Matthew 6:1-4 – In Matthew 5:21-48 the emphasis is on the King who is bringing the New Covenant where the law of God is written on the heart through the indwelling Spirit. Prior to Pentecost/Shavuot the Spirit of God did not permanently indwell God’s children. The focus is a call for us to not only know the Laws of God but that God sees our acts based on His laws. In Matthew 6:1-18, the focus is changed from not just what we believe but also what we do. Jesu is in the role of the Father teaching His children His ways/Laws fulfilling Deuteronomy 6 sharing with His children.
V 1 Here we are to act contrary to most religious people. The natural man tends to gauge his life by the acceptance and approval of others. If people think well of us, we think well of ourselves which relates to the issue of co-dependency. That inclination motivates mankind to be more religious in front of others. No matter how clever or successful we are at pulling this off, it carries no weight with God. He sees our hearts and knows if we are genuinely serving Him or ourselves. We need to strike a balance between letting our light shine so that men might see and glorify God and doing our acts of righteousness in such a manner that it draws attention to ourselves. This is a paradox, but simply walking with God and seeking His approval rather than man’s is one foundational way to deal it with. A second is by being filled and walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:13-26).
What is meant by the expression righteousness? This same word is used in 1 John 2:29, and 1 John 3:7. It is a righteousness concerned with pleasing God, and not seeking the approval of man. This verse (Matthew 6:1) leads to three examples that are the very foundation of the Jewish idea of how righteousness is attained: Tsadaka (charity), tephillah (prayer), and Tshuvah (repentance) by fasting. In each of these examples Jesus provides four similar admonitions:
1) Do not do this to be praised by men.
2) If you ignore that truth you will gain self-approval, but no more.
3) Do righteous acts secretly.
4) Be assured that God who sees what is done in secret will reward you openly.
The first example is Tzedakah (charity) – Matthew 6:2-4 Jesus does not say “if you give charity” but rather “when”. He assumes that His disciples as a matter of course will give to the needy. Almsgiving is a mitzvah, a religious imperative, an obligation that involves more than virtue or altruism. The word charity comes from the Latin word “caritas”, and refers to the love of God for creation or to the love of one person for others. Charity is the tangible expression of love that we have for God and His creation.
Rabbi Moses Maimonides (Rambam) writes in his “Laws of Gifts to the Poor” There are eight degrees of tzedakah, one higher than the other.
The highest degree of all is where one strengthens the hands of a brother who faces poverty, giving him a gift or a loan or entering a business partnership with him, or giving him a job to strengthen his hand and so prevent him from beginning an object of tzedakah. It accordance with what Scripture says: “‘If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you (Leviticus 25:35). The meaning is, strengthen him before he falls and needs to be supported by others.
A lesser degree is when one gives tzedakah to the poor, but neither the giver nor the receiver knows of the other. For in this case the duty of giving tzedakah for its own sake has been carried out. In the Temple, for example, there was a secret chamber into which good men would secretly place money and from which the poor would take secretly. Not very different from this is whether a man gives money to the tzedakah kupah (fund). But a man should only give money to a tzedakah kupah if he knows the directors are trustworthy, wise, and reliable.
A lesser degree is when the giver knows to whom he has given but the poor man does not know to whom he is indebted. The famous sages, for example , would go in secret to throw some money into the houses of the poor. This is the desirable way of giving tzedakah when the directors of the kupah are unreliable.
Less than this is where the poor man knows to whom he is indebted but the giver does not know to whom he had given. Some of the famous sags would wrap up their contributions for tzedakah in a scarf slung over their shoulder so that the poor could come and take it without suffering embarrassment.
Less than this is when the giver gives money directly to the poor man but without having been asked for it.
Less than this is when he gives after the poor man has asked him to do so.
Less than this is when he gives the poor man less than he should but with a cheerful countenance.
Less than this is when the giver is glum.
The reference to blowing a trumpet is probably an allusion to the Jewish tradition of blowing on the shofar to call Israel at the time of the appointed fasts. It was believed that Tzedakah insured the effectiveness of their fasts and prayers. This belief gave opportunity to ostentation in the giving. There is a kind of hypocrisy that causes a person to deceive himself into thinking that he is pleasing God and man, and in so doing is able to beguile others. The Pharisee’s described here, and for that matter all religious people of similar persuasion, love the praise of men more than God’s praise. John 5:43-44,12:37-43.
Matthew 6:5-7 “The posture of prayer is not what is most important when we pray. In the Bible people pray prostrate Numbers 16:22, Matthew 26:39, Kneeling: Daniel 6:10, Acts 21:5, Sitting: 2 Samuel 7:18, and Standing: 1 Samuel 1:26, Mark 11:25. The Position is not as important as the motive. Jesus is not condemning public prayer because we find many New Testament, examples of public prayer.
Matthew 18:19-20, Acts 4:23-24. A person who prays more in public than in private is an indication that he is more interested in the opinion of men than God. When we pray, we should keep in mind that we are standing before the King of Kings, who is our heavenly Father.
There is a tendency to think that the more we say will correspond to the effectiveness of our prayers. Two examples demonstrate how untrue this idea is: 1Kings 18:26-29; This does not mean that Jesus is condemning long prayers. Jesus prayed in great length Luke 6:12 and also repeated himself in prayer Matthew 26:44.
Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus then gives his disciples a model for prayer. This is How you should pray not What. Our Father – the opening designation establishes the kind of God to whom prayer is offered. He is personal and caring, a Father not a tyrant as the mythological gods of Greece and Rome were portrayed. The idea of the universal Fatherhood of God can not be inferred here because Jesus is speaking to His disciples only. His universal fatherhood is spoken of in Acts 17:28 Paul is alluding to God as universal father as creator not as children of God, which only comes through faith in Jesus John 1:12, It is for that reason that the early church forbade non-Christians from reciting this prayer as vigorously as they did for non-believers partaking of the Lord’s Table.
Hallowed be your Name. The name is most Holy to the Jewish readers that Matthew is directed to. His name represents all that God is – His character, plan, and will. Each of the Old Testament names and titles given to God show a facet of His character and will. Names in Scripture, especially those given by God described the character of those who bear them. We read in Psalm 9:10 “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Some of the names of God tell us something about His nature. YHVH I am that I am. Exodus 3:14 Elohim – Mighty God Elohim is plural pointing to the tri-unity. El Shaddai God of the Mountains or possibly breast – Because He cares for us as a mother and Father. Jehovah Yireh – Because He sees and provides. Sar Shalom – Because He is the Peace Giver.
Your Kingdom come. As the name is Holy so too is it important to acknowledge the sovereignty of God. It is to also ask God to bring the entire world to the blessings of His sovereignty. Kaddish is a part of every Sabbath service. “Magnified and sanctified be His great Name in the world which He hath created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom during your life and during your days, and during the life of all the house of Israel, even speedily and at a near time, and say ye, Amen. Let His great Name be established forever and to all eternity. Blessed, praised and glorified, exalted, extolled and honored, magnified and lauded be the Name of the Holy One, blessed is He; though He be high above all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations, which are uttered in the world; and say ye, Amen. May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life for us and for all Israel; and say ye Amen. He who maketh peace in His high places, may He make peace for us and for all Israel; and say ye Amen.
Matthew is expressing the truth that the Kingdom has come and a foothold has been established on earth. As we pray for God’s Kingdom to be established on earth as it in heaven, we are praying to align our will and hearts to be used of God in bringing His kingdom further along. Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven – Is aligning ourselves with Romans 12:1-2. That God’s will might become our will. It is also to pray that God’s will might prevail here on earth as it does in heaven. In a very significant way, our prayers advance God’s will on earth. Too often we believe that we can do little to affect God’s will but we are commanded to pray at all times. We are in good company in this weakened view of prayer Acts 12:5 ff.
The Greek word for kingdom is basileia. This is not a geographical reality but one of sovereignty and dominion. In the millennium the kingdom will be on earth with its capitol in Jerusalem, but it will not be a kingdom of this world. It will be a heavenly rule on earth. We do not advance the kingdom of heaven by promoting worldly programs. The Greek word “Thelema” (will) includes God’s righteous demands, Matthew 7:21,12:50,Psalm 40:8. It also includes sharing the Good News, Matthew 18:14,26:42,Acts 21:14. What this prayer shows us is that foundational to our prayers being answered there must be a desire for God’s will to be accomplished. These first petitions call us to focus on God’s Name, His kingdom, and His Will. Having placed ourselves in the proper heart and mind Jesus now instructs us to petition God for ourselves.
Give us today our daily bread. The word bread is usually a reference to all food. Proverbs 30:8,2 Thessalonians 3:12. The Roman church has used this section to suggest that this bread is the “Body of Christ” and taught that what Jesus was speaking of here was daily communion. But the original Greek is a reference to real food. Daily bread is reminder of the daily provision of the manna in the wilderness. Exodus 13-30.
We should not worry about tomorrow. Matthew 6:31-32.
Forgive us our debts. The Greek word used here was the one most translated for an Aramaic word that referred to spiritual or moral sin. It is sin that separates us from God. It is the source of all our and the world’s problems. We who are believers have received atonement for our sin that has eternally separated us from God. But our daily sin causes our fellowship and walk to be hindered John 15:1-7. This requires a humble spirit so that we will be willing to confess our sins to God. Proverbs 28:13. His ready forgiveness does not mean that we can freely sin. That kind of attitude brings death not life.
As we also have forgiven our debtors. While God’s grace is unconditional in regard to salvation there are conditions for continued fellowship forgiving others. To forgive is to be like our heavenly Father. To be unforgiving is to incur the anger of our heavenly Father (Matthew 18:21-35).
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. – The Greek word for temptation here is unlike our definition of temptation. It’s root meaning is testing or proving. This was Jesus’ prayer when his time of trial came in the garden. Matthew 26:42-45,James 1:2-3,13.
For if you forgive – Abiding in the vine requires having a forgiving spirit. Otherwise our relationship with our Heavenly Father is affected. 1 Timothy 1:16,Matthew 18:21-35. But if you do not forgive… – Lack of a forgiving spirit causes us to develop a root of bitterness Hebrews 12:15. Consider Joseph as an illustration of such a spirit Genesis 50:19ff it led to him receiving a double portion so that there are actually two tribes of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim.
And whenever you fast – Fasting was only commanded on the Day of Atonement Leviticus 16:29. We were first instructed concerning the hypocrisy of giving, then praying and now fasting. However there are many examples of fasting found in the Old and New Testaments. We find it during times of sorrow 2 Samuel 12:16 and in the presence of great fear, 2 Chronicles 20:3, Esther 4:16. Fasting was done to demonstrate humility and dependence upon God, Ezra 8:21ff, Jonah 3:5.7. We find God’s children fasting when seeking wisdom or understanding from God, Daniel 9:2-3, Acts 13:2-3,14:23. Fasting became unthinking in the time of Isaiah 58:5-9 and things had not changed much at the time of Yeshua. Jesus was not banning fasting when he made this remark. While Jesus is with the disciples fasting would be inappropriate, but the time was coming when his disciples would fast, Matthew 9:14-17. The whole point is not to draw any attention to oneself but to be devoted to God.
Treasure – Consider Luke 12:16-21. Jesus is not advocating that spirituality is found through poverty. The Lord wants us not to be possessed by our possessions. He gives material blessings, and encourages us to be thankful and enjoy them 1 Timothy 6:17. Abraham and Job were both prosperous. Proverbs encourages us to be wise so that we might prosper. But when we prosper we must not cling to what we have but are encouraged to be generous. The key word in this passage is “yourselves”. We are called to invest our treasures for the kingdom of God. We need to realize that whatever we have is subject to loss. Nothing we own is completely safe from destruction or theft. Heavenly investments are eternal and cannot suffer loss. Where are treasure is an indication of where our heart is. The Rabbi’s speculated that the reason God wanted Israel to come out with their possessions and the wealth of Egypt was so that they would have one less reason to look back to Egypt since their treasures would be with them. This doesn’t mean that if we have our treasure in the right place that our heart is in the right place. There are plenty of people who give to religious causes but their heart is not primarily in the Lord. Every revival has accompanied an outpouring of God’s people to give to the work of God. The revival of Nehemiah 8:5-8 led to Israel giving in Matthew 9-10 also at the construction of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. Exodus 35:21,1 Chronicles 29:2-6,9.
In Matthew 6:22 the eye becomes a metaphor for the heart. Physical light enters our life through the eye. In much the same way spiritual light enters our lives through our heart; The heart being the seat of our emotions. The heart is the eye of the soul. It is through the “heart” that God’s love, truth, and peace come (Psalm 119:10,18,148). When our heart is “seeing properly our lives are filled with God’s Light. When they are not, they are filled with darkness.
The word “bad” in Matthew 6:23 is literally evil and may likely have been a reference to a Jewish expression “the evil eye”. The expression was a reference to a stingy or selfish man. This kind of person is described as living in darkness. It is remarkable how many illustrations and references Jesus makes regarding money.
Two masters Matthew 6:24-32. The root of the word Mammon or money in both Hebrew and Aramaic indicates that in which one has confidence (Luke 16:9) we must place our confidence in either God or Money. In essence we become bondslaves to one or the other. A bond-slave has one responsibility, to be concerned about his master. A bond-slave is one who knows from previous experience that the master will take care of him.
The word “life” is translated from a Greek word that includes all that we are. It relates to our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual being. So, the worry spoken of here has to do with every aspect of our lives. Worry according to the dictionary comes from the Middle English word “worien”, which meant to seize by the throat and strangle. This is a good description of how choking worry can be to our lives. If creation demonstrates God’s eternal power and divine nature Romans 1:20 We should know that God provides for His creation how much more His children. We are not told that we don’t have to work for our food but just that we don’t have to worry concerning God’s provision for our needs. Worry comes when we lack confidence in God. As believers we should be confident that God will provide all our needs. Jireh is the English of the Hebrew word “yireh” which means literally to see. Because God see’s He provides consider the context of when this word first appears in Scripture in Genesis 22. Worry comes from a fear that somehow God does not see my situation. God sees and provides. A second area of worry comes from our concern for the length of our days. This is an area we are obsessed with. Probably because we have serious reservations about what comes after life. While exercise and proper diet seem to affect the quality of our lives, and progress in medicine seems to prolong our lives, God is not bound to extend our lives because of all this. Worry will not extend our lives in fact science has proven that it will shorten it.
And what about what we wear. Still another area that we tend to be obsessed with is clothing. While dressing nicely is no sin, being worried about how we look is. The King uses the illustration of flowers to demonstrates this. The word for fire was the word used for oven for cooking. Dried grass was used at times to increase the heat of the oven from the inside, where the food baked. Worry is not a trivial sin. It demonstrates our lack of confidence in our heavenly father. It is the very sin that caused God to rebuke Israel in the wilderness. 1 Corinthians 10:1-5, Exodus 16. Worry demonstrates that we do not trust God but rather what we see. We tend to be like Elisha’s servant 2 Kings 6:8ff. Worry demonstrates that we are no different than those who are not believers.
The disciples of Jesus, who are the ambassadors of the king and the kingdom, are to be different than those that are not. We are to refrain from the quest of temporal things as our primary goals in life and instead pursue abiding in and spreading the Good News of the Kingdom. God promises to meet all the needs of those committed to His kingdom and His righteousness. Therefore, we’re told not to worry about tomorrow. 90% of our fears never occur, and most of the remainder there is nothing we can do about them. They are happening in the providence of God, and He promises that they will be for our good. God will take care of us in every circumstance of life Rom. 8:28.