Archive for the ‘Matthew 6’ Category

I want to share with you this morning about trusting God with our economic lives; with our concerns to provide for our needs, and the needs of our families.

There’s a lot of fear in the air these days regarding the economy. And things have taken a turn for the worse, as we see constantly in the news and perhaps you have seen in your own situations.

Jesus has a word to say to believers in the midst of all this. And this comes from Matthew 6:25-34. Below you can see the text and how it is outlined with its literary structure: 

A. Do not be anxious: “[25] Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life,
food: what you will eat or what you will drink,
clothing: nor about your body, what you will put on.
The more important: Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

B. The birds: food
The example:
[26] Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Argument from lesser to greater: Are you not of more value than they?

C. The futility of anxiety: [27] And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

B. The lilies: clothing
The example: [28] And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, [29] yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Argument from lesser to greater: [30] But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

 A. Do not be anxious: [31] Therefore do not be anxious, saying,
food: ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’
clothing: or ‘What shall we wear?’
The more important: [32] For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. [33] But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. [34] “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. 

 Jesus’ focus in this passage is to call us to give up our anxiety and trust in God. We begin, then, with . . .

The problem of being anxious for tomorrow

Lets look at how this works. It starts with the fact that life isn’t easy. As Jesus says in v. 34, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Trouble refers to difficulties and misfortune. And given the context, these troubles certainly include providing for our material needs.

So Jesus is not naïve in his call to give up anxiety. The problem is real. Each day truly does have sufficient enough trouble in it.

Well, what happens is that all this trouble creates fear in us, which is the essential problem Jesus is addressing here:

  • the word “anxious” means fearful concern.
  • the admonition, “do not be anxious” occurs 3 times
  • the word itself occurs 5 times
  • specifically in v. 34, the focus in on anxiety over tomorrow

Jesus focuses on such basics as food and clothing, but there are more things that we fret about: housing, providing for children, having enough to care for our health needs, retirement and more.

The bigger point of 6:19-34 is that given these troubles & our fears our natural response is to store up lots of resources to calm our fears. Jesus refers to this in Matthew 6:19 when he talks about laying up “treasures on earth . . ..”

We want control over the future, to try to ease our fears. And the way we do this is by laying up resources for ourselves for the future.

If we don’t have enough to lay up, we are fearful. And even if we do have enough to lay up, we fear that it will be taken away somehow. So, we are fearful either way!

The result is that this seeking after and storing up of resources becomes the focus of our lives. Jesus says in Matthew 6:32, “For the Gentiles seek after all these things.” Jesus is saying that they are anxious for tomorrow and make protecting against future troubles the focus of their lives – storing up resources, or striving hard to do so.

What’s wrong with this?

This is, after all, just the normal way the world works. Well, again, if we look at the larger picture of Matthew 6:19-34 it is teaching us about how we view and use our money. So when we look at v. 24, (which comes right before our passage) what’s wrong with storing up treasures on earth is that . . .

1) We are trusting in another god to care for our needs. Jesus says in this verse, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

When we store up resources to protect us against the future what we are doing is trusting in this treasure to be our god. This is idolatry. This is hatred of God. This is a breaking of the greatest commandment.

The second reason storing up treasures against the future is wrong is that it means . . .
2) We stop being generous with the needy. We have to hold onto our resources to soothe our fears over tomorrow.

This again comes from the larger context of Matthew 6 in vs. 19-20. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth . . .  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . ..” This last phrase is a way of talking about giving alms to help the needy.

Jesus is saying, don’t let fear over tomorrow stop you from giving to the needy. This is to hate our neighbor. This is a breaking of the second greatest commandment.

Now all of this raises some issues and so let me make . . .

Two clarifications

1) Jesus isn’t forbidding all storing up, but keeping above what we need against tomorrow. Turn with me to Luke 12:16-21, a passage that in Luke is connected to the teaching of not being anxious.

“And Jesus told them a parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

The farmer isn’t condemned for having the first barns with crops stored up for his legitimate needs; feeding his family for the year. He is condemned for building bigger barns to keep the excess abundance for himself – vs. 18-19.

So Jesus’ teaching is, don’t store up your excess, beyond what you need, out of fear for tomorrow.

Now, this raises lots of questions, of course, with regard to standard of living: “What do we really need?” and “What is excess?” In our culture, to function, we do need more than just food and clothing, but we certainly need much less than what most Americans think. And we do need to learn to set aside self-indulgence and live more simply than we do.

2) Anxiety for tomorrow is different than planning and preparing for tomorrow. You might get the wrong impression from Matthew 6 that we should not even think or plan for tomorrow.

  • The KJV translation for “do not be anxious” is “take no thought for”
  • The birds don’t “sow or reap or gather into barns” and the lilies “neither toil nor spin”

But again in Luke 12, the farmer is not condemned for planning and preparing – for planting, watering, working ahead in the year so that he would have something for when things don’t grow.

No, this is not a condemnation of all storing up or thought for tomorrow. The contrast of this passage is not between: anxiety that leads to thinking ahead, working and storing up what you truly need – verses – faith which leads you to do nothing for tomorrow.

The real contrast is between: anxiety that causes you to focus on, trust in and hoard your resources – verses – faith that causes you to focus on and trust in God, and to be generous with others.

Finally, lets look at . . .

Why we should give up our fear and trust God

1. Because life is about more than our material needs. This comes from the two A sections in our outline.

Jesus says in the first A section (v. 25), “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” In other words, even if we are ‘dirt poor,’ with only have food and clothing, we still have our life and can have joy in serving God. (Remember, Jesus was dirt poor).

And also, from the second A section, Jesus teaches us that life is not about seeking after material things, but about seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness (v. 33). We can’t let our fear lead us to get focused on what is not important. What is important is God. And we can have God without material possessions.

2. Because our anxiety doesn’t solve anything. This comes from the center point of the outline, letter C.  Jesus says in v. 27, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” In the parallel passage in Luke 12:26 he adds a second question, “If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” If our fear can’t add a single hour, how can it help us with providing for our material needs?

Our fear and worrying about tomorrow is futile. It doesn’t actually help us.

3. Because God will provide for our needs. This comes from the two B sections:

  • God provides food to the birds, and we are more valuable than birds – v. 26
  • God clothes the lilies, and we are more valuable than grass – vs. 28-30

As Jesus says, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need” material provisions – v. 32. And so we should not be those of “little faith” – v. 30.

This is how we break free from our fear, and all the problems it leads to. We break free of fear by choosing to trust in God.

Let’s end with God’s promise to us in v. 33 –

  • “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness . . ..” Jesus is saying, give yourself fully to God, focusing your life on what God wants for you.
  • “ . . . and all these things (the material provisions you need) will be added to you.”

Let us live into this promise and trust in our heavenly Father to care for us.

William Higgins

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Today we look at a familiar passage from Matthew 6. As we will see, it teaches us about seeking out God’s attention, and we all need God’s attention and help with our concerns and needs.

Our text is found right smack in the middle of what is called the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7) a section of this gospel that pulls together much of Jesus’ teaching on righteousness.

Read through this text, if you will – Matthew 6:1-18 

1. Jesus is calling us to engage in these activities

that is, almsgiving (or giving to the poor), prayer, and fasting. These were all central practices of Jewish spirituality. But notice in this – Jesus assumes that we will be practicing these as well, for he says,

  • “when you give to the needy” – v. 2
  • “when you pray” – v. 4
  • “when you fast” – v. 16

. . . not “if” or “if you happen to get around to these.”

We are to be giving to the poor, praying and fasting. And so we might begin by asking ourselves – “When was the last time we prayed seriously?” or “Specifically gave to the poor?” or “Fasted in any form?”

Jesus assumes we are doing these things, and he is simply teaching us how to do them in the right way.

2. Each of these practices seeks God’s attention and favor

This is important to understand if we want to get Jesus’ point. This comes out in our verses because he is saying , when we do these things in the right way:

  • God will take note of us
  • God will respond to us

Or as Jesus says three times – “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Now Prayer is obvious enough. It’s all about seeking God that God will hear us and help us. We want God’s attention and God’s mercy.

Fasting is often connected to prayer. In fact, fasting is a particularly intense kind of praying, usually when someone is upset, distressed or grieving. Your situation is so bad that you must have God’s attention and favor. You are desperate. And Scripture notes that God responds to this kind of intense seeking.

Almsgiving – might seem puzzling here, but it is seen in Scripture as giving you favor before God and in your seeking of God. Lets look at this one just a bit more . . .

The principle behind this is clear – “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” – James 5:16. The one who is righteous or obedient has powerful prayers; they have favor with God.

In Judaism, and also here with Jesus, giving alms is a, if not the token of a truly righteous person. In fact in Judaism giving alms became synonymous with the word for “righteousness.” So, given our principle, giving to the poor gives power to your prayers.

An example: Acts 10:4. Remember the story of Cornelius? He prayed and had a vision from God where an angel came to him. Our verse says, “And he stared at the angel in terror and said, ‘What is it, Lord?’ And he said to him, ‘Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.’”

Notice, his prayers and his alms came up before God. And because of this he had God’s favor. So God sent Peter to preach the gospel to him.

  • His alms gave potency to his prayers.
  • His alms gave him favor with God.

So, all of these practices have to do with seeking God’s attention and favor – “they are seeking activities.” Prayer is seeking God and both almsgiving and fasting  are, as it were, “prayer enhancers.” They are ways of strengthening our praying and seeking after God. They come alongside our prayers, to make them more effective.

Now let’s look at . . .

3. What Jesus is forbidding here

. . . because we sometimes miss the point.

  • Jesus is not saying that we can’t give alms publicly. For instance in church – in our offerings. Remember how in Luke 21:1-4 Jesus commends the widow who gave to the temple treasury, in public?
  • Jesus is not saying that we can’t pray publicly. For instance how we pray in church. Both Jesus and the apostles prayed in pubic, not in a closet.
  • And as well, Jesus is not saying we can’t fast publicly. Paul and others fasted publicly as we see in the book of Acts (13:2: 14:23).

No. Jesus is saying – Don’t draw attention to yourself when you do these things – for instance:

  • Blowing a trumpet when you give alms. (Now this is probably not literal, but just a figure of speech for getting everyone’s attention).

  • Praying where the most people can see you.

  • Disfiguring your face so everyone knows you are fasting, the idea being to emphasize that you are suffering as you fast.

Rather than all this, Jesus teaches us to make sure we don’t draw attention to ourselves. And he drives this idea home with typically extreme statements:

  • With regard to giving – don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.

  • With regard to prayer – go off into a closet to pray.

  • With regard to fasting – dress up as if you are celebrating.

This is all hyperbole or intentional exaggeration. As I said, Jesus didn’t always pray in a closet (if ever). His point in all of this is simply – Don’t draw attention to yourself!! Or as Jesus says at the end of each example, engage in these practices “in secret”- for God to see.

Now this doesn’t mean that others won’t see us . Jesus talks about this in Matthew 5:16. We are to let our light shine before others so that people will see our good works and glorify God. But, our text teaches us, we are not to do these things in order to be seen!

This brings us to . . .

4. The central contrast that Jesus is making

These three practices are meant to seek God’s attention and favor.  But we often use them to seek human attention and favor. They are meant to be focused on God and God’s reward. Not on people and the reward that they give.

Thus Jesus rightly says in each case, don’t be like the “hypocrites.” For hypocrisy is when appearances are not as they seem:

  • we appear one way on the outside (good & righteous)
  • but we are really another way within (unrighteous, full of pride or deceit)

In this case, we are doing righteous things: praying, fasting, giving to the poor. But we are doing them for the wrong reason. Instead of trying to please God, we are trying to please people, to gain human praise, notice and honor. (And this wrong motive often affects the character of our righteous acts . We tend to do them in exaggerated ways, trumpets blowing and all the rest, to make sure people notice).

Jesus wants us to do what is right, but that’s not all. To move beyond hypocrisy, we are to what is right, for the right reason.

5. Finally, there is a promise in these verses

It is not for those who seek to be seen in their praying, giving to the poor, and fasting. As Jesus said three times – “Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

We get nothing from God, because we already got what we were really looking for – whatever human attention or praise we received from other people. We are nothing more than hypocrites.

But the promise is – if we give alms, pray and fast to gain God’s attention and favor (that is, with right intention and a pure heart) then God will reward our seeking of him. As Jesus said three times – “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

This is the promise of Jesus to us – when we seek God as he instructs us to, we will get God’s attention. God will reward us; God will care for our needs and answer our prayers. William Higgins

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Let me begin by asking – “How often should we pray the Lord’s prayer?” Ever thought about this? One way to answer this is to ask:

  • How often do you need forgiveness?
  • Or, how often do you want to ask to be spared difficult times of testing?
  • Or even more specifically – how often do you need daily bread? (Hint – “daily”).


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This is a presentation I gave several years ago on the Lord’s prayer – Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer

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