About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

Home Page

This Section - Chapter 6

Previous Section - Chapter 5

Next Section - Chapter 7

ch. 6:1-4    ch. 6:5-15     ch. 6:16-18

ch. 6:19-24     ch. 6:25-34

Giving To The Needy (ch. 6:1 - 4)


We are in the middle of what has been called “The Sermon On The Mount”.  Jesus has been speaking about what it means to “live righteously”.  Here in chapter 6 verse 1 Jesus tells His followers “to be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them”.  These words are in direct opposition to what His disciples would normally see the Jewish leaders do.  The religious leaders were constantly doing so-called acts or works of righteousness in public places to be seen.   This was not to be the way disciples of Jesus should do their acts of righteousness.


If you perform your good deeds so everyone can see them, then you will not get any reward from your Father in Heaven, Jesus says.  This tells me that we will be rewarded for good works done from proper heart felt motives. The Scripture is clear on this point.  Salvation is a free gift from God for those who give their lives to Jesus, yet rewards are something beyond salvation.  They will be granted to those who do good from a pure heart.  This is because God is just, and justice demands rewards for the good as well as punishment for the bad.


In 1 Cor. 3:10 to 16 Paul says that our deeds will be judged with fire and only those works done from pure motives will survive the fire and be rewarded.  The rest will burn up and will not be rewarded for.


In verse 2 Jesus says that when you give to the poor, don’t announce it to everyone with trumpets as the hypocrites in the Temple do.  Of course, the hypocrites Jesus is speaking about are the Pharisees, and the rest of the Jewish religious leadership.


Note that the first example of good works Jesus speaks of is giving to the poor.  Giving to the poor should be one of the first ways in which the church and Christians give.  This giving is clearly with money and whatever else you can give the poor to better their situation. Sometimes there are better things to give than money.  Helping with a better education might be one example.


So often in today’s church giving to the poor is at the bottom of the list.  Giving to the church’s needs is at the top of the list.


In the last part of verse 2 Jesus states that the hypocrites in the Temple have already gotten their reward.  The acclamation they receive from those who see them do their good works is their reward.  When we do anything in front of anyone the human tendency is to want the accolades, the praise and the honour.  This is just as much true with Christians and Christian ministries as it is within non-Christian  circles.  As a matter of fact the Sunday morning meeting promotes the tendency towards pride more than most things we do.  The elevated platform, the pulpit, the sermon, all eyes on the pastor, and all the rest makes the one up front feel extremely important.  There’s a lot of carnal rewards in such a situation.


In verse 3 Jesus says that when the disciples of His give to the needy, “don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing”.   Of course this is another one of the Hebrew figure of speeches.  The point is clear though.  We are to be so secretive, if you want to use that word, about our giving that no one needs to know.  In this case, you will not receive the carnal reward from others, because they won’t know you’ve ever given.  They may even think the opposite of you.  They may think that you’re not such a good Christian because you don’t give, yet in actuality they’re wrong because you do give.  They just don’t know you give.


If you didn’t particularly like  the word “secretive” in the last paragraph you might want to note verse 4 because Jesus Himself uses the word “secret”.  He tells His followers that if you do your good deeds in secret, then your “Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you”.  It really should not matter if no one knows you do good deeds.  The important person will know, and He is God, because He sees everything. There are no secrets with God.


Our Father in Heaven sees everything that is done in secret. There is nothing hid from Him. Even the deep thoughts and motives of our hearts are seen by Him.  And this is why Jesus is saying so much about these heart issues in these chapters.  God sees every thought and motive of our hearts.  He will reward us according to these things.


Prayer (ch. 6:5 - 15)


Jesus is going to speak about prayer in this section.  In verse 5 He tells His followers not to “pray as the hypocrites” pray.  He is referring to the Jewish leadership here when He uses the word hypocrites.  The only reason why these men were praying was to be seen by others.  That would make them to appear real religious.  Jesus says that they have received their reward already, meaning, the praise and the acknowledgment they get from man is their reward.


It makes me wonder how many of our prayers are prayed for other reasons than simply talking to Jesus.  Some people use their prayers to preach. Some use their prayers to spread gossip.  There’s many reasons why we pray, but the only reason should be to speak to our Lord Jesus.


In verse 6 Jesus tells His followers to pray in just the opposite way the Pharisees prayed.  He tells them to go into their room, close the door and pray in secret to your Father in Heaven.  No one can show off, preach or spread gossip while praying in their room all alone.  It’s likely that many Christians do more praying in public than they do in private. 


Jesus tells us to pray to our Father.  The question is often asked, “who should we pray to”.  Without going into all of the Scriptures, I believe that it is proper to pray to our Father, and to Jesus, and to the Holy Spirit.  There are examples of all three in the Bible.


In the rest of verse 6 Jesus states that your Father who is unseen and sees what is done in secret will reward you.   It is clear that God our Father sees everything we do, and not only everything we do, but every motive and thought of our heart.


In verse 7 Jesus tells His followers not to keep babbling as the pagans pray. Pagans pray worthless prayers to worthless gods.  Babbling suggests that we can pray worthless prayers as well.  Worthless babbling would be to just carry on praying lengthy prayers without really knowing who you’re praying to.  Babbling would simply be any prayer that isn’t prayed for the right reason.


There are some among Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians who say the word “God” every two or three words while they’re praying.  The prayer might go like this.  “God, we come God to your altar God and seek you God for You Gad are God and we give you God honour God…”  Do you see my point? We would not speak to a friend and call our friend by name every three words, so why should we do this with God.  It tells me that we don’t really know to whom we are speaking to.  This is vain babbling, not inspired praying as some suggest.


In verse 8 Jesus gives a reason why we shouldn’t babble away in prayer.  He says that our Father in heaven knows what we are going to ask for before we even ask.  There is a couple of things to note here.  Jesus is equating prayer with “asking for something”.   We know that prayer is more than simply asking from God. Worship and praise are part of praying as well  I note this because Jesus has no problem with us asking things from our heavenly Father, of course as long as it is in the name of Jesus. 


One theme in this section has to do with God knowing.  One of the five main attributes associated with God is that He is all-knowing, meaning, there is not anything that He does not know. So there’s no point to babbling on with long prayers, because He knows what you are going to be praying before you even begin.


Verse 9 says, “this is then how you should pray”.  What comes next is what we have called “The Lord’s Prayer”  It is my thinking that Jesus never intended this prayer to become the prayer of prayers that is repeated every Sunday.  I believe this prayer is a sample prayer. The structure of the prayer is the important things.  Copying the prayer isn’t important in my thinking, especially as Christians when we have the Holy Spirit to help us when praying.


The first phrase of this sample prayer tells you who you are praying to, and it is to “our Father”.  Note that Father isn’t “my Father”.   God, the Father of Jesus is also the Father of the disciples of Jesus, and He lives in Heaven.


We’ve touched on this earlier but I will repeat it again.  There is sufficient New Testament evidence to show  that we can pray to all three persons in the Trinity.  Jesus can’t tell His followers at this point to pray to Him since He is standing right by their sides at this present moment.  It would make no sense to say, “our Jesus”.   It would make no sense either to say, “our Holy Spirit” since He has not yet been given to the believers.


The last part of verse 9 says, “hallowed be your name”.   Right away in this sample prayer Jesus wants us to understand the greatness of the One we are praying to.  We recognize that our Father is “hallowed”.  The word “hallowed” is translated from a Greek word that has its roots in another Greek word we translate as “holy”.  The word means “to set aside as holy, as being special, as being the opposite to being common”.  When we recognize God as being hallowed, we are recognizing Him as being the only true God. There is no one like Him.  He is one of a kind.  He is supreme over all there is, both natural and spiritual.  This is the first and foremost idea we should have in our minds as we approach our heavenly Father in prayer.  Before we ask anything, we should recognize Him for who He is.         


Verse 10 says, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.   The next words are a request.  Notice the request is not a personal request.  It’s not asking God for a new car.  It’s not asking our Father for healing, or for anything associated with us or our friends.  It’s a request that our Father’s kingdom come to earth so that His will be done on this planet. This is what “asking in the name of Jesus” is all about. 


God’s kingdom came in a spiritual sense to His followers on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. His Kingdom will come in a material sense when Jesus returns to set up the Kingdom of God at the end of this age.


Verse 11 is a personal request.  We ask God “for our daily bread”.  This request is not for a new car. It’s for our basic need, that is, food.  The request is for food for today, not even tomorrow.   It implies that we will come back to our Father the next day to ask for that day’s food.  This is the only request for anything personal or material in this prayer.


Verse 12 in the NIV reads, "forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors."   The KJV reads, "and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors."   The two renderings might appear to be exactly the same, but at a closer glance you'll see they're slightly different, or should I say, the NIV's rendering best brings out the meaning of what Jesus is saying.  Before we try to understand what Jesus is saying there are a couple presuppositions that we need to understand first.


Since Jesus spoke these words, we need to understand what He meant by these words.  We too often insert our meaning of words into the Bible.   In many cases the way we understand words is not the way Bible writers understood these words.  The Greek word "aphieni" is the word that is translated as "forgive".  This word simply means "to send away".  Thus, other words that can be used to define "aphieni" or "forgive" are, to cancel, to delete, or to let go.


Our culture defines "forgive" as "the letting go of bitterness".  Jesus defined it as "the letting go of sin", or "the canceling of sin". The Greek  word "aphiemi" is best understood as an accounting term, as in the cancelation of a financial "debt".  We see the word "debt" in this verse.  The Greek word translated as debt is "ophelilema"  which simply means "something that is owed".  "Ophelilema" also can be best understood as an accounting or bookkeeping term.  The "something that is owed" in this verse is "sin".   When someone offends you, as in, sins against you, the Bible sees that as a debt that either remains on one's record books or else cancelled. 


Another presupposition that Jesus understood as he said these words is that a debt of sin could only be cancelled upon the request of the offender.  That's called "repentance".  Therefore when Jesus speaks of the forgiveness, or the cancelation of sin, that only happens when the offender, or sinner repents.  Repent  simply means to acknowledge the sin, and change your mind concerning the sin.  Repent doesn't simply mean saying "I'm sorry".  It means to change your mind concerning the sin which should help you  not sin again.               


So with all of this in mind, we now can look at the verse to see how Jesus understood what He was saying.  The KJV says, "forgive us our debts (or sins) as we forgive  our debtors (those who sin against us).  The KJV is often misunderstood.  Many think the KJV means that God forgiving us is conditional on us forgiving our offenders.  That's not what the text is saying.  The NIV makes this a bit clearer when it says, "forgive our debts 'as we also have' forgiven our debtors."   The words "also have" are important. 


In this particular verse God forgiving us is not conditional upon us forgiving others.  The meaning of the verse is that "because we have already forgiven others, that is in the past tense, God will forgive us, that is, in the present tense.  Jesus is simply assuming and expecting that when we ask God to forgive, or cancel our sin, we "have already" forgiven or cancelled the sin of our offender.   You might put it this way.  "Since we have already forgiven our debtors Father, you should be willing to forgive us".                   


Verse 13 may be hard to understand on the surface.  Jesus says that we should pray that our Father in heaven “lead us not into temptation”.  The question always arises, “why would God lead us into temptation”?   This is a logical question if you view the word “temptation” as a tempting to sin, but that’s not necessarily the case here.  The most earliest understanding of the Greek word that is translated as “temptation” means “a trial or a test”.  So what Jesus is saying here is to ask God not to test you.  Yet even if we ask such a thing, God still may think it important to put us to the test.  One thing we know for sure is that God will not lead us into a place where we can sin.


The last half of verse 13 says, “but deliver us from the evil one”.  It is really hard to know whether Jesus meant “the evil one’ or simply “evil”.  The Greek text is too obscure to know for sure.  The NIV translators have decided that “evil one”, which would probably mean the devil, or an evil man is the best translation.  Yet Jesus could have easily have meant that God deliver us from evil in general. 


The prayer ends at this point.  You may notice that Luke’s version of this prayer found in Luke  11:2-4 is a little different.  And Matthew’s version is different from most modern versions.  There was also a third version of this prayer written and quoted in the early second century found in the Didache 8:2.  This later version has a doxology added to it, much like our new versions today.  This doxology goes something like, “ for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen”.  There is no evidence from the best manuscripts that Jesus actually said these words of doxology.


In verse 14 Jesus says that if you forgive people who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.   Then in verse 15 He continues by saying, that if you don’t forgive those who sin against you, your Father won’t forgive you.


Jesus is clearly showing us the importance of forgiveness here.  I will not get into a lengthy discussion on the word forgiveness here at this point, but the New Testament concept of forgiveness is to “cancel or erase the sin from our records”.  This can only take place after one has asked you to cancel their sin and have repented.  You cannot cancel a sin if the person doesn’t want it cancelled. 


What Jesus appears to be saying here is that if we don’t cancel the offenders sin from our records, then God won’t cancel our sin from His record.   Yet from the study of Luke’s version, along with the general understanding of the rest of the New Testament, I’m not sure we should understand Jesus’ words in this way.   If we do, then our salvation, our canceling of sin on God’s part depends on a good work we do, which is, forgiving others.  This is not really in keeping with the rest of the Scriptures.  Jesus has paid the price for our sins to be canceled.  Upon our repentance and faith these sins are cancelled.  In turn we should cancel other people’s sins against us when they repent, but to suggest that our salvation will be lost if we don’t is questionable.  


If we don’t cancel the offender of their sins, it shows that we don’t understand that our sins have been cancelled.  It is important to understand what forgiveness really means.  It is often misunderstood today. 


Fasting (ch. 6:16-18)


In verse 16 Jesus says the when you fast don’t act as if you’re fasting.  These are my words.  This is the general idea of what Jesus is saying.  He tells those listening that the hypocrites, meaning the Jewish leaders disfigure their faces and do all sorts of things to let people know they’re being really religious by fasting. Such open boasting of such a thing is wrong.  Jesus said that the hypocrites have already received their rewards for their fasting, as it’s the worldly glorification they get from others thinking that they are somebody. 


Note Jesus said, “when you fast”. He’s not commanding anyone to fast. There’s no New Testament command to fast, and there’s not many Old  Testament commands telling people to fast.  At certain times God called Israel to fast for the purpose of finding repentance.  Jesus just knew that His followers may fast from time to time, and when they did, they should do it in a certain way.


In verses 17 and 18 Jesus tells His followers to put “oil on their faces”, meaning, make sure you look nice.  Don’t go around appearing to be fasting like the hypocrites.  Dress yourself up as if you’re not fasting so no one will know that you are.  Only your Father in heaven should know that your fasting. He is the one that sees all things done in secret and fasting should be done in secret so you won’t become proud over the fact you’re fasting.  If you fast in secret, God will reward you for it.


The whole point here is that we should not be proud of any good thing we do in the service of the Lord.  We are mere servants.  We should boast about nothing.


Treasures In Heaven (ch. 6:19 - 25)


In this section Jesus comments on worldly and material possessions. Although our English text has a dividing point at verse 19 with a new heading, this is all still part of the Sermon on the Mount.  We shouldn’t think in terms that every time there’s a new section in our modern translations that Jesus changed subject.  This section has everything to do with what He  has been talking about.


In the past three sections Jesus has said that the hypocrites have already got their reward in full, which was the praise from men who saw them do their god deeds.  Yet for those who do good with pure motives Jesus tells them that they will be rewarded for such good deeds. In this section we learn that these rewards are laid up for us in heaven.  Some day in the future we will receive these rewards from Jesus.   


In verse 19 He tells us “not to store up for yourself treasures on earth”.  Note the words “for yourself”.  Jesus doesn’t say “not to store up treasures”.  The words “for yourself” I believe are important. 


We often think that Jesus is telling His followers not to store earthly possessions, but the idea here is not to store them up for yourself, suggesting that you can store things up for others. This would be typical Jesus.  He always thinks of others.  If you are to store things up, then the reason for storing them up is not for yourself and your welfare but for the good welfare of others.


Besides, anything we store on earth can decay from rust, be eaten by moths or stolen by men as Jesus puts it.   In verse 20 Jesus tells us where to store our treasures, and that is in heaven where they are kept safe from all harm.


The question is then asked, “how do we store treasures in heaven and what are these treasures”?  We’ve noticed throughout the Sermon on the Mount that certain things we do on earth will either find their rewards here on earth or in heaven.  For example, when the Pharisees openly pray to be seen, they get their reward instantly here on earth.  Their reward is the praise they get from those seeing them pray.


Yet Jesus says that if we go into our closets and pray secretly, then God will reward us.  It’s my understanding that this reward is in heaven.  Paul speaks of our good works being judged by the fire of God’s judgment.  The good works we do for wrong motives will be burned.  We will not be rewarded for them.  But the good things we do with good motives will be rewarded for because God is just.  Thus, good works done from good motives rewards us with treasures in heaven.  Just what these treasures are might not exactly be known to us at this point.


In verse 21 Jesus said, “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”.  Note the word “for”.  This statement is thus the reason why Jesus told us to store our treasures in heaven. He said that where our treasure is, there will our heart be.  If our treasure, or the things we treasure most are earthly possessions, that is where our hearts will be.  Our hearts will be set on earthly things, and Jesus wants our hearts to be set on Him and heavenly things. 


Once again, we see Jesus speaks of heart issues here. Treasures are a matter of the heart and therefore we should make sure what we treasure are the important things that concern Jesus. What we treasure most is what we will spend our time and energy on.


In verse 22 Jesus said that “the eye is the lamp of the body”.  This means that our eyes let in light that lights up our heart and soul.  What you see effects who you are inside.  Jesus went on to say that if your eye is good – the KJV uses the word single  which is good in this case, then your whole body will be full of light. 


The point Jesus is making here is that what you look at with your eyes will effect how you think and feel which in turn will effect how you live.


In verse 23 Jesus said that if your eye is bad, that is, if it keeps on looking at things it shouldn’t be, your heart and soul will be darkened. 


Jesus also said in verse 23 that if “the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness”.  He is playing on words here.  Jesus said “if the light within you is darkness..”.  The question is, “how can light be darkness”?  Well it can’t.  Light is light and dark is dark.  Yet if light turns into darkness then that darkness is really dark. 


This is how it works.  If you go outside in a dark night but you come from a lowly lit room, the outdoors may be dark but it’s maneuverable.  Yet if you go out into the dark from a very bright room, your eyes take a while to adjust to the dark and the darkness is actually darker than what it really is until your eyes finally adjust. 


A dark sinner is dark, yet a Christian who was once full of light, if he turns to darkness, then his darkness is really dark. He is worse than one who was never a Christian in the first place.


Verse 24 is well known and important.  Jesus told us that we cannot serve two masters.  We will always prefer one over the other.  And so we can’t serve both God and money.  We will love one more than the other and the one we love will be money. 


Note that the NIV has the word “Money”, with the letter “m” capitalized.  This might well be because of the nature of the word it is translated from.  It’s actually an old word meaning “money-god”.  So it being the identity of a god is probably the reason for the capital m.


Do Not Worry (ch. 6:25 - 34)


In the last sentence Jesus told His followers that they cannot serve God and money, or to put it another way, they should not make money their God.   Because of this statement Jesus begins the next thought with the word “therefore”.  This means that Jesus is saying “because I just told you not to make money your God, now don’t worry about your life”.  He’s associating the need for money with life.  It’s true that money is important to life, and Jesus wasn’t about to underestimate this fact.  He is going to put it into proper Christian perspective.    


The natural thought that might come to mind after Jesus told them not to make money their God, is that we need money to live.  It’s hard not to put a lot of focus on getting money.  Jesus says not to worry about what you eat, drink or clothe yourself with, all of which takes money to buy. 


Jesus asks this question. “Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes”?  By asking the question in the way He did, there’s only one answer.  Life is more than just about food, and our body is more than just about the clothes we wear.  Jesus is not saying that we don’t need food or clothes.  He is simply saying that there are more important things in life than food and clothes.  These things must be real important because food and clothes are at the top of the list of importance for a good healthy life.


In verse 26 He points out that birds don’t sow, reap, or store food in barns.  They get looked after by God.  Then Jesus asks, “aren’t you more important then they”, meaning the birds. Once again the answer is obvious.  People are more important than birds.


In verse 27 Jesus asks another question.  “Who of you by worrying can add one hour to his life”.  Again the answer is clear.  Worry can’t add an hour to our lives. 


Jesus is addressing our worrying here.  He’s not addressing normal concerns and the making of money to live.  He speaking about excess concern that produces nothing good, but normally produces negative results. 


In verse 28 He asks, “why do you worry about clothes”?  That’s a good question, especially in some Christian circles where the style of clothing is important as you attend a Sunday meeting. 


In the last half of verse 28 and verse 29 Jesus speaks of the lilies of the field being clothed better than Solomon of old who was very rich.  God Himself clothes the lilies in the field, and if He can do that to grasses and flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, don’t you think He’ll clothes you. 


In verse 30 Jesus says, “O you of little faith”.  This is the crux of the matter here.  Worry is the opposite of faith.  Faith is trust.  If we say we trust Jesus, we should not worry, but we do worry at times.  As worry arises in us, we need to turn to Jesus and trust Him deep in our hearts.  The Christian life is about growing in trust each and every day.  There’s always an area of life in which we’re being challenged to trust Jesus in.  We may grow to trust Him in one area and then once we’ve got that down, He leads us to the next area in which we should trust Him for. 


In verse 31 Jesus makes it very clear.  He tells His followers not to worry about the basic needs of life, like food, drink and clothes. We tend to worry about all sorts of things, many of which are basic necessities of life.  Jesus is saying to us not to worry about food, drink or clothes.  If we’re not to worry about these things, we’re not to worry about anything.


In first 32 Jesus says that the pagans “run after these things’.  The words “run after” suggest giving vigorous attention to these things. It suggests putting lots of effort  into getting as much as we can.  But Jesus is saying that His followers should not be as the pagans.  Yet more often than not, we are like the pagans in many respects.


Jesus goes on to say in the last half of verse 32 that our heavenly Father knows what we need.  He’s implying that if our Father in heaven knows what we need, He’ll get it for us.  And remember, Jesus is using the word “need” here, and the word “want”.  Also this is in the context of needing food, drink and clothes, not expensive houses and cars.   


Verse 33 is a popular known verse and should be understood properly.  Jesus tells His followers to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”.  With the same intensity that pagans run after the cares of the world, so we should run after the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.  This means that our energies should be mostly given to pursuing and demonstrating God’s Kingdom on earth and living rightly before the Lord. If we do this, then our Father in Heaven will “give us all these things”. 


We need to understand what “all these things refer to”.  They don’t refer to just anything. The words “these things” means the things Jesus just spoke about, and they are food, drink and clothes. To me this suggests that God will keep us in food, drink and clothes if we seek His Kingdom and His righteousness, but He is not guaranteeing that He’ll give us all sorts of things beyond these three things.


Verse 34 is practical.  Jesus says not to worry about tomorrow, but let tomorrow worry about itself.  There’s enough things to concern ourselves with today let alone  worrying about tomorrow. How true that is. The point here is that we should not worry about the future until the future comes, because when it comes the things we’re worrying about may not be a problem.  


This does not mean we should not be good stewards of tomorrow.  There are many decisions we need to make about tomorrow, and they need to be made today.  So you might say, that’s a concern for today, even though it’s about a future event. 


Next Section - Chapter 7

Previous Section - Chapter 5

Home Page