Matthew 6 – The Sermon on the Mount (Continued)
A. Doing good to please God.
1. (1) Jesus’ warning against doing good to be seen by others.
“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.”
a. Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men: Charitable deeds is actually the word righteousness. Jesus tells us to not do righteous things for the sake of display or image (to be seen by them).
i. Jesus has just clearly shown God’s righteous standard; perhaps He anticipated the thought “Wouldn’t everybody be impressed if I was like that?” So here Jesus addressed the danger of cultivating an image of righteousness. It is almost impossible to do spiritual things in front of others without thinking what their opinion is of us as we do those things, and how they are thinking better or worse of us as we do what we do.
ii. This does not contradict His previous command to let your light so shine before men (Matthew 5:16). Although Christians are to be seen doing good works, they must not do good works simply to be seen.
b. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven: The idea is when we do righteous deeds for the attention and applause of men, their attention and applause is our reward. It is much better to receive a reward from your Father in heaven.
i. There are some who say, “All that is important is the doing of the deed. How I do it is much less important than the doing of it.” It is true that in some cases it would be better to do the right thing in the wrong way or out of the wrong motive than to do the wrong thing, but Jesus’ point is clear: God cares about how we do our good works, and with what motive we do them.
ii. Jesus thus begins to deal with three spiritual disciplines: giving, prayer, and fasting. “These three were (and are) the most prominent practical requirements for personal piety in mainstream Judaism…These same three activities, together with the specifically Islamic requirements of the Hajj and recitation of the creed, constitute also the Five Pillars of Islam.” (France)
2. (2-4) Examples of the wrong kind of giving and the right kind of giving.
“Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”
a. When you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet: It was a custom for some in Jesus’ day to draw attention to their giving so they would be known as generous. Today, people do not sound a trumpet to project the image of generosity, but they still know how to call attention to their giving.
i. There aren’t good examples in ancient literature of people actually announcing their giving with the sound of a trumpet. It may be what Jesus had in mind was the gifts given during feast times, which were signaled by the blast of a trumpet. “These occasions afforded golden opportunities for ostentation.” (Carson)
ii. Yet the idea of doing a charitable deed – giving alms and charity – was deeply established in the Jewish mind. “To give alms and to be righteous were one and the same thing. To give alms was to gain merit in the sight of God, and was even to win atonement and forgiveness for past sins.” (Barclay)
b. As the hypocrites do: Such performers are rightly called hypocrites, because they are actors, acting the part of pious, holy people when they are not. It is not having a standard that makes someone a hypocrite; it is falsely claiming to live by that standard when you in fact do not, or when you have a double standard that makes one a hypocrite.
i. “In older Greek a hypocrites (‘hypocrite’) was an actor, but by the first century the term came to be used for those who play roles and see the world as their stage.” (Carson)
ii. “There are religious actors still, and they draw good houses.” (Bruce)
iii. “Oh, let us rather seek to be good than seem to be so.” (Trapp)
c. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward: Jesus tells the one who gives so he can hear the applause of others that he should enjoy the applause, because that will be all the reward that he will receive. There will be no reward in heaven for the one who did it for the motive of an earthly reward.
i. It is all they will receive. “It would be better to translate it: ‘They have received payment in full.’ The word that is used in the Greek is the verb apechein, which was the technical business and commercial word for receiving payment in full.” (Barclay)
d. Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing: Instead, our giving is to be – if it were possible – even hidden from ourselves. Though we cannot really be ignorant about our own giving, we can deny ourselves any indulgent self-congratulation.
i. “Keep the thing so secret that even you yourself are hardly aware that you are doing anything at all praiseworthy. Let God be present, and you will have enough of an audience.” (Spurgeon)
e. That your charitable deed may be in secret: If someone finds out that we have given something, do we automatically lose our reward? The issue is really a matter of motive. If we give for our own glory, it doesn’t matter if no one finds out and we will still have no reward from God. But if we give for God’s glory, it doesn’t matter who finds out, because your reward will remain because you gave for the right motive.
f. Our Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly: Jesus pointed out the great value of doing good deeds for the glory of God. It is much better to receive our return from God, who rewards much more generously and much more openly than men do.
i. God does see in secret. “We should ever remember that the eye of the Lord is upon us, and that he sees not only the act, but also every motive that led to it.” (Clarke)
ii. We should not miss the strength of the promise – these things done the right way will certainly be rewarded. We can be sure of that, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
3. (5-6) Examples of the wrong kind of prayer and the right kind of prayer.
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
a. And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites: Jesus assumed that His disciples would give, so He told them the right way to give (Matthew 6:1-4). He also assumed that His disciples would pray, and it was important that they not pray in the same manner as the hypocrites.
i. “There are no dumb children in God’s house; the least he hath can ask him blessing. All are not alike gifted, but every godly man prayeth unto thee, saith David, Psalm 32:6.” (Trapp)
b. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets: There were two main places where a Jew in Jesus’ day might pray in a hypocritical manner. They might pray at the synagogue at the time of public prayer, or on the street at the appointed times of prayer (9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m.).
i. “In synagogue worship someone from the congregation might be asked to pray publicly, standing in front of the ark.” (Carson)
ii. “Prayer was not normally practiced at the street corners, but…one who strictly observed the afternoon hour of prayer could deliberately time his movements to bring him to the most public place at the appropriate time.” (France)
c. That they may be seen by men: These hypocrites prayed not to be heard by God, but to be seen by men. This is a common fault in public prayer today, when people pray to impress or teach others instead of genuinely pouring out their hearts before God.
i. Such prayers are an insult to God. When we mouth words towards God while really trying to impress others, we then use God merely as a tool to impress others.
d. They have their reward: Again, those praying to be seen of men have their reward, and they should enjoy it in full – because that is all they will receive. There is no reward in heaven for such prayers.
e. But you, when you pray, go into your room: Rather, we should meet with God in our room (or “closet”). The idea is of a private place where we can impress no one except God.
i. The specific ancient Greek word “room” was used for a storeroom where treasures were kept. This reminds us that there are treasures waiting for us in our prayer closet.
ii. Jesus certainly did not prohibit public prayer, but our prayers should always be directed to God and not towards man.
4. (7-8) The right way to pray.
“And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”
a. When you pray, do not use vain repetitions: The right kind of prayer does not use vain repetitions, which is any and all prayer which is mostly words and no meaning; all lips and no mind or heart.
i. “Rabbi Levi said, ‘Whoever is long in prayer is heard.’ Another saying has it: ‘Whenever the righteous make their prayer long, their prayer is heard.’” (Barclay) One famous Jewish prayer began like this: “Blessed, praised, and glorified, exalted, and honored, magnified and lauded be the name of the Holy One.”
ii. One can pray long – but to the wrong god. In 1 Kings 18:26 the prophets of Baal cried out, “O Baal answer us” for half the day. In Acts 19:34 a mob in Ephesus shouted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” for two hours. The true God isn’t impressed by the length or eloquence of our prayers, but the heart. “Prayer requires more of the heart than of the tongue. The eloquence of prayer consists in the fervency of desire, and the simplicity of faith.” (Clarke)
iii. When we try to impress God (or worse, other people) with our many words, we deny that God is a loving, yet holy Father. Instead, we should follow the counsel of Ecclesiastes 5:2: God is in heaven, and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few.
iv. “Christians’ prayers are measured by weight, and not by length. Many of the most prevailing prayers have been as short as they were strong.” (Spurgeon)
v. The NIV translates the phrase vain repetitions as “keep on babbling.” That may be an accurate sense of the ancient Greek word battalogeo, which may be a word that sounds like “babbling” and has the sense of “blah-blah-blah.”
b. Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him: We don’t pray to tell God things that He didn’t know before we told Him. We pray to commune with and appeal to a loving God who wants us to bring every need and worry before His throne.
i. “Prayer is not designed to inform God, but to give man a sight of his misery; to humble his heart, to excite his desire, to inflame his faith, to animate his hope, to raise his soul from earth to heaven, and to put him in mind that THERE is his Father, his country, and inheritance.” (Clarke)
ii. In the following verses, Jesus will begin a memorable explanation of the right way to pray with the words, “In this manner, therefore pray.” Jesus then gave His disciples a model for prayer, prayer marked by close relationship, reverence, submission, and trust and dependence. Since Luke 11:2-4 has much the same material, it is reasonable to believe that this was not the only time Jesus taught His disciples on this subject.
ii. “In contrast with ostentatious prayer or thoughtless prayer, Jesus gives his disciples a model. But it is only a model: ‘This is how [not what] you should pray.’” (Carson)
iii. “We may use the Paternoster, but we are not bound to use it. It is not in turn to become a fetish. Reformers do not arise to break old fetters only in order to forge new ones.” (Bruce)
5. (9-13) The model prayer.
In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
a. Our Father in heaven: The right kind of prayer comes to God as a Father in heaven. It rightly recognizes whom we pray to, coming with a privileged title that demonstrates a privileged relationship. It was very unusual for the Jews of that day to call God “Father” because it was considered too intimate.
i. It is true that God is the mighty sovereign of the universe who created, governs, and will judge all things – but He is also to us a Father.
ii. He is our Father, but He is our Father in heaven. When we say “in heaven,” we remember God’s holiness and glory. He is our Father, but our Father in heaven.
iii. This is a prayer focused on community; Jesus said “Our Father” and not “My Father.” “The whole prayer is social. The singular pronoun is absent. Man enters the presence of the Father, and then prays as one of the great family.” (Morgan)
iv. “There is no evidence of anyone before Jesus using this term to address God.” (Carson)
b. Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven: The right kind of prayer has a passion for God’s glory and agenda. His name, kingdom and will have the top priority.
i. Everyone wants to guard their own name and reputation, but we must resist the tendency to protect and promote ourselves first and instead put God’s name, kingdom and will first.
ii. Jesus wanted us to pray with the desire that the will of God would be done on earth as it is in heaven. In heaven there is no disobedience and no obstacles to God’s will; on earth there is disobedience and at least apparent obstacles to His will. The citizens of Jesus’ kingdom will want to see His will done as freely on earth as it is in heaven.
iii. “He that taught us this prayer used it himself in the most unrestricted sense. When the bloody sweat stood on his face, and all the fear and trembling of a man in anguish were upon him, he did not dispute the decree of the Father, but bowed his head and cried. ‘Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.’” (Spurgeon)
iv. A man can say, “Your will be done” in different ways and moods. He may say it with fatalism and resentment, “You will do your will, and there is nothing I can do about it anyway. Your will wins, but I don’t like it” or he may say it with a heart of perfect love and trust, “Do Your will, because I know it is the best. Change me where I don’t understand or accept Your will.”
v. One might rightly wonder why God wants us to pray that His will would be done, as if He were not able to accomplish it Himself. God is more than able to do His will without our prayer or cooperation; yet He invites the participation of our prayers, our heart, and our actions in seeing His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
c. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one: The right kind of prayer will freely bring its own needs to God. This will include needs for daily provision, forgiveness, and strength in the face of temptation.
i. When Jesus spoke of bread, He meant real bread, as in the sense of daily provisions. Early theologians allegorized this, because they couldn’t imagine Jesus speaking about an everyday thing like bread in such a majestic prayer like this. So they thought bread referred to communion, the Lord’s Supper. Some have thought it referred to Jesus Himself as the bread of life. Others have thought it speaks of the Word of God as our daily bread. Calvin rightly said of such interpretations which fail to see God’s interest in everyday things, “This is exceedingly absurd.” God does care about everyday things, and we should pray about them.
ii. “The prayer is for our needs, not our greeds. It is for one day at a time, reflecting the precarious lifestyle of many first-century workers who were paid one day at a time and for whom a few days’ illness could spell tragedy.” (Carson)
iii. “Sin is represented here under the notion of a debt, and as our sins are many, they are called here debts. God made man that he might live to his glory, and gave him a law to walk by; and if, when he does any thing that tends not to glorify God, he contracts a debt with Divine Justice.” (Clarke)
iv. Temptation literally means a test, not always a solicitation to do evil. God has promised to keep us from any testing that is greater than what we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13).
v. “God, while he does not ‘tempt’ men to do evil (James 1:13), does allow his children to pass through periods of testing. But disciples, aware of their weakness, should not desire such testing, and should pray to be spared exposure to such situations in which they are vulnerable.” (France)
vi. “The man who prays ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ and then goes into it is a liar before God…‘Lead us not into temptation,’ is shameful profanity when it comes from the lips of men who resort to places of amusement whose moral tone is bad.” (Spurgeon)
vii. If we truly pray, lead us not into temptation, it will be lived out in several ways. It will mean:
· Never boast in your own strength.
· Never desire trials.
· Never go into temptation.
· Never lead others into temptation.
d. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever: The right kind of prayer praises God and credits to Him the kingdom and the power and the glory.
i. There is some dispute as to whether this doxology is in the original manuscript Matthew wrote or was added in later by a scribe. Most modern Biblical scholars believe this line was a later addition.
ii. “It is variously written in several MSS., and omitted by most of the fathers, both Greek and Latin. As the doxology is at least very ancient, and was in use among the Jews, as well as all the other petitions of this excellent prayer, it should not, in my opinion, be left out of the text, merely because some MSS. have omitted it, and it has been variously written in others.” (Clarke)
6. (14-15) More on the importance of forgiveness.
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
a. If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: Forgiveness is required for those who have been forgiven. We are not given the luxury of holding on to our bitterness towards other people.
i. “Once our eyes have been opened to see the enormity of our offence against God, the injuries which others have done to us appear by comparison extremely trifling. If, on the other hand, we have an exaggerated view of the offences of others, it proves that we have minimized our own.” (Stott, cited in Carson)
b. Neither will your Father forgive your trespasses: Jesus has much more to say about forgiveness (Matthew 9:2-6, 18:21-35, and Luke 17:3-4). Here, the emphasis is on the imperative of forgiveness; on the fact that it is not an option.
7. (16-18) The right way to fast.
“Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
a. When you fast: Jesus spoke to these fundamental practices of spiritual life in His kingdom: giving, praying, and now fasting. Clearly, Jesus assumed that His followers would fast.
i. The Old Testament commanded fasting on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31 and 23:32-37; Numbers 29:7). During the Exile, the Jewish people expanded the practice of fasting (Zechariah 7:3-5 and 8:19).
ii. “A fast is termed by the Greeks nhstiv, from nh not, and esyein to eat; hence fast means, a total abstinence from food for a certain time. Abstaining from flesh, and living on fish, vegetables, &c., is no fast, or may be rather considered a burlesque on fasting. Many pretend to take the true definition of a fast from Isa 58:3, and say that it means a fast from sin. This is a mistake; there is no such term in the Bible as fasting from sin; the very idea is ridiculous and absurd, as if sin were a part of our daily food.” (Clarke)
iii. Fasting is something good that was corrupted by the hypocrisy of the religious people of Jesus’ day. Our corrupt natures can corrupt something good into something bad. A modern example of a good thing gone bad is the manner of dressing nice on Sunday. There is nothing wrong with this in itself – it can even be good as an expression of reverence; yet if it is used to compete with others or to draw attention to one’s self, something good has become something bad.
iv. “Fasting took a leading place in devotion under the Law, and it might profitably be more practiced even now under the Gospel. The Puritans called it ‘soul-fattening fasting,’ and so many have found it.” (Spurgeon)
b. When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites: The hypocritical scribes and Pharisees wanted to make sure that everybody knew they were fasting, so they would have a sad countenance and disfigure their faces so their agony of fasting would be evident to all.
i. The Pharisees typically fasted twice a week (Luke 18:12). “Twice a week in ordinary Pharasic practice: Thursday and Monday (ascent and descent of Moses on Sinai).” (Bruce)
ii. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward: When hypocrites receive the admiration of men for these “spiritual” efforts, they receive all the reward they will ever get.
iii. The real problem with the hypocrite is self-interest. “Ultimately, our only reason for pleasing men around us is that we may be pleased.” (D. Martin Lloyd-Jones)
c. When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting: In contrast, Jesus instructed us to take care of ourselves as usual and to make the fast something of a secret before God.
i. “Oil does not here symbolize extravagant joy but normal body care.” (Carson)
B. The place of material things: a warning against covetousness.
1. (19-21) The choice between two treasures.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
a. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth: The ancient Greek more literally says do not treasure for yourself treasures on earth. The idea is that earthly treasure is temporary and fading away (where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal), but heavenly treasure is secure.
i. The issue isn’t that earthly treasures are intrinsically bad, but they are of no ultimate value either. If this is the case, then it is wrong for the disciple of Jesus to dedicate his life to continually expanding his earthly treasures.
ii. To lay up for yourselves treasure on earth is also to doom yourself to a life of frustration and emptiness. Regarding material things the secret to happiness is not more, it is contentment. In a 1992 survey, people were asked how much money they would have to make to have “the American dream.” Those who earn $25,000 or less a year thought they would need around $54,000. Those in the $100,000 annual income bracket said that they could buy the dream for an average of $192,000 a year. These figures indicate that we typically think we would have to have double our income in order to find the good life. But the Apostle Paul had the right idea in 1 Timothy 6:6: Now godliness with contentment is great gain.
iii. “The Master does not say it is wrong to possess earthly treasure. He does say it is wrong to lay it up for self. We are to hold it as stewards.” (Morgan)
b. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven: In contrast, heavenly treasures are everlasting and incorruptible. Treasures in heaven give enjoyment now, in the contentment and sense of well-being that comes from being a giver. But their ultimate enjoyment comes on the other side of eternity.
i. It has been wisely observed that a moving truck full of possessions never follows a hearse. Everything one might take with them to the world beyond is left behind. The pharaohs of Egypt were buried with gold and treasures to take into the afterlife, but they left it all behind. Even further, though gold is a precious thing on earth, God uses it to pave the streets of heaven.
ii. Jesus once told a parable that has troubled some. In Luke 16:1-14, He spoke of a dishonest manager, who was about to be called to account. Knowing he would be fired, he began to settle accounts with his master’s debtors at terms favorable to the debtors, so they would treat him kindly when the master fired him. The master ended up complimenting the manager for his shrewd tactics (presumably before he fired him). This dishonest manager was praiseworthy for two reasons. First, he knew he would be called to account for his life and he took it seriously. Second, he took advantage of his present position to arrange a comfortable future – and we can use our material resources right now for eternal good – even though we can’t bring them with us.
iii. Our material treasures will not pass from this life to the next; but the good that has been done for the kingdom of God through the use of our treasures lasts for eternity, and the work God does in us through faithful giving will last for eternity.
c. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also: Jesus drew the conclusion that you can only have your treasure (and your heart) in one place; we can’t store up treasure on earth and on heaven at the same time.
i. “It is not so much the disciple’s wealth that Jesus is concerned with as his loyalty. As Matthew 6:24 will make explicit, materialism is in direct conflict with loyalty to God.” (France)
2. (22-23) The choice between two visions.
“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
a. The lamp of the body is the eye: Simply, the idea is that “light” comes into the body through the eye. If our eyes were blind, we would live in a “dark” world.
b. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light: The idea behind having a good eye is either being generous or being single minded. Both principles apply to the disciple’s attitude towards material things.
i. “There seems to be a deliberate double-entendre here, with haplous taking up not only the theme of undivided loyalty but also that of detachment from material concern, hence of generosity.” (France)
ii. Being generous brings light to our lives. We are happier and more content when we have God’s heart of generosity. But if we are not generous, it is as if your whole body will be full of darkness. Our selfish, miserly ways cast darkness over everything that we think or do.
iii. Being single minded brings light to our lives, and we are also happier and more content when we focus on the kingdom of God and His righteousness, knowing that all the material things will be added to us (Matthew 6:33). But when we are double-minded, it is as if your whole body is full of darkness. We try to live for two masters at the same time, and it puts a dark shadow over everything in our life.
c. Full of light… full of darkness: In any case, Jesus tells us that either our eye is directed at heavenly things (and therefore full of light) or it is directed at earthly things (and therefore full of darkness).
i. “An evil eye was a phrase in use, among the ancient Jews, to denote an envious, covetous man or disposition; a man who repined at his neighbour’s prosperity, loved his own money, and would do nothing in the way of charity for God’s sake.” (Clarke)
d. How great is that darkness: Building on the analogy of the eye, Jesus reminds us that if we are blind in our eyes, the whole body is blind. The darkness is then great in our whole body. In the same way, our attitude towards material treasure will either bring great light or great darkness to our lives.
i. Often a materialistic, miserly, selfish Christian justifies their sin by saying, “It’s just one area of my life.” But even as the darkness of the eye affects everything in the body, so a wrong attitude towards material things brings darkness to our whole being.
3. (24) The choice between two masters.
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
a. No one can serve two masters: Having two masters is not like working two jobs. Jesus had the master and slave relationship in mind, and no slave could serve two masters.
i. Jesus states that serving two masters is a simple impossibility. If you think that you are successfully serving two masters, you are deceived. It can’t be done. As ancient Israel struggled with idolatry, they thought they could worship the Lord God and Baal. God constantly reminded them that to worship Baal was to forsake the Lord God. To be loyal to the one is to despise the other.
ii. “In the natural sphere it is impossible for a slave to serve two masters, for each claims him as his property, and the slave must respond to one or other of the claims with entire devotion, either from love or from interest.” (Bruce)
iii. It can be simply said: Don’t serve your money. Let your money serve the Lord and it will serve you.
b. You cannot serve God and mammon: There are different opinions regarding the origin of the term mammon. Some think it was the name of a pagan god. Others think the name comes “From the Hebrew aman, to trust, confide; because men are apt to trust in riches.” (Clarke) Whatever its origin, the meaning is clear: mammon is materialism, or “wealth personified.” (Bruce)
i. According to France, the idea of mammon itself was morally neutral. The word was used in some ancient Jewish texts that showed this, translating Proverbs 3:9 as Honor God with your mammon and Deuteronomy 6:5 as You shall love the Lord your God with…all your mammon. Therefore mammon itself represents material things we possess or want, and those things can be used for God’s kingdom and glory or as idols.
ii. Certainly, Jesus is talking about the heart here. Many people would say they love God, but their service of money shows that in fact they do not. How can we tell who or what we are serving? One way is by remembering this principle: you will sacrifice for your God. If you will sacrifice for the sake of money, but will not sacrifice for the sake of Jesus, don’t deceive yourself: money is your God.
iii. We must remember that we don’t have to be rich to serve mammon (money and material things); the poor can be just as greedy and covetous as the rich can be.
C. The place of material things: anxiety over material things.
1. (25) Therefore: because the Kingdom of God is so greatly superior to earthly pursuits, it deserves our attention.
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”
a. Do not worry about your life: We should not get tangled up worrying about the things of this world, because our life is more than those things.
i. “You can be as unfaithful to God through care as well as through covetousness.” (Bruce)
ii. What you will eat or what you will drink… what you will put on: “These three inquiries engross the whole attention of those who are living without God in the world. The belly and back of a worldling are his compound god; and these he worships in the lust of the flesh, in the lust of the eye, and in the pride of life.” (Clarke)
iii. Perhaps Adam Clarke would add in our own age, “What you will do to entertain yourself.”
b. Do not worry: There is a difference between a godly sense of responsibility and an ungodly, untrusting worry. However, an ungodly, untrusting sense of worry usually masquerades as responsibility.
i. “You cannot say that Jesus Christ ever troubled his head about what he should eat, or what he should drink; his meat and his drink consisted in doing his Father’s will.” (Spurgeon)
ii. We are to be concerned with the right things; the ultimate issues of life – and we then leave the management (and the worry) over material things with our heavenly Father.
c. Is not life more than food: The worry Jesus spoke of debases man to the level of an animal who is merely concerned with physical needs. Your life is more, and you have eternal matters to pursue.
2. (26-30) Example and arguments against worry.
“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
a. Look at the birds of the air…your heavenly Father feeds them: God provides for the birds, and He takes care of them. Therefore, we should expect that God would take care of us.
i. Yet take careful note: the birds don’t worry, but they do work. Birds don’t just sit with open mouths, expecting God to fill them.
ii. “This argument presupposed a biblical cosmology without which faith makes no sense. God is so sovereign over the universe that even the feeding of a wren falls within his concern.” (Carson)
b. Are you not of more value than they: The worry many people have over the material things of life is rooted in a low understanding of their value before God. They don’t comprehend how much He loves and cares for them.
c. Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature: Worry accomplishes nothing; we can add nothing to our lives by worrying. There may be greater sins than worry, but there are none more self-defeating and useless.
i. Can add: The ancient Greek may mean adding to life instead of adding to height, but the thought is the same. Indeed, instead of adding to our life, we can actually harm ourselves through worry. Stress is one of the great contributors to disease and poor health.
d. If God so clothes the grass of the field: God even takes care of the grass of the field, so He will certainly take care of you. We are confident of the power and care of a loving heavenly Father.
i. You of little faith: “‘Little faith’ is not a little fault; for it greatly wrongs the Lord, and sadly grieves the fretful mind. To think the Lord who clothes the lilies will leave his own children naked is shameful. O little faith, learn better manners!” (Spurgeon)
3. (31-32) You have a heavenly Father that knows your needs.
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”
a. Therefore do not worry: We are invited to know a freedom from the worry and anxiety that comes from undue concern about material things. We can reflect the same kind of heart that Matthew Henry showed when he said the following after being robbed:
Lord, I thank You:
That I have never been robbed before.
That although they took my money, they spared my life.
That although they took everything, it wasn’t very much.
That it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.
b. For after all these things the Gentiles seek: Jesus contrasted the life of those who do not know God and are separated from Him with those who do know God and receive His loving care. Those who know God should seek after other things.
4. (33) Summary: Put God’s kingdom first – He will take care of these things!
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
a. But seek first the kingdom of God: This must be the rule of our life when ordering our priorities. Yet it is wrong to think that this is just another priority to fit onto our list of priorities – and to put at the top. Instead, in everything we do, we seek first the kingdom of God.
i. For example, we rarely have to choose between honoring God and loving our wives or being good workers. We honor God and seek first the kingdom of God by being good husbands and good workers.
ii. We should also remember this statement in its immediate context. Jesus reminds us that our physical well-being is not a worthy object to devote our lives unto. If you think it is worthy that your god is mammon, then your life is cursed with worry, and you live life too much like an animal, concerned mostly with physical needs.
iii. Jesus didn’t just tell them to stop worrying; He told them to replace worry with a concern for the kingdom of God. A habit or a passion can only be given up for a greater habit or passion.
iv. “What this verse demands is, therefore, a commitment to find and to do the will of God, to ally oneself totally with his purpose. And this commitment must come first.” (France)
b. And all these things shall be added to you: If you put God’s kingdom first, and do not think that your physical well-being is a worthy object to live your life for, you then may enjoy all these things. He promises heavenly treasure, rest in divine provision, and fulfillment of God’s highest purpose for man – fellowship with Him, and being part of His kingdom.
i. This choice – to seek first the kingdom of God – is the fundamental choice everyone makes when they first repent and are converted. Yet every day after that, our Christian life will either reinforce that decision or deny it.
5. (34) A conclusion with common sense.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
a. Do not worry about tomorrow: If you must worry, worry only for the things of today. Most of our worry is over things that we have absolutely no control over anyway, and is therefore foolish as well as harmful.
b. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble: Jesus reminds us of the importance of living for the present day. It isn’t wrong to remember the past or plan for the future; to some degree both of those are good. Yet it is easy to become too focused on either the past or the future and to let the day and its own trouble be ignored. God wants us to remember the past, plan for the future, but live in the present.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission