- THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT. (A mountain plateau not far from Capernaum.) E. ALMSGIVING, PRAYER, AND FASTING TO BE PERFORMED SINCERELY, NOT OSTENTATIOUSLY. Matthew 6:1-18
- Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men. This verse refers back to Matthew 5:20 , where the disciple is told that hisrighteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. Matthew'sfifth chapter deals with the actions themselves, but this sixth chaptertreats of the motives and manners of our actions.
6:2 When therefore thou doest alms, sound not a trumpet before thee1, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets2, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward3.
- Sound not a trumpet before thee. Trumpets were sounded as signals to large bodies. This fact gave to the word "trumpet" a symbolicsignificance. Anything which is noised or blazoned abroad is spoken ofas being "trumpeted". The figure also conveys the idea of pompousself-laudation. Hence we still speak of an egotistical man as one who"blows his own trumpet".
- As the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets. The hypocrites of that day did not blow a literal trumpet to call attentionto their gifts any more than the hypocrites of this day do. But theyused methods to call attention to their generosity as those of our timedo when they publish an account of their munificence in the newspapers.Almsgiving was a prominent feature of Jewish life. Transplanted fromJudaism, almsgiving became one of the characteristic features of theearly church ( Acts 9:36 ; Acts 10:2 ; Galatians 2:10 ). On the significance of thesynagogue, see Mark 1:39.
- They have received their reward. Christ corrected the error as to it in what he said about the widow's mites ( Mark 12:43 Mark 12:44 ; Luke 21:3 Luke 21:4 ).As these hypocrites sought the praise of men, they had their rewardwhen they received it.
6:3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth1:
- But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth. Jesus here recommends secret and noiseless giving, by thenever-to-be-forgotten metaphor of the left and right hand. Ourgenerosity is to come so spontaneously, and with so little thought,that the liberality of one part of the body shall not be communicatedto the other. The command does not forbid publicity, but that spiritwhich "desires" publicity.
6:4 that thine alms may be in secret1: and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee2.
- That thine alms may be in secret. Toplady says,
"The true Christian cares not how much men hear of his "public" charities, nor how little they hear of his "private" ones."
- And thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee. Salvation is a matter of favor, and not of merit. But there is, nevertheless, arecompense attendant upon it. The joys of the world come, and theblessings in this world are included in that recompense ( Matthew 25:34-40 ).
6:5 And when ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites1: for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues3 and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward.
- And when ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites. Jesus deals with our conduct toward God as well as toward man. However perfectly wemay act toward man, our life is one-sided and imperfect if we omit orimproperly perform our duties toward God.
- For they love to stand and pray . . . that they may be seen of men. The Pharisaical habit of standing in a prayerful attitude, to be seenof men, was certainly not prayer. In their case public opinion, and notthe praise of God, "was the wind that set the wind-mill a-work"(Trapp). As Pharisees loved the standing and not the praying, soChristians should love the praying and not the standing. Yet prayer forthe edification or comfort of others is not here condemned. Prayeritself is nowhere condemned. It is the ostentatious prayer-attitudewhich Jesus stamps with his displeasure. Needless attitudes of privateprayer in pulpit and pew are here condemned.
- In the synagogues. See Mark 1:39.
6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber1, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret2, and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee.
- But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber. The inner chamber was properly a little room in the interior of the houseor on the housetop, but it is here used to indicate any place ofprivacy,
- And having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret. The shut door emphasizes the strictness of the privacy, for in all personalprayer we should strive to be alone with God. Jesus found a prayer-chamber upon the mountain-top and in the garden.
6:7 And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do1: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
- And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do. For samples of repetitions, see 1 Kings 18:26 ; Acts 19:34 . Strictly speaking,Jesus does not here forbid either a long prayer, or the use of the samewords in a prayer when the heart sincerely prompts the utterance. Hehimself prayed at great length, even continuing in prayer all night( Luke 6:12 ), and in the garden he thrice repeated the same words.What he does forbid is making the number and length of prayers anobject of consideration or a source of trust. This command isespecially violated by the repetitions of the Roman Catholic rosary.Speech to God cannot be ordered too carefully ( Ecclesiastes 5:2 ).
6:8 Be not therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him1.
- For your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. In stating that God knows our desires before we ask, Jesus givesthe reason against vain repetitions. God does not need elaborateexplanations, and prayer is not uttered to inform him, but to putourselves in such communion with him as to make us fit to receive.Moreover, prayer is a matter of asking and receiving, and not ameritorious service, as Mohammedans and Catholics still hold, and asthe Pharisees held. With them, as public prayers were to gain creditwith men, so long and repeated prayers were to obtain merit before God.Christ teaches contrary to all this.
6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye1. Our Father who art in heaven2, Hallowed be thy name.
- After this manner therefore pray ye. Having pointed out the errors which then characterized prayer, Jesus proceeds to give a brief outlineas a model in matter, arrangement, and expression.
As to the prayer generally, we note the following: It is dividedinto two sections, and each section is subdivided into three heads. Ofthese the first three are invocations for the glory of God; thus: (1)That God may be glorified in his name, so that it shall be universallyreverenced; (2) That God may be glorified in his kingdom--that kingdombefore which every power of evil shall eventually fall; (3) That Godmay be glorified in the hearts of humanity by all men becoming obedientunto his will ( Matthew 6:9 Matthew 6:10 ). These petitions come first, for it isof first importance to us that God should be honored in his person, inhis authority and in his desires. The three petitions represent threestages of spiritual growth in the communion and fellowship with God. Wefirst know and revere his name as God. From that we advance to the fullrecognition of his royal and divine authority. And from this in turn weagain advance until we know him fully as Father, and forgetting hisauthority, perform his wishes through the joyous constraint of love, asdo the angels in heaven.
The second three petitions are for humanity; thus: (1) For theirbodies, that they may have sustenance ( Matthew 6:11 ). (2) For their soulsin things concerning the past--that past trespasses may be forgiven( Matthew 6:12 ). (3) For their souls as to the future, that they may beenabled to avoid temptation, and that they may be finally deliveredfrom evil ( Matthew 6:13 ).
- Our Father who art in heaven. The common Jewish invocation was, "O Lord God of our fathers". Jesus, as the brother of man, introduced thisnew and precious invocation, which puts us in prayer's proper attitude.
6:10 Thy kingdom come1. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.
- Thy kingdom come. This is the first section of the prayer.
6:11 Give us this day our daily bread1.
- Give us this day our daily bread. So long as it is "this day" we do not need tomorrow's bread. It is a petition for milk and honey,symbols of luxury, but for bread, life's staff and necessity, and forbread in moderation--bestowed day by day, like the manna.
6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors1.
- And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. This is the one thing needful to the soul in regard to the past. Since acertain soul condition is necessary (viz.: the spirit of forgiveness),as a condition precedent to obtaining this petition, that condition isplainly stated in the petition itself. God cannot forgive the temperthat is unforgiving, for it can only exist in a heart blind as to theamount of its debt. Forgiveness, too, must be a completed act beforewe begin to pray. Our Lord lays stress on this one point in the prayer,returning to it after he had closed the form, that he may assure usthat the divine procedure will, in this respect, be fashioned to ourown. "Debt" is a mild word for our sin, and is broader than "trespass".Trespass indicates a misstep, a wrong-doing, but debt an unfulfilledobligation of any kind. We must not be hard in exacting our rights,when to do so would be oppressive. In the prayer as usually publiclyrepeated, the word "trespasses" is often used in place of the word"debts". This is a remnant of Tyndale's translation (A.D. 1526) whichhas been preserved and handed down in the Episcopal Liturgies. Tyndalerenders Matthew as follows: "And forgive us our trespases even as weforgive them which trespas vs".
6:13 And bring us not into temptation1, but deliver us from the evil [one.]
- And bring us not into temptation. This petition, to be effective, must be followed by an earnest effort on our part to fulfill it. Goddoes not tempt us ( James 1:13 ), but he can permit us to be led intotemptation, or he can shield is from it, only permitting us to enter sofar into it as to come off victorious over it ( 1 Corinthians 10:13 ; 2 Peter 2:9 );so that it shall prove unto us a blessing instead of a curse( James 1:12 ; James 5:11 ).
- But deliver us from the evil [one]. We prefer to read "the evil", rather than "the evil one", for the neuter is more comprehensive( 2 Timothy 4:18 ), and includes deliverance from the evil thoughts of man'sown heart, and from evils from without as well as temptations of Satan.
6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you1.
- Matthew 6:14 Matthew 6:15
- For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Forgiveness may be difficult, but it is essential:we should realize that as we pray. Jesus presents this truth positivelyand negatively, that we may make no mistake about it.
6:15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Those who are accustomed to repeat the Lord's Prayer will noticethat the doxology with which it closes is omitted. It was probablyinserted from some early liturgy. It is absent from the oldestmanuscripts, and interrupts the connection of the thought aboutforgiveness. All textual editors omit it.
6:16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance1: for they disfigure their faces2, that they may be seen of men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward.
- Matthew 6:16 Matthew 6:17
- When ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance. Fasting, as an aid to meditation and prayer, is a wholesome practice,but stated fasts lead to hollow formality, and fasts which are enduredfor public praise are an abomination.
- For they disfigure their faces. By omitting to wash their faces and neglecting to dress or anoint their beards.
6:17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head1, and wash thy face;
- Anoint thy head. His words allude to the practice of anointing. Rich Jews were accustomed to anoint their bodies daily with olive orsweet oil. This was refreshing, and prevented many of the disease whichthe dry, hot air of Palestine made prevalent. The custom still prevailsamong Eastern nations.
6:18 that thou be not seen of men to fast, but of thy Father who is in secret1: and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall recompense thee.
- That thou be not seen of men to fast, but of thy Father who is in secret. Christ admonishes us to conceal the fast, and so avoid thetemptation to be hypocritically ostentatious, for fasting is intendedfor self-abasement, and not to cultivate pride.
6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth1, where moth and rust consume2, and where thieves break through and steal3:
- THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT. (A mountain plateau not far from Capernaum.) F. SECURITY OF HEAVENLY TREASURES CONTRASTED WITH EARTHLY ANXIETIES. Matthew 6:19-34
- Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth. A too literal compliance with this negative precept would discourage thrift. Theprecept is not intended to discourage the possession of property inmoderation, but if forbids us to hoard for selfish purposes, or to lookupon our possessions as permanent and abiding. The lives of many men ofour day seem to be employed to no other purpose than that of amassingan abundance of earthly treasure. But no true Christian can envy them,or follow their example.
- Where moth and rust consume. In our Lord's time banks, such as we have, were unknown, and in order to keep money its possessor frequentlyburied it, thus subjecting it to rest and corrosion. The havoc causedby moths is too familiar to need comment ( James 5:2 ). Costly andornamental apparel was reckoned among a man's chief treasures in oldentimes. See Joshua 7:21 ; 2 Kings 5:5 ; Luke 16:19 .
- Where thieves break through and steal. Oriental houses were frequently made of loose stone or sun-dried bricks, so that the thieffound it easier to enter by digging through the wall than by openingthe barred door.
6:20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven1, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
- But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. As the impossibility of hoarding earthly treasures is in Matthew 6:19 urged as a reason againstit, so in this verse the possibility of amassing perpetual possessionsin heaven is set forth as the reason why we should do it. Thus thestriking contrast between the two kinds of treasures is brought to ournotice, so that it is the height of folly not to make a proper choicebetween them.
6:21 for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also1.
- For where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also. Having contrasted the two treasures, Jesus here suggests the contrast betweenthe two places where they are stored up. Since the heart follows thetreasure, that it may dwell with the object of its love, we shouldplace our treasures in heaven, even if the treasures there were nobetter than the treasures on earth; for it is better that our heartsshould abide in the city of God than on this sinful earth.
6:22 The lamp of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single1, thy whole body shall be full of light.
- Matthew 6:22 Matthew 6:23
- The lamp of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single,
- thy whole body shall be full of light. In these two verses there is a brief allegory, the meaning of which is to be ascertained from thecontext. The subject under consideration is the propriety of laying uptreasures, not on earth, but in heaven, and the effect which treasureshave upon the heart. Now, the heart or affection is to the soul muchthe same as the eye is to the body. If we do not set our affectionsupon spiritual things, the time quickly comes when we cannot see them( 1 Corinthians 2:14 ; John 3:19-21 ). Jesus therefore represents our affectionsas if they were an eye. If the eye is single--that is, if it sees nothingwith a double or confused vision--then the man receives through itclear views of the outside world, and his inner man is, so to speak,full of light. But if his eye is diseased or blinded, then his innerman is likewise darkened. Applying the allegory to the spiritual man,if his heart is single in its love toward God and the things of God,then he has clear views as to the relative importance and value ofthings temporal and eternal, things earthly and things heavenly. But ifthe heart looks with a double interest upon both earthly and heavenlytreasure, it makes the man double-minded ( James 1:6-8 ), and sospoils his life. God does not permit a double affection any more thanhe does a double service, and a man who seeks to continue in it willsoon be visited with great darkness as to the things of God, and willbecome blind in heart and conscience ( Romans 1:21-25 ).
6:23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness1. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is the darkness2!
- But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. But if his eye is diseased or blinded, then his inner man is likewisedarkened. Applying the allegory to the spiritual man, if his heart issingle in its love toward God and the things of God, then he has clearviews as to the relative importance and value of things temporal andeternal, things earthly and things heavenly. But if the heart lookswith a double interest upon both earthly and heavenly treasure, itmakes the man double-minded ( James 1:6-8 ), and so spoils his life.See Matthew 20:15.
- If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is the darkness! God does not permit a double affection any more than he doesa double service, and a man who seeks to continue in it will soon bevisited with great darkness as to the things of God, and will becomeblind in heart and conscience ( Romans 1:21-25 ).
6:24 No man can serve two masters1; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon2.
- No man can serve two masters. Jesus here assumes that we are framed to serve ( Genesis 2:15 ); and hence that we must choose our master, forit is impossible to serve two masters whose interests are differing andconflicting.
- Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Mammon was a common Chaldee word used in the East to express material riches. It is here personified asa kind of god of this world. These masters conflict here, for it ismammon's interest to be hoarded and loved, but it is God's interestthat mammon be distributed to the needy and be lightly esteemed. Godclaims our supreme love and our undivided service.
6:25 Therefore I say unto you, be not anxious for your life1, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body2, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment?
- Be not anxious for your life. The word "anxious" is derived from "merimnao", a word which indicates a state of doubt or double-mindedness. It therefore indicates that sense of suspense or worrywhich comes from a mind in doubt. Compare Luke 12:29 . Hence we maysay that Jesus is here continuing the contrasts of Matthew 6:24 , and that,having warned against a double vision and a double service, he nowwarns against a double mind as to the comparative value of the benefitsto be derived from the service of God or the service of mammom.
- What ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body,
- what ye shall put on. Mammon can only supply food, but God gives the life; mammon can only furnish clothing, but God gives the body. Bysingle-mindedness we can find peace, for God is to be relied upon. Bydouble-mindedness we fall to worrying, for mammon may fail to supplythose things which we feel we need.
6:26 Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value then they2?
- Behold the birds of the heaven . . . your heavenly Father feedeth them. Literally, do ye not greatly excel them. The birds do not servemammon at all, yet God feeds them.
- Are not ye of much more value then they? Surely, then, man who excels the birds both in his intrinsic value and in his capacity fortemporal and eternal service, can expect to receive from God hissufficient food.
6:27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life1?
- And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life? Peace and trust characterize the service of God. Therewards of mammon, on the contrary, are won by anxiety. But the rewardsof mammon cannot lengthen life as can God. Therefore we should nothesitate to choose God's service.
6:28 And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field1, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
- Consider the lilies of the field. Which lily is here meant cannot be determined. Calcott thinks it was the fragrant white lily whichgrows profusely all over Palestine. Smith favors the scarlet martagon;Tristam, the anemone coronaria; and Thomson, the Huleh lily, a speciesof iris. It is likely, however, that scholars are trying to drawdistinctions where Jesus himself drew none. It is highly probable thatin popular speech many of the common spring flowers were looselyclasses together under the name lily.
6:29 yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these1.
- Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. The magnificence of Solomon and of his court is proverbial in the Eastunto this day. To the Jew he was the highest representative of earthlygrandeur, yet he was surpassed by the common lily of the field. See Song of Solomon 3:6-11 .
6:30 But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, [shall he] not much more [clothe] you, O ye of little faith2?
- The grass of the field, which . . . is cast into the oven. As to the grass and oven we may say that the forests of Palestine had beencleared off centuries earlier, and the people were accustomed to usethe dried grass, mingled with wild flowers and weeds, for fuel. Theoven was a large, round pot of earthenware, or other material, two orthree feet high, and narrowing toward the top. This was first heated byfire within, after which the fire was raked out, and the dough putinside. Such is still the universal practice.
- O ye of little faith. As Bengal notes,
"This is the only term of reproach Jesus applied to his disciples."
6:31 Be not therefore anxious1, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
- Be not therefore anxious. God's care for the grass which lasts but for a day should teach us to expect that he will show more interest inproviding for those who have been fashioned for eternity.
6:32 For after all these things do the Gentiles seek1; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things2.
- For after all these things do the Gentiles seek. Christians having a heavenly Father to supply their wants, should not live like theGentiles, who have no consciousness of such a Father. Of what use isall our religious knowledge if we are still as careworn and distrustfulas the benighted heathen?
- Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. Here is the panacea for anxiety. Being God, the Supreme One knows;being a Father, he feels. Many repose with confidence upon theregularity and beneficence of his providential laws; but far sweeter isthat assurance which arises from a sense of God's personal interest inour individual welfare--an interest manifested by the gift of his Son.
6:33 But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness1; and all these things shall be added unto you2.
- But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness. The kingdom of heaven is the real object of our search. It must be sought firstboth in point of time and of interest, and it must be kept ever firstin our thoughts after it is found.
- And all these things shall be added unto you. That Christian faith and obedience leads to worldly prosperity is proved by countlessinstances which are multiplied with each succeeding day. The securityof Christ's kingdom leads to that cheerfulness which renews thestrength, and to that undistracted industry which brings success.
6:34 Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself1. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
- Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Each day has trouble enough without adding to itby borrowing somewhat from the morrow. Serve God today with thestrength you used to expend in carrying troubles which you borrowedfrom the future, and God will order the affairs of tomorrow.