28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith” (Matthew 6:28–30, NKJV)?
Christ appealed to people’s reasoning ability when He preached the gospel of the kingdom. For instance, reason compels us to understand that life is more valuable than food and the body more important than clothing (Matt. 6:25). In today’s passage, Jesus challenged His audience to think about the world around them. He encouraged them to have greater faith in the presence and provisions of God to care for His world, evidenced by the flowers and grass. To build our faith in God and eliminate doubtful, distracting anxieties, we are to trust God will provide the clothing we need to cover and warm our bodies. See how He clothes the lilies of the field (v. 28-29)! Though short-lived, God arrays the grass with splendor (v. 30). Therefore, He will undoubtedly clothe you and me. Our faith weakens when we become consumed with temporary things. Instead, trust and depend on the living God who made you and sustains your life. Keep your focus on faith and not on things that fade away.
25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 So why do you worry about clothing” (Matthew 6:25–28a, NKJV)?
Our heart reveals our treasures, our vision reveals the light we follow, and our service reveals our master (Matt. 6:21-24). These principles form the basis of Christ’s extended passage on trusting our heavenly Father to provide for our daily needs (Matt. 6:25-34). We express this trust as we pray, “give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). We affirm our faith that God will do so by refusing to yield to anxiety over daily necessities. Anxiety distracts and debilitates us from laying up heavenly treasures and serving God (“seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” Matt. 6:33). Please note, Jesus discusses necessities of life (food and clothing), not luxuries (the pursuit of which contributes to increased anxiety). Our goal is a contented faith that refuses to be distracted. First, consider God’s constant care of the birds. He feeds the birds, and we are far more valuable than birds (Lk. 12:24). Therefore, recalling this helps us avoid being disturbed and diverted from faithfully following God. Second, worry does not accomplish anything productive. It cannot increase our height, and it cannot provide for our needs. Anxiety is futile, fruitless, weakening our faith in God’s constant care and provisions. Trust the Lord; He provides for our needs.
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24, NKJV).
We are all devoted to something or someone, and submit ourselves to our master’s power over us. Even “masters” have a master (Matt. 8:9; Col. 4:1). Here, Jesus calls our attention to the master we choose to serve. And make no mistake; We choose one master over the other. Divided loyalties are not realistic; We cannot serve two masters. Jesus poses a contrast between serving God or mammon (from Aramaic, “riches, wealth”). Jesus just taught us to lay up treasures in heaven. Now, He identifies our master by whom or what we serve. Does gaining wealth drive your passions, enthusiasm, and values? Your master is mammon when material prosperity is the primary mover of your decisions. Conversely, does pleasing God (doing His will) have top priority in how you work, play, and live? We ought to honestly assess which master we choose. Jesus will go on to say we must “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” instead of being consumed with the cares of this age that distract and destroy faith (Matt. 6:33-34; Mark 4:19). We cannot bow before the altar of material riches without despising God (who blesses us with life itself and the provisions that sustain our lives). To “live by faith in the Son of God,” we must crucify ourselves and be utterly loyal to Him (Gal. 2:20). God must be our master. Choose to serve God today and every day.
22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness” (Matthew 6:22–23, NKJV)!
The eye is a wondrous mechanism. Our Creator’s wisdom, knowledge, and power are on full display as we ponder this marvelous organ of the human body. Without the eye, our entire body is dark. When vision is obscured, what was once brilliant is blurred, without contrast and focus. Blindness leaves one in a world of darkness. We should not take our eyes for granted. Jesus used the simple fact that our eyes illuminate our bodies to imply a greater spiritual truth. When we direct our eyes toward heaven’s treasures, we focus on things above (Matt. 6:19-21; Col. 3:1-2). With clear eyes and faithful intent, let us present our bodies “as instruments of righteousness to God” (Rom. 6:13, 16). But, when our eyes are attentive to this present age, the evils of the world obscure the light of truth (1 John 2:15-17). When the darkness of sin grabs our attention, we present our bodies “as instruments of unrighteousness to sin” and become slaves of sin, leading to spiritual death (Rom. 6:13, 16). Jesus warned, “Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness” (Luke 11:35). We can deceive ourselves that we are walking in the light when we are really in darkness. Keep your eyes on Jesus, the light of the world, and focus on laying up heavenly treasures by following Him (John 8:12; Matt. 6:20-21).
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19–21, NKJV).
Jesus makes a strong contrast being material and spiritual things. We do not achieve spiritual fulfillment by material means. For example, while important, caring for one’s body is not the same as caring for one’s soul; That requires exercising ourselves toward godliness (1 Tim. 4:7-8). The earth and its goods are transitory, temporary, and tenuous. To invest one’s heart and life in these things is to miss the greater treasure that is enduring and eternal. We will fix our hearts on one or the other. Christians focus their hearts on spiritual wealth. The previous teachings of Christ in this sermon illuminate heavenly treasures. In the Beatitudes, Jesus explains the spiritual fortune of kingdom citizens (Matt. 5:1-12). Choosing righteous conduct reflects a heart that values heaven more than earthly vindication and pleasure (Matt. 5:17-48). Seeking God’s favor in our service and prayers shows a heart dedicated to treasures men cannot spoil (Matt. 6:1-18). Money is not evil, but loving it is (1 Tim. 6:9-10). Loving heavenly things equips us to use material goods to serve others and honor God while laying hold of eternal life (1 Tim. 6:17-19).
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” (Matthew 6:16–18, NKJV).
After elaborating on prayer’s motive, method, and manner in Matthew 6:5-15, Jesus returns to the motives of personal piety in today’s passage. Fasting often accompanied prayer. Like prayer, hypocrites used fasting as their chance to be praised by others for their voluntary deprivation and affliction of the soul. While not commanded under the new covenant, fasting was (is) a period of intense spiritual devotion. It was associated with recognizing one’s sin with godly sorrow and repentance (Nineveh, Jonah 3:5-10; Luke 11:32; Saul, Acts 9:9-11). The broader principle Jesus taught applies to every action of self-sacrifice. Instead of bragging and displaying religious practices to be praised by others, we aim to please the eyes of our heavenly Father. The reward of human praise momentarily feeds pride and fades quickly. But attentive, faithful service to the Lord will be evident and eternally rewarded. When we love the praise of men more than the praise of God, we confess ourselves, not Christ (John 12:42-43). So, go about your daily service to the Lord without regard for whether others see you. The Father sees you, and that is enough.
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” (Matthew 6:14–15, NKJV).
Jesus makes it very clear that our forgiveness is conditional. The little word “if” carries much weight. It directs attention to personal responsibility to do something to be forgiven by God. Namely, if we forgive others, our Father will forgive us. If not, then God will not forgive us. Jesus did not say to only forgive your brethren, but “men” (anthropos, person, human being). The gospel teaches Christians to put on hearts of forgiveness (Col. 3:12-13). Christ’s sermon to this point has repeatedly called on kingdom citizens to have a heart that is ready to forgive (Matt. 5:7, 9, 23-24, 39-42, 44). To withhold forgiveness brings punishment from God, not blessing (remember the unforgiving servant, Matt. 18:27-35). If we do not forgive from the heart, we will be punished, too (Matt. 18:35). Now, since forgiveness is conditional, why is there such objection when the gospel tells us of other conditions we must meet to be forgiven by God? The gospel says faith and confession of faith in Jesus, repentance, and baptism are conditions sinners must meet to be forgiven by God (John 8:24; Rom. 10:9-10; Luke 13:3, 5; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:37-38). So, it is false and futile to say salvation (forgiveness, remission of sins) is unconditional. Instead, we ought to be asking ourselves, do I have faith to submit to God’s conditions to be forgiven of my sins?
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” (Matthew 6:9–13, NKJV).
Jesus left us a model prayer that teaches disciples what to pray. Matthew 6:9-13 is a digest of the manner or form our prayers should take. (1) Prayer recognizes God’s paternity: “Our Father in heaven.” (2) Prayer revers God’s person: “Hallowed be Your name.” (3) Prayer respects God’s program (His rule and reign): “Your kingdom come.” (4) Prayer submits to God’s purposes: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (5) Prayer gives thanks for God’s provisions: “Give us this day our daily bread.” (6) Prayer petition for God’s pardon: “And forgive our debts.” (7) Prayer’s proviso for forgiveness: “As we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:14-15). (8) Prayer seeks God’s protection: “And do not lead us into temptation.” (9) Prayer praises God’s preeminence: “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” May our hearts form these worthy expressions of faith and dependence on our heavenly Father when we pray.
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” (Matthew 6:7–8, NKJV).
While continuing to address the correct motive of prayer (v. 7; Matt. 6:5-6), Jesus turns our attention to the method of prayer. How we pray (method) will align itself with why we pray (motive). The pagans repetitively ritualize prayer to their gods. Such prayers are nothing more than empty phrases of useless babblings. Like the false prophets who called on the name of Baal, vainly repeated prayers in the name of the Lord are void of meaning and efficacy (1 Kings 18:26). Ritualized prayers may have a form of godliness, but they deny it power (2 Tim. 3:5). Ironically, millions vainly repeat in ritualized worship the model prayer Jesus is about to teach (Matt. 6:9-13), the very thing Jesus warned against doing. Our Father knows our needs, anxieties, pains, struggles, joys, and so much more. He knows our requests before we bring them to Him in prayer. As a result, our Father receives and responses favorably when we come to His throne of grace with words of reverent humility, not rehearsed blather (v. 8; James 4:6; 1 Pet. 3:12). Don’t pray like the heathens. Pray like a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.
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” (Matthew 6:5–6, NKJV).
Why do you pray? The Lord knows the reasons and motives of our prayers; He is the One who “knows the hearts of all” (Acts 1:24). Jesus knew many people pray so others will view them as religious and pious. They choose conspicuous places to petition heaven’s throne. Their desire (to be seen by men), once achieved, is their only reward. Citizens of the kingdom of heaven understand prayer to be intimate communication with their heavenly Father. It is a time to pour out thanks, adoration, petitions, and pleas to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). There we find the divine assurance of mercy, solace, and peace. Our Father is in private places. He sees, hears, and openly rewards our humble prayers (Phil. 4:6-7). Prayer is not a ritual; it is a retreat to commune with our Father. Keep pure motives when you pray. God sees the purpose of our prayers, so seek His approval when praying to Him. Remember, it is God who answers our prayers, not people. So pray to be seen by your heavenly Father.