Biblical Studies/New Testament Commentaries/The Gospel of Matthew/Chapter 6
Matthew 6 (NASB)Edit
|Matthew 6: (NASB)|
Giving to the Poor and Prayer
1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 2“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. 9 “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread. 12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’] 14“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
Fasting; The True Treasure; Wealth (Mammon)
16 “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
The Cure for Anxiety
25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Outline of Matthew 6Edit
I. Teachings on giving to the poor and on prayer (vv. 1-15).
- a. Necessary attitude towards giving (vv. 1-4).
- b. Guidelines for prayer (vv. 5-8).
- c. The Lord's prayer (vv. 9-13).
- d. Statements against worry (vv. 14-15)
II. Teachings on fasting, treasure and wealth (vv. 16-24).
- a. Guidelines for the doing and showing of act of fasting (vv. 16-18).
- b. Building up treasures in heaven (vv. 19-21).
- c. Fulfillment by light, rather than by darkness (vv. 22-23).
- d. Serving Two Masters (vv. 24).
III. The Cure for Anxiety (vv. 25-34).
- a. The worry free milieu of nature and admonition not to worry (vv. 25-30).
- b. Seek the kingdom rather than worry (vv. 31-33)
- c. Let each day care for itself (vv. 34).
Paraphrase of Matthew 6Edit
Proper Giving and PrayerEdit
1 When you do good things, do not do them for show, as a performance for the others around you. It is not for that glory that you work and if that is the glory you seek, your reward will not be of that from your Father in Heaven.
2 Do not announce boldly and with great fervor and excitement the works of charity you do by your own hands. 3 When you do these good things, do it in private 4 for when your giving is without acknowledgement, your Father will be the one who rewards you, not the masses. 5 Do the same when you pray; not bringing attention to yourself like the others who pray as a means of self-appreciation, for the glory they get is all that they receive is nothing compared to the satisfaction you will receive.
6 When you enter into prayer, go where no one can find you; in the secret, the private, and pray to your unseen God, whom will recognize this and reward you accordingly. 7 When you pray, there is no word count- say what matters, not the ramblings of a fool. 8 Do not be like the fool, for God knows you more than you can imagine and already knows what you need.
Jesus Teaches the Disciples How to PrayEdit
9 When you pray, pray like this: “Heavenly Father, your name is holy,
10 may your kingdom be as present on earth as it is in heaven,
11 Provide for us our needs and
12 pardon us as we seek to do the same for others.
13 Steer us not into the ensnares of temptation, but bring us out of the swamp of wrong doing.”
14 If you pardon others for their wrong doings against you, God will do the same for you. 15 But if you dwell in your grudges, God will repay the favor.
The "How To"s of Fasting and Setting Your PrioritiesEdit
16 In Fasting, do not do it in a complaining or showy way. 17 Instead, take away the visible signs of your fast, 18 so that it will be known only to God, your unseen father, that you are fasting, and He will reward you accordingly.
19 Earth is not the place to be building up riches, for surely they will waste away long before your time is even over. 20 Build up your rewards in heaven, where none can touch or steal. 21 Where your prized possessions belong, so does your heart.
22 What your eyes see enters your body. If you dwell in light and look upon it, your body will also be. 23 But if you fill your eyes with darkness, your body will also dwell in the absence of light.
24 You can’t serve two masters at once. It simply can’t be done. You will love one, but not the other. You can’t be a servant of God, but worship money at the same time.
Don't Worry; Seek God InsteadEdit
25 There is no need to worry about all the non-essentials of life. 26 The birds of the air do not worry about the things we do, yet God cares for them. Are we, His Children, not that much more important to Him than the birds? 27 Is it even possible for worry to have any benefit? 28 Why are clothes such a big concern to you? The flowers on the ground have no concern of what to wear. 29 But even so, the wise Solomon chose to adorn himself like their petals. 30 If God adorns the fields in such a way, the fields that day-by-day pass away, will he not take care of you, even in your lack of faith? 31 So stop sweating the small stuff!
32 The people of the world follow after these things, and God knows this. 33 But you Child, must pursue after the Kingdom of God and all He has to offer, and He will care for your every need.
34 In this, do not be anxious about what the next day will bring, it will take care of itself. Be present where you are.
Overview of Matthew 6Edit
Teachings on giving to the poor and on prayer (v.1-15)Edit
This is a passage where Jesus is talking to his disciples and giving a broad brush on the issues and guidelines concerned with giving to the poor (vv. 2-4), prayer (v. 5-15) and fasting (v. 16-18) (Earle 80). Jesus warns the disciples against doing things in the ways of hypocrites, who do all spiritual acts for show. his point is to not show their righteousness in the physical realm/human sphere, because the true reward is with God in Heaven for our good deeds (v. 1). In vv. 2-4, Jesus talks about giving in secret. In vv. 5-6, He puts the same emphasis, but this time, on prayer. In vv. 7-8, Jesus speaks of not being repetitive in prayer and that God knows our needs before we even ask, which brings Him into the Lord's prayer.
Verses 9-14 are the full text of the Lord's prayer, not including the later added admonition that is most commonly said when using the prayer today. Jesus is instructing the disciples how to pray with this example. Verse 9 addresses God as both the "Father", which shows connection with God, and "Hallowed be your name", which recognizes God's sovereignty. The next saying (v. 10), "Your Kingdom come [...]" recognizes the need to put God's will first and represents a common theme seen in the New Testament, the Kingdom of God. Verse 11 is a care for physical sustenance and provision, which is an example of the human aspect of Jesus Christ. Verse 12 recognizes forgiveness, a necessary part of Jesus' new model of Christian community, and verse 13 deals with temptation and God's alone ability to protect us from evil. Verses 14-15 touch again on forgiveness; the necessity of forgiving others in God's example.
Teachings on fasting, treasure, and wealth (vv.16-24)Edit
This second section starts off with a similar admonition against showmanship, like those seen earlier in the passage, but this time on the issue of fasting (v. 16-18). Jesus then goes on to warn the disciples against building up earthly treasure because where the most importance is built up and where the first priority lies, so does a person's heart (vv. 19-21).
Verses 22-23 identify the eyes as the light of the body. What Jesus' followers see must be wholesome and not full of darkness. Christians are called by Christ to be full of light and to shine that light, being separate from the outside world of darkness. As Christians, our alliance must also be only to Christ, because we cannot serve two masters. Our devotion must be to God, not to money (v. 24).
The Cure for Anxiety (vv. 25-34)Edit
Jesus warns against worry, being a part of life, especially in the areas of eating and clothing (v. 25). He uses the picture of birds, who are not workers, but are still provided for by God (v. 26). Worry is neither healthy or time-saving (v.27). Again, Jesus uses an example from nature, but this time, lillies and grass, which personify beauty, but do not care about their appearance (vv.28-30). Instead, Jesus admonishes the disciples to follow and seek after God and to not worry about the things of tomorrow, for they will take care of themselves and God will provide all that is needed (vv.31-34).
The very beginnings of the spreading of the Gospel were by word-of-mouth, that is, oral tradition. In this way, the gospel was originally preached through the style of word of mouth and began the missionary work of the early church (Argyle 15). This model can be seen in the early church of Acts and in the early work of the disciples post-Christ's ascension. This oral tradition served as a framework for the later written gospels and served as a source work as well. The ways of the early church, in both preaching and in teaching, helped form the oral tradition of the day and led to the formation of the written works (Argyle 15).
In dating the book of Matthew, the Gospel had to be written after the Gospel of Mark, as Matthew uses Mark as a source material. The book of Matthew was probably written after the death of both the apostle Peter and Paul (Argyle 17). Based on Matthew's apparent interest in church order, a time that the Christian Church was beginning to develop "a separate organization and order of worship" was necessary for the writing of Matthew and he also makes apparent use of the rabbinical code, especially in its use as a practical guide (Argyle 17). Matthew was written after the fall of Jerusalem, which occurred in A.D. 70, making the Gospel of Matthew written no earlier than A.D. 80 (Argyle 17).
The most notable source for the Gospel of Matthew is the Gospel of Mark, which was also used in the writing of the Gospel of Luke. A large number, close to ninety-percent, of what is written in the gospel of Mark is again written in Matthew, and in closely-paralleled use of language (Argyle 12). An apparent difference between the two is the style of Mark, which is Greek, and the style of Matthew, which is more Jewish-leaning (Argyle 14).
Despite the use of source material from both oral tradition and earlier written works, Matthew does have distinctive qualities and accounts found nowhere else in available written documents. Examples of this would be in narratives, such as those of the apostle peter, the passion, the resurrection and other miscellaneous accounts, discourses, quotations from the Old testament and editorial matter (Argyle 15).
There is no official statement of authorship given to the book of Matthew. It is an anonymous work and the author is not known with any definitiveness. Authorship is still uncertain, but there are some things that clear up who could and could not have been the author of the book of Matthew. It is known that the book of Matthew could not have been written by the apostle named Matthew, because of its use of the gospel of Mark as source material. As an apostle, Matthew would have had no need to use the written work of someone not an apostle to write a gospel account (Argyle 16). It is also known that whoever the author of Matthew is, they were most likely a Jewish Christian. This can be seen especially in use of Jewish language and phrases, in the Judaic tone of the book, and the occasional of anti-Gentile messages (Argyle 17). In Matthew 6, the anti-Gentile nature of the gospel can be seen, especially in verse 32, which accosts Gentiles as those who seek the things of the world, rather than seek God.
- Your almost exclusive dependence on a single source (Argyle) has tended to make your commentary a summary of his worrk rather than a research paper, which should depend on a number of sources.
There are different times of literary types and details that go into Matthew 6. Matthew 6 was grown out of oral tradition (Argyle, 15). The book of Matthew is smoother in style than Mark and contains the different literary types, unique to Matthew, which include narratives, discourses, Old Testament quotations and editorial matter (Argyle, 13). The book of Matthew was influenced by the culture, such as the fall of Jerusalem and uses Mark as a primary source. The book of Matthew contains Jewish phrases and is markedly Jewish in style (Argyle, 17). Compared to the other gospels, Matthew is more expansive in certain details (Argyle, 16). The Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Greek. The overall Jewish style, Jewish phrases and cultural context tends to suggest that the book of Matthew addresses a specific audience, which was most likely the community of Jewish Christians.
Matthew makes use of illusory language, which is seen in Matthew 6 with the examples in nature in the section on wealth and in the illustration of the lamp as the eye to the body. Matthew 6 is poetic, rather than prosaic, which is seen in the poetic parallelism in the Lord's prayer (Earle, 82).
Commentary of Matthew 6Edit
Righteousness & Reward (v.1)Edit
In this passage, Jesus is dealing a lot with motivation of the heart. The main issue dealt with in the passage is the situation of “man before God-the genuineness of man’s benevolence, his prayer and his repetance” (Dietrich, 40). This is prefaced in verse 1. Contextually, Jesus didn’t want the disciples to act in the way of the hypocrites and wanted them to see that the reward from giving in public doesn’t go beyond pride. The significant phrase in verse 1 is “to be seen of them”. We are to seek God’s glory; not our own. On this verse, John Wesley wrote, “Take heed that ye practice not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them.” (Earle, 81).
There seems to be a contrast with Matthew 5:16, which says, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (NASB). However, as Jesus is dealing more with motivation in the passage, than the actual acts of giving, fasting and prayer, it should be said that the two do not contrast, but rather, work well together as the motivation behind the act that Jesus is trying to get the disciples to see is to glorify God, rather than themselves (Earle, 81). Public acts can be used to spur others onto doing good as long as their motivation is in the right place.
Jesus’ Teaching on Almsgiving (v.2-4)Edit
Verse 2 ends with the statement “your Father who sees in secret will reward you,” which ties it together with verses 8 and 18. In verse 3, the author uses a metaphor of not letting the "left hand know what the right hand is doing." (NASB). This metaphor is significant in Arabic culture in that “the relation of the right hand to the left” is “a type of close fellowship” (Argyle 55). The specific practice of almsgiving, a considerably righteous act, was not designed to bring focus to and receive gratitude from others. The momentary award of applause is none compared to the heavenly reward received by those who do their acts of giving in private. "Only deeds doe for God’s glory will receive an eschatological reward" (Hagner 140). It is not that Jesus is against the actual act of almsgiving, but seeing that the act has been degraded by hypocrisy, Jesus chooses to speak against the misuse of giving to the poor (Hill 132). The ideal, as seen in verse 3, is to give for the sake of benefitting the life of another, not to gain glory for oneself. The goal is kingdom advancement, not self-glorification. According to verse 4, the only form of almsgiving that will be rewarded by God is that done in order to glorify God and relieve the suffering of others in the plight of poverty (Hill 132).
Jesus’ Teaching on Prayer (v.5-8)Edit
Verse 5 is not an appeal against worshipping in public. That is not on the agenda of Jesus. Rather, verse 5 is a “warning against succumbing to the temptation to ‘showiness’ in performing [public worship and prayer].” (Hill, 132). Jesus speaks in the sixth verse to urge the act of prayer as an act of secrecy. In verse 7, Christ warns the disciples about using repetitive language used in vain during the act of prayer (Earle, 82). The point Jesus makes is that the Christian is to address only God in his prayer. In addition, there is no point to listing off a long line of wants to God, who already knows all that we desire and need (Argyle, 55). It is also an example of gentile criticism, which is seen multiple times in the book of Matthew, which makes the supposition that Matthew was written with Jewish-Christian intent more probable. The Language in verse 8 shows that God, “Our Heavenly Father”, knows that in prayer we are addressing Him and the He already has foreknowledge of what we will and need to ask Him for (Earle, 82). Even if prayer is presented within the sphere of public worship, it is still only to be directed towards God alone and in secret, not intended to be an act for the public eye or selling point for Christianity (which doesn’t need to be “sold”) or your own righteousness (Hagner, 142). Prayer is only authentic when it is directed to God alone. It is “straightforward and simple for those who have experience the grace of the kingdom of Christ. The disciple does not try to coerce or manipulate God. There are no magical words or formulae, nor does an abundance of words count with God.” (Hagner, 152). The father already knows the needs of the disciple and how to deal with them. However, the disciple must pray with that in mind and with “confidence and trust” of God’s providential care of His children (Hill, 134).
The Lord’s Prayer (v.9-12)Edit
As a prayer, the Lord’s prayer expresses itself in simple and sincere terms, in which Jesus asks for needs and glorifies the Father (Earle, 82). The first section about the prayer is about God; the second, us. The Lord’s prayer is one that testifies to hope and is an act of adoration, the bringing of God’s kingdom being brought to earth (Dietrich, 43). “[The Lord’s prayer] is, first of all, an act of adoration, an act of faith and hope in the reign of God in the New age of which, in Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit, we have the initial instalment; then an act of consecration to God’s will; and finally, a humble and total commitment of our own needs to the Father, in the assurance that he will faithfully supply them.” (Dietrich, 43). Matthew’s account of the Lord’s prayer was one that was most likely for Jewish usage and/or use in during synagogue services, which explains the longer length seen in Matthew compared the Luke account of the prayer (Argyle, 56). The Lord’s prayer was most likely the basis for the Aramaic prayer of Kaddish (Argyle, 56). It also follows the pattern of Jewish prayers prayed in the synagogue and testifies to God’s great redemptive work (Hagner, 152). The phrase, “Our Father” in verse 9 shows a fellowship, or kinship rather, with God, while the phrase “who art in Heaven” shows a divine reverence and the order of the two addresses should be noted as significant, putting the personal relationship with God before His sovereignty in the prayer (Earle, 82). “The hallowing of God’s name is intimately related to the coming of his kingdom.” (Argyle, 41). In verse 10, the phrase “Thy will be done” is a foreshadowing of the prayer Jesus prays at the Garden of Gethsemane, which is written in Matthew 26, verse 42 saying, “If this cup cannot pass by, but I must drink it, your will be done!” (Earle, 83). This makes the phrase, “Thy will be done” significant to the book of Matthew, along with the other gospel accounts of Jesus’ life. The phrase “Give us this day” in verse 11 is a care for physical sustenance. The priority here is that the physical should not come first, but rather, recognized as a need that God cares about and for. The word “daily” seen in verse 11 is one unique to the Lord’s prayer, which is probably taken from the Greek word epiouson, which means “necessary for existence” (Earle, 83). “Forgive us [....] is a phrase in verse 12 that recognizes that each person has sinned. In the Luke 11:4 account of the Lord’s prayer, the author replaces the word debts with sins. Verse 12 also sees the duty of the disciples to not only recognize that absolute pardon given by God, but also their own duty to forgive wrongdoings done in their own lives in order to receive divine forgiveness (Argyle, 57). A correlation could be made to the practice of the church in communion, which during its earliest times of practice, could not be taken in everything was not made right between brothers and sisters within the community. In James 1:12-14, we learn that it is a false view of God to see him as a source of trial and that temptation is brought on by our own desires (Perkins, 100). Therefore, the saying in the Lord’s prayer, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” was written before the work of James and did not have the same theological sources or perspective as the later written books we know as the New Testament. The Matthew account of the Lord’s prayer has the later addition of the closing statement in verse 13, which is also unique to Matthew and was most likely added later for closure of the prayer (Earle, 83).
Forgiveness of Transgressions (v.14-15)Edit
Jesus relays a heavy importance on the forgiveness of others, which is seen in verse 14-15. Commitment to Christ and His forgiveness is an absolute. Verse 14 and 15 relate back to verse 12 in that they speak of the need for forgiveness of others in order to be forgiven by God. As a closing statement following the Lord’s prayer, it is another chance to emphasize the importance of forgiveness within the Christian tradition. God’s pardon is a freeing from debt, and the disciple must do the same for his brother, or he will remain in the death brought on by his sin (Dietrich, 42). The short statement made in verse 14 and 15 recognizes that within the ministry of Christ, forgiveness is a fundamental belief and foundational relational aspect of Christian community.
Jesus’ Teaching on Fasting (v.16-18)Edit
Fasting was a commonplace action, done during times such as Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement and the New Year in Jewish society (Argyle, 57). The action of voluntary fasting was probably a normative one for Christ’s disciples (Hill, 140-1). It was also a “special means of self-discipline” done by Pharisees to “make their faces unsightly by not washing and by putting ashes on the head so that men might know that they were fasting and admire their piety.” (Argyle, 57). In contrast, fasting also had “an ancient and honored position as a means of exhibiting humility before God and thus securing his favor.” (Hare, 71). The fast of the truest nature should follow the advice to be “invisible”, regarding the “inner self” only, following Joel 2:13, which says, “Rend your hearts and not your garments.” (Hare, 71).
Storing up Treasures in Heaven (vv. 19-21)Edit
The emphasis in this section is that wealth metaphorically stored in Heaven is “incorruptible” in contrast to the literal gathering of wealth on the earth, which only increases the worry-level of the one who is hoarding it. (This is a later emphasis in Matthew 6) (Argyle 58).
The term rust, in v. 19, means “eating away,” as in the process of corrosion (Earle 84). Treasures stored up in heaven are free from this type of “eating away.” And they can also not be stolen away by robbers (Hill 140).
“Treasure in Heaven,” a phrase used in verse 19 and 20, is actually a Jewish phrase, used in literature to signify good deeds done that are of a religious nature. To act generously toward others stores up a person’s treasure with God (Argyle 58). In this passage, Jesus teaches his disciples to stay away from inconsistent treasure gathered upon earth and focus rather on acts that build up the kingdom (Hare 71). Also, in this passage, Jesus clearly illustrates the contradictory nature of being devoted to both God and money.
The focus of the passage, however, is not on wealth, but rather, on the urgency of authentic and “unqualified discipleship,” which fits well with the rest of the Gospel of Matthew (Hager 160). It is up to each individual to decide what is important to them and where their allegiance lies. This allegiance directly affects what the heart holds dear and how that persons life will be shaped (Hill 142).
Light & Darkness (vv. 22-23)Edit
The theme of Light and darkness is common throughout the New Testament. The message Jesus tries to get across with this metaphoric example is that “only singleness of purpose, or purity of intention, can keep the inner being lighted with God’s presence” (Earle 85).
In Aramaic, the phrase “your whole body” was a way of stating, “you yourself” (Argyle 59). “The ancients regarded the eye not as a window through which light entered but as a lamp that projected light and thus grasp the eternal world.” (Hare 72). The evil eye is a common theme in other Jewish literature (Hare 72).
The issues seen behind this passage is whether the disciples' gaze is focused on God alone and His light or on possessions (Dietrich 44). The eye gazing into the light is inter-connected with the heart, where motivations and treasures lie. “If the heart is shut against God, or attached elsewhere, all is in obscurity, both within and without” (Dietrich, 44).
The Old Testament depicts the eye, in addition to the heart, as an indicator of what direction a person’s will and life will take (Hill 142). The Aramaic expression, "full of light" (photeiros) includes the idea of "giving light" as well as receiving it (Hill 142).
Servant of Two Masters (v.24)Edit
The word money used here in verse 24 would be translated from the Aramaic word, Mammon, which meant “money and/or wealth” (Earle, 85). It is a neutral word, similar to the English phrase “the almighty dollar” (Hare, 72). The emphasis in this verse is to show the contrast between serving God, who calls for sacrificing self, and serving mammon, which requires self-centeredness and a desire only for self-preservation (Argyle, 59). Jesus’ perspective was that mammon held a power over men that related to demonic power (Dietrich, 44). A connection can be made of this verse and 1 Timothy 6:10, which states, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (NASB). The words of Timothy here not only display Matthew’s idea of the incompatibility of a love for money with the way of Christ (“root of all sorts of evil” and “[...] have wandered away from the faith”), but also with Matthew’s attention to Jesus’ admonition against worry (“[...] and pierced themselves with many griefs”) seen in Matthew 6:25-34. Another verse in which this verse cross references to is Matthew 5:20, Jesus demand for “better righteousness” (Hare, 71).
Admonitions against Worry (v.25-31)Edit
It’s a basic idea that Humans are pack rats; we like to collect things and acquire wealth. Jesus point in verse 25 is life is more than what we consume and what we wear. “[Life] is a spiritual as well as material existence.” (Earle, 85). Some criticisms faced with this passage are that it promotes laziness, that it is ridiculous to think that God will provide if we do nothing or that the Christian life is one that is without difficulty. However, the Apostles are prime example of what it was like to depend on God without laziness, as they primarily depended on prayer and the hospitality of community after abandoning everything to follow Christ as seen in the Gospels. Therefore, “the passage thus serves as a commentary on the sayings about treasures, generosity, and mammon and addresses Christians, generally both rich and poor.” (Hare, 74).
This passage is not primarily about wealth, but about the proper use of it. In the passage, Jesus uses the illustrations of birds of the air (v. 26) and lilies of the field (v.28) to show God’s providential care. These illustrations are not to be taken as exacts, but rather, symbolic representations that bring attention away from worrying about the everyday stress of life and put the focus on how God’s care can be seen in the natural world (Hare, 74). This passage directly relates to God’s admonition through Christ in the beatitudes (Matthew 5), to be “poor” in the idea of “those whose expectation and hope are in God, those who have ‘left everything to follow Jesus.’” (Dietrich, 45). Jesus message was not one of carelessness towards life, but one of commitment to God and the prosperity of life through the spirit. Verse 32 is another example of Matthew’s anti-Gentile attitude, but it’s point is not the paganism of worry, but rather the nature of the action being an “affront to God who will not overlook the legitimate needs of his people.” (Hill, 143).
Seeking His Kingdom First (v.32-33)Edit
The idea of seeking the Kingdom first directly relates to the Lord’s prayer seen earlier in Matthew 6. In this passage, “Jesus is calling for absolute faith and trust in the providence of God’s love and the putting of his will and purpose before all else.” (Argyle, 59). The first section of the Lord’s prayer is about seeking the kingdom of God first, and the righteousness God offers through that kingdom, which directly relates to the phrase “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” in verse 33 (Earle, 86). The word righteousness in this context is similar to that seen elsewhere in Matthew and means living life in “agreement with the will of God, and at the heart of which lies obedience and trust.” (Hill, 145). The reader should take note that in this passage, a reason is not given for not worrying, but that there is rather, an emphasis on relying on the trustworthiness and providence of God (Argyle, 59). The point to take away in pursuit of avoiding anxiety is that it can only be done by making the kingdom of God one’s first priority (Hagner, 166). “If he takes care of his creation, he will surely take care of those who participate in his kingdom.” (Hagner, 167). While teaching this, Jesus saw that there was a high level of relevancy with the disciples, whose earthly task was to spread the gospel and proclaim the kingdom of God, that basis of which was God’s “special fatherly love and grace” along with His sovereignty (ibid.).
Worry About Tomorrow (v.34)Edit
It is possible that verse 34 was a later Jewish addition to Matthew 6 (Argyle, 59). The word “troubles” here comes from the Greek word kakia which means “material evil or calamities”, which is a unique sense of using the particular word in the New Testament (Argyle, 59). The focus on putting the kingdom of God first and seeking God’s righteousness, it is not that the believer develops a heavenly view of the economic sphere and its functions, but rather, see them in a different light and how they relate to other areas of thought, such as the “ecological plight of the plant and the deprivations of the poor” (Hare, 76). “The implications [of this verse are] that only by faith in God and by seeking first his kingdom will men be delivered from worry about tomorrow.” (Hill, 145).
There are three major biblical themes in Matthew chapter 6, which are the kingdom of God, God’s providential care and spiritual acts/acts of righteousness. The three are seen throughout the chapter and other times in the teaching of Jesus, especially kingdom of God, which is a common theme throughout the Gospels. In the context of Matthew 6, the use of these three themes is in Jesus teaching His disciples, which in a sense, was His way of developing theology for His followers. They had the Jewish background, but Jesus came and changed everything. Radical change often means a theological overhaul, which Jesus did. The three themes of the kingdom of God, God’s providential care and spiritual acts/acts of righteousness are used in a sermon format, which is a normative style for the book of Matthew and also provide principles on which a believer can base their biblical views on the subjects upon.
Kingdom of GodEdit
The first theme, and the major theme of Matthew chapter 6 is the kingdom of God. This is a common theme in the New Testament and throughout the teachings of Jesus. Eight of the chapters thirty-four verses are directly related, or mention, the kingdom of God.
One of the less obvious references to the kingdom of God is found in verse 9. Although the following verses reference is blaring in its obviousness, verse 9 is most connected to the idea of the kingdom of God in that in its addressing of God it is setting the preface for the next verse, which is primarily focused on the kingdom of God. There can be no kingdom of God without the actual sovereign God. Also, the kingdom of God here on earth, preached by Jesus, relies on a connection to the heavenly father, which is seen in the use of the word “Father”.
Verse 10 is not discrete in its mention of the kingdom; its the verse’s main subject matter. The focus of the verse is on the kingdom of God not only having power in heaven, but also, here on the earth and letting God’s will be the governing force of the Christians life. This is, by any means, a “challenging petition” (Earle, 82). It is putting what God wants first and anything else a far second. This is a prayer that if taken seriously can radically change life and should only be prayer with earnest authenticity and single-mindedness of heart to be kingdom agents.
In addressing the life of a kingdom agent, the author of Matthew, in verses 19-21 illustrates the need to spend life building up treasure in heaven rather than gaining earthly good. This is an essential part to the life of the believer in that if living in the mindset of the kingdom, all should be done under the will of God and with the kingdom in mind, rather than the pressure of living under worldly stresses. This passage would have been relevant to the disciples who had given up everything in order to follow Jesus and had to deal with both the pressure to live in the worldly mindset and their call to abandon everything and follow.
Another verse addressing kingdom behavior is verse 24, which addresses the issue of serving both God and money. This, as Jesus illustrates, is a total contradiction. One can not be self-serving and follow after wealth and be a kingdom agent. Living in the mindset of the kingdom means that your devotion is a complete allegiance to God and His kingdom- no exceptions. Much like v. 19-21, verse 24 would have been relevant to the disciples in dealing with the imbalance of being a follower of Christ during his lifetime.
Verse 33 is a direct mention of the kingdom of God, but in order to understand the implications of the verse, one must also look at it within the context of verse 32. Verse 32 is the closing statement in addressing the disciples admonishing them not to worry and is markedly anti-Gentile, typical of Matthew’s gospel. It sets up verse 33 by stating that God will take care of material things and provides the stark contrast between those who seek after the things of the world and the call verse 33 states to seek after God’s kingdom and his righteousness knowing God will do the rest. It is the job of the disciple to not only follow after Christ, but seek His will and His righteousness for their life, making “the salvation of souls and building of His church” their main priority (Earle, 87). This is the key role of the kingdom agent: God seeker and righteousness pursuer.
God’s Providential CareEdit
The second theme of Matthew 6 is God’s providential care. Although it is not as common of a theme as the kingdom of God, it is one seen throughout the New Testament, such as here in Matthew and also in areas of Pauline writings. This theme is the main subject of seven verses in Matthew 6.
The section dealing with the theme of God’s providential care is verses 25-31, which in the NASB version is headed as “The Cure for Anxiety”. The main section of this section of the chapter is Jesus teaching his disciples not to worry. The life of a disciple wasn’t the easiest. They were going against the status quo, which wasn’t how we see it today. Imagine high school, but a hundred times worse. They were living in a new style of life, having to rely on the hospitality of others when they had previously held jobs as tax collectors, fishermen and other trades which provided for them. They were away from their family. Jesus was shaking things up and the disciples were worried.
Let’s see this from the perspective Jesus is trying to get across in His teachings seen in verses 25-31. Of all people, Jesus should be the one worrying. After all, He is the one having to die on the cross to save every living person that was ever was, is and is to be; the one who has to change the entire religious spectrum of society; the one who has to defy all known ways of righteousness and teach people how to live in pursuit of God’s will. Jesus seriously has a lot to worry about, but in verses 25-31, we see Jesus preaching to His disciples on God’s provision. He uses carefree examples of nature and proclaims that as creations of utmost value, God will provide. Life won’t be easy-Jesus is a prime illustration of that- but following Christ means following after Him and trusting that He will provide.
Anxiety is a temptation we as humanity are prone to (Hare, 45). Like the disciples, we worry. Jesus teaching in this passage is not only relevant to the disciples, but also for us today as people who are always concerned about what the next step in life is, what the future holds and what to wear to that ‘big interview’ you have Monday night. The call to not worry is one that passes from generation to generation all the same. It is as relevant today as it was to those crossing the desert and stormy seas, but it has taken on a new meaning in our technology-driven, morally-askew society that we have come to know and become complacent to. As it is said, worry won’t add a single hour to your life and in age where everyone is trying to recapture their youth, why not forget about worry and trust in the life-giving way of Christ?
Spiritual Acts/Acts of RighteousnessEdit
Although Matthew 6 has an underlying focus on the kingdom of God, the theme of spiritual acts/acts of righteousness is the topic of what Jesus is teaching to His disciples in this passage. As a major topic, it is also seen in James 2 in the New Testament. The theme of spiritual acts/acts of righteousness is the focus of twenty verses in the chapter and is divided into three main areas: giving, praying and fasting.
The passage starts out in verse 1 developing this theme of spiritual acts/acts of righteousness. The subject of this verse is displaying righteousness before men in order to gain self-glorification rather than choosing to glorify God with actions and gain heavenly reward from God. This is a preface to the passage in that it sets out right away that Jesus isn’t teaching that these spiritual acts shouldn’t be done, but the difference is in where the glory is given to (Hagner, 140). It serves as an opening statement that declares from the forefront that Jesus means business here; don’t be like the hypocrites- do righteous acts for God, not yourself.
Verses 2-4 focus on the spiritual act of giving. In this time, the act of giving was often done in public in order to gain praise for helping the lower in society. Jesus’ life and ministry was a contrast to this idea, in that His works of service to others, which was the basis of His ministry, particularly in His miraculous works, were all done for the glory of God. The author of Matthew emphasizes here that in giving, if you are satisfied with the momentary applause of men, you will not receive your heavenly reward. As in verse 1, the emphasis here is not in the actual act of giving being bad, but that the motivation must also be to glorify God in service to others.
Verses 5-8 follow the example of verses 2-4 in that they are also on spiritual acts of righteousness, but this time, the focus is on prayer. Prayer, like giving, was done in public to bring attention to self and made a mockery of intentional public worship to God. The pharisees were a prime example of this. Jesus didn’t want His followers, the foundation He was building His church upon to follow suit in this area and admonishes them to make prayer only between themselves and God, done in secret. It isn’t that public worship is here being criticized, but the act of bringing glory to yourself through making a public display of act that is supposed to be about deep connection with the heavenly Father.
Forgiveness in Matthew 6 is a spiritual act, based upon the forgiveness granted by God. This is seen in verses 12, 14 and 15. The emphasis the author of Matthew puts is especially on forgiving others as Christ forgives. It is a part of the Lord’s prayer and the closing of the first section of the passage. Forgiveness is essential. Without it, we cannot live life abundantly in Christ because we are bound by sin and in darkness. Throughout the New Testament, there is stipulations on what makes forgiveness unallowable. In Matthew 6:15, Jesus teaches that if you do not grant forgiveness to one who affronts you, you yourself cannot be forgiven by God. Jesus teaches to not harbor resentment, which turns to bitterness and anger; life-killing forces and barriers to the kingdom. Our sins are forgiven and we must go and do the same.
Much like the sections in 2-4 and 5-8, verses 16-18 are teachings against self-glorification in Christian practice, but this time, the emphasis is on the spiritual act of fasting. This was the act that was the most notable in self-glorification. For those who have ever fasted, it is easy to show the appearance of hunger. It is a basic human need to be fed and to give that up for spiritual growth takes discipline. It can be a showy act and was used as such by spiritual leaders in Jesus time. Jesus does not criticize fasting, as it was an encouraged practice of His time that He Himself participated in (Temptation of Jesus accounted for in Matthew 4), but is again teaching against the use of spiritual acts to gain worldly righteousness rather than building up the kingdom of Christ.
Though verse 24 is connected to the kingdom of God theme, it also has some significance in the theme of spiritual acts/acts of righteousness. It is a spiritual act to devote one’s entire life to Christ. It is a daily commitment to seek His will and live it out, pursuing Christ-likeness with your entire being. The service of money gets in the way of this commitment. This is especially relevant to our specific society. It is easy to say one is committed to Christ and have it only be words. “We piously affirm that we have chosen to serve God, not mammon, but in our daily life it is mammon that sets our own priorities and determines our choices.” (Hare, 73). Money is not our priority as kingdom agents, but using our entire lives in devotion to Christ as a spiritual act.
Parallels of Matthew 6 found in the Synoptic Gospels Edit
(Click image to enlarge & view next two pages of parallels)
Highlighted in RED: agreement between Matthew & Luke
Highlighted in YELLOW: agreement between Matthew & Mark
Underlined in SOLID: Complete agreement in wording between the Gospels.
Underlined in DOTTED: Close agreement in wording between the Gospels.
Observations on Matthew 6 and Parallel Gospel PassagesEdit
What was seen as “the heavenly reward” is Jewish culture?
Is working only for reward, even from God, still lacking in the right motivation?
The view seen about gaining reward contrasts the Aristotlian view of virtue. How might the author of the passage been affected by Aristotle’s work on ethics?
What caused the interchange of debts and sins in verse 12? What was the view on monetary sins and the importance of money in Jesus’ society?
Is the large emphasis made on an anti-wealth agenda due to the culture of the time? How was it relevant?
Where elsewhere in the Bible are there listed barriers to forgiveness?
What is the significance in body metaphors used in the New Testament?
How did the Jews see the interconnectedness of the eye and the heart?
Who are the hypocrites?
The passage is mildly vague on who Jesus is using as an example of spiritual showmen. Other times in Scripture, Jesus easily and directly point out specifically. Why in this account does he speak outright?
Matthew was written mainly to a Jewish-Christian audience. What would the significance of the Master (in connection to slavery) (verse 24) have to them?
What would the metaphor of “a lamp of the body” mean in relation to Jewish history?
How relative would the rust-corrosion statement be to those in Jesus’ society?
How has the culture in regards to clothing changed over the course of time (other than style)?
Do lilies grow in the desert? This seems like a translation mishap or out of place reference.
Why does Christ not give concrete reasoning behind not worrying? Was it left out by the author?
Is the grass metaphor supposed to speak of the futility of life?
Does Jesus method of speaking metaphorically run the risk of being over-read and over-interpreted?
This passage seems to be missing information in verses 25-31 because of its vagueness and lack of concrete information. Would there be any reason for the author of Matthew to leave sections of Jesus’ sermon out?
How revolutionary would Jesus’ teaching seen in Matthew 6 be to Jewish society at the time?
Observations of Matthew and Synoptic Gospel ParallelsEdit
What is the relevancy and relation of using the word ‘Father’ in regards to God seen in both Matthew 6:8 and Luke 12:30?
Why is it seen as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ in Matthew and ‘Instruction about Prayer’ in Luke?
In the context of Luke, it is a private prayer more so than in the context of Matthew. Why this distinction?
Why does the Matthew version of the prayer have the added closing statement and Luke’s not?
The Matthew prayer also has the statement ‘deliver us from evil’ absent in Luke. Why is this so?
Why is the phrase “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” seen in Matthew absent in Luke?
The Matthew version of the prayer is longer and more detailed. Why is this so?
Mark places Jesus teaching on forgiveness in the story of the money changers while Matthew places it in a sermon. Why this contrasting context?
Is the wording of Luke 12:33 more or less used for stylistic flourish in contrast to the same account in Matthew 6:20?
Luke uses the ‘servant of two masters’ verse in a parable, while Matthew uses it in a sermon. Why is this so?
Why does Luke 12 leave out the phrase ‘What you drink’ seen in Matthew 6?
Why is Luke 12 specific in type of bird (raven) and Matthew 6 not?
Why does Matthew 6 contain the phrase ‘Why are you worried about clothing’ and Luke 12 not?
What does the ‘grass of the field thrown into the furnace’ statement said in both Matthew and in Luke mean?
Why is Matthew more anti-Gentile than Luke?
Was foreknowledge of God important in both the author of Matthew and the author of Luke’s theology?
How was Solomon (referenced in both Matthew and Luke) seen as a relevant figure in Jesus’ society and when Matthew and Luke were written?
Who is the book of Luke addressing and how does that affect his writing in contrast to the book of Matthew, which is addressing Jewish-Christians?
How might the agendas of the authors of the synoptic gospels influenced their accounts of Jesus’ teaching?
What was the author of Matthew and author of Luke’s society (Matthew 6:28 and Luke 12:25)?
Greek Root: ἀνταπόδομα, ατος, τό (Bauer)
REWARD- something that is given in return for good or evil done or received or that is offered or given for some service or attainment. (Merriam-Webster)
Places where REWARD is found in Matthew 6:
Matt 6:1 otherwise you have no reward with your Father who
Matt 6:2 Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
Matt 6:4 who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
Matt 6:5 Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
Matt 6:6 who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
Matt 6:16 Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
Matt 6:18 who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
(Taken from Logos 3.0)
REWARD: In the Old Testament, “any reward depends for its significance upon the character of its bestower, and God’s rewards, with which the biblical writers are chiefly concerned , both as blessings and punishments are manifestations of his justice […]” (Douglas, 1019). In the New Testament, “Jesus promised rewards to his disciples (Mk. 9:41; 10:29; Mt. 5:3-12), so coupled with self-denial and suffering for the gospel’s sake as to prevent a necessary attitude. He slew the Pharisaic notion of meritorious service (Lk. 17:10) and discouraged desire for human reward (Mt. 6:1), since the Father is the disciple’s best reward. Jesus shows that reward is inseparable from himself and from God, and the apostles labored to establish the complete dependence of man’s obedience and faith upon mercy and grace (Rom. 4:4; 6:23). Work, and therefore reward, is certainly looked for, but simply as an index of living faith (Jas. 2:14-16; Jn. 6:29) not as a basis of claim upon God. The reward of salvation in Christ begins in time (2 Cor. 5:5) and its fulfillment is looked for after judgment (final rewards and punishments) when the covenant people enter into full enjoyment of the vision of God which is their enduring reward (Rev. 21:3)” (Douglas, 1019).
Greek Root: χαρίζομαι (Bauer)
FORGIVE: to give up resentment of or claim to requital for; to grant relief from payment of; to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) (Merriam-Webster)
Places where FORGIVE is found in Matthew 6:
Matt 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven
Matt 6:14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions,your heavenly Father will [...]
Matt 6:15 But if you do not forgive others, then your heavenly Father will not forgive you.
(Taken from Logos 3.0)
FORGIVE: “Forgiveness is the wiping out of an offense from memory; it can be affected only by the one affronted. Once eradicated, the offense no longer conditions the relationship between the offender and the one affronted, and the harmony is restored between the two. The Bible stresses both human forgiveness and divine forgiveness: The latter is the divine act by which the removal of sin and its consequences is effected.” (Freedman, 831). Examples of forgiveness in the Old Testament is the use of intercessory prayer (Exod 34:9), prayers of the people (Jeremiah 5:1; 7; 31:34; 33:8; 36:3; 50:20), assurance through lament (Psalm 130) (Douglas, 831). “Divine Forgiveness is dependent on the loving nature of God. But while offered to all, pardon is not given to all. Impediments to forgiveness include stubborn unrepentance (Mark 4:12), unbelief (implicit in Acts 2:37-38, 40), denial of wrongdoing (1 John 1:8, 10) and refusal to forgive other people (Matt 6:14-15) (Douglas, 835).
Greek Root: ἐντυγχάνω (Bauer)
PRAY: to make a request in a humble manner; to address God or a god with adoration, confession, supplication, or thanksgiving. (Merriam-Webster)
Places where PRAY is found in Matthew 6
Matt 6:5 When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues
Matt 6:6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is
Matt 6:7 And when you are praying, do not use meaningless
Matt 6:9 Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven,
(Taken from Logos 3.0)
PRAYER: “In the Bible prayer is worship that includes all attitudes of the human spirit in its approach to God. The Christian worships God when he adores, confesses, praises and supplicates him in prayer. This highest activity of which the human spirit is capable may also be thought of as communion with God, so long as due emphasis is laid upon divine initiative. A man prays because God has already touched his spirit. Prayer in the Bible is not a ‘natural response’ (Jn. 4:24). […] The biblical doctrine of God, the necessity of a man’s being in saving or covenant relation with him, and his entering fully with all the privileges and obligations of that relation with God.” (Douglas, 947-8). Prayer takes on a specific and important emphasis in the Gospels. Jesus taught much of his doctrine of prayer through the use of Parables (Lk. 11:5-8; Mt. 7:7-11; Lk. 18:1-8; Lk. 18:10-14) (Douglas, 948). The simplicity of prayer is taught in Mt. 6:5f; 23:14; Mk12:38; Lk. 20:47 (Douglas, 949). “[…] the basic characteristic of Christian prayer [is] a new access to the Father which Christ secures for the Christian, and prayer in harmony with the Father’s will because offered in Christ’s name.” (Douglas, 949). On the Lord’s Prayer, “”there […] [are] six petititions [following the invocation in Mt. 6:9b] (9c-13b), of which the first three have reference to God’s name, kingdom and will, and the last three to man’s need of bread, forgiveness and victory: the prayer then closes with a doxology (13c) which contains a threefold declaration concerning God’s kingdom, power and glory. It is ‘like this’ that Christians are bidden to pray.” (Douglas, 949).
Argyle, A. W. "The Gospel According the Matthew" Vol. 1. London: Cambridge Univ., 1963. Print. The Cambridge Bible Commentary on the New English Bible.
Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Ed. (BDAG). Ed. Frederick William Danker. Third ed. Logos Bible Software, 2000.
Dietrich, Suzanna De. "The Gospel According to Matthew" Vol. 16. Richmond: John Knox, 1961. Print. The Layman's Bible Commentary.
Douglas, J. D., ed. "Pray." New Bible Dictionary. Third ed. Leicester: InterVarsity, 1996. 1019. Print.
Earle, Ralph. Matthew. Vol. VI. Kansas City: Beacon Hill, 1964. Print. Beacon Bible Commentary.
Freedman, David Noel. "Forgiveness." The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 2. New York: Doubleday Dell, 1992. 947+. Print.
Hagner, Donald A. "Matthew 1-13" Vol. 33A. Dallas: Word Incorporated, 1993. Print. Word Biblical Commentary.
Hare, Douglas R. A. "Matthew" Louisville: John Knox, 1993. Print. Interpretation A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching.
Hill, David. "The Gospel of Matthew" Grand Rapids: Marshall Morgan & Scott, 1972. Print. The New Century Bible Commentary.
Luke. New American Standard Bible. The Lockman Foundation. Web. <http://nasb.scripturetext.com/luke.htm>.
Mark. New American Standard Bible. The Lockman Foundation. Web. <http://nasb.scripturetext.com/mark.htm>.
Matthew. New American Standard Bible. The Lockman Foundation. Web. <http://nasb.scripturetext.com/matthew/6.htm>.
Merriam-Webster, I. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. Eleventh ed. Springfield: Merriam-Webster,, 2003. Print.
Perkins, Pheme. "First and Second Peter, James and Jude." Louisville: John Knox, 1995. Print. Interpretation A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching.