Matthew 6:1-34 - Outline of Matthew (Book Notes menu page)
Outline of the Sermon on the Mount:
A. True Blessedness, Mat 5:1-16
B. True Righteousness, 5:17-48
C. True Religion, Mat 6:1-18
D. True Riches, 6:19-34
E. Testing the True, Mat 7:1-29
In the first half of ch. 6, Jesus teaches that acceptable religious practice is between you and God alone.
He mentions three specific types of religious activity:
  1. Almsgiving (v.1-4)
  2. Prayer (v.5-15)
  3. Fasting (v.16-18)

   C. True Religion
6:1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them:
otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
6:2 Therefore when thou doest [thine] alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets,
that they may have glory of men.
Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6:3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
6:4 That thine alms may be in secret:
and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
alms- GK=eleemosune, mercy, charity (ie., assisting the needy)
Such acts of kindness, directed toward others, are the natural outflow of right religion. cp. Jam 1:27
Right religious acts must flow from...
  • right motivation: to serve God, not men. (cp. Col 3:23,24)
    Not to be seen of men (ie., not to impress, or to receive honor from men), v.1,2
    but rather, before God (to honor Him, though no one else may see). v.3,4
  • right relationship: as children of God, before their Father. cp. Joh 1:12-13; Mat 5:45; Eph 2:8-10
These themes continue in the following discussions about right prayer, and right fasting.
not... as the hypocrites {GK=hupokrites, stage actors, pretenders}.-
  • They act out a pretentious religious role for the applause of men.
  • They pretend right relationship to God.
  • They call attention to themselves.
    'Sounding a trumpet' may refer to the actual blare of a horn, or to the sound of money cast into the Temple treasury boxes. According to Alfred Edersheim's book, "The Temple - Its Ministry and Services," the Temple Treasury was an area of one of the Temple's courts, where 13 chests stood to receive contributions for various funds. Each collection box was narrow at its mouth and wide at its base. Because of their shape, they were called 'trumpets.' The hypocritical wealthy giver could magnify the sound of his gift, by pouring in a large quantity of small value coins, while the poor widow's mites would barely be heard. (See Mark 12:41-44, in v.41, the words 'many' and 'much' are GK=pulos, great, large; in v.43, 'more' is a comparative form of the same word, ie., 'greater,' 'larger.') The Lord sees the heart, and rewards the gift of true worship, though no one else may notice your sacrifice. (Luk 8:17; 14:12-14; 1Cor 4:5)
6:5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites [are]:
for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets,
that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet,
and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret;
and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
the hypocrites... love to pray...- but for the wrong reasons:
...that they may be seen of men...- and also to be 'heard of men' (Mat 23:14).
...they have their reward...- They have received what they sought: the honor of men.
enter thy closet {GK= tameion, a storeroom, an inner chamber, a secret room}.-
ie., Any place where the door to the world is closed, but the door to the Lord is opened. Rev 3:20
Right prayer is not for show before men, but for the secret place with God. Psa 34:15
thy Father...- Right prayer requires right relationship with God.
who is in secret - An OT name of God is El 'Olam, the God of Eternity, from whom nothing is hidden.
Time has hidden the hearts of our ancestors from us. But God knows them.
Time may shroud the secret longings of my own heart. But that which is ordained of God is sure.
     Abraham called upon 'El 'Olam,' committing everything to Him, from whom he had received everything (Gen 21:33). Just two verses later, God put Abraham to the test, with the command to offer Isaac as a burnt sacrifice. Trusting his God, Abraham rose up early to obey Him. (See the context of Gen ch. 21 - 22.)
     Right prayer confides its hopes and fears to God, and rests its confidence upon Him.
who sees in secret - Another OT name of God is El Roi (Gen 16:13).-
The God who sees, knows, and provides accordingly.
Right prayer casts itself upon God. 1Pet 5:6,7; Psa 123
6:7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]:
for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
6:8 Be not ye therefore like unto them:
for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
vain repetitions {GK=battologeo, stammering words, babbling}.-
The power of prayer is not in many words... not in fancy words... not in magic words... not in enthusiastic words. cp. 1Kin 18:27-29,36-39
your Father knoweth...- The power of prayer is in the One to whom we pray.
See Jam 5:16,17. Elijah's prayer {GK=deesis, request, appeal, entreaty} was 'effectual fervent' {GK=energeo, powerful, effective} not because of the emotional power with which he presented his request, but because he appealed to the only One who could meet the need, and he did so on God's terms. Elijah was a man of 'like passions' {GK=homiopathes, with similar sufferings, with similar emotional weaknesses} to ourselves. We read that he 'prayed earnestly.' But the literal meaning of that phrase {GK=proseuchomai proseuche} is that he 'prayed prayer,' or, 'offered prayer in the place of prayer.' He met God in the secret place. He aligned his will with the will of God.
     ''Prayer is not the conquering of God's reluctance to answer, but laying hold of His willingness to act in His way.'' [source unknown] cp. Mat 7:7-11; 1Joh 5:14,15
6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye:
Drawing on what He had just said about prayer, Jesus provided a sample prayer as a framework to teach His disciples the elements of prayer. cp. Luk 11:1-4
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
6:10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as [it is] in heaven.
6:11 Give us this day our daily bread.
6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
A possible outline of this prayer:
  1. Adoration of His Person -
    • Our Father- only God's children can address Him in this way. (Joh 1:12; 14:6)
    • who art- He ''is'' - the eternally existing One. cp. Psa 90:2; Heb 11:6
    • in heaven- He is above us, and beyond His creation. Isa 55:8,9
    • hallowed be...- ie., Holy, set apart, separate from all that is common, and from we His creatures.
      This statement acknowledges that He is superior, and 'other' than us. We cannot increase His stature with our words. However, it is appropriate, for we who profess to worship Him, to pray that our speech and manner of life, would honor, rather than profane, His Name.
    • thy Name- According to Hebrew usage, God's Name was not just a title, but the expression of His essential nature.
      The various names of God in Scripture describe His character to us (eg., El 'Olam, El Roi... ). To adore Him, we must get to know Him. We must spend time in His Word, the Bible, where He reveals Himself to us.
  2. Alignment with His Purposes -
    • Thy kingdom come.- This petition implies...
         -- Personal submission to Him as King (absolute ruler).
         -- Personal desire that everyone and everything will be obedient to Him.
         -- Personal expectation that He will establish His Kingdom, as He has promised in scripture.
    • Thy will be done.-
         -- Personal submission of my will and desires to His will and desires.
      Some erroneously teach that 'what you say is what you get' in prayer. (eg., Benny Hinn: ''never... go to the Lord and say 'If it be thy will'... Don't allow such faith destroying words to be spoken from your mouth. When you pray 'If it be thy will Lord,' faith will be destroyed. Doubt will billow up... '').
      In stark contrast, Jesus taught us to pray 'Thy will be done.' We do not know what we should ask for (Rom 8:26). Your Father knows what you need (v.8). (Like the six year old child whose father denies his request for a rifle, we must understand that our Father knows what is best for us. He gives what is best, when the time is right.) cp. 1Joh 5:14,15
  3. Acknowledgment of our Dependency upon Him -
    • give us this day...- God has eternal life in Himself.
      His creatures receive life from Him, as He allows. Psa 104:27-29
    • our daily {ie., our allotted portion of} bread-
         -- provision of what is needed for physical life (not riches stored up for the future).
         -- provision of what is needed for spiritual life. cp. Joh 6:35,47-51
         -- provision for true satisfaction in life. cp. Joh 4:34; 10:10
  4. Agreement (confession) of our Tendency to Sin -
    • forgive us our debts- cp. 1Joh 1:8,9
      To 'confess' our sins is to 'say the same thing' about them that God says.
      What God calls sin, I must recognize as sin, requiring forgiveness and cleansing.
    • as we forgive our debtors-
      God's forgiveness of my sin is not a reward for my ability to forgive others.
      Rather, God's forgiveness of my sin is motivation for me to forgive others.
      Because I am forgiven, I can afford to forgive others. cp. 1Joh 4:19-21; 5:1; Eph 4:32
      (But also see v.14,15.)
    • lead us not into temptation- cp. Jam 1:13-15 (cf. Mat 4:1)
      He will not lead me into sin, but my natural tendency is to turn toward what dishonors Him. I need the Shepherd to 'lead me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.' Psa 23:3
    • deliver us from evil {ie., the evil one}-
      Satan seeks to destroy us (1Pet 5:8). I am no match for him.
      I continually need the Shepherd's protection. I need to be near Him.
      The word 'deliver' (GK=rhoumai) means 'to rescue,' 'to draw to one's self.'
      See this word in Mat 27:43; 2Cor 1:8-10; Col 1:13; 2Pet 2:7,9
  5. Assurance of His Ability to Answer my prayer -
    • for thine is the Kingdom {GK=basileia, kingdom, dominion}-
      He is Ruler over all, with all authority.
      Psa 103:19; Mat 28:18 (where 'power' is GK=exousia, authority)
    • and the power {GK=dunamis, strength, ability}-
      He is able to deliver (eg., Dan 3:17; 6:20).
    • and the glory {GK=doxa, majesty, preeminence, supreme excellence}-
      There is no one else like Him.
    • for ever- He does not change, and cannot fail.
  6. Amen {ie., 'so be it'}.- I commit my case to Him.
    With the confidence of a child in his Father, I trust Him to hear and answer in the way that He sees best.
6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
6:15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses,
neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
A man's ability (or inability) to forgive shows...
-- evidence as to whether he has been born again. 1Joh 3:10,11
-- his estimation of the value of God's forgiveness. cp. Mat 18:21-35; Eph 4:32; Col 3:13
6:16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance:
for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast.
Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6:17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
6:18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret:
and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
when ye fast...- To 'fast' is to abstain from food for a period of time.
A person may fast as an expression of his heart's burden in prayer before God, when what is sought seems more essential than physical nourishment. (cp. 2Sam 12:16,21-23; Neh 1:4; Dan 9:3; Psa 35:13; Acts 10:30)
God knows the weight of the sincere heart's secret agonies.
But when fasting is merely a religious show before men, it has no value. Luk 18:11,12
The fast, which God approves and rewards, involves self-denial in pursuit of God's will and purposes (not my own). Isa 58:3-7
True religion...
  • whether expressed in giving to others of what you have received from God (Almsgiving),
  • or, in seeking God to work His will as only He can (Prayer),
  • or, in self-denying desire and dedication to see His purposes fulfilled (Fasting) the simple trust of a humble heart in secret communion with the heavenly Father.
Is that true of you, or are you acting a part that is not true?

In the second half of ch. 6, Jesus distinguishes between two economic systems: the earthly versus the heavenly economies...
...the economy of the kingdoms of this world, versus the economy of Christ's Kingdom.
This subject follows directly from His teaching on "True Religion," in which He contrasted the reward of hypocrites with the reward of those who "worship Him in Spirit and in truth" (Joh 4:23). The service which God's true children perform, out of love and devotion to Him, will be rewarded openly, though the things they have done were completely hidden from the eyes of men. For example, regarding Almsgiving, Prov 19:17 says: '...the LORD... will pay him again.' The promise of payment leads naturally into the discussion of the contrasting economies.
The word 'reward' (in the first half of ch.6) refers to payment for service rendered.
   D. True Riches
6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth,
where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
Earthly treasures are temporary, at best (Prov 23:4,5; Eccl 5:10-15).
Their pursuit can lead to spiritual bankruptcy (Jam 5:1-3).
6:20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, {cp. Rev 2:9}
where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt,
and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
'lay... up' (GK=thesaurizo) and 'treasure' (GK=thesaurus) are forms of the same word.
We might read it: 'Do not place in treasury upon earth your treasures.'
At question are both...
-- the treasury (the place of safekeeping) - Is it truly secure? cp. 1Tim 6:6-11
-- the treasure (the object of safekeeping) - Does it have true value? 1Tim 6:17-19; 2Cor 4:18
6:22 The light of the body is the eye:
if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
6:23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.
If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great [is] that darkness!
6:24 No man can serve two masters:
for either he will hate the one, and love the other;
or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.
Ye cannot serve God and mammon
{ie., money, earthly treasure}.
the eye...- The eye seeks for what the heart values (v.21).
  • the eye... single {GK=haplous, single, simple} cp. 2Cor 11:3; Eph 6:5; Col 3:22
    Are you focused on things of lasting value? Col 3:1-6
  • the eye... evil {GK=poneros, wicked, bad, defective}
    Are your eyes deceiving you concerning true value? 1Joh 2:15-17
two masters - but no middle ground. cp. 1Kin 18:21; Jam 4:4
Which master do you choose to love and serve?
  • The economy of Christ's Kingdom is the right expression of 'True Religion.'
    We are to serve our Lord out of love, not for financial gain. (eg., 1Pet 5:2-4)
  • Our currency may be imprinted "In God we trust."
    But is our confidence in the 'almighty dollar'?
6:25 Therefore I say unto you,
Take no thought
{ie., be not anxious} for your life,
what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink;
nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.
Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
6:26 Behold the fowls of the air:
for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns;
yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
6:27 Which of you by taking thought
{ie., by being anxious}
can add one cubit unto his stature?
{ie., eighteen inches to his height}
6:28 And why take ye thought
{ie., why are you anxious} for raiment?
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
6:29 And yet I say unto you,
That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
6:30 Wherefore, if God 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 faith?
therefore (v.25)- refers back to v.19-24
ie., because true treasure is in knowing God, and because His kingdom is the only secure economy...
A. Put your faith in Him.- Do not be pre-occupied with your earthly needs.
  • take... thought {GK=merimnao, to be anxious, to have care for} -
    This word is used 6x in v.25-34.
    See this word (translated 'be careful,' 'care') in Php 4:6,7; Luk 8:14; 21:34; 1Pet 5:7
  • God feeds the birds and clothes the lillies.-
    Jesus is not saying that we should not work for our living. cp. 2Thes 3:10-12
    But, that even in the struggles of our earthly life, we can live free of anxiety,
    because our Father knows our needs (cp. v.8), and He is the ultimate provider. (cp. Psa 37:25-34)
6:31 Therefore take no thought {ie., be not anxious}, saying,
What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink?
or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
6:32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:)
for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;
and all these things shall be added unto you.
6:34 Take therefore no thought
{ie., be not anxious} for the morrow:
for the morrow shall take thought
{ie., will take care} for the things of itself.
Sufficient unto the day [is] the evil
{ie., trouble, adversity} thereof.
therefore (v.31) - refers back to all that has been said on this subject:
ie., because true treasure is in knowing God...
and because His kingdom is the only secure economy...
and because He provides for even the least of the creatures under His care...
and because you as His child can safely trust in your Father... therefore...
B. Put your priorities in order.-
  • Don't worry about the temporal provision, for which the Gentiles seek.
    ('Gentiles,' as used here, refers to those who do not belong to "the household of God." Eph 2:11-19)
    They 'seek' {GK=epizeteo, crave after, clamour for} things for the body. Those, whose hope is "in this life only," often crave bodily comforts beyond the basic necessities:
    • What shall we eat? becomes a search for the gourmet meal.
    • What shall we drink? becomes a taste for vintage wine.
    • Wherewith shall we be clothed? leads to acquisition of designer clothing, upscale housing, exotic cars... etc.
  • (rather...) 'Seek {GK=zeteo, seek in order to find}...
    ...first...'- ie., as of greater importance than your earthly needs...
...all these things {ie., fthe things necessary for earthly life, v.11-13}...
...will be added unto you.- ie., laid out for you, in addition to the eternal spiritual treasures,
which you are laying up for yourself in heaven, as you serve the Lord with a true heart and single minded focus (Php 4:11,12; 3:20; 1:21).
So, where is your treasure? Here or there?
Where is your trust? in fleeting things, or in your unfailing Father?
or... perhaps you are still on the outside of God's family, looking in...?
He invites you to become a child of God, a citizen of Christ's kingdom.
With His own blood, He paid the price, the penalty for your sin.
The sinless One took your sin upon Himself and died to pay the wages of sin that you could never pay. He gave Himself in order that His righteousness could be placed on your account. He arose so that you might live with Him, free of dept to sin and death, now and forever, in His Kingdom of true and lasting treasure.
     All that remains to finish the transaction, is for you to receive, by faith, the salvation which He offers you freely (Joh 1:11-13). It is a limited time offer. The day of salvation will soon be past. "Now is the accepted time." (2Cor 6:1,2)

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