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Matthew 6: The Practice of Righteousness

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The Principle

  • Delayed Gratification. Do you eat your cake or icing first? That is in principle what is described in Chapter 6.
  • Principle: Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
  • When do we get our reward? At the Bema—the judgment seat of Christ. 1 John 2:28; 2 John 8; 1 Cor. 3:
  • 1 Cor. 3:10f some say that vs 10 says this is only about leaders building on the foundation of Christ. But all men are priests and build upon the foundation. vs 12 says “any man.”
  • 2 Cor. 5:10 - We must “all” appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Rom 14:10 also says all.
  • What is the nature of this judgment? Only believers will be there. We are not judged for salvation. We are judged for our works.
  • 1 John 2:28 says there will be shame and 2Jn 8 and 1Co 3:15 say there will be loss. There is both positive and negative motivation.
  • It will be wonderful to be there. When we graduate from high school we may not all graduate with honors, but we will all be glad that we graduated.
  • When God judges, He is wholly for us. He will not be negative and try to shame us. He will embrace us and welcome us home. We will feel regret that we didn’t do more.
  • Is Jesus against public leadership? The issue is motives. Do we do it to be seen? Do we teach because we want to be up front or do we really have a burden and care for others?

Principle Applied

    Giving 6:2-4
  • Vs. 2 When you give to charity, don’t take out a front page ad saying that you are giving this money to charity. If you do, it is like taking municipal bonds and cashing them in early. You get accolades, but not nearly what you would if you waited.
  • Vs. 3 When you give with your right hand, don’t wave your left hand in the air.
  • Vs. 4 Your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you give an anonymous gift, you get to see the person receive the money and you don’t get the reward of seeing their joy. You don’t receive any praise from them or anyone else. This is the principle of delayed gratification at work. You will receive your reward later, but from God himself.
    Praying 6:5-15

6:5 How do you feel about praying in public? What thoughts go through your mind? Are you worried about what others think? The issue is praying to be seen. Jesus condemns those who want their reward now.

Illustration: My prof, Dave, tells of a time when he was asked to open the morning service with prayer. It was the 4th of July, so he worked up a very eloquent and patriotic prayer to impress everyone. He was nervous, he was excited, etc. He got up after one of the songs and prayed eloquently. When he got back to his seat, one of the deacons asked him who was the Lady off the coast with scales in her hand. He had meant to refer to the Statue of Liberty.

Illustration: He also told of a later event. There was to be a MADD outdoor Christmas service, and he was supposed to be opening that service in prayer. When he was sitting up on the platform waiting for his turn, he noticed that the guest speaker was somebody famous--a great speaker. He began to be intimidated by even being on the same platform with him. He started looking out over the people in the crowd and saw a mother standing alone out there with tears in her eyes. She was someone in his congregation that had lost a son that year in a car accident with a drunk driver. Dave said he just wanted to go down off the platform and stand with her to comfort her. He was hurting for her and didn’t even notice when he was called up to pray. They got his attention and he went forward forgetting all his rehearsed prayer. He just prayed from his heart. He said, God, sometimes it seems like it is always winter and never Christmas. And he didn’t even remember the rest of the prayer. The next day he went to the church and sat down at his desk and the secretary brought in the town paper and the fron page headline showed a pictue of the outdoor christmas service with the headline across the top of the page: “Always Winter, Never Christmas.” Not a word was mentioned about the eloquent famous speaker.

6:6 Go into your inner room, store room, pantry. In other words, get alone. Pray to your Father in secretthat word again. The most important thing in Christianity is not what happens externally, i.e., did I lead a revival, have I led people to Christ this week, etc., but being a real Christian in private with God.

6:7 "Meaningless repetitions." Professor John Martin talks about a flight he took where a guy sat next to him and repeated “Krishna, Harry Krishna” over and over and over again through the whole flight. This is what happens in Catholicism with the rosary and in churches where people repeat the “Lord’s prayer” every Sunday in their service.

1 Kings 17: Elijah and the prophets. The prophets prayed and prayed and called and called and Baal never came. Elijah just spoke once to God and God answered.

6:8 God knows what we need. And we do need. We are dependent on God. When we express our need to God it shows that we are dependent on Him. In Christ's prayers he asked God for things through His entire prayers.

When we fail to pray, we are basically saying that we can make it on our own.


"Our Father" - no one called God “Father” up to this point in history except the king. This emphasizes our personal relationship to God.

"Hallowed be Thy name." What does this mean? Most would say it means “holy” or “to honor” or “to glorify.” We aren’t really sure.

In Ezek. 36:16-23 we see that Israel defiled the land, God disciplined them by sending them to Babylon. This profaned God’s name (vs 20) because it looked to the Babylonians like their gods were more powerful than Yahweh. God didn’t care for this (vs 21). God points out in 36:22-23 that it is not for Israel’s sake that he will destroy the nations and restore Israel to the land. It is to vindicate His name. When God delivers Israel and establishes the Kingdom, it is for God’s glory. Jesus is calling for this. He is calling for God’s name to be vindicated. He is calling for the kingdom to be established.

Ezekiel 36:27f is talking about the new covenant. He will send the Spirit to dwell in them. It is no wonder that in Acts, the disciples thought the kingdom was here. What happened is exactly what is described in Ezekiel. They knew their Old Testament Scriptures. They immediately thought about passages like this. Verse 27 goes on to say that He would cause them to walk in His STATUTES. They would keep his ordinances. This is the Law.

Note: If this model is true, this negates the concept that we must start off our prayers with praise. This prayer is all requests.

6:10 "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." This makes it even more obvious that it is a call for the kingdom.

Greg’s comment: Remember that Jesus tells the disciples that He is not coming to set up a political kingdom, but a spiritual one.

Malick: The problem with Reformed/Dispensational debate is they all talk like it is an either/or all or nothing problem. Either He is setting up the whole kingdom or none of it. But it is a both/and issue. The Spiritual aspect of the kingdom has begun. The political/physical kingdom is still future. Peter was looking for both aspects to happen, but when the political did not happen, the apostles eventually recognized as they looked back on Pentecost.

My thought: If progress of revelation revealed that Jesus would have two advents, why can’t progress of revelation show that the New Covenant would be implemented in two stagesa spiritual aspect and later the physical aspect?

In Matt. 12, when Jesus was rejected, there was a postponement of the kingdom. But not the whole thing. Just the earthly/physical kingdom. The kingdom was inaugurated spiritually. From Ezekiel and Joel, one would think it all happened in one Advent. But looking back, we can see that this is what Daniel was talking about.

The Spirit came! Something is here. Something did happen. The Spirit is active and ruling in our hearts. Eph. 1:10 - This is the administration of the Spirit.

Illustration: Christmas pageant and Wallace Purling

6:11 “Give us this day our daily bread.” This is not just talking about food. Bread is a figure of speech--metonomy - a part for the whole. Bread is a basic staple which represents our “needs.” While Christ prays for the future, and waits for fulfillment, He also prays for present needs. It is an acknowledgment that we are totally dependent on God for life. We are not the ones who make life work.

We may think that we do if we plant corn seeds and corn comes up and we live off the land. But it is a miracle that food comes from those little seeds. It is God who made all this.

This is the argument Paul uses in Acts 17:28. If there is a Creator, we are responsible and accountable to the Creator for life.

6:12-13 Of all the things in the prayer, this is the only thing that gets commented on by Jesus (vs 14). Think about this: “God, I want you to forgive me of my sins as I have forgiven my debtors.” Let’s state it negatively. “God, if I don’t forgive others for their sins (against me), I don’t want you to forgive me.” Would you pray this?

If someone reads this and says, “See salvation is by works.” How do you answer him? Some might turn to a theological or canonical argument and point to other Scripture which shows this is not true, but look at the context. This passage is not about salvation because His audience is saved. Look at all the places He refers to God as “our father.” The issue is fellowship.

Christ forgave the sin of the world when no one had yet repented. He made provision for a relationship, but the relationship cannot be experienced until you've trusted Him. Then you can move forward. His provision was unconditional. When we forgive we do something about it.

In 1947 Corie Ten Boom was giving lectures on forgiveness in Ravensbrook at the end of the war. After one lecture she saw a man coming toward her who had been one of her captors. He had come to know Christ and had been forgiven and was now coming to ask for her forgiveness. Forgiveness for what she and her family had suffered was hard but had to be done. The message that God forgives has a prior conditionthat we must forgive! Forgiveness is an act of the will not an emotion. We must choose to forgive and move toward the person and God will provide the emotion.

6:13 “For thine is the glory...” was added later by some scribe. Not original to Matthew.

6:14-15 He says it positively and negatively to emphasize this. Notice “your heavenly Father.” They are in the family. They are God’s people. The issue is fellowship.

He is asking God to help us with this forgiving process. The temptation is the temptation to not forgive.

Matt. 18 talks about how they should relate to children (1-6), to the lost (7-14) and to someone who has done evil to you (15-20). All of these people are in a subordinate relationship. We really feel this when someone has wronged us. Jesus shows the steps to restoration. This last one is a hard statement and Peter asks a question (vs 21). How many times should I forgive? Jesus answersan infinite number. The parable explains:

10,000 talents is an impossible amount to repay. The slave admits his debt, but it is interesting to note that the slave doesn’t admit his inability to repay. The master released him from the debt. He doesn’t have to repay. This is a great illustration of what it is to forgive.

People are confused. They think that forgiveness equals forgetting. But it doesn’t. You know they owe you, but when you don’t make them pay, you know that it cost you.

The slave turned around and refused to forgive another slave a debt owed him. We are so much like this slave. We feel like we can’t let another person off the hook. It is not right. But we put ourself in God’s place.

Isa 55:8 is not talking about God’s infinitude, omnipotence and omniscience. It is talking about forgiveness in the passage. God has compassion and will “abundantly pardon.” We are not like that. God’s ways are not our ways.

I can never repay God. When you do evil to me, it is true that you can never repay either. But when I recognize my forgiveness, I won’t hold you accountable for your evil. When we refuse to forgive someone else, it is the same as saying. I would never do such a thing. When we realize our own evil, we know that we can and will do the same things.

Luke 17:3 seems to link forgiveness to repentance of the other person. But notice: Jesus says to forgive if someone sins against us seven times in one day. If someone comes over to your house with and ice pick and jabs it into your car tire and you see him do it and confront him, and he says, “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what came over me.” Then you are to forgive him. If he does it every other hour for the rest of the day and gives similar sincere sounding apologies, you know he can’t be sincere, but you are still supposed to forgive him.

In verse 5 the apostles say, “Give us more faith” but in verse 6 Jesus says, faith is not the issue. The real issue is obedience (verses 7-10). Just like a slave does what he is supposed to do. We are supposed to forgive.

Back in Matt. 18:34 what does it mean that he was given to the torturers? So shall God do to us (vs 35). How does God torture us? Some take this to refer to hell, but remember that the audience is saved. When God is not forgiving us, since He is Love, then not forgiving us is for our good. And the torturers are torturing us for our own good.

What God does is refuse to forgive us (Matt. 6:15). He withholds his blessing and forces us to suffer the consequences of our sin until we come face to face with our evil. When we do, then we will be willing to forgive.

Christ forgave us our sin on the cross before we repented. He made an unconditional provision. He then moves forward into our lives, causes us to see our sin and brings us to repentance.

Forgiveness is a reflex of redemption, and the unwillingness to forgive is a reflex of our fallenness.

Forgiveness gives us something ACTIVE to do when wrong has been done to us. Otherwise, all we can do is spend our time looking over the wrong. We can’t get away from it. If we forgive, we can move on.

The more aware we are of our great evil the more we will be able to forgive. If we feel that we are not as fallen as the next person, we can't forgive.

The greatest problem is not that you are abused and your own pain. The greatest issue is how we respond to abuse and pain. There is a vulnerability that occurs when we forgive and move back into the relationship.

You wouldn’t normally look to the Lord’s prayer for relational teaching, but it is the most relational part of the whole sermon.

    Fasting 6:16-18

The hypocrites made it obvious that they were fasting so others would know they were fasting and think them spiritual.

Why fast?

  • To show that there is some issue that is such a burden to you that you don’t even feel like eating.
  • Also, you become keenly aware of your dependence on God when you are very hungry. This is designed to stir us toward God.

Why say “anoint your head?” In 2Sa 12: David anoints himself after his child dies. Ruth 3: Naomi tells Ruth to anoint her head, change her clothes and go find Boaz. Anointing the head was an act of celebration, festivity (Ps. 23). Jesus is saying look like you are going to a party not a funeral. Fasting is a private thing between you and God.

Be careful of your motives. Do you think things like, “this will help my waist too?”

What do you do with the time when you are fasting? Do you spend the time in prayer or go about your usual busy schedule?

Jesus concludes this large section about not practicing your faith to be seen with the statement that “your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” Faithfulness is difficult, but the promise of reward is a proper form of motivation.

See Monomyth Explanation: Appendix A.

Related Topics: Soteriology (Salvation), Sanctification

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