THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson, we finished up Matthew Chapter 5, but we have two more chapters to go that record Jesus’ Sermon on the mount. Much of what Jesus has said so far would have made the Pharisees and Scribes blood boil because He has been correcting their twisted teachings of the Law of Moses and telling people that their righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees. Otherwise, they will not enter the kingdom of God.
As we begin Chapter 6, we are going to see Jesus teach on so more topics that the Scribes and Pharisees were guilty of, and Jesus is basically saying, don’t be like this. So, let us begin in:
Matthew 6:1 "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
Jesus is saying, “hey you, pay close attention to this.” Do not do your acts of kindness, your giving to the poor or your good works before men just to be seen by men. If you allow that to be your motivation, then you will not receive any reward from your Father in heaven. This simple statement would have made the average Pharisee and Scribe angry because they had gotten to the point that everything they did was done to be seen by men so they could receive the praise of men about how righteous they were. Jesus clearly shows this mentality of the Scribes and the Pharisee as He talks about them in:
Matthew 23:3 "Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. 4 "For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5 "But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. 6 "They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7 "greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, 'Rabbi, Rabbi.'
Jesus wanted those He was talking to and He wants us to understand that we have to have the right attitude when it comes to doing charitable deeds. Jesus is not saying do not do charitable deeds in front of other men ever because that is not always possible. He is simply saying that when you do charitable deeds, do not do it just to be seen by men. We can know this is true based on what Jesus said earlier in:
Matthew 5:16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Jesus will repeat this idea about losing your reward with the Father several times in this chapter. The reason you lose your reward when you do it for your own glory is because you get exactly what you were looking for, the praise of men, but we must understand that the praise of men is not worthy of gaining favor with God by glorifying Him.
Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
While the Bible is a little bit vague on the details of what the rewards are, I believe the Scriptures teach that there will be various rewards in heaven, but I personally do not concern myself with that because the greatest reward, whether there are degrees of rewards or not, is the privilege and honor of being in heaven itself. Of course, God can also reward us while we are on the earth through His providence as well, but the main point is that if you do your charitable deeds before men to be seen by them, then you will not receive a reward from your Father in heaven.
Jesus goes on to say:
Matthew 6:2 "Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
I remember when I went to Six Flags that one of the ways these cowboys would get the attention of the people that the show was about to begin was by shooting off their guns. That loud shooting noise could be heard from quite a distance and it certainly got my attention. While I do not think Jesus was saying that these hypocrites in the synagogues or in the streets were actually blowing a horn, I believe they were doing something that would focus the attention of the people on what they were doing.
Just like the cowboys at Six Flags, these Scribes and Pharisees only did charitable deeds when they knew others were watching so they could boast about the generosity. As Jesus said, they got their reward, their praise of men. Jesus goes on to say:
Matthew 6:3 "But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 "that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.
While I understand it is not always possible to do things in secret like this, but when you can take that option. Those who strive to keep their good works and their charitable deeds between them and God are truly humble people who are not interested in the praise of men, but are solely interested in glorifying our Father in heaven. Those who do this will be rewarded by God. I will take this a step further and say that a humble Christian would give in secret regardless of whether they receive a reward from the Father because is reward enough to be able do a small deed that will glorify God after all He has done for us.
One thing I want to make clear is that there is nothing wrong if others boast about your charitable deeds or faithfulness to God to others. For example, notice what Paul writes:
2 Thessalonians 1:3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, 4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure,
Paul had no problem with boasting about the patience and faith these Christians had in the face of persecution. Even Jesus used the following example to boast about widow in:
Luke 21:1 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, 2 and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. 3 So He said, "Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; 4 "for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had."
The difference is that none of the Christians nor this widow was seeking the praise of men. They were simply being humble servants of God. So, to boast about what they did will not cause them to lose their reward from the Father. Instead, their faithfulness and humble spirit serve as a great example of how others can put God first in the their lives and be dedicated to giving God the honor and glory He deserves.
Next Jesus teaches about praying:
Matthew 6:5 " And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
Jesus is not talking about public worship here, He is talking about our individual prayers. The Scribes and Pharisees would wait for times when plenty of people were around to be sure they could see them praying. Again, it was all about being seen by men, but Jesus says do not do that. Your personal prayer life is not some spectacle for others to see, it is something between you and God. God certainly knows if you are doing something for show or not. Once again the heart of the matter is your motivation for prayer. If you do it for the wrong reasons, then you will not receive your reward from God. Jesus adds the following:
Matthew 6:7 "And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 "Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
I want you notice what Thayer writes about the Greek word behind vain repetitions:
to repeat the same things over and over, to use many idle words, to babble, prate. Some suppose the word derived from Battus, a king of Cyrene, who is said to have stuttered; others from Battus, an author of tedious and wordy poems. (Thayer)
Chanting the same thing over and over again was practiced by those who followed false gods. Let me give you two examples. First, we have the prophets of Baal during their face of with Elijah to see who the real God was.
1 Kings 18:26 So they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, "O Baal, hear us!" But there was no voice; no one answered. Then they leaped about the altar which they had made.
They chanted the same thing over and over again with no success. Our second example comes from the riot of Ephesus:
Acts 19:34 But when they found out that he was a Jew, all with one voice cried out for about two hours, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!"
These kind of things are all vain repetitions. There is no point to them. There is no need to go on and on thinking that if you talk longer by using vain repetitions that it will change things because as Jesus said, Our Father knows what we need before we ask for it. Now let me tell what this is not saying. It is not saying that you cannot repeat things in your prayers, but that you are not supposed to use vain repetition. Jesus is a great example of this because He prayed the same prayer three times in the garden of Gethsemane. Once, again this all about having the right motive and attitude about your prayer life. Next Jesus says:
Matthew 6:9 "In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. 14 "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 "But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
After Jesus taught them to pray in private and to pray without vain repetitions, He now gives them an example prayer. Please notice that Jesus did not say, pray in these words, but in this manner. Though Jesus just finished saying don’t use vain repetitions, many have made this example prayer into a vain repetition because they pray this prayer word for word as a memorized prayer, thus making it just words that are repeated over and over again.
Don’t misunderstand, we can certainly pray about the same things Jesus’ has mentioned here with the exception of one, which I will explain in a minute, but if we turn these words into some mindless repetition instead of coming from the heart, then they become empty words.
Jesus tells us to direct our prayers to our Father in heaven. We are not told to pray to Jesus, the Holy Spirit or to some supposed saint, we pray to our Father. Think about this for a minute, Jesus has made it possible for us to be sons and daughters of God. When we become Christians, we have been given the right to call God our Father.
“Hallowed be Your name” shows the respect we are to offer to our holy Father in heaven. When Jesus gave this example prayer, the kingdom was still at hand, which is why He mentions praying about the kingdom coming. Since the kingdom came as can be seen in Acts 2, we no longer can pray for the kingdom to come today. Instead, we could pray that the kingdom may expand or something similar. Part of this idea of expanding the kingdom is certainly covered by Him saying to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is heaven. The more God’s will is done on earth, the more His kingdom will expand, which is beneficial to all because God’s way is always the best way.
When He says gives us our daily bread, He is talking about praying for those things we need to sustain us. He also mentions praying for forgiveness of our sins just as we forgive others for their sins. Jesus will expound on this a minute. Forgiveness is such a wonderful thing. When God forgives us of our sins, they are gone and He will never bring them up again. We are to do the same with those that we forgive. We are not supposed to keep a record of their sins by storing them away somewhere so we can bring them up anytime we feel like it. We certainly would not like God doing that to us, so don’t do it to those you have forgiven.
Certainly, we should pray that God will give us the strength to deal with the temptations that are before us and help resist the evil one. I like what Paul says about this in:
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
I also like what James says:
James 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
God does not tempt us to sin, but He does provide an escape route for our temptations, but we must make sure we keep our eyes open for that door, so that we do not sin. Jesus ends the example prayer with praise to God. He says:
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
We read it earlier, but I want to read the following verse again in which Jesus teaches what He meant about God forgiving us as we forgive others:
14 "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 "But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
This another one of those hard sayings that can challenge us, but we must learn to be forgiving people. Just as God is willing to forgive us when we repent, we must also be willing to forgive others who sin against us and repent. This is stated more clearly in:
Luke 17:3"Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 "And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him." 5 And the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith."
Notice, we are not just to forgive. First, we are to rebuke. Second, if he repents, then we are to forgive him, which is the same pattern God has set up for us. When we sin and we are rebuked by another or even by the Word of God itself, it moves us to prayer, in which we repent to God and then we are forgiven but not before. I love the honest nature of the apostles because when Jesus tells them this, they say, “Lord, increase our faith.” I know it is not easy to forgive those who wrong us, but we must learn to forgive those who repent and we certainly should not hold a grudge against them.
Next, Jesus deals with fasting.
Matthew 6:16 " Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 "But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 "so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
Jesus is not commanding or condemning fasting. In fact, He assumes people will fast, but just like everything else Jesus has been pointing out, the Scribes and Pharisees had turned fasting into a show so that people would know that they were fasting. They made fasting into a ritual fasting twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays according to the Talmud. Their supposed reason for doing this was because Moses went up on Mt. Sinai to get the Law on the fifth day and returned on the second.
I read of another possible reason they choose these two days was because Mondays and Thursdays were the market days in Jerusalem when more people be in town to witness these Scribes and Pharisees making a big deal about their one day fast. Jesus points this ritual out in the first of the following parable:
Luke 18:10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men -- extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 'I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.'
Jesus captures the mentality that many of these Pharisees had during this time, but noticed that he said he fasted twice a week. Fasting was never designed to be for show, it is something done that is supposed to be between you and God. For the Christian, fasting is voluntary and even for the Old Testament Jews it was voluntary with the exception of the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29; Num. 29:7).
One reason one might fast is because of sorrow from death, sickness, or even sin. I am sure most us in the room have had a loss of appetite during a time when you had great sorrow in your life. Fasting almost feel natural during moments like these. There are certainly many examples of this in the Bible. Our first example comes from David when Nathan told David that his son would be killed by God because of what he did to make Bathsheba his wife.
2 Samuel 12:16 David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. 17 So the elders of his house arose and went to him, to raise him up from the ground. But he would not, nor did he eat food with them. 18 Then on the seventh day it came to pass that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead. For they said, "Indeed, while the child was alive, we spoke to him, and he would not heed our voice. How can we tell him that the child is dead? He may do some harm!" 19 When David saw that his servants were whispering, David perceived that the child was dead. Therefore David said to his servants, "Is the child dead?" And they said, "He is dead." 20 So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate. 21 Then his servants said to him, "What is this that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food." 22 And he said, "While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, 'Who can tell whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?' 23 "But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me."
Here is a clear example of one fasting for a sick child for 7 days, especially since he was the cause of it. While David had a great attitude about all this and understood that once the child or anyone passes on, there is nothing more we can do than wait to be with them on the other side. However, others experience great sorrow when their love one or someone important to them dies. We can see this in our second example in:
1 Samuel 31:11 Now when the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all the valiant men arose and traveled all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth Shan; and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. 13 Then they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.
Third, Ezra was so bothered by the sins of his people that he fasted as we can see in:
Ezra 9:5 At the evening sacrifice I arose from my fasting; and having torn my garment and my robe, I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God.
Fourth, Jesus also talks about about fasting because of sorrow in:
Mark 2:18 The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, "Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?" 19 And Jesus said to them, "Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. 20 "But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.
There was no need for His disciples to fast while He was with them, but they would fast later out of sorrow when He was taken away from them by His death on the cross.
Another reason some fasted was to focus on praying to God for guidance. Nehemiah did this in response to hearing about the condition of his people in Jerusalem. He prayed for them and that his king would have mercy on him and allow him to go to his people in Jerusalem (Neh. 1).
Cornelius was a devout man who also fasted and prayed to God because he was seeking to be pleasing to Him(Acts 10:30).
As Saul waited in Damascus to learn what he was supposed to do to be saved, he fasted and prayed for 3 days (Acts 9:9).
The church at Antioch fasted and prayed before they sent out Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-3).
Much more could be said about fasting, but the point Jesus was making was if you fast, do not make a show of it, keep it hidden because it is something between you and God.
We have examined three different things in this lesson that in which Jesus taught the people the right way of doing them. First, was doing charitable deeds. Second, was praying. Third, was fasting. The basic message was, do not do fast like the heathens, the Scribes or the Pharisees who only fasted to receive the praise of men. Instead, do them discreetly as between you and God and you will receive your reward from Him. I hope none of us get caught up in the game of doing things just to be seen by men, but that we approach each work that we do for the Lord with a humble heart that just wants to glorify God through the things we do.