**This post will is the third post of an exciting series on the Sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7, as translated in the English Standard Version of the Bible. You can read the passage online by Clicking Here so that you can gain the most value and context for these posts. Please subscribe to this blog to receive updates on new posts! You can read the whole series in order by Clicking Here**
Recap – We left off at the end of Matthew 5, verses 17-48. The topics covered in this section were The Law (17-20), Anger & Lust (21-30), Divorce (31-32), Oaths (33-42), and Non-Retaliation and Enemy Love (43-48). Christ’s theme in all of Chapter 5 seems to be something like, “If you want to follow me, You’re called to more than what is expected of you from the world”.
In this next section in chapter 6, verses 1-18, Christ’s theme seems to be something like, “If you want to follow me, You’re called to love, pray, and worship genuinely”.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:1-4 that when we practice our faith in ways that would seek attention, we are not doing those good actions from a pure heart, but from a selfish heart. When we help the poor, and when we try to quench the thirst of poverty…we should not do so in ways that would attract attention to ourselves; trying to save face. We should be doing these things in ways that would Not attract attention, and our motives should purely be centered on serving God, and serving others.
Following Jesus is a religion of humility before a righteous God, and of service to your fellow human being. Following Jesus is NOT a religion of selfishness, or of self-exclaiming pride
Like we learned from the previous passage, we should not pray in order to be heard, or to get attention, but rather, prayer is to be a special moment shared between us and God.
This passage also teaches us that when we pray, repeating the same request over and over again does not make God hear us more; it does not change how God is going to respond to our request.
In verses 9-13, “The Lord’s Prayer” is said by Jesus as an instruction on how to pray. The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer that has been said throughout Christendom for hundreds of years; some traditions state that its usage dates back to the first century with the early Christians. Some traditions still incorporate the Lord’s prayer into their weekly services because they believe Jesus instructed that the Lord’s Prayer should be said regularly, while others say it would be vain repetition to say the same words over and over again. Regardless of our personal opinion on its usage in today’s world, we can at least observe what the prayer intended to communicate to its original audience.
The prayer starts by acknowledging the Lord’s divinity through showing reverence to his name. It then petitions the Lord to usher His kingdom into the world, and that His Will would be done. The next part is asking for “our daily bread”, which has been interpreted to mean either literal food, or it could also be a metaphor for spiritual food. The prayer then closes with asking for forgiveness, while acknowledging our need to forgive others, and to also keep us from the temptation to fall again.
After the prayer, verses 14-15 continue to stress the importance of forgiving others.
Matthew 6:16-18 is about fasting, and it ties into the theme of this whole section of Matthew 6:1-18; the idea that we should not do acts of service, prayer, or worship because we want to gain attention; but because we are simply trying to serve the God we love.
Fasting is meant to be a time of withholding from something for the purpose of worship of God, prayer, and/or praise. Some observe this practice today, and others do not. Regardless of what your practice is, the principle for this whole first section of Matthew 6 is summed up in the meaning behind verses 17 and 18, which says:
“But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”(ESV)
When a person would fast, their hair, hygiene, and overall appearance could look poor because of their lack of food for whatever amount of time they chose to fast. Because of this, Jesus gave the literal teaching to make your hair look nice, clean up, and go about your day as if you were not fasting so that what you are doing for God would only be seen by God. Again, the purpose for this was to tear down people’s perceptions of what it meant to worship as shown to them by their religious leaders, which was public and attention-seeking worship.
Worship is meant to be done for God, and is between him and us. Different people worship different ways. Some worship God best through contemplative reading, thought, and prayer. Some worship best through Service, and others worship best through music. Regardless of the mode of worship, we should never lose sight of the purpose of Worship.