6:1 Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men1, to be seen of them: else ye have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT. (A mountain plateau not far from Capernaum.) E. ALMSGIVING, PRAYER, AND FASTING TO BE PERFORMED SINCERELY, NOT OSTENTATIOUSLY. Matthew 6:1-18
Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men. This verse
refers back to Matthew
5:20, where the disciple is told that his righteousness must exceed that
of the scribes and Pharisees. Matthew's fifth chapter deals with the actions
themselves, but this sixth chapter treats of the motives and manners of our
6:2 When therefore thou doest alms, sound
not a trumpet before thee1, as
the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets2,
that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They
have received their reward3.
Sound not a trumpet before thee. Trumpets were sounded as signals
to large bodies. This fact gave to the word "trumpet" a symbolic
significance. Anything which is noised or blazoned abroad is spoken of as
being "trumpeted". The figure also conveys the idea of pompous
self-laudation. Hence we still speak of an egotistical man as one who
"blows his own trumpet".
As the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets. The
hypocrites of that day did not blow a literal trumpet to call attention to
their gifts any more than the hypocrites of this day do. But they used
methods to call attention to their generosity as those of our time do when
they publish an account of their munificence in the newspapers. Almsgiving
was a prominent feature of Jewish life. Transplanted from Judaism,
almsgiving became one of the characteristic features of the early church (Acts
2:10). On the significance of the synagogue, see Mark
They have received their reward. Christ corrected the error as to
it in what he said about the widow's mites (Mark
21:3,4). As these hypocrites sought the praise of men, they had their
reward when they received it.
6:3 But when thou
doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth1:
But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right
hand doeth. Jesus here recommends secret and noiseless giving, by the
never-to-be-forgotten metaphor of the left and right hand. Our generosity is
to come so spontaneously, and with so little thought, that the liberality of
one part of the body shall not be communicated to the other. The command
does not forbid publicity, but that spirit which "desires"
6:4 that thine alms
may be in secret1: and thy Father
who seeth in secret shall recompense thee2.
That thine alms may be in secret. Toplady says,
"The true Christian cares not how much men hear of his
"public" charities, nor how little they hear of his
Good deeds may be published by others to stimulate good in others; but
care should be taken lest they be stimulated to give for the sake of like
And thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee. Salvation
is a matter of favor, and not of merit. But there is, nevertheless, a
recompense attendant upon it. The joys of the world come, and the blessings
in this world are included in that recompense (Matthew
6:5 And when ye
pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites1: for they love to
stand and pray in the synagogues3
and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say
unto you, They have received their reward.
And when ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites. Jesus deals
with our conduct toward God as well as toward man. However perfectly we may
act toward man, our life is one-sided and imperfect if we omit or improperly
perform our duties toward God.
For they love to stand and pray . . . that they may be seen of men.
The Pharisaical habit of standing in a prayerful attitude, to be seen of
men, was certainly not prayer. In their case public opinion, and not the
praise of God, "was the wind that set the wind-mill a-work"
(Trapp). As Pharisees loved the standing and not the praying, so Christians
should love the praying and not the standing. Yet prayer for the edification
or comfort of others is not here condemned. Prayer itself is nowhere
condemned. It is the ostentatious prayer-attitude which Jesus stamps with
his displeasure. Needless attitudes of private prayer in pulpit and pew are
In the synagogues. See Mark
6:6 But thou, when
thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber1, and
having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret2,
and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee.
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber. The
inner chamber was properly a little room in the interior of the house or on
the housetop, but it is here used to indicate any place of privacy,
And having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret. The
shut door emphasizes the strictness of the privacy, for in all personal
prayer we should strive to be alone with God. Jesus found a prayer- chamber
upon the mountain-top and in the garden.
6:7 And in praying
use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do1: for they
think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do. For
samples of repetitions, see 1 Kings
19:34. Strictly speaking, Jesus does not here forbid either a long
prayer, or the use of the same words in a prayer when the heart sincerely
prompts the utterance. He himself prayed at great length, even continuing in
prayer all night (Luke
6:12), and in the garden he thrice repeated the same words. What he does
forbid is making the number and length of prayers an object of consideration
or a source of trust. This command is especially violated by the repetitions
of the Roman Catholic rosary. Speech to God cannot be ordered too carefully
6:8 Be not therefore like unto them: for
your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him1.
For your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
In stating that God knows our desires before we ask, Jesus gives the reason
against vain repetitions. God does not need elaborate explanations, and
prayer is not uttered to inform him, but to put ourselves in such communion
with him as to make us fit to receive. Moreover, prayer is a matter of
asking and receiving, and not a meritorious service, as Mohammedans and
Catholics still hold, and as the Pharisees held. With them, as public
prayers were to gain credit with men, so long and repeated prayers were to
obtain merit before God. Christ teaches contrary to all this.
6:9 After this
manner therefore pray ye1. Our
Father who art in heaven2, Hallowed be thy name.
After this manner therefore pray ye. Having pointed out the errors
which then characterized prayer, Jesus proceeds to give a brief outline as a
model in matter, arrangement, and expression.
As to the prayer generally, we note the following: It is divided into two
sections, and each section is subdivided into three heads. Of these the
first three are invocations for the glory of God; thus: (1) That God may be
glorified in his name, so that it shall be universally reverenced; (2) That
God may be glorified in his kingdom--that kingdom before which every power
of evil shall eventually fall; (3) That God may be glorified in the hearts
of humanity by all men becoming obedient unto his will (Matthew
6:9,10). These petitions come first, for it is of first importance to us
that God should be honored in his person, in his authority and in his
desires. The three petitions represent three stages of spiritual growth in
the communion and fellowship with God. We first know and revere his name as
God. From that we advance to the full recognition of his royal and divine
authority. And from this in turn we again advance until we know him fully as
Father, and forgetting his authority, perform his wishes through the joyous
constraint of love, as do the angels in heaven.
The second three petitions are for humanity; thus: (1) For their bodies,
that they may have sustenance (Matthew
6:11). (2) For their souls in things concerning the past--that past
trespasses may be forgiven (Matthew
6:12). (3) For their souls as to the future, that they may be enabled to
avoid temptation, and that they may be finally delivered from evil (Matthew
Our Father who art in heaven. The common Jewish invocation was,
"O Lord God of our fathers". Jesus, as the brother of man,
introduced this new and precious invocation, which puts us in prayer's
6:10 Thy kingdom
come1. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.
Thy kingdom come. This is the first section of the prayer.
6:11 Give us this
day our daily bread1.
Give us this day our daily bread. So long as it is "this
day" we do not need tomorrow's bread. It is a petition for milk and
honey, symbols of luxury, but for bread, life's staff and necessity, and for
bread in moderation--bestowed day by day, like the manna.
6:12 And forgive
us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors1.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
This is the one thing needful to the soul in regard to the past. Since a
certain soul condition is necessary (viz.: the spirit of forgiveness), as a
condition precedent to obtaining this petition, that condition is plainly
stated in the petition itself. God cannot forgive the temper that is
unforgiving, for it can only exist in a heart blind as to the amount of its
debt. Forgiveness, too, must be a completed act before we begin to pray. Our
Lord lays stress on this one point in the prayer, returning to it after he
had closed the form, that he may assure us that the divine procedure will,
in this respect, be fashioned to our own. "Debt" is a mild word
for our sin, and is broader than "trespass". Trespass indicates a
misstep, a wrong-doing, but debt an unfulfilled obligation of any kind. We
must not be hard in exacting our rights, when to do so would be oppressive.
In the prayer as usually publicly repeated, the word "trespasses"
is often used in place of the word "debts". This is a remnant of
Tyndale's translation (A.D. 1526) which has been preserved and handed down
in the Episcopal Liturgies. Tyndale renders Matthew as follows: "And
forgive us our trespases even as we forgive them which trespas vs".
6:13 And bring us
not into temptation1, but deliver us from the evil [one.]
And bring us not into temptation. This petition, to be effective,
must be followed by an earnest effort on our part to fulfill it. God does
not tempt us (James
1:13), but he can permit us to be led into temptation, or he can shield
is from it, only permitting us to enter so far into it as to come off
victorious over it (1 Corinthians
10:13; 2 Peter
2:9); so that it shall prove unto us a blessing instead of a curse (James
But deliver us from the evil [one]. We prefer to read "the
evil", rather than "the evil one", for the neuter is more
comprehensive (2 Timothy
4:18), and includes deliverance from the evil thoughts of man's own
heart, and from evils from without as well as temptations of Satan.
6:14 For if ye
forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you1.
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also
forgive you. Forgiveness may be difficult, but it is essential: we
should realize that as we pray. Jesus presents this truth positively and
negatively, that we may make no mistake about it.
6:15 But if ye forgive not men their
trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Those who are accustomed to repeat the Lord's Prayer will notice that the
doxology with which it closes is omitted. It was probably inserted from some
early liturgy. It is absent from the oldest manuscripts, and interrupts the
connection of the thought about forgiveness. All textual editors omit it.
6:16 Moreover when
ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance1:
for they disfigure their faces2,
that they may be seen of men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have received
When ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance.
Fasting, as an aid to meditation and prayer, is a wholesome practice, but
stated fasts lead to hollow formality, and fasts which are endured for
public praise are an abomination.
For they disfigure their faces. By omitting to wash their faces and
neglecting to dress or anoint their beards.
6:17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint
thy head1, and wash thy face;
Anoint thy head. His words allude to the practice of anointing.
Rich Jews were accustomed to anoint their bodies daily with olive or sweet
oil. This was refreshing, and prevented many of the disease which the dry,
hot air of Palestine made prevalent. The custom still prevails among Eastern
6:18 that thou be
not seen of men to fast, but of thy Father who is in secret1:
and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall recompense thee.
That thou be not seen of men to fast, but of thy Father who is in
secret. Christ admonishes us to conceal the fast, and so avoid the
temptation to be hypocritically ostentatious, for fasting is intended for
self-abasement, and not to cultivate pride.
6:19 Lay not up
for yourselves treasures upon the earth1, where
moth and rust consume2, and where
thieves break through and steal3:
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT. (A mountain plateau not far from Capernaum.) F.
SECURITY OF HEAVENLY TREASURES CONTRASTED WITH EARTHLY ANXIETIES. Matthew
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth. A too literal
compliance with this negative precept would discourage thrift. The precept
is not intended to discourage the possession of property in moderation, but
if forbids us to hoard for selfish purposes, or to look upon our possessions
as permanent and abiding. The lives of many men of our day seem to be
employed to no other purpose than that of amassing an abundance of earthly
treasure. But no true Christian can envy them, or follow their example.
Where moth and rust consume. In our Lord's time banks, such as we
have, were unknown, and in order to keep money its possessor frequently
buried it, thus subjecting it to rest and corrosion. The havoc caused by
moths is too familiar to need comment (James
5:2). Costly and ornamental apparel was reckoned among a man's chief
treasures in olden times. See Joshua
7:21; 2 Kings
Where thieves break through and steal. Oriental houses were
frequently made of loose stone or sun-dried bricks, so that the thief found
it easier to enter by digging through the wall than by opening the barred
6:20 but lay up
for yourselves treasures in heaven1, where neither moth
nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. As the impossibility
of hoarding earthly treasures is in Matthew
6:19 urged as a reason against it, so in this verse the possibility of
amassing perpetual possessions in heaven is set forth as the reason why we
should do it. Thus the striking contrast between the two kinds of treasures
is brought to our notice, so that it is the height of folly not to make a
proper choice between them.
6:21 for where thy
treasure is, there will thy heart be also1.
For where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also. Having
contrasted the two treasures, Jesus here suggests the contrast between the
two places where they are stored up. Since the heart follows the treasure,
that it may dwell with the object of its love, we should place our treasures
in heaven, even if the treasures there were no better than the treasures on
earth; for it is better that our hearts should abide in the city of God than
on this sinful earth.
6:22 The lamp of
the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single1,
thy whole body shall be full of light.
The lamp of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single,
thy whole body shall be full of light. In these two verses there is
a brief allegory, the meaning of which is to be ascertained from the
context. The subject under consideration is the propriety of laying up
treasures, not on earth, but in heaven, and the effect which treasures have
upon the heart. Now, the heart or affection is to the soul much the same as
the eye is to the body. If we do not set our affections upon spiritual
things, the time quickly comes when we cannot see them (1 Corinthians
3:19-21). Jesus therefore represents our affections as if they were an
eye. If the eye is single--that is, if it sees nothing with a double or
confused vision--then the man receives through it clear views of the outside
world, and his inner man is, so to speak, full of light. But if his eye is
diseased or blinded, then his inner man is likewise darkened. Applying the
allegory to the spiritual man, if his heart is single in its love toward God
and the things of God, then he has clear views as to the relative importance
and value of things temporal and eternal, things earthly and things
heavenly. But if the heart looks with a double interest upon both earthly
and heavenly treasure, it makes the man double-minded (James
1:6-8), and so spoils his life. God does not permit a double affection
any more than he does a double service, and a man who seeks to continue in
it will soon be visited with great darkness as to the things of God, and
will become blind in heart and conscience (Romans
6:23 But if thine
eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness1. If
therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is the darkness2!
But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.
But if his eye is diseased or blinded, then his inner man is likewise
darkened. Applying the allegory to the spiritual man, if his heart is single
in its love toward God and the things of God, then he has clear views as to
the relative importance and value of things temporal and eternal, things
earthly and things heavenly. But if the heart looks with a double interest
upon both earthly and heavenly treasure, it makes the man double-minded (James
1:6-8), and so spoils his life. See Matthew
If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is the
darkness! God does not permit a double affection any more than he does a
double service, and a man who seeks to continue in it will soon be visited
with great darkness as to the things of God, and will become blind in heart
and conscience (Romans
6:24 No man can
serve two masters1; for either he will hate the one, and
love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye
cannot serve God and mammon2.
No man can serve two masters. Jesus here assumes that we are framed
to serve (Genesis
2:15); and hence that we must choose our master, for it is impossible to
serve two masters whose interests are differing and conflicting.
Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Mammon was a common Chaldee word
used in the East to express material riches. It is here personified as a
kind of god of this world. These masters conflict here, for it is mammon's
interest to be hoarded and loved, but it is God's interest that mammon be
distributed to the needy and be lightly esteemed. God claims our supreme
love and our undivided service.
6:25 Therefore I say unto you, be
not anxious for your life1, what
ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body2,
what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the
Be not anxious for your life. The word "anxious" is
derived from "merimnao", a word which indicates a state of doubt
or double- mindedness. It therefore indicates that sense of suspense or
worry which comes from a mind in doubt. Compare Luke
12:29. Hence we may say that Jesus is here continuing the contrasts of Matthew
6:24, and that, having warned against a double vision and a double
service, he now warns against a double mind as to the comparative value of
the benefits to be derived from the service of God or the service of mammom.
What ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body,
what ye shall put on. Mammon can only supply food, but God gives
the life; mammon can only furnish clothing, but God gives the body. By
single-mindedness we can find peace, for God is to be relied upon. By
double-mindedness we fall to worrying, for mammon may fail to supply those
things which we feel we need.
6:26 Behold the birds of the heaven, that
they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly
Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value then
Behold the birds of the heaven . . . your heavenly Father feedeth them.
Literally, do ye not greatly excel them. The birds do not serve mammon at
all, yet God feeds them.
Are not ye of much more value then they? Surely, then, man who
excels the birds both in his intrinsic value and in his capacity for
temporal and eternal service, can expect to receive from God his sufficient
6:27 And which of
you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life1?
And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of
his life? Peace and trust characterize the service of God. The rewards
of mammon, on the contrary, are won by anxiety. But the rewards of mammon
cannot lengthen life as can God. Therefore we should not hesitate to choose
6:28 And why are ye anxious concerning
raiment? Consider the lilies of the field1,
how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
Consider the lilies of the field. Which lily is here meant cannot
be determined. Calcott thinks it was the fragrant white lily which grows
profusely all over Palestine. Smith favors the scarlet martagon; Tristam,
the anemone coronaria; and Thomson, the Huleh lily, a species of iris. It is
likely, however, that scholars are trying to draw distinctions where Jesus
himself drew none. It is highly probable that in popular speech many of the
common spring flowers were loosely classes together under the name lily.
6:29 yet I say unto you, that even
Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these1.
Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
The magnificence of Solomon and of his court is proverbial in the East unto
this day. To the Jew he was the highest representative of earthly grandeur,
yet he was surpassed by the common lily of the field. See Song
of Solomon 3:6-11.
6:30 But if God doth so clothe the grass of
the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, [shall he] not
much more [clothe] you, O ye of little faith2?
The grass of the field, which . . . is cast into the oven. As to
the grass and oven we may say that the forests of Palestine had been cleared
off centuries earlier, and the people were accustomed to use the dried
grass, mingled with wild flowers and weeds, for fuel. The oven was a large,
round pot of earthenware, or other material, two or three feet high, and
narrowing toward the top. This was first heated by fire within, after which
the fire was raked out, and the dough put inside. Such is still the
O ye of little faith. As Bengal notes,
"This is the only term of reproach Jesus applied to his
6:31 Be not
therefore anxious1, saying, What shall we eat? or, What
shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
Be not therefore anxious. God's care for the grass which lasts but
for a day should teach us to expect that he will show more interest in
providing for those who have been fashioned for eternity.
6:32 For after all
these things do the Gentiles seek1; for your
heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things2.
For after all these things do the Gentiles seek. Christians having
a heavenly Father to supply their wants, should not live like the Gentiles,
who have no consciousness of such a Father. Of what use is all our religious
knowledge if we are still as careworn and distrustful as the benighted
Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
Here is the panacea for anxiety. Being God, the Supreme One knows; being a
Father, he feels. Many repose with confidence upon the regularity and
beneficence of his providential laws; but far sweeter is that assurance
which arises from a sense of God's personal interest in our individual
welfare--an interest manifested by the gift of his Son.
6:33 But seek ye
first his kingdom, and his righteousness1; and
all these things shall be added unto you2.
But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness. The kingdom
of heaven is the real object of our search. It must be sought first both in
point of time and of interest, and it must be kept ever first in our
thoughts after it is found.
And all these things shall be added unto you. That Christian faith
and obedience leads to worldly prosperity is proved by countless instances
which are multiplied with each succeeding day. The security of Christ's
kingdom leads to that cheerfulness which renews the strength, and to that
undistracted industry which brings success.
6:34 Be not
therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself1.
Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious
for itself. Each day has trouble enough without adding to it by
borrowing somewhat from the morrow. Serve God today with the strength you
used to expend in carrying troubles which you borrowed from the future, and
God will order the affairs of tomorrow.