The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Matthew 6

Mat 6:2

DO NOT ANNOUNCE IT WITH TRUMPETS: In the Mishna it is said that "there were thirteen horn-shaped chests in the Temple", receptacles for contributions. Each was labeled for specific contributions and evidently set up on the Court of the Women, where all contributors were in public view. It is at these trumpet-shaped chests, which Mark and Luke call "the treasury", that the widow of Mar 12:41,42 and Luke 21:1,2 contributed her "mites" (Temple 49).

RECEIVED THEIR REWARD: Gr "apecho", lit "paid in full"! A commercial term for full payment made and receipt given (Sw Luk 6:24; Phi 4:18.)

Mat 6:3

DO NOT LET YOUR LEFT HAND KNOW WHAT YOUR RIGHT HAND IS DOING: Do not even "congratulate" yourself by telling the "old man" inside you! ("Left hand" = baser instincts; "right hand" = higher aspirations.)

Charles Spurgeon and his wife, according to a story, would sell, but refused to give away, the eggs their chickens laid. Even close relatives were told, "You may have them if you pay for them." As a result some people labeled the Spurgeons greedy and grasping.

They accepted the criticisms without defending themselves, and only after Mrs Spurgeon died was the full story revealed. All the profits from the sale of eggs went to support two elderly widows. Because the Spurgeons were unwilling to let their left hand know what the right hand was doing, they endured the attacks in silence.

Mat 6:6

GO INTO YOUR ROOM: By "room" is meant a "closet" (AV).

Jewish men wore a garment called a "talith", "talis", or "prayer shawl", all the time, not just at prayer. "Talith" consists of two Hebrew words; "tal" (tent) and "ith" (little). Thus, each man had his own little tent. (The apostle Paul was a Jewish Pharisee, but also a tentmaker. Some believe that he made prayer shawls, not tents to live in. Since all Jews could not worship in the Tent of Meeting at one time, God gave to each Jew his own private sanctuary where he could meet with God. In prayer, the man would pull it up over his head, forming a tent, where he could retreat to cali upon Yahweh. It was intimate, private, and set apart from anyone else -- enabling him to totally focus upon God. It was his prayer closet.

With this may be compared the words of God through Isaiah: "Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by" (Isa 26:20).

Open doors: for restored communion (2Ch 29:3); deliverance from prison (Act 5:19); surrender (Rev 3:20); service (1Co 16:9); and opportunity (Rev 3:8). Shut doors: for safety (Gen 7:16); privacy and communion (Mat 6:6); faith and prayer (2Ki 4:5,21,33); self-sufficiency (Rev 3:20); and separation and rejection (Mat 25:10).

Mat 6:7

DO NOT KEEP ON BABBLING LIKE PAGANS: "Use not vain repetitions" (AV): cp Pro 10:19; Ecc 5:2. He who knows all things does not need detailed information bulletins.

Mat 6:9

Vv 9-13: OT refs in Lord's prayer: Deu 1:31; Exo 4:22; Hos 11:1; Isa 63:16; 1Ki 8 (8x); Psa 115:1,3.

"Whilst commenting upon the Lord's prayer, it is worth pointing out that the Lord repeated the essence of each phrase at various points during His life. When facing his ultimate struggle of the cross, he asked that the Father's Name would be glorified (Joh 12:28) -- quoting his own words from his model prayer. It hurt and cost him so much to pray that prayer -- the prayer we may have known for so many years that we can pray it almost at no cost. But to truly ask for the Father's will to be done is in fact a commitment to the way of the cross (Joh 6:38; Heb 10:7-10; Mar 14:36). So let us pray the prayer -- but putting meaning into the words" (DH).

"Our Father in heaven" (Mat 6:9); "Father of glory" or "glorious Father" (Eph 1:17); "Father of compassion" (2Co 1:3); "Father of spirits" (Heb 12:9); "Father of the heavenly lights" (Jam 1:17); "a Father to you" (2Co 6:18); "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 15:6).

Things for which to pray: (1) that God's name be honored and respected; (2) that God's kingdom be completed; (3) that God's will be implemented; (4) for physical needs -- daily bread; (5) for social needs -- forgiving and being forgiven; (6) for spiritual needs -- temptation and deliverance.

See Lesson, I cannot say (the Lord's prayer).

See Lord's prayer, an acrostic.

HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME: This phrase uses an aorist tense, which implies that it will be accomplished as a one-time act, at the coming of the Lord. Indeed, the aorist tenses in the Lord's model prayer are arresting; each phrase of the prayer asks for something to be done in a one-time sense. This alone suggests an intended "answer" in terms of the final establishment of the Kingdom.

Mat 6:10

YOUR KINGDOM COME...: "To desire the Kingdom merely as an end for ourselves is to desire not God's Kingdom but our own" (LGS). See Jer 3:17; Dan 2:44.

YOUR WILL BE DONE: That is, NOW! See Mar 14:36; Psa 40:7; Mat 12:5a; Isa 2:2-4.

ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN: May be read to modify all 3 previous clauses.

Mat 6:11

DAILY: Gr "epiousion" (also Luk 11:3) = a daily allowance of food.

A man can no more take a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough today to last him for the next 6 months, nor can he inhale sufficient air into his lungs with one breath to sustain life for a week to come. We are permitted to draw upon God's store of grace from day to day as we need it!

"Back of the loaf is the snowy flour,
And back of the flour the mill;
And back of the mill is the wheat and shower,
And the sun and the Father's will."

Mat 6:12

Belief of gospel, baptism, and forgiveness of sins: Mar 16:15; Act 2:38.

Mat 6:13

God's guidance in life; the power of prayer.

LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION: More lit, "Do not carry us INTO [eis] temptation" -- ie, 'and leave us (or abandon) us there'.

DELIVER US FROM THE EVIL ONE: Or, simply, "evil" (AV; RSV). In the sense of Gal 1:4; 2Ti 4:18. And in temporary sense also: Mat 24:20; 8:26; Psa 18:48.

FROM EVIL: "Apo" = away from.

FOR YOURS IS THE KINGDOM...: Cp 1Ch 29:11; Dan 4:30,34.

AND THE GLORY FOREVER: Eternal life, on earth (Rev 5:9,10). Greatest theme: the glory of God (Isa 11:9).

Mat 6:14

" 'I cannot forgive an offender till he seeks forgiveness, or I make myself as great an offender.'

"There can be no doubt that acknowledgment is the natural and prescribed condition of forgiveness in all cases of unquestionable personal injury in word or deed. Nothing admits so clear and sweet and lasting a reparation. It is the lesson of Moses' Law throughout, and continually exemplified in God's dealings with Israel.

"But in the confusions of human intercourse, in the present state of weakness, there arise hundreds of cases in which it is impossible to apply this law in any strict manner: first, because it usually happens that there are faults on both sides; and second, because it nearly as often happens that where one side may be clean-handed enough, the other side is the offending side not through any intention or desire to do injury -- but through a wrong understanding of things.

"In such cases, no wise man would insist on the unconditional surrender implied in the request for forgiveness. Even in a clear case, he is too conscious of his own shortcomings to take an imperious attitude. He would run more than half way to meet his offending brother if he saw the least disposition to concede the point.

"But as for the idea that forgiveness cannot be granted without confession, and that such forgiveness would be sin, the brother broaching such an idea will be likely to abandon it on full reflection. We are commanded to forgive if confession is made, for this was the point in question when Jesus spoke (Mat 18:21; Luke 17:3,4).

"But we are not forbidden to forgive in the absence of confession. We are at liberty to forgive without it if we like, certainly. Jesus gave us this example: 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do' (Luke 23:34). Paul also: 'I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge' (2Ti 4:16).

"Stephen also (Acts 7:60): all this without confession on the part of the offenders, for they were too dark-minded to know their need for forgiveness. This is the magnanimity which belongs to the children of God, who can even return good for evil. A man may be within his rights who says, 'I will not forgive him unless he ask me' -- though he is marking himself thus as the feeblest of the children of God (if indeed he be of the children, showing thus he hath not the spirit of Christ).

"But there is nothing to hinder a man soaring far above his rights, and saying -- 'This man who has wronged me is too ungifted from God to see what he has done. I will let the matter pass. I will pray God to forgive him; and if He forgive at the judgement seat, the man will gladly see and own his fault: I can wait.'

"The man who applies the rule of confession before forgiveness too strictly is in danger of having the same measure applied to himself. So Christ says (Mat 18:35). And how then? WE CANNOT BE SAVED, for we are too dim-eyed to know all our sins. And if those only are forgiven that we see and admit, the unforgiven balance must sink us to perdition.

"Another point the offended brother should consider is whether his state is due to wounded pride or violated righteousness. If he is expert at self-examination, he will probably find it is the former three times out of four, at least -- for he discovers that other offenses against the law of God do not hurt him at all if they do not touch HIM. If so, he will act wisely to hold his hand, and be as little exacting with the offender as possible.

"On the other hand, the offender should be frank and gracious in his acknowledgments. He rarely is so. As a rule his concession is tardy and ambiguous, and generally takes the shape of an insulting hypothesis -- 'If I have given offense, I am sorry for it.'

"This is not acknowledgment at all, my friend. It may even be an insulting implication to this effect 'I am sorry my neighbor has been such a simpleton as to take offense where it was perfectly unwarrantable he should do so.'

"If you mean confession, let it be fair and square and handsome: 'I have done this: I ought not to have done it: I am sorry for it.'

"Graciousness on one side will lead to graciousness on the other, and love will flow. But that good time has to come! But it will come and the children of mercy will prosper and rejoice" (RR).

"An unforgiving spirit means there is no pardon for your other sins. A rift fostered when it could be healed is a curse upon the life of faith. Neglect hardens the conscience. The mind becomes morbid and multiplies the ill-will. Grace is deferred and guile expands. The need for pardon is calling every disciple to examine at the altar his feelings towards God's other children. An unforgiving spirit means that the desolation of unforgiven sin abides and grows. Here there is no room for negligence. It is too serious and the resulting failure too solemn. We cannot win pardon; we can only receive it gladly and gratefully. Let every troubled heart remove the impediments to pardon and receive it joyfully and find peace" (GD).

Mat 6:19

Vv 19-34: See Lesson, Money. Also see Article, Treasures and treasures.

"When one sees the way in which wealth-getting enters as an ideal into the very bone and marrow of our generation, one wonders whether a revival of the belief that poverty is a worthy religious vocation may not be the spiritual reform which our time stands most in need of... we have grown literally afraid to be poor. We despise anyone who elects to be poor in order to simplify and save his inner life. There are thousands of situations in which a wealth-bound man must be a slave, whilst a man for whom poverty holds no terrors becomes a free man... it is certain that the prevalent fear of poverty among the educated classes is the worst moral disease from which our civilization suffers" (PM 28).

Vv 19,20: Daily work: 1Ti 5:18. Paul's example: 2Th 3:8. To aid others: Luk 8:3; Act 11:29. But work not to be rich: Mat 6:19; Pro 23:4; Mat 19:24. Our foremost goal: "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phi 3:13,14).

WHERE THIEVES BREAK IN AND STEAL: "Dig through", ie, walls of earth or mud bricks, implying the houses of the poorer classes.

Mat 6:20

Treasures in heaven are laid up only as treasures on earth are laid down.

TREASURES IN HEAVEN: "We must move out of the changing, passing fantasies of the present into the realm of unchanging, eternal reality. We must transfer all our affections and possessions there. This is 'laying up treasure in heaven,' where it will be eternally abiding" (GVG).

"Seek not wealth and pleasure and power. Pray fervently for the real treasures: the treasures of character and personality and relationship to God -- for deeper, clearer, stronger faith and vision. Pray for compassion and love and patience and zeal. Pray for knowledge and understanding and wisdom: seek them constantly in the Word. Labor for the imperishable treasures that enrich the mind and the heart, the treasures that become part of yourself forever. External relationships and circumstances are nothing, except as they help to relate us to God and to eternity. Build your character by constant study and self-discipline. Lay up the true riches. Every spiritual thought we think, every spiritual fact we learn, every spiritual deed we do -- adds to our true wealth and inner value. We begin life as useless, valueless, empty shells. Most end life as useless, valueless, empty shells: a once-for-all eternal opportunity frittered away in stupid folly. They only are rich who fill themselves with God's freely offered riches of spiritual instruction and transformation. Let us be rich" (GVG).

A preacher was invited to dinner in the home of a very wealthy man in Texas. After the meal, the host led him to a place where they could get a good view of the surrounding area. Pointing to the oil wells punctuating the landscape, he boasted, "Twenty-five years ago I had nothing. Now, as far as you can see, it's all mine." Looking in the opposite direction at his sprawling fields of grain, he said, "That's all mine." Turning east toward huge herds of cattle, he bragged, "They're all mine." Then pointing to the west and a beautiful forest, he exclaimed, "That too is all mine." He paused, expecting his guest to compliment him on his great success. The preacher, however, placing one hand on the man's shoulder and pointing heavenward with the other, simply said, "How much do you have in that direction?" The man hung his head and confessed, "I never thought of that."

Mat 6:22

Look well to your motives; do not "whittle down" Christ's commandments.

GOOD: "Single" in AV: 2Co 8:2 (liberality, or generosity) is sw. Cp Pro 22:9: "A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor." See also 2Co 9:11; Rom 12:8; Pro 11:25.

Mat 6:23

IF YOUR EYES ARE BAD: Vision distorted by wealth: Deu 15:9; Pro 23:6,7; 28:22: "A stingy man is eager to get rich and is unaware that poverty awaits him."

Mat 6:24

NO ONE CAN SERVE TWO MASTERS: "We claim, and often tell God in prayer, that it is our 'sole desire to serve Him in immortal strength throughout eternity.' Some say 'humble desire' -- though we always wonder at the depth, or even the understanding, of 'humility' of those who tell God they are humble (doubtless we do it ourselves too, as in many other things we wonder about in others). But about this claim to desire to serve God totally and forever, We can show right now whether this is sincerity or just fancy words. If we really do desire to 'serve God throughout eternity,' we shall be serving Him now with all our present mortal strength and life, and mind and goods, or else all our fine words are froth. We shall recognize that we have no time to spare -- yea, we shall have no desire -- for anything else except providing the bare necessities of life so that we may wholly serve Him. Does our way of life confirm or belie our so noble protestations? Do we think God is deceived by mere words?" (GVG).

YOU CANNOT SERVE BOTH GOD AND MONEY: "God in mind at every moment: that is the ideal. Be satisfied with nothing less. We shall forget, and wander, and fail a million times, but we must keep on roughly and doggedly pulling our minds back, over and over and over, until it becomes second nature. This is the only way anything is learned, and this is the greatest of all learning: the only true learning at all. Accept nothing less of yourself, for nothing less is acceptable. Eternity of joy with God is a mighty, glorious, incomprehensible destiny. It is not for the half-hearted, the wavering, timid, double-minded devotees of half-measures and divided interests. 'Ye cannot serve God and mammon... Choose ye this day whom ye will serve!' The present life is the briefest of moments in the vast sweep of endless time. Its only value and meaning is its once-for-all opportunity of seizing the glories of eternity. Would you stop to play with baubles on a rapidly sinking ship? You have but the briefest of moments to decide, the smallest of gifts to offer to God in thanksgiving for His goodness: trade it all -- gratefully and without hesitation or regret -- for the infinite wealth of eternity" (GVG).

"The moment we make up our minds that we are going on with this determination to exalt God over all we step out of the world's parade. We shall find ourselves out of adjustment to the ways of the world, and increasingly so as we make progress in the holy way. We shall acquire a new viewpoint; a new and different psychology will be formed within us; a new power will begin to surprise us by it upsurgings and its outgoings. Our break with the world will be the direct outcome of our changed relation to God. For the world of fallen men does not honor God. Millions call themselves by His Name, it is true, and pay some token respect to Him, but a simple test will show how little He is really honored among them. Let the average man be put to the proof on the question of who is above, and his true position will be exposed. Let him be forced into making a choice between God and money, between God and men, between God and personal ambition, God and self, God and human love, and God will take second place every time. Those other things will be exalted above. However the man may protest, the proof is in the choices he makes day after day throughout his life" (AWT).

MONEY: Or "Mammon" (AV). Sig riches in a bad sense; poss derived from Heb "cause to trust".

Examples of personification: riches (Mat 6:24); sin (Joh 8:34; Rom 5:21; 6:16); spirit (Joh 16:13); wisdom (Pro 3:13-15; 9:1); Israel (Jer 31:4,18); people of Christ (Eph 4:4,13; 5:23; Rev 19:7; 1Co 12:27; 2Co 11:2; Col 1:18,24).

Mat 6:25

DO NOT WORRY ABOUT YOUR LIFE...: But we must not tempt God (Mat 4:7); we must work nevertheless (2Th 3:10; 1Ti 5:8).

It is a revolutionary concept, totally foreign to our natural inclinations. But Jesus does not bid us obey him without reasons. He gives, in fact, seven good reasons (vv 25-34) why this philosophy makes sense: v 25: Life itself is more important than those things that sustain it. If our lives come from God and are held in His hand, then certainly, when we do our part faithfully in the great adventure of dedication and service, the lesser matters will be taken care of.

Mat 6:26

The birds do not make frantic provision. They do not worry or scheme or plan. And you, Jesus says, are much more important than they are (Mat 10:29-31). Even the unclean ravens are cared for by God (Luk 12:24; cp Mat 10:29; Luk 12:6; Psa 147:8,9,11). God even gives laws to benefit the birds (Deu 22:6,7).

BARNS: Ct Luk 12:18: "This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods."

Mat 6:27

Better, "Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?"

LIFE: Or "age": Joh 9:21,23; Heb 11:11; Luk 2:52.

Mat 6:28

Vv 28-30: If God takes such care for the flowers that will soon shrivel in the heat, will He not provide much better for you, His children, made in His image?

LILIES OF THE FIELD: "The flower, beautiful in form;
The bird, beautiful in motion and melody.
Merely by being themselves,
by living the only life they can live,
they manifest the God that made them beautiful.
So will it be at last in the liberation
of the spirit from the bondage of the flesh" (GbS 108).

Mat 6:29

NOT EVEN SOLOMON: When the queen of Sheba came to see Solomon, she marveled at even the garments of his servants (1Ki 10:5). Yet Solomon himself must have been arrayed far more splendidly than they! But the wildflowers of Galilee, like the anemone in its matchless loveliness, were arrayed far better than even Solomon! Thus Jesus rebukes alike the poor and anxious, and the rich and self-indulgent. The garment of righteousness which God provides outmatches them all -- queen of Sheba, king of Israel, clothes-conscious moneyspender of our age!

Finally, does this imply that Solomon was NOT clothed with the righteousness of Christ?

EVEN SOLOMON IN ALL HIS SPLENDOR: "Only the very young or the very foolish would wish to ape the luxury of a wholly different class of society from their own. Yet Jesus pricks the bubble of all such comparison by taking as example the extreme of magnificence -- Solomon enthroned in regal array. For such comparisons differ only in degree: every step up leads only to emulation of the rank above. We attain with much struggle a level of comfort or standard of appearance which for the moment seems to fulfil our ambition. Ten years later the bloom has rubbed off our prize; that which gave us a glowing satisfaction is viewed almost with distaste: we must go on to get something more. Jesus saw that there was no limit to human vanity, and no final standard but the pinnacle of splendour" (TM 220).

Mat 6:30

THE GRASS OF THE FIELD: "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field" (Isa 40:6).

Mat 6:31

SO DO NOT WORRY: "Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever" (Isak Dinesen). "Worry is interest paid on trouble before it falls due" (William Ralph Inge).

Mat 6:32

V 32a: The nations that do not know God worry and hoard riches. Surely you will not be like them!

V 32b: Your Heavenly Father knows what you need. He will not forget.

Nevertheless, cp 1Ti 5:8; 2Th 3:10; Act 18:3; 20:34 on the necessity to work.

Mat 6:33

SEEK FIRST HIS KINGDOM: Which it is your Father's good pleasure to give you (Luk 12:32).

AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS: God's righteousness, and not our own (Phi 2:13; 3:9; Joh 15:4; Psa 37:3,4)!

Do we have the COURAGE to put God first in all things?

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2Co 4:18).

"Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around about drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are too easily pleased" (CSL).

"I asked God to take away my habit.
God said, 'No. It is not for me to take away, but for you to give it up.'
I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.
God said, 'No. His mind is whole, his body is only temporary.'
I asked God to grant me patience.
God said, 'No. Patience is a byproduct of tribulations; It isn't granted, it is learned.'
I asked God to give me happiness.
God said, 'No. I give you blessings; Happiness is up to you.'
I asked God to spare me pain.
God said, 'No. Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares, and brings you closer to me.'
I asked God to make my character grow.
God said, 'No. You must grow on your own, but I will prune you to make you fruitful.'
I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life.
God said, 'No. I will give you life, so that you may enjoy all things.'
I asked God to help me LOVE others, as much as He loves me.
God said, 'Ahhhh, finally you have the idea.' "

Mat 6:34

"One day at a time": The world is such an evil place that we need as much of our mental resources as can be spared to face the spiritual trials of today. To borrow worries from next week is to overburden our capabilities and risk failure in spiritual pursuits.

"This is the NOW we are living in; do not be distracted by the claims of tomorrow, or the worries of yesterday."

"For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision.
But today well lived makes
Yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope."

DO NOT WORRY ABOUT TOMORROW: "One day Dwight Morrow and his wife, the parents of Anne Lindbergh, were in Rugby, England. After wandering through the streets they realized that they had lost their way. At this moment an incident occurred that entered into Morrow's philosophy and became a guiding principle in his life. He stopped a little Rugby lad of about 12 years. 'Could you tell us the way to the station?' he asked. 'Well,' the boy answered, 'You turn to the right there by the grocer's shop and then take the second street to the left. That will bring you to a place where four streets meet. And then, sir, you had better inquire again.'

This answer came to symbolize for Dwight Morrow his own method of approaching complicated problems. It implied in the first place a realistic skepticism regarding the capacity of human intelligence. It was in the second place an object lesson in the inevitability of gradualness. And in the third place, it was a parable of how, when the ultimate end is uncertain, one should endeavor to advance, if only a little way, in the correct, rather than the incorrect direction."

There are two days in every week that we should not worry about. Two days that should be kept free from fear and apprehension.

One is "Yesterday"...
With its mistakes and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains.
Yesterday has passed -- forever beyond our control.
All the money in the world cannot bring back yesterday.
We cannot undo a single act we performed, nor can we erase a single word we've said...
Yesterday is gone!

The other day is "Tomorrow"...
With its impossible adversaries, its burdens, its hopeful promise and poor performance.
Tomorrow is beyond our control.
Tomorrow's sun will rise either in splendor or behind a bank of clouds... but it will rise. And until it does, we have no stake in tomorrow, for it is yet unborn.

This leaves only "Today"...
Any person can fight the battles of just one day.
It is only when we add the burdens of yesterday and tomorrow that we break down.
It is not the experience of today that drives people mad, it's the remorse for something that happened yesterday and the dread of what tomorrow might bring...

Therefore... let us live... one day at a time.

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