and saves like a king. "Thine is the power, to maintain and support that kingdom, and to make good all thine engagements to thy people." Thine is the glory, as the end of all that which is given to, and done for, the saints, in answer to their prayers; for their praise waiteth for him. This is matter of comfort and holy confidence in prayer.
2. It is a form of praise and thanksgiving. The best pleading with God is praising of him; it is the way to obtain further mercy, as it qualifies us to receive it. In all our addresses to God, it is fit that praise should have a considerable share, for praise becometh the saints; they are to be our God for a name and for a praise. It is just and equal; we praise God, and give him glory, not because he needs it--he is praised by a world of angels, but because he deserves it; and it is our duty to give him glory, in compliance with his design in revealing himself to us. Praise is the work and happiness of heaven; and all that would go to heaven hereafter, must begin their heaven now. Observe, how full this doxology is, The kingdom, and the power, and the glory, it is all thine. Note, It becomes us to be copious in praising God. A true saint never thinks he can speak honourably enough of God: here there should be a gracious fluency, and this for ever. Ascribing glory to God for ever, intimates an acknowledgement, that it is eternally due, and an earnest desire to be eternally doing it, with angels and saints above, Psalms 71:14.
Lastly, To all this we are taught to affix our Amen, so be it. God's Amen is a grant; his fiat is, it shall be so; our Amen is only a summary desire; our fiat is, let it be so: it is in the token of our desire and assurance to be heard, that we say Amen. Amen refers to every petition going before, and thus, in compassion to our infirmities, we are taught to knit up the whole in one word, and so to gather up, in the general, what we have lost and let slip in the particulars. It is good to conclude religious duties with some warmth and vigour, that we may go from them with a sweet savour upon our spirits. It was of old the practice of good people to say, Amen, audibly at the end of every prayer, and it is a commendable practice, provided it be done with understanding, as the apostle directs (1 Corinthians 14:16), and uprightly, with life and liveliness, and inward expressions, answerable to that outward expression of desire and confidence.
Most of the petitions in the Lord's prayer had been commonly used by the Jews in their devotions, or words to the same effect: but that clause in the fifth petition, As we forgive our debtors, was perfectly new, and therefore our Saviour here shows for what reason he added it, not with any personal reflection upon the peevishness, litigiousness, and ill nature of the men of that generation, though there was cause enough for it, but only from the necessity and importance of the thing itself. God, in forgiving us, has a peculiar respect to our forgiving those that have injured us; and therefore, when we pray for pardon, we must mention our making conscience of that duty, not only to remind ourselves of it, but to bind ourselves to it. See that parable, Matthew 18:23-25; Matthew 18:23-25. Selfish nature is loth to comply with this, and therefore it is here inculcated, Matthew 6:14; Matthew 6:15.
1. In a promise. If ye forgive, your heavenly Father will also forgive. Not as if this were the only condition required; there must be repentance and faith, and new obedience; but as where other graces are in truth, there will be this, so this will be a good evidence of the sincerity of our other graces. He that relents toward his brother, thereby shows that he repents toward his God. Those which in the prayer are called debts, are here called trespasses, debts of injury, wrongs done to us in our bodies, goods, or reputation: trespasses is an extenuating term for offences, paraptomata--stumbles, slips, falls. Note, It is a good evidence, and a good help of our forgiving others, to call the injuries done us by a mollifying, excusing name. Call them not treasons, but trespasses; not wilful injuries, but casual inadvertencies; peradventure it was an oversight (Genesis 43:12), therefore make the best of it. We must forgive, as we hope to be forgiven; and therefore must not only bear no malice, nor mediate revenge, but must not upbraid our brother with the injuries he has done us, nor rejoice in any hurt that befals him, but must be ready to help him and do him good, and if he repent and desire to be friends again, we must be free and familiar with him, as before.
2. In a threatening. "But if you forgive not those that have injured you, that is a bad sign you have not the other requisite conditions, but are altogether unqualified for pardon: and therefore your Father, whom you call Father, and who, as a father, offers you his grace upon reasonable terms, will nevertheless not forgive you. And if other grace be sincere, and yet you be defective greatly in forgiving, you cannot expect the comfort of your pardon, but to have your spirit brought down by some affliction or other to comply with this duty." Note, Those who would have found mercy with God must show mercy to their brethren; no can we expect that he should stretch out the hands of his favour to us, unless we lift up to him pure hands, without wrath,1 Timothy 2:8. If we pray in anger, we have reason to fear God will answer in anger. It has been said, Prayers made in wrath are written in gall. What reason is it that God should forgive us the talents we are indebted to him, if we forgive not our brethren the pence they are indebted to us? Christ came into the world as the great Peace-Maker, and not only to reconcile us to God, but one to another, and in this we must comply with him. It is great presumption and of dangerous consequence, for any to make a light matter of that which Christ here lays such a stress upon. Men's passions shall not frustrate God's word.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Matthew 6:11". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/matthew-6.html. 1706.
God has been pleased, in the separate accounts He has given us of our Lord Jesus, to display not only His own grace and wisdom, but the infinite excellency of His Son. It is our wisdom to seek to profit by all the light He has afforded us; and, in order to this, both to receive implicitly, as the simple Christian surely does, whatever God has written for our instruction in these different gospels, and also by comparing them, and comparing them according to the special point of view which God has communicated in each gospel, to see concentrated the varying lines of everlasting truth which there meet in Christ. Now, I shall proceed with all simplicity, the Lord helping me, first taking up the gospel before us, in order to point out, as far as I am enabled to do, the great distinguishing features, as well as the chief contents, that the Holy Ghost has here been pleased to communicate. It is well to bear in mind, that in this gospel, as in all the rest, God has in nowise undertaken to present everything, but only some chosen discourses and facts; and this is the more remarkable, inasmuch as in some cases the very same miracles, etc., are given in several, and even in all, the gospels. The gospels are short; the materials used are not numerous; but what shall we say of the depths of grace that are there disclosed? What of the immeasurable glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, which everywhere shines out in them?
The undeniable certainty that God has been pleased to confine Himself to a small portion of the circumstances of the life of Jesus, and, even so, to repeat the same discourse. miracle, or whatever other fact is brought before us, only brings out, to my mind, more distinctly the manifest design of God to give expression to the glory of the Son in each gospel according to a special point of view. Now, looking at the gospel of Matthew as a whole, and taking the most enlarged view of it before we enter into details, the question arises, what is the main idea before the Holy Ghost? It is surely the lesson of simplicity to learn this from God, and, once learnt, to apply it steadily as a help of the most manifest kind; full of interest, as well as of the weightiest instruction, in examining all the incidents as they come before us. What, then, is that which, not merely in a few facts in particular chapters, but throughout, comes before us in the gospel of Matthew? It matters not where we look, whether at the beginning, the middle, or at the end, the same evident character proclaims itself. The prefatory words introduce it. Is it not the Lord Jesus, Son of David, Son of Abraham Messiah? But, then, it is not simply the anointed of Jehovah, but One who proves Himself, and is declared of God, to be Jehovah-Messiah No such testimony appears elsewhere. I say not that there is no evidence in the other gospels to demonstrate that He is really Jehovah and Emmanuel too, but that nowhere else have we the same fulness of proof, and the same manifest design, from the very starting point of the gospel, to proclaim the Lord Jesus as being thus a divine Messiah God with us.
The practical object is equally obvious. The common notion, that the Jews are in view, is quite correct, as far as it goes. The gospel of Matthew bears internal proof that God specially provides for the instruction of His own among those that had been Jews. It was written more particularly for leading Jewish Christians into a truer understanding of the glory of the Lord Jesus. Hence, every testimony that could convince and satisfy a Jew, that could correct or enlarge his thoughts, is found most fully here; hence the precision of the quotations from the Old Testament; hence the converging of prophecy on the Messiah; hence, too, the manner in which the miracles of Christ, or the incidents of His life, are here grouped together. To Jewish difficulties all this pointed with peculiar fitness. Miracles we have elsewhere, no doubt, and prophecies occasionally; but where is there such a profusion of them as in Matthew? Where, in the mind of the Spirit of God, such a continual, conspicuous point of quoting and applying Scripture in all places and seasons to the Lord Jesus? To me, I confess, it seems impossible for a simple mind to resist the conclusion.
But this is not all to be noticed here. Not only does God deign to meet the Jew with these proofs from prophecy, miracle, life, and doctrine, but He begins with what a Jew would and must demand the question of genealogy. But even then the answer of Matthew is after a divine sort. "The book," he says, "of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham." These are the two principal landmarks to which a Jew turns:- royalty given by the grace of God in the one, and the original depository of the promise in the other.
Moreover, not only does God condescend to notice the line of fathers, but, if He turns aside for a moment now and then for aught else, what instruction, both in man's sin and need, and in His own grace, does thus spring up before us from the mere course of His genealogical tree! He names in certain cases the mother, and not the father only; but never without a divine reason. There are four women alluded to. They are not such as any of us, or perhaps any man, would beforehand have thought of introducing, and into such a genealogy, of all others. But God had His own sufficient motive; and His was one not only of wisdom, but of mercy; also, of special instruction to the Jew, as we shall see in a moment. First of all, who but God would have thought it necessary to remind us that Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar? I need not enlarge; these names in divine history must speak for themselves. Man would have hidden all this assuredly; he would have preferred to put forth either some flaming account of ancient and august ancestry, or to concentrate all the honour and glory in one, the lustre of whose genius eclipsed all antecedents. But God's thoughts are not our thoughts; neither are our ways His ways. Again, the allusion to such persons thus introduced is the more remarkable because others, worthy ones, are not named. There is no mention of Sarah, no hint of Rebecca, no notice whatever of so many holy and illustrious names in the female line of our Lord Jesus. But Thamar does appear thus early (v. 3); and so manifest is the reason, that one has no need to explain further. I am persuaded that the name one is sufficient intimation to any Christian heart and conscience. But how significant to the Jew! What were his thoughts of the Messiah? Would he have put forward the name of Thamar in such a connection? Never. He might not have been able to deny the fact; but as to bringing it out thus, and drawing special attention to it, the Jew was the last man to have done it. Nevertheless, the grace of God in this is exceeding good and wise.
But there is more than this. Lower down we have another. There is the name of Rachab, a Gentile, and a Gentile bringing no honourable reputation along with her. Men may seek to pare it down, but it is impossible either to cloak her shame, or to fritter away the grace of God. It is not to be well or wisely got rid of, who and what Rachab publicly was; yet is she the woman that the Holy Ghost singles out for the next place in the ancestry of Jesus.
Ruth, too, appears Ruth, of all these women most sweet and blameless, no doubt, by the working of the divine grace in her, but still a daughter of Moab, whom the Lord forbade to enter His congregation to the tenth generation for ever.
And what of Solomon himself, begotten by David, the king, of her that had been the wife of Uriah? How humiliating to those who stood on human righteousness! How thwarting to mere Jewish expectations of the Messiah! He was the Messiah, but such He was after God's heart, not man's. He was the Messiah that somehow would and could have relations with sinners, first and last; whose grace would reach and bless Gentiles a Moabite anybody. Room was left for intimations of such compass in Matthew's scheme of His ancestry. Deny it they might as to doctrine and fact now; they could not alter or efface the real features from the genealogy of the true Messiah; for in no other line but David's, through Solomon, could Messiah be. And God has deemed it meet to recount even this to us, so that we may know and enter into His own delight in His rich grace as He speaks of the ancestors of the Messiah. It is thus, then, we come down to the birth of Christ.
Nor was it less worthy of God that He should make most plain the truth of another remarkable conjuncture of predicted circumstances, seemingly beyond reconcilement, in His entrance into the world.
There were two conditions absolutely requisite for the Messiah: one was, that He should be truly born of a rather of the Virgin; the other was, that He should inherit the royal rights of the Solomon-branch of David's house, according to promise. There was a third too, we may add, that He who was the real son of His virgin-mother, the legal son of His Solomon-sprung father, should be, in the truest and highest sense, the Jehovah of Israel, Emmanuel God with us. All this is crowded into the brief account next given us in Matthew's gospel, and by Matthew alone. Accordingly, "the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost." This latter truth, that is, of the Holy Ghost's action as to it, we shall find, has a still deeper and wider import assigned to it in the gospel of Luke, whose office is to show us the Man Christ Jesus. I therefore reserve any observations that this larger scope might and ought, indeed, to give rise to, till we have to consider the third gospel
But here the great thing is the relationship of Joseph to the Messiah, and hence he is the one to whom the angel appears. In the gospel of Luke it is not to Joseph, but to Mary. Are we to think that this variety of account is a mere accidental circumstance? or that if God has thus been pleased to draw out two distinct lines of truth, we are not to gather up the divine principle of each and all? It is impossible that God could do what even we should be ashamed of. If we act and speak, or forbear to do either, we ought to have a sufficient reason for one or other. And if no man of sense doubts that this should be so in our own case, has not God always had His own perfect mind in the various accounts He has given us of Christ? Both are true, but with distinct design. It is with divine wisdom that Matthew mentions the angel's visit to Joseph; with no less direction from on high does Luke relate Gabriel's visit to Mary (as before to Zacharias); and the reason is plain. In Matthew, while he not in the least degree weakens, but proves the fact that Mary was the real mother of our Lord, the point was, that He inherited the rights of Joseph.
And no wonder; for no matter how truly our Lord had been the Son of Mary, He had not thereby an indisputable legal right to the throne of David. This never could be in virtue of His descent from Mary, unless He had also inherited the title of the royal stem. As Joseph belonged to the Solomon-branch, he would have barred the right of our Lord to the throne, looking at it as a mere question now of His being the Son of David; and we are entitled so to take it. His being God, or Jehovah, was in no way of itself the ground of Davidical claim, though otherwise of infinitely deeper moment. The question was to make good, along with His eternal glory, a Messianic title that could not be set aside, a title that no Jew on his own ground could impeach. It was His grace so to stoop; it was His own all-sufficient wisdom that knew how to reconcile conditions so above man to put together. God speaks, and it is done.
Accordingly, in the gospel of Matthew, the Spirit of God fixes our attention upon these facts. Joseph was the descendant of David, the king, through Solomon: the Messiah must therefore, somehow or other, be the son of Joseph; yet had He really been the son of Joseph, all would have been lost. Thus the contradictions looked hopeless; for it seemed, that in order to be the Messiah, He must, and yet He must not, be Joseph's son. But what are difficulties to God? With Him all things are possible; and faith receives all with assurance. He was not only the son of Joseph, so that no Jew could deny it, and yet not so, but that He could be in the fullest manner the Son of Mary, the Seed of the woman, and not literally of the man. God, therefore, takes particular pains, in this Jewish gospel, to give all importance to His being strictly, in the eye of the law, the son of Joseph; and so, according to the flesh, inheriting the rights of the regal branch; yet here He takes particular care to prove that He was not, in the reality of His birth as man, Joseph's son. Before husband and wife came together, the espoused Mary was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Such was the character of the conception. Besides, He was Jehovah. This comes out in His very name. The Virgin's Son was to be called "Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins." He shall not be a mere man, no matter how miraculously born; Jehovah's people, Israel, are His; He shall save His people from their sins.
This is yet more revealed to us by the prophecy of Isaiah cited next, and particularly by the application of that name found nowhere else but in Matthew: "Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." (Verses 22, 23.)
This, then, is the introduction and the great foundation in fact. The genealogy is, no doubt, formed peculiarly according to the Jewish manner; but this very shape serves rather as a confirmation, I will not say to the Jewish mind alone, but to every honest man of intelligence. The spiritual mind, of course, has no difficulty can have none by the very fact that it is spiritual, because its confidence is in God. Now there is nothing that so summarily banishes a doubt, and silences every question of the natural man, as the simple but happy assurance that what God says must be true, and is the only right thing. No doubt God has been pleased in this genealogy to do that which men in modern times have cavilled at; but not even the darkest and most hostile Jews raised such objections in former days. Assuredly they were the persons, above all, to have exposed the character of the genealogy of the Lord Jesus, if vulnerable. But no; this was reserved for Gentiles. They have made the notable discovery that there is an omission! Now in such lists an omission is perfectly in analogy with the manner of the Old Testament. All that was demanded in such a genealogy was to give adequate landmarks so as to make the descent clear and unquestionable.
Thus, if you take Ezra, for instance, giving his own genealogy as a priest, you find that he omits not three links only in a chain, but seven. Doubtless there may have been a special reason for the omission; but whatever may be our judgment of the true solution of the difficulty, it is evident that a priest who was giving his own genealogy would not put it forward in a defective form. If in one who was of that sacerdotal succession where the proofs were rigorously required, where a defect in it would destroy his right to the exercise of spiritual functions if in such a case there might legitimately be an omission, clearly there might be the same in regard to the Lord's genealogy; and the more, as this omission was not in the part of which the Scripture speaks nothing, but in the centre of its historical records, whence the merest child could supply the missing links at once. Evidently, therefore, the omission was not careless or ignorant, but intentional. I doubt not myself that the design was thereby to intimate the solemn sentence of God on the connection with Athaliah of the wicked house of Ahab, the wife of Joram. (Compare verse 8 with2 Chronicles 22:1-12; 2 Chronicles 22:1-12; 2 Chronicles 23:1-21; 2 Chronicles 24:1-27; 2 Chronicles 25:1-28; 2 Chronicles 26:1-23.) Ahaziah vanishes, and Joash, and Amaziah, when the line once more reappears here in Uzziah. These generations God blots out along with that wicked woman.
There was literally another reason lying on the surface, that required certain names to drop out. The Spirit of God was pleased to give, in each of the three divisions of the Messiah's genealogy, fourteen generations, as from Abraham down to David, from David to the captivity, and from the captivity to Christ. Now, it is evident, that if there were in fact more links in each chain of generation than these fourteen, all above that number must be omitted. Then, as we have just seen, the omission is not haphazard, but made of special moral force. Thus, if there was a necessity because the Spirit of God limited Himself to a certain number of generations, there was also divine reason, as there always is in the word of God, for the choice of the names which had to be omitted,
However this may be, we have in this chapter, besides the genealogical line, the person of the long-expected son of David; we have Him introduced precisely, officially, and fully as the Messiah; we have His deeper glory, not merely that which He took but who He was and is. He might be styled, as indeed He was, "the son of David, the son of Abraham;" but He was, He is, He could not but be, Jehovah-Emmanuel. How all-important this was for a Jew to believe and confess, one need hardly stop to expound: it is enough to mention it by the way. Evidently Jewish unbelief, even where there was an acknowledgment of the Messiah, turned upon this, that the Jew looked upon the Messiah purely according to what He deigns to become as the great King. They saw not any deeper glory than His Messianic throne, not more than an offshoot, though no doubt one of extraordinary vigour, from the root of David. Here, at the very starting-point, the Holy Ghost points out the divine and eternal glory of Him who deigns to come as the Messiah. Surely, too, if Jehovah condescended to be Messiah, and in order to this to be born of the Virgin, there must be some most worthy aims infinitely deeper than the intention, however great, to sit upon the throne of David. Evidently, therefore, the simple perception of the glory of His person overturns all conclusions of Jewish unbelief; shows us that He whose glory was so bright must have a work commensurate with that glory; that He whose personal dignity was beyond all time and even thought, who thus stoops to enter the ranks of Israel as Son of David, must have had some ends in coming, and, above all, to die, suitable to such glory. All this, it is plain, was of the deepest possible moment for Israel to apprehend. It was precisely what the believing Israelite did learn; even as it was just the rock of offence on which unbelieving Israel fell and was dashed to pieces.
The next chapter (Matthew 2:1-23) shows us another characteristic fact in reference to this gospel; for if the aim of the first chapter was to give us proofs of the true glory and character of the Messiah, in contrast with mere Jewish limitation and unbelief about Him, the second chapter shows us what reception Messiah would find, in contrast with the wise men from the East, from Jerusalem, from the king and the people, and in the land of Israel. If His descent be sure as the royal son of David, if His glory be above all human lineage, what was the place that He found, in fact, in His land and people? Indefeasible was His title: what were the circumstances that met Him when He was found at length in Israel? The answer is, from the very first He was the rejected Messiah. He was rejected, and most emphatically, by those whose responsibility it was most of all to receive Him. It was not the ignorant; it was not those that were besotted in gross habits; it was Jerusalem it was the scribes and Pharisees. The people, too, were all moved at the very thought of Messiah's birth.
What brought out the unbelief of Israel so distressingly was this God would have a due testimony to such a Messiah; and if the Jews were unready, He would gather from the very ends of the earth some hearts to welcome Jesus Jesus-Jehovah, the Messiah of Israel. Hence it is that Gentiles are seen coming forth from the East, led by the star which had a voice for their hearts. There had ever rested traditionally among Oriental nations, though not confined to them, the general bearing of Balaam's prophecy, that a star should arise, a star connected with Jacob. I doubt not that God was pleased in His goodness to give a seal to that prophecy, after a literal sort, not to speak of its true symbolic force. In His condescending love, He would lead hearts that were prepared of Him to desire the Messiah, and come from the ends of the earth to welcome Him. And so it was. They saw the star; they set forth to seek the Messiah's kingdom. It was not that the star moved along the way; it roused them and set them going. They recognized the phenomenon as looking for the star of Jacob; they instinctively, I may say, certainly by the good hand of God, connected the two together. From their distant home they made for Jerusalem; for even the universal expectation of men at the time pointed to that city. But when they reached it, where were faithful souls awaiting the Messiah? They found active minds not a few that could tell them clearly where the Messiah was to be born: for this God made them dependent upon His word. When they came to Jerusalem, it was not any longer an outward sign to guide. They learnt the scriptures as to it. They learnt from those that cared neither for it nor for Him it concerned, but who, nevertheless, knew the letter more or less. On the road to Bethlehem, to their exceeding joy, the star re-appears, confirming what they had received, till it rested over where the young child was. And there, in the presence of the father and the mother, they, Easterns though they were, and accustomed to no small homage, proved how truly they were guided of God; for neither father nor mother received the smallest of their worship: all was reserved for Jesus all poured out at the feet of the infant Messiah. Oh, what a withering refutation of the foolish men of the West! Oh, what a lesson, even from these dark Gentiles, to self-complacent Christendom in East or West! Spite of what men might look down upon in these proud days, their hearts in their simplicity were true. It was but for Jesus they came; it was on Jesus that their worship was spent; and so, spite of the parents being there, spite of what nature would prompt them to do, in sharing, at least, something of the worship on the father and mother with the Babe, they produced their treasures and worshipped the young child alone.
This is the more remarkable, because in the gospel of Luke we have another scene, where we see that same Jesus, truly an infant of days, in the hands of an aged one with far more divine intelligence than these Eastern sages could boast. Now we know what would have been the prompting of affection and of godly desires in the presence of a babe; but the aged Simeon never pretends to bless Him. Nothing would have been more simple and natural, had not that Babe differed from all others, had He not been what He was, and had Simeon not known who He was. But he did know it. He saw in Him the salvation of God; and so, though he could rejoice in God, and bless God, though he could in another sense bless the parents, he never presumes so to bless the Babe. It was indeed the blessing that he had got from that Babe which enabled him to bless both God and His parents; but he blesses not the Babe even when he blesses the parents. It was God Himself, even the Son of the Highest that was there, and his soul bowed before God. We have here, then, the Eastems worshipping the Babe, not the parents; as in the other case we have the blessed man of God blessing the patents, but not the Babe: a most striking token of the remarkable difference which the Holy Ghost had in view when inditing these histories of the Lord Jesus.
Further, to these Easterns intimation is given of God, and they returned another way, thus defeating the design of the treacherous heart and cruel head of the Edomite king, notwithstanding the slaughter of the innocents.
Next comes a remarkable prophecy of Christ, of which we must say a word the prophecy of Hosea. Our Lord is carried outside the reach of the storm into Egypt. Such indeed was the history of His life; it was continual pain, one course of suffering and shame. There was no mere heroism in the Lord Jesus, but the very reverse. Nevertheless, it was God shrouding His Majesty; it was God in the person of man, in the Child that takes the lowliest place in the haughty world. Therefore, we find no more a cloud that covers Him, no pillar of fire that shields Him. Apparently the most exposed, He bows before the storm, retires, carried by His parents into the ancient furnace of affliction for His people. Thus even from the very first our Lord Jesus, as a babe, tastes the hate of the world what it is to be thoroughly humbled, even as a child. The prophecy, therefore, was accomplished, and in its deepest meaning. It was not merely Israel that God called out, but His Son out of Egypt. Here was the true, Israel; Jesus was the genuine stock before God. He goes through, in His own person, Israel's history. He goes into Egypt, and is called out of it.
Returning, in due time, to the land of Israel at the death of him that reigned after Herod the Great, His parents are instructed as we are told, and turn aside into the parts of Galilee. This is another important truth; for thus was to be fulfilled the word, not of one prophet, but of all "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene." It was the name of man's scorn; for Nazareth was the most despised place in that despised land of Galilee. Such, in the providence of God, was the place for Jesus. This gave an accomplishment to the general voice of the prophets, who declared Him despised and rejected of men. So He was. It was true even of the place in which He lived, "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene."
We enter now upon the announcement of John the Baptist. (Matthew 3:1-17) The Spirit of God carries us over a long interval, and the voice of John is heard proclaiming, "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Here we have an expression which must not be passed over all-important as it is for the understanding of the gospel of Matthew. John the Baptist preached the nearness of this kingdom in the wilderness of Judaea. It was clearly gathered from the Old Testament prophecy, particularly from Daniel, that. the God of heaven would set up a kingdom; and more than this, that the Son of man was the person to administer the kingdom. "And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away; and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." Such was the kingdom of heaven. It was not a mere kingdom of the earth, neither was it in heaven, but it was heaven governing the earth for ever.
It would appear that, in John the Baptist's preaching it, we have no ground for supposing that either he believed at this time, or that any other men till afterwards were led into the understanding of the form which it was to assume through Christ's rejection and going on high as now. This our Lord divulged more particularly inMatthew 13:1-58; Matthew 13:1-58. I understand, then, by this expression, what might be gathered justly from Old Testament prophecies; and that John, at this time, had no other thought but that the kingdom was about to be introduced according to expectations thus formed. They had long looked for the time when the earth should no longer be left to itself, but heaven should be the governing power; when the Son of man should control the earth; when the power of hell should be banished from the world; when the earth should be put into association with the heavens, and the heavens, of course, therefore, be changed, so as to govern the earth directly through the Son of man, who should be also King of restored Israel. This, substantially, I think, was in the mind of the Baptist.
But then he proclaims repentance; not here in view of deeper things, as in the gospel of Luke, but as a spiritual preparation for Messiah and the kingdom of heaven. That is, he calls man to confess his own ruin in view of the introduction of that kingdom. Accordingly, his own life was the witness of what he felt morally of Israel's then state. He retires into the wilderness, and applies to himself the ancient oracle of Isaiah "The voice of one crying in the wilderness." The reality was coming: as for him, he was merely one to announce the advent of the King. All Jerusalem was moved, and multitudes were baptized by him in Jordan. This gives occasion to his stern sentence upon their condition in the sight of God.
But among the crowd of those who came to him was Jesus. Strange sight! He, even He, Emmanuel, Jehovah, if He took the place of Messiah, would take that place in lowliness on the earth. For all things were out of course; and He must prove by His whole life, as we shall find by-and-by He did, what the condition of His people was. But, indeed, it is but another step of the same infinite grace, and more than that, of the same moral judgment on Israel; but along with it the added and most sweet feature His association with an in Israel who felt and owned their condition in the sight of God. It is what no saint can afford lightly to pass over; it is what, if a saint recognize not, he will understand the Scripture most imperfectly; nay, I believe he must grievously misunderstand the ways of God. But Jesus looked at those who came to the waters of Jordan, and saw their hearts touched, if ever so little, with a sense of their state before God; and His heart was truly with them. It is not now taking the people out of Israel, and bringing them into a position with Himself that we shall find by-and-by; but it is the Saviour identifying Himself with the godly-feeling remnant. Wherever there was the least action of the Holy Spirit of God in grace in the hearts of Israel, He joined Himself. John was astonished; John the Baptist himself would have refused, but, "Thus," said the Saviour, "it becometh us" including, as I apprehend, John with Himself. "Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness."
It is not here a question of law; it was too late for this ever a ruinous thing for the sinner. It was a question of another sort of righteousness. It might be the feeblest recognition of God and man; it might be but a remnant of Israelites; but, at least, they owned the truth about themselves; and Jesus was with them in owning the ruin fully, and felt it all. No need was in Himself not a particle; but it is precisely when the heart is thus perfectly free, and infinitely above ruin, that it can most of all descend and take up what is of God in the hearts of any. So Jesus ever did, and did it thus publicly, joining Himself with whatever was excellent on the earth. He was baptized in Jordan an act most inexplicable for those who then or now might hold to His glory without entering into His heart of grace. To what painful feelings it might give rise! Had He anything to confess? Without a single flaw of His own He bent down to confess what was in others; He owned in all its extent, in its reality as none did, the state of Israel, before God and man; He joined Himself with those who felt it. But at once, as the answer to any and every unholy misapprehension that could be formed, heaven is opened, and a twofold testimony is rendered to Jesus. The Father's voice pronounces the Son's relationship, and His own complacency; while the Holy Ghost anoints Him as man. Thus, in His full personality, God's answer is given to all who might otherwise have slighted either Himself or His baptism.
The Lord Jesus thence goes forth into another scene the wilderness to be tempted of the devil; and this, mark, now that He is thus publicly owned by the Father, and the Holy Ghost had descended on Him. It is indeed, I might say, when souls are thus blessed that Satan's temptations are apt to come. Grace provokes the enemy. Only in a measure, of course, can we thus speak of any other than Jesus; but of Him who was full of grace and truth, in whom, too, the fulness of the Godhead dwelt even so, of Him it was fully true. The principle, at least, applies in every case. He was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be there tried of the devil. The Holy Spirit has given the temptation to us in Matthew, according to the order in which it occurred. But here, as elsewhere, the aim is dispensational, not historical, as far as intention goes, though really so in point of fact; and I apprehend, specially with this in view, that it is only at the last temptation our Lord says, "Get thee hence, Satan." We shall see by and by why this disappears in the gospel of Luke. There is thus the lesson of wisdom and patience even before the enemy; the excellent, matchless grace of patience in trial; for what more likely to exclude it than the apprehension that it was Satan all the while? But yet our Saviour was so perfect in it, that He never uttered the word "Satan" until the last daring, shameless effort to tempt Him to render to the evil one the very worship of God Himself Not till then does our Lord say, "Get thee hence, Satan."
We shall dwell a little more upon the three temptations, if the Lord will, as to their intrinsic moral import, when we come to the consideration of Luke. I content myself now with giving what appears to me the true reason why the Spirit of God here adheres to the order of the facts. It is well, however, to remark, that the departure from such an order is precisely what indicates the consummate hand of God, and for a simple reason. To one who knew the facts in a human way, nothing would he more natural than to put them down just as they occurred. To depart from the historical order, more particularly when one had previously given them that order, is what never would be thought of, unless there were some mighty preponderant reason in the mind of him who did so. But this is no uncommon thing. There are cases where an author necessarily departs from the mere order in which the facts took place. Supposing you are describing a certain character; you put together striking traits from the whole course of his life; you do not restrain yourself to the bare dates at which they occurred. If you were only chronicling the events of a year, you keep to the order in which they happened; but whenever you rise to the higher task of bringing out moral features, you may be frequently obliged to abandon the consecutive order of events as they occurred.
It is precisely this reason that accounts for the change in Luke; who, as we shall find when we come to look at his gospel more carefully, is especially the moralist. That is to say, Luke characteristically looks upon things in their springs as well as effects. It is not his province to regard the person of Christ peculiarly, i.e., His divine glory; neither does he occupy himself with the testimony or service of Jesus here below, of which we all know Mark is the exponent. Neither is it true, that the reason why Matthew occasionally gives the order of time, is because such is always his rule. On the contrary, there is no one of the Gospel writers who departs from that order, when his subject demands it, more freely than he, as I hope to prove to the satisfaction of those open to conviction, before we close. If this be so, assuredly there must be some key to these phenomena, some reason sufficient to explain why sometimes Matthew adheres to the order of events, why he departs from it elsewhere.
I believe the real state of the facts to be this:- first of all, God has been pleased, by one of the evangelists (Mark), to give us the exact historical order of our Lord's eventful ministry. This alone would have been very insufficient to set forth Christ. Hence, besides that order, which is the most elementary, however important in its own place, other presentations of His life were due, according to various spiritual grounds, as divine wisdom saw fit, and as even we are capable of appreciating in our measure. Accordingly, I think it was owing to special considerations of this sort that Matthew was led to reserve for us the great lesson, that our Lord had passed through the entire temptation not only the forty days, but even that which crowned them at the close; and that only when an open blow was struck at the divine glory did His soul at once resent it with the words, "Get thee hence, Satan." Luke, on the contrary, inasmuch as he, for perfectly good and divinely given reason, changes the order, necessarily omits these words. Of course, I do not deny that similar words appear in your common English Bibles (in Luke 4:8); but no scholar needs to be informed that all such words are left out of the third gospel by the best authorities, followed by almost every critic of note, save the testy Matthaei, though scarce one of them seems to have understood the true reason why. Nevertheless, they are omitted by Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists; by High Church, and Low Church; by Evangelicals, Tractarians, and Rationalists. It does not matter who they are, or what their system of thought may be: all those who go upon the ground of external testimony alone are obliged to leave out the words in Luke. Besides, there is the clearest and the strongest evidence internally for the omission of these words in Luke, contrary to the prejudices of the copyists, which thus furnishes a very cogent illustration of the action of the Holy Spirit in inspiration. The ground of omitting the words lies in the fact, that the last temptation occupies the second place in Luke. If the words be retained, Satan seems to hold his ground, and renew the temptation after the Lord had told him to retire. Again, it is evident that, as the text stands in the received Greek text and our common English Bible, "Get thee behind me, Satan," is another mistake. InMatthew 4:10; Matthew 4:10, it is, rightly, "Get thee hence." Remember, I am not imputing a shade of error to the Word of God. The mistake spoken of lies only in blundering scribes, critics, or translators, who have failed in doing justice to that particular place. "Get thee hence, Satan," was the real language of the Lord to Satan, and is so given in closing the literally last temptation by Matthew.
When it was a question, at a later day, of His servant Peter, who, prompted by Satan, had fallen into human thoughts, and would have dissuaded his Master from the cross, He does say, "Get thee behind me." For certainly Christ did not want Peter to go away from Him and be lost, which would have been its effect. "Get thee [not hence, but] behind me," He says. He rebuked His follower, yea, was ashamed of him; and He desired that Peter should be ashamed of himself. "Get thee behind me, Satan," was thus appropriate language then. Satan was the source of the thought couched in Peter's words.
But when Jesus speaks to him whose last trial thoroughly betrays the adversary of God and man, i.e., the literal Satan, His answer is not merely, "Get thee behind me," but, "Get thee hence, Satan." Nor is this the only mistake, as we have seen, in the passage as given in the authorised version; for the whole clause should disappear from the account in Luke, according to the weightiest testimony. Besides, the reason is manifest. As it stands now, the passage wears this most awkward appearance, that Satan, though commanded to depart, lingers on. For in Luke we have another temptation after this; and of course, therefore, Satan must be presented as abiding, not as gone away.
The truth of the matter, then, is, that with matchless wisdom Luke was inspired of God to put the second temptation last, and the third temptation in the second place. Hence (inasmuch as these words of the third trial would be wholly incongruous in such an inversion of the historic order), they are omitted by him, but preserved by Matthew, who here held to that order. I dwell upon this, because it exemplifies, in a simple but striking manner, the finger and mind of God; as it shows us, also, how the copyists of the scriptures fell into error, through proceeding on the principle of the harmonists, whose great idea is to make all the four gospels practically one Gospel. that is, to fuse them together into one mass, and make them give out only, as it were, a single voice in the praise of Jesus. Not so; there are four distinct voices blending in the truest harmony, and surely God Himself in each one, and equally in all, but, withal, showing out fully and distinctively the excellencies of His Son. It is the disposition to blot out these differences, which has wrought such exceeding mischief, not merely in copyists, but in our own careless reading of the gospels. What we need is, to gather up all, for all is worthy; to delight ourselves in every thought that the Spirit of God has treasured up every fragrance, so to speak, that He has preserved for us of the ways of Jesus.
Turning, then, from the temptation (which we may hope to resume in another point of view, when the gospel of Luke comes before us and we shall have the different temptations on the moral side, with their changed order), I may in passing notice, that a very characteristic difference in the gospel of Matthew meets us in what follows. Our Lord enters upon His public ministry as a minister of the circumcision, and calls disciples to follow Him. It was not His first acquaintance with Simon, Andrew, and the rest, as we know from the gospel of John. They had before known Jesus, and, I apprehend, savingly. They are now called to be His companions in Israel, formed according to His heart as His servants here below; but before this we have a remarkable Scripture applied to our Lord. He changes his place of sojourn from Nazareth to Capernaum. And this is the more observable, because, in the Gospel of Luke, the first opening of His ministry is expressly at Nazareth; while the point of emphasis in Matthew is, that He leaves Nazareth, and comes and dwells in Capernaum. Of course, both are equally true; but who can say that they are the same thing? or that the Spirit of God had not His own blessed reasons for giving prominency to both facts? Nor is the reason obscure. His going to Capernaum was the accomplishment of the word of Isaiah 9:1-21, specifically mentioned for the instruction of the Jew, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, "The land of Zebulun, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up." That quarter of the land was regarded as the scene of darkness; yet was it just there that God suddenly caused light to arise. Nazareth was in lower, as Capernaum was in upper Galilee. But more than this, it was the seat, above all others in the land, frequented by Gentiles Galilee ("the circuit") of the Gentiles. Now, we shall find throughout this gospel that which may be well stated here, and will be abundantly confirmed everywhere that the object of our gospel is not merely to prove what the Messiah was, both according to the flesh and according to His own divine intrinsic nature, for Israel; but also, when rejected by Israel, what the consequences of that rejection would be for the Gentiles, and this in a double aspect whether as introducing the kingdom of heaven in a new form, or as giving occasion for Christ's building His Church. These were the two main consequences of the rejection of the Messiah by Israel.
Accordingly, as in chapter it we found Gentiles from the East coming up to own the born King of the Jews, when His people were buried in bondage and Rabbinic tradition in heartless heedlessness, too, while boasting of their privileges; so here our Lord, at the beginning of His public ministry, as recorded in Matthew, is seen taking up His abode in these despised districts of the north, the way of the sea, where especially Gentiles had long dwelt, and on which the Jews looked down as a rude and dark spot, far from the centre of religious sanctity. There, according to prophecy, light was to spring up; and how brightly was it now accomplished? Next, we have the call of the disciples, as we have seen. At the end of the chapter is a general summary of the Messiah's ministry, and of its effects, given in these words: "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought unto Him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and He healed them. And there followed Him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan." This I read, in order to show that it is the purpose of the Spirit, in this part of our gospel, to gather a quantity of facts together under one head, entirely regardless of the question of time. It is evident, that what is here described in a few verses must have demanded a considerable space for its accomplishment. The Holy Ghost gives it all to us as a connected whole.
The self-same principle applies to the so-called sermon on the mount, on which I am about to say a few words. It is quite a misapprehension to suppose that Matthew 5:1-48; Matthew 6:1-34; Matthew 7:1-29 was given all in a single, unbroken discourse. For the wisest purposes, I have no doubt, the Spirit of God has arranged and conveyed it to us as one whole, without notice of the interruptions, occasions, etc.; but it is an unwarrantable conclusion for any to draw, that our Lord Jesus delivered it simply and solely as it stands in Matthew's gospel. What proves the fact is, that in the gospel of Luke we have certain portions of it clearly pertaining to this very sermon (not merely similar, or the same truth preached at other times, but this identical discourse), with the particular circumstances which drew them out. Take the prayer, for instance, that was here set before the disciples. (Matthew 6:1-34) As to this, we know from Luke 11:1-54 there was a request preferred by the disciples which led to it. As to other instruction, there were facts or questions, found in Luke, which drew out the remarks of the Lord, common to him and Matthew, if not Mark.
If it be certain that the Holy Ghost has been pleased to give us in Matthew this discourse and others as a whole, leaving out the originating circumstances found elsewhere, it is a fair and interesting inquiry why such a method of grouping with such omissions is adopted. The answer I conceive to be this, that the Spirit in Matthew loves to present Christ as the One like unto Moses, whom they were to hear. He presents Jesus not merely as a legislating prophet-king like Moses, but greater by far; for it is never forgotten that the Nazarene was the Lord God. Therefore it is that, in this discourse on the mountain, we have throughout the tone of One who was consciously God with men. If Jehovah called Moses up to the top of one mount) He who then spake the ten words sat now upon another mount, and taught His disciples the character of the kingdom of heaven, and its principles introduced as a whole, just answering to what we have seen of the facts and effects of His ministry, entirely passing by all intervals or connecting circumstances. As we had His miracles all put together, as I may say, in the gross, so with His discourses. We have thus in either case the same principle. The substantial truth is given to us without noticing the immediate occasion in particular facts, appeals, etc. What was uttered by the Lord, according to Matthew, is thus presented as a whole. The effect, therefore, is, that it is much more solemn, because unbroken, carrying its own majesty along with it. The Spirit of God imprints on it purposely this character here, as I have no doubt there was an intention that it should be so reproduced for the instruction of His own people.
The Lord, in short, was here accomplishing one of the parts of His mission according toIsaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 53:1-12, where the work of Christ is twofold. It is not, as the authorized version has it, "By His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many;" for it is unquestionable that justification is not by His knowledge. Justification is by faith of Christ, we know; and as far as the efficacious work on which it depends is concerned, it is clearly in virtue of what Christ has suffered for sin and sins before God. But I apprehend that the real force of the passage is, "By His knowledge shall my righteous servant in struct many in righteousness." It is not "justify" in the ordinary forensic sense of the word, but rather instructing in righteousness, as the context here requires, and as the usage of the word elsewhere, as in Daniel 12:1-13, leaves open. This seems to be what is meant of our Lord here.
In the teaching on the mount He was, in fact, instructing the disciples in righteousness: hence, too, one reason why we have not a word about redemption. There is not the slightest reference to His suffering on the cross; no intimation of His blood, death, or resurrection: He is instructing though not merely in righteousness. To the heirs of the kingdom the Lord is unfolding the principles of that kingdom most blessed and rich instruction, but instruction in righteousness. No doubt there is also the declaration of the Father's name, as far as could be then; but, still, the form taken is that of "instructing in righteousness." Let me add, as to the passage of Isaiah 53:1-12, that the remainder of the verse also accords with this: not " for," but, "and He shall bear their iniquities." Such is the true force of it. The one was in His life, when He taught His own; the other was in His death, when He bore the iniquities of many.
Into the details of the discourse on the mount I cannot enter particularly now, but would just say a few words before I conclude tonight. In its preface we have a method often adopted by the Spirit of God, and not unworthy of our study. There is no child of God that cannot glean blessing from it, even through a scanty glance; but when we look into it a little more closely, the instruction deepens immensely. First of all He pronounces certain classes blessed. These blessednesses divide into two classes. The earlier character of blessedness savours particularly of righteousness, the later of mercy, which are the two great topics of the Psalms. These are both taken up here: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." In the fourth case righteousness comes in expressly, and closes that part of the subject; but it is plain enough that all these four classes consist in substance of such as the Lord pronounces blessed, because they are righteous in one form or another. The next three are founded upon mercy. Hence we read as the very first "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." Of course, it would be impossible to attempt more than a sketch at this time. Here, then, occurs the number usual in all these systematic partitions of Scripture; there is the customary and complete seven of Scripture. The two supplementary blessednesses at the end rather confirm the case, though at first sight they might appear to offer an exception. But it is not so really. The exception proves the rule convincingly; for in verse 10 you have, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake;" which answers to the first four. Then, in verses 11 and 12, you have, "Blessed are ye . . . . . for my sake;" which answers to the higher mercy of the last three. "Blessed are ye, [there is thus a change. It is made a direct personal address] when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake." Thus it is the very consummation of suffering in grace, because it is for Christ's sake.
Hence the twofold persecutions (10-12) bring in the double character we find in the epistles suffering for righteousness' sake, and suffering for Christ's sake. These are two perfectly distinct things; because, where it is a question of righteousness, it is simply a person brought to a point. If I do not stand and suffer here, my conscience will be defiled; but this is in no way suffering for Christ's sake. In short, conscience enters where righteousness is the question; but suffering for Christ's sake is not a question of plain sin, but of His grace and its claims on my heart. Desire for His truth, desire for His glory, carries me out into a certain path that exposes me to suffering. I might merely do my duty in the place in which I am put; but grace is never satisfied with the bare performance of one's duty. Fully is it admitted that there is nothing like grace to meet duty; and doing one's duty is a good thing for a Christian. But God forbid that we should be merely shut up to duty, and not be free for the flowing over of grace which carries out the heart alone, with it. In the one case, the believer stops dead short: if he did not stand, there would be sin. In the other case, there would be a lack of testimony for Christ, and grace makes one rejoice to be counted worthy of suffering for His name: but righteousness is not in question.
Such, then, are the two distinct classes or groups of blessedness. First, there are the blessednesses of righteousness, to which the persecution for righteousness' sake pertains; next, the blessednesses of mercy or grace. Christ instructs in righteousness according to prophecy, but He does not confine Himself to righteousness. This never could be consistent with the glory of the person who was there. Accordingly, therefore, while there is the doctrine of righteousness, there is the introduction of what is above it and mightier than it, with the corresponding blessedness of being persecuted for Christ's sake. All here is grace, and indicates manifest progress.
The same thing is true of what follows: "Ye are the salt of the earth" it is that which keeps pure what is pure. Salt will not communicate purity to what is impure, but it is used as the preservative power according to righteousness. But light is another thing Hence we hear, in the 14th verse, "Ye are the light of the world." Light is not that which simply preserves what is good, but is an active power, which casts its bright shining into what is obscure, and dispels the darkness from before it. Thus it is evident that in this further word of the Lord we have answers to the differences already hinted at.
Much of the deepest interest might be found in the discourse; only this is not the occasion for entering into particulars. We have, as usual, righteousness developed according to Christ, which deals with man's wickedness under the heads of violence and corruption; next come other new principles of grace infinitely deepening what had been given under law. (Matthew 5:1-48) Thus, in the former of these, a word detects, as it were, the thirst of blood, as corruption lies in a look or desire. For it is no longer a question of mere acts, but of the soul's condition. Such is the scope of the fifth chapter. As earlier (verses 17, 18) the law is fully maintained in all its authority, we have later on (verses 21-48) superior principles of grace, and deeper truths, mainly founded upon the revelation of the Father's name the Father which is in heaven. Consequently it is not merely the question between man and man, but the Evil One on one side, and God Himself on the other; and God Himself, as a Father, disclosing, and proving the selfish condition of fallen man upon the earth.
In the second of these chapters (Matthew 6:1-34) composing the discourse, two main parts appear. The first is again righteousness. "Take heed [He says] that you do not your righteousness before men." Here it is not "alms," but "righteousness," as you may see in the margin. Then the righteousness spoken of branches out into three parts: alms, which is one part of it; prayer, another part; and fasting, a part of it not to be despised. This is our righteousness, the especial point of which is, that it should be not a matter of ostentation, but before our Father who sees in secret. It is one of the salient features of Christianity. In the latter part of the chapter, we have entire confidence in our Father's goodness to us, counting upon His mercy, certain that He regards us as of infinite value, and that, therefore, we need not be careful as the Gentiles are, because our Father knows what we have need of. It is enough for us to seek the kingdom of God, and His righteousness: our Father's love cares for all the rest.
The last chapter (Matthew 7:1-29) presses on us the motives of heart in our intercourse with men and brethren, as well as with God, who, however good, loves that we should ask Him, and earnestly too, as to each need; the adequate consideration of what is due to others, and the energy that becomes ourselves; for the gate is strait, and narrow the way that leads to life; warnings against the devil and the suggestions of his agents, the false prophets, who betray themselves by their fruits; and, lastly, the all-importance of remembering that it is not a thing of knowledge, or of miraculous power even, but of doing God's will, of a heart obedient to Christ's sayings. Here, again, if I be not mistaken, righteousness and grace are found alternating; for the exhortation against a censorious spirit is grounded on the certainty of retribution from others, and paves the way for an urgent call to self-judgment, which in us precedes all genuine exercise of grace. (verses Matthew 7:1-4.) Further, the caution against a lavishing of what was holy and beautiful on the profane is followed by rich and repeated encouragements to count on our Father's grace. (verses Matthew 7:5-11.)
Here, however, I must for the present pause, though one can only and deeply regret being obliged to pass so very cursorily over the ground; but I have sought in this first lecture to give thus far as simple, and at the same time as complete, a view of this portion of Matthew as I well could. I am perfectly aware that there has not been time for comparing it much with the others; but occasions will, I trust, offer for bringing into strong contrast the different aspects of the various gospels. However, my aim is also that we should have before us our Lord, His person, His teaching, His way, in every gospel.
I pray the Lord that what has been put, however scantily, before souls may at least stir up enquiry on the part of God's children, and lead them to have perfect, absolute confidence in that word which is of His grace indeed. We may thus look for deep profit. For, although to enter upon the gospels before the soul has been founded upon the grace of God will not leave us without a blessing, yet I am persuaded that the blessing is in every respect greater, when, having been attracted by the grace of Christ, we have at the same time been established in Him with all simplicity and assurance, in virtue of the accomplished work of redemption. Then, set free and at rest in our souls, we return to learn of Him, to look upon Him, to follow Him, to hear His word, to delight ourselves in His ways. The Lord grant that thus it may be, as we pursue our path through these different gospels which our God has vouchsafed to us.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on Matthew 6:11". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/matthew-6.html. 1860-1890.
the Sixth Week after Easter