Matthew 6




Giving to the Needy (6:1-4)

1 Jesus taught: “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them.” Whatever work we do, God always looks mainly at our motive and reason for doing it. In God’s sight, the reason why we have done a work is more important than the work itself. If we do good works to gain praise for ourselves, God is not pleased. That is selfish. God is only pleased when we do things for His glory. The main teaching here is that God looks mainly at our motives, at our heart, and not on our outward works. God wants us first to be inwardly righteous in our hearts. Only those good works that arise from a righteous heart are pleasing to God.

In Matthew 5:16, Jesus said: “… let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds. …” This statement at first glance seems to be opposite from the teaching given in this section. But in Matthew 5:16, the main point is that men must see our good deeds and praise [our] Father in heaven. The motive for our good deeds must be to win praise for God. Whenever we do any good work, we must always ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this?” Is it because of pride? Is it to win for myself the praise of men?” If so, then the praise of men will be the only reward we get; we shall get no eternal reward from God.

The Jewish leaders made such a big mistake: they thought they could gain salvation by righteous acts. But their inward lives did not match their outward lives. They were men having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:5). God is never fooled. He knows our hearts. What worldly men consider good, God considers detestable (Luke 16:15). The Jewish leaders were worldly. Worldly men seek praise only from men. Spiritual men seek praise only from God.

When we look at our own hearts, sometimes it is not easy to determine why we do things. We often fool ourselves. We think we are doing something for God, but in fact we are doing it for ourselves. Remember what the prophet Jeremiah said about the human heart: The heart is deceitful above all things … who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9). We must continually pray that the Holy Spirit will show us what is in our hearts, that He will show us what our real motives are.

2 If we seek praise from men, that is the only reward we shall get. We shall lose our heavenly reward from God. The praises of men will pass away; only the reward that comes from God will last. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36).

3-4 Therefore, when we do our good works, we must do them quietly, in secret. We must not tell others. We must not even tell ourselves! We must not let [our] left hand know what [our] right hand is doing (verse 3). This is a parable. The left hand sees the right hand giving money or other help to the needy. The left hand says, “Ah, what a good person I am. Look at how much I am giving.” The left hand represents our pride. It also represents our selfish nature. The left hand says, “You don’t need to give so much. To appear righteous, you only have to give a little.” The left hand is always calculating what our right hand (the spiritual part of us) should give. Let that not be. Let us give without calculation, freely, for God’s sake. Just as God gave to us without calculation, let us give to others without calculating. God will calculate what we give from our hearts, and reward us accordingly (Luke 14:13-14; Colossians 3:23-24).


Prayer (6:5-15)

(Luke 11:2-4)

5 Many of the Jewish leaders prayed in public places so that men would see them praying and call them righteous. Such men may indeed receive the praise of other men, but they will receive nothing from God, either in this life or the next.

6 Jesus taught, “When you pray, go into your room … close the door.” This means that we must put all our attention on God, and not on ourselves. We must shut out worldly thoughts when we speak to God. This does not mean that we must pray only privately and alone. It is also good and necessary to pray together with other believers. But whether together or alone, we all must look only to God at times of prayer, and not pray to be seen by men (verse 5).

7 There is a second mistake people make when they pray. They think that they must pray in a special way in order to receive an answer from God. They think they must use special words, or pray for a long time or in a special place. But this is not necessary. God answers our prayers according to our faith, not according to what words we use or how we pray.31

8 We must remember that God is a loving heavenly father. He knows all our needs before we ask; but He wants us to ask. He wants us to depend on Him, just as children depend on their earthly fathers. God is eager to give us what we need (see Matthew 7:11 and comment). And He is able to give us immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). This is the God we meet when we go into our rooms to pray. He wants to give us unlimited spiritual blessings. All we have to do is ask in faith.

9 The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1). So He gave them the “Lord’s prayer” as an example of a proper prayer.

Our Father in heaven. We must address our prayer to our Father, and not to any idol, spirit, angel, or saint. To all believers, God is a loving Father who wants the greatest good for all His children. At the same time, God is also the all-powerful Creator in heaven. He knows everything about us (Hebrews 4:13), and He will be our judge. He has the power to bless man with unlimited blessings (Ephesians 1:3), and He has the power to send man to hell for all eternity.

Therefore, we must come to such a God with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:2829). We need to come with thanksgiving for His blessings. We need to begin every prayer with praise for His greatness and glory (Psalm 34:1-3). This is what the phrase “hallowed be your name” means: “May God be praised; to God be the glory.” How often, when we pray, we think only of our own needs, and nothing of the greatness of God.

10 … your kingdom come. When Christ came, God’s kingdom came to earth. And God’s kingdom is present in everyone who believes in Christ (Luke 17:20-21). This is why Christ preached: “The kingdom of God is near” (see Mark 1:14-15 and comment).

But in another way, the kingdom of God has not yet fully come. Satan still rules in this world. He is the prince of this world (John 12:31; 16:11). Most men still are prisoners in Satan’s kingdom, the kingdom of darkness. Therefore, we need to pray that God will come into the lives of more people, that more and more people might be delivered from Satan’s kingdom and brought into the kingdom of God.

But not only that, we need to pray that God’s kingdom will fully come, that is, that Christ will come again quickly and destroy Satan. Come, Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20). Because when Jesus comes again, then God’s kingdom will be fully established both in heaven and on earth.

… your will be done. Wherever the kingdom of God is, there His will is being fulfilled. We need to pray constantly that God’s will might be fulfilled in our lives each day.

11 After praising God, then we may bring to Him our petitions. In verses 11-13, all our needs are mentioned: for our body, bread (verse 11); for our soul, forgiveness (verse 12); and for our spirits, deliverance from the evil one (verse 13).

Give us today our daily bread. This means: Give us day by day all the things we need for our bodies—food, clothing, houses, health. (It does not mean unnecessary luxuries or conveniences.) Every day we are completely dependent upon God. We could not live one day without His sustaining power. He can stop the rainfall, and there would be no food. Or He could allow hail and wind to destroy our crops. Our lives are in His hands. Even atheists cannot live one day without God!

God cares for our needs. The great God who created the heavens and the earth cares about our daily bread. In His eyes the nations are accounted as dust (Isaiah 40:15). Yet He knows when each of us is hungry. He cares when each sparrow falls (see Matthew 10:29-31). Let us cast all our cares upon Him, for He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).

12 Forgive us our debts. According to Luke 11:4, Jesus also said, “Forgive us our sins.” The original word that Matthew wrote here was “debts.” In Jesus’ thought, a sin was a debt owed to God. According to the original Greek32 text of Luke 11:4, Jesus said: “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who [is indebted to] us.” Those who are “indebted” to us are those who have sinned against us. Therefore, we must understand that in the Lord’s prayer, “debt” and “sin” have the same meaning.

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. In the same way we forgive our debtors, so God will forgive us. Jesus is not talking here about the first time God forgave us when we believed and received salvation. Here Jesus is talking about our daily lives as Christians. At first, God forgave us freely all the sins we had committed before we believed. Because of His grace and mercy, He forgave us. But after we become Christians, we still sin from time to time and need God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9). He will forgive us as we also forgive others. If we stop forgiving others, God will stop forgiving us (see Matthew 6:14-15; 18:23-35). We are like pipes. God’s forgiveness is like water flowing through us. To not forgive others is like shutting off one end of our pipe. If no forgiveness flows out to others, God’s forgiveness cannot flow into us (see Mark 11:25-26 and comment).

13 And lead us not into temptation. In this verse, to be “led into temptation” means to be defeated by Satan, to fall into sin, to become separated from God. The word “temptation,” as used in this verse, does not mean the kind of “test” that God allows to come upon all Christians in order to test their faith (1 Peter 1:6-7). These ordinary kinds of tests which strengthen our faith are sent to us for our benefit; when they come upon us, we should rejoice and be thankful (James 1:2).

In this verse, however, the word “temptation” has a different meaning. Jesus is teaching us here to pray that we might not fall into that final temptation, that is, the temptation to turn away from God. “… deliver us from the evil one” must be our constant prayer. The devil is a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). And in the last days before Jesus comes again, Christians will suffer the severest trials. Many will fall away. In that day Christians will need to pray this prayer more than ever before.

The Lord’s prayer ends as it began—praising God. Many Greek manuscripts here include the words: “for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” The word “amen” means “so be it.” It expresses our faith that God will accept and answer our prayer.

14-15 See verse 12 and comment.


Fasting (6:16-18)

16-18 Just as the Jews performed righteous acts and prayed in order to be praised by men, so also did they fast for the same reason. They put ashes on their faces so that others could tell they were fasting. Their purpose was to gain honor for themselves, not for God. The praise of men will be their only reward; they will gain no reward from God.

When you fast. … This means that Jesus approved of fasting, as long as it was done for the right reasons. Christians fast in order to humble themselves before God, to bring their bodies under control, and to receive additional guidance and power from the Holy Spirit.

The prophet Isaiah said that the “fasting” that is most pleasing to God is humility and works of love (Isaiah 58:1-7). Without humility and works of love, fasting is only an empty show.


Treasures in Heaven (6:19-24)

(Luke 11:34-36; 12:33-34; 16:13)

19 Just as we should not seek honor and praise in this world, so we should not seek to store up treasures. “Treasure” means not only money, but all kinds of property and possessions. To “store up” treasure means to keep it for oneself, to love it. To have possessions is not wrong. What is wrong is to love our possessions, and to use them for ourselves (see 1 Timothy 6:10). It is also wrong to seek for more possessions than we need.

But in these verses Jesus is not only talking about possessions. He is talking about all the things that we value in this world, such as education, security for the future, and even our children. He is also talking about our honor; that is a kind of “treasure.” All these things are worldly treasures. And Jesus says, “Do not store them up. Do not love them.33 Do not put your hope in them.” If we put our hope in the things of this world, we shall have no hope in the next world. If we store up treasure in this world, we shall have none in the next. And the treasure of this world will soon perish; it does not last. Moth and rust destroy it. Flowers wither. Men get old and their beauty fades. And here are thieves, too. Illness is like a thief; it steals our health. There are floods and earthquakes. Wind and hail “steal” our crops. Death steals our life. Everything on earth—even earth itself—passes away. Jesus said, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you” (John 6:27).

20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. Jesus’ meaning is this: every good work we do for God in this world will be counted or “stored up” as treasure in heaven. When we do good on earth, we are laying a foundation for ourselves in heaven (see 1 Timothy 6:17-19).

This does not mean that we are saved by good works. We are saved only by grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8). But good works are the external evidence of faith. True faith always produces good works, just as a good tree produces good fruit. Whether we have true faith or not can be shown by our good works (see James 2:14-24 and comment).

Those who do good works because of their faith in Christ will receive their inheritance, the kingdom prepared for them (see Matthew 25:34-40). A rich young man once came to Jesus asking, “Good teacher … what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). He was seeking treasure in heaven. Jesus told him, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Mark 10:21). But the young man did not take Jesus’ advice. He had stored up his treasure on earth and he loved it. He didn’t want to give it up, even to obtain eternal life. Truly, he had obtained his reward on earth and lost his reward in heaven (Mark 10:22-23).

Man is only a traveler on this earth, a foreigner. Our true home is in heaven. We are only servants and ambassadors of God. Everything we have with us on this earth belongs to God; it is not ours. And on the day of judgment we will have to give an account to God concerning how we have used our possessions. We will have to give account not only concerning how we have used our money, but also concerning how we have used our skills, our gifts, our education. All these are from God; they belong to Him. If we store up these things selfishly for ourselves, we shall surely lose our reward in heaven (see Mark 8:36; Luke 12:16-21). Jesus said, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor” (Luke 12:33). We must keep for ourselves no more than we need, and we must calculate our needs according to the needs of the poor around us.

21 There are two reasons why it is foolish to store up treasure on earth. The first is that it will perish. The second is that it becomes our master. To the extent that we love our treasure, to that extent it will control us. We become slaves of our treasure. Satan uses earthly treasure to entrap us, to turn us from God. When we store up treasure in heaven, we give our heart to God. When we store up treasure on earth, we give our heart to Satan. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Let us heed this teaching. Let us not say, “This teaching does not apply to me. I am poor.” The main question we must ask ourselves is this: “What do I desire? What am I seeking?” The poor seek for riches too! Jesus asks: “What is in your heart? What is your goal? Who is your master; whom do you serve?” Let us turn from the treasure of this world and turn our eyes toward God. And when we do, we shall begin to store up treasure in heaven that will last forever.

22 The eye is the lamp of the body. The eye here means the “eye” of the heart or mind, that is, our “spiritual eye.” With our bodily eye we see worldly things; with our spiritual eye we can see spiritual things. With our spiritual eye we can recognize good and evil, worldly treasure and heavenly treasure.

If our spiritual eyes are good, that is, sound and healthy, our whole body will be full of light, God’s light.

23 God’s Spirit comes into our lives through our spiritual eyes. If our spiritual eyes are shut or blind, God’s light cannot shine within our soul, and we will remain in spiritual darkness. The only source of spiritual light is God. If that light is darkness, we are in darkness indeed! Jesus said, “See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness” (see Luke 11:35-36).

How are our spiritual eyes? Are they clear, sound? Do we see Jesus? Jesus is the light of the world (John 1:9; 8:12). Do we see that light?

24 No one can serve two masters. The two masters are God and Money. “Money” here means any kind of worldly treasure: land, house, animals, family, education, job, authority, fame. In place of the word “money” we could substitute the word “self.”

Every person must choose which master he will serve. In the same way, everyone must choose which kingdom he will live in: the kingdom of God or the kingdom of darkness. No one can be a citizen of both kingdoms at the same time. Just as there are only two masters and only two kingdoms, there also are only two roads a person can walk on: a narrow road leading to eternal life, and a wide road leading to eternal punishment (see Matthew 7:13-14 and comment).

Many people are deceived by Satan. They think that they can serve God and “Money” together. They want to store up treasure on earth and treasure in heaven at the same time. But it never works. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). The important word here is the word “all.” Not half, not 90 percent, but all.

Jesus told the rich young man, “Go, sell everything you have” (Mark 10:21). He said this because the young man loved his possessions. The Apostle John wrote: Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15). Either we love the world, or we love the Father; we cannot love both. We must choose.

Why do men keep laying up treasure on earth? They know it will perish. And even if the treasure doesn’t perish quickly, men perish. And when they perish, they cannot take their treasure with them. Even their education, their fame, will be of no use in heaven. Why do men keep seeking worldly treasure and thereby lose their heavenly treasure?

The reason is sin. Sin enters man’s heart, and from sin arises selfishness. And from selfishness comes all the other sins, such as pride, greed, lust.

Sin does three things. First, it makes us its slaves. Second, it makes us spiritually blind. We can’t see we are slaves. We can’t see the true light, which is Jesus. We can’t find the narrow path to heaven. Third, sin destroys us. The punishment for sin is eternal death.

This is why Jesus taught men to turn from sin, to put away worldly treasure. There is no greater mistake a man can make than to store up treasure on earth.


Do Not Worry (6:25-34)

(Luke 12:22-32)

25 Therefore … do not worry about your life. This does not mean that we should not look ahead and plan. It does not mean that we can stop working and expect God to feed us. God feeds the birds (verse 26), but they have to look for their food. God will feed men too, but men must plant and plow and water. If a man doesn’t work, he won’t eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

Jesus teaches here only that we must not worry. Paul wrote the same thing: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6).

Why do we not need to worry? Because it is unnecessary. If God gives us life, will He not give us little things like food and clothes? Having one day given us a body, will He the next day let it die of hunger? Certainly not. If God can give big gifts like life, He will certainly give the small gifts too. God doesn’t promise to give us more than we need, but we can rely on Him to provide our necessities.

26 The same is true for birds. God gave them bodies. Will He not also provide food for them? And if He provides food for birds, will He not provide food for us, who are more valuable than birds? (Matthew 10:31).

The same thing applies to spiritual gifts also. If God gave us the greatest gift of all, His own Son Jesus, He surely will give us all other blessings, both spiritual and physical (see Romans 8:32 and comment).

27 To worry is not only unnecessary, it is also pointless. By worrying we cannot add a single hour to [our] life, or a “single cubit to our height.”34 According to Luke 12:26, Jesus also said, “Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” Jesus’ meaning is that worry accomplishes nothing.

28-30 Just as God feeds the birds (verse 26), so He clothes the flowers. If He clothes the flowers, who are not His children, surely He will clothe us who are His children. Even King Solomon, David’s son, the richest king of the Jews, was never dressed as beautifully as a lily.

Then Jesus said: “… will [God] not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (verse 30). Worry is a sign of little faith. Jesus didn’t say “no faith”; He was talking mainly to His disciples, to believers. But many believers have little faith. They have enough faith to be saved, but they do not have enough faith to stop worrying. They believe in Jesus, but they don’t believe everything He says.

Jesus said, “God will give you food and clothing.” Do we believe it? He said, “Come to me … and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Do we believe it? He said, “… whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst” (John 4:14). Do we believe it? Do we have this kind of living water in us? We need to confess that we are men of little faith.

“Little faith” has another meaning, too. It means to be discouraged by our circumstances. Our circumstances can become like a master. Our circumstances can weaken and even destroy our faith. No matter what our circumstances are, we need to continue hoping, rejoicing, believing. Because all of our circumstances are in God’s control. And God is our loving Father. He will not let anything happen to us that is not for our good (see Romans 8:28 and comment). Therefore, why should we worry? If we truly believe in a loving God, we will not worry (see Romans 8:35,37). But even Jesus’ disciples in the beginning had but little faith (see Mark 4:37-40). Every Christian needs to grow in faith. It is a process that lasts our entire life.

31-32 Jesus said: “Do not worry about food and drink and clothes. For the pagans run after all these things.” Here in this context, the word “pagan” means not only Gentiles, or non-Jews, but also all those who do not believe in the one true God.35 God is not a loving Father for unbelievers. They do not rely on God. Therefore, they worry about food and clothing. They seek these things first, instead of God.

Many believers, however, are just like unbelieving “pagans.” They, too, worry about food, clothes, and other necessities. They worry about the future. They think mostly about worldly things. Such Christians indeed have little faith.

How can we increase our faith? First, we must remember who we are. We are God’s children. God always does what is best for His children. Second, we must remember who God is. God is our Father, and His love, His power, and His wisdom are without limit. Not a sparrow fails to the ground without God knowing it. He knows the number of hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:29-30). If He knows that, He surely knows all our needs (verse 32).

33 Jesus said, “Do not be like unbelievers, who seek only the things of this world.” Put your confidence in God. “… seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

In Hebrews 11:6, it is written: … without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. God Himself said through the prophet Jeremiah: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). How earnestly do we seek God? Do we seek Him above all else? Do we think about our treasure in heaven? Paul wrote: Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2).

We must seek not only God’s kingdom, but also His righteousness, that is, we must seek to be like Christ. We must hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6). As we do this, we shall be filled. Our faith will grow. When we stop seeking God and His righteousness, our faith decreases and our worry increases. To increase our faith we must come close to God, pray to Him, read His word. James wrote: Come near to God and He will come near to you (James 4:8). God is ready to give us everything we need, if we believe and draw near to Him. He says, “Seek me first, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Not only that, God has given us His kingdom. Jesus said to His disciples: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). When we seek God first, He gives us food, drink, clothes; He gives us His righteousness; He gives us every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). And finally, He gives us His kingdom! Jesus said: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). Friends, let us not lose so great a blessing!

34 Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow. God has promised to supply everything we need, if we seek Him first. Paul wrote: And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

Here Jesus teaches that we must live one day at a time. We must not worry about the mistakes of yesterday; they are passed. We must not worry about tomorrow; it hasn’t come yet. Tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Only today we must think about. We must obey God today; we must walk with God today; we must trust Him today. Jesus prayed: “Give us today our daily bread” (verse 11). We don’t need to pray for tomorrow’s bread. God gives us what we need day by day.

Let us understand Jesus. Yes, we must think about tomorrow. We must plan. We must plan today, so that we can harvest tomorrow. But we must not worry about tomorrow.

Worry is from the devil. It is one of his weapons. By means of worry Satan tries to weaken and destroy our faith. How can we overcome worry, then? By resisting Satan. James wrote: Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7). We must continually tell the devil: “Away from me, Satan!” (Matthew 4:10).

Together with resisting the devil, we must put our confidence in God. Peter wrote: Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). Let us believe this verse. Let us apply our faith, and our worry will end.

God never fails to fulfill His promises. David wrote: I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread (Psalm 37:25). Trust in the love and faithfulness of God. Love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Seek Him above all else, and all these things will be given to you as well. The incalculable riches of God are ours in Christ, not only in this life, but for all eternity.