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1:1-17 Genealogy of Jesus
1:18-25 Announcement and Birth of Christ
2:1-12 The Magi Visit Christ
2:13-18 The Family Flees to Egypt
2:19-23 Jesus Returns to Nazareth
3:1-4:25 The Gospel of the Kingdom
3:1-4:11 Preparation for Jesus' Ministry
3:1-12 John the Baptist's Ministry
3:13-17 Jesus is Baptized
4:1-11 Jesus Overcomes Temptation
4:12-25 The Beginning of Jesus' Ministry
5:1-7:29 Teaching about Discipleship
5:1-2 Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount
5:1-2 Intro to the Sermon
Detailed Outline1-2 Introduction to the Sermon on the MountThese verses obviously give the setting and introduction to the Sermon on the Mount which takes up the rest of chapters 5-7. It gives the physical setting as well as the context in Jesus's growing ministry up to this point. He had revealed Himself as a preacher and miracle worker, proclaiming the impending arrival of the Kingdom of God. And great crowds were following Him, because they had seen or heard of His miraculous healings and message.1a-b Jesus went up on the mountainside to address the crowd1a Seeing the crowdsThe last part of Matthew chapter 4 narrates how great crowds from the surrounding areas had come out to see Jesus. Matthew specifically mentioned all who had brought the sick and afflicted to be healed, because the report of miraculous healings had spread. This sermon is a response to the opportunity to preach given by the gathering of this large crowd. In other contexts, Jesus emphasized His mission to proclaim the Kingdom of God over His healing ministry. And in this case, He chose to exercise His ministry of proclamation.1b He went up into the mountainsideThe traditional site for this sermon is on the side of the hills rising to the northeast from the Sea of Galilee. There is a large indentation in the hill that forms a natural amphitheater in the hillside. In other words, it is a flat plateau that breaks up a rising hillside. That is why Luke 6:17 can say that Jesus went to a
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level placeand this verse can say he went up to the mountainside without there being any contradiction. The traditional location for the Sermon on the Mount is a relatively level place in the hillside rising from the Sea of Galilee.
Jesus may have chosen this place because it was a natural amphitheater, with acoustics helpful for being heard by a large crowd. Or He may have chosen it because it was remote and large enough to accommodate the large crowd. The reason why He chose this place must remain conjecture. But it is the reason why chapters 5-7 are called the
Sermon on the Mount.
Throughout the Bible, mountains are often the location of revelation from God. For instance, the transfiguration took place on a mountain top. And Moses went up on Mount Sinai to speak with God and to receive the Ten Commandments and the stipulations of the covenant. This is significant, because in the Book of Matthew, Jesus is often cast as a second Moses, Who reveals the new teachings to God's people. And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus directly clarifies and corrects their understanding of the Law given through Moses. However, in this case, Jesus is not placed in the role of Moses receiving the Law on a mountain. Rather, He is placed in the role of God, revealing the new teaching on the mountain by His own authority. This is another hint at the nature and authority of Jesus.1c-d He sat down and the disciples gathered to Him1c After He sat downIt was the tradition of the Rabbis of this period to teach from a seated position. And Jesus typically followed this practice. Sitting down was often a signal that teaching was about to commence.1d His disciples went to HimAfter Jesus signaled that He was about to teach, His disciples gathered. Obviously from the context, there was a large crowd that gathered. And presumably this was a mixed crowd that contained some who were His disciples, as well as some who were not (yet), and some who were just there to see the spectacle. But Matthew emphasized that His disciples were the primary intended audience for this sermon. The content of the sermon reinforces that it was teaching for disciples, though there is nothing in the sermon that was not profitable for the outsiders to hear as well.2 He taught the Sermon on the Mount2a-b He began to speak and taught them2a Opening His mouthThis is obviously just a preliminary action, introducing the act of teaching.2b He taught themThe content of the Sermon on the Mount is
teachingwith the intention to inform, but also to inspire to action, based on the newly learned information. Here Jesus began the actual activity of teaching, described in the next few chapters.2c By saying:This is a typical discourse formula introducing the content of what was said. But in this case, the content is a large block of material extending to the end of chapter 7.5:3-7:27 The Sermon on the Mount [see the following sections]5:3-16 Introduction to the Righteousness of the Kingdom
8:1-9:38 The Kingdom is Demonstrated
5:3-10 The BeatitudesDetailed Outline3 The Kingdom of Heaven is the blessing for the poor in spirit3a Blessed are the poor in spirit3b Because the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs4 Those who mourn are blessed with comfort4a Blessed are the ones mourning4b Because these ones will be comforted5 Those who are meek/gentle are blessed with inheriting the earth5a Blessed are the meek/gentle5b Because these ones will inherit the earth6 Those who pursue righteousness are blessed with attaining it6a Blessed are the ones hungering and thirsting for righteousness6b Because these ones will be satisfied7 Those who are merciful are blessed with receiving mercy7a Blessed are the merciful7b Because these ones will be shown mercy8 Those who are pure in heart are blessed with the vision of God8a Blessed are the pure in heart8b Because these ones will see God9 Those who are peacemakers are blessed with having the character of God9a Blessed are the peacemakers9b Becaue these ones will be called sons of God10 The Kingdom of Heaven is the blessing for those persecuted for righteousness10a Blessed are the ones persecuted on behalf of righteousness10b Because the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs5:11-12 The Reward for Enduring Persecution
Detailed Outline11-12c Those persecuted for Christ's sake are blessedThis is an elaboration of the last of the Beatitudes (5:10). Jesus continued by repeating the pronouncement of blessing, but elaborated on the reasons for the blessing and how His hearers should respond.11 You are blessed when people persecute you for my sake11a You are blessedThis proposition uses the same word
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blessedas Jesus used in the Beatitudes of vv. 3-10. But in this proposition, it is more pointedly personal. Instead of saying a more generally aimed
blessed are those who...Jesus said
blessed are you,addressing it directly to His hearers. However, like the Beatitudes, this was not a blanket blessing, but only applied to certain people in certain situations, as described in the following propositions.11b-e The occasions when you are blessed11b When they insult youThis blessing is applicable, Jesus said, when people insult you. The word
whenmakes the blessing conditional on the situation Jesus was describing. But this is a positive promise - whenever people insult us in this way, we can expect to receive blessing from God.
Insultmeans to speak disparagingly of someone. This word usually has the connotation of saying something that is untrue (which Jesus will highlight in 11e). But this word may also mean to say something that is technically true, but to say it in a way intended to mock and/or shame someone. In this context, Jesus was not promising blessing for any kind of insult whatsoever. But, as shown in 11d, He was talking about insults that come as a result of connection with Christ and following His way and lifestyle.11c And they persecute [you]This proposition is a continuation of the condition when, Jesus said, His hearers were blessed. We are blessed when people persecute us. The word
persecutecovers a variety of actions intended to harass, inconvenience and somehow inflict harm. It is usually used to describe actions done because of someone's different beliefs or lifestyle, or inclusion in a group seen as undesirable because of beliefs and/or lifestyle. In this context (see 11d), the blessing for being persecuted is limited to persecution caused by being connected with Christ. If we are persecuted for being obnoxious, or for our bad behavior, we cannot claim the blessing which Jesus promised in this verse.11d-e And they falsely slander you because of meThis section is a continuation of the condition when Jesus promised blessing on His hearers. It is one main idea communicated using two propositions. The main idea is saying evil things against people because of Christ (11d). And Jesus clarified that this is done falsely, by saying things that are not true (11e).11d And they say all kinds of evil things against you because of meThis is a continuation and expansion of the previous propositions. Here Jesus pronounced blessing when people say evil things against us. He used the word
allto signify all manner of evil things said against us. And the phrase
say evil thingsis generic for all kinds of wicked, hateful, untrue, worthless speech. This makes it a blanket statement that covers the insult mentioned above, but also things like slander, gossip, lies, etc. All kinds of genuinely harmful and hateful speech are covered by this term.
However, as an aside, this is not the same as the concept of
hate speechoften used in current culture. The concept of hate speech is a useless and harmful concept unless it is clearly and carefully defined according to objective standards, which it almost never is. Therefore, if the boundaries of what constitutes hate speech are not clearly defined, it quickly devolves in to a weapon used to manipulate someone with whom one disagrees, whether or not their statement was genuinely intended to be hateful or harmful, and even if it is true. Of course, Jesus is against hateful speech and clearly labeled it as evil. But He would only allow it to be defined as evil by His objective standards of right and wrong, in conformity with His divine character and holiness, and especially His truth. Many of Jesus's own statements have been labeled as
hate speechby people who are judging by twisted standards completely opposed to His. And there is no evidence that Jesus would approve of suppressing that kind of speech. He directly and publicly corrected His opponents when they said untrue and harmful things, but He never tried to deny them an opportunity to speak.
And in this proposition, Jesus was talking about a specific kind of evil speech. This is seen by His use of two modifying phrases. The first is
against you.This is the kind of harmful speech aimed directly against His disciples. They were promised blessing if they were the direct targets of the slanderous and harmful attack. And the second modifying phrase is
because of meor
on my account.This specifies that these verbal attacks were because of someone's connection to Christ. As Jesus said elsewhere (see John 15:18-21) people will hate and attack His followers only because they hated and attacked Him first. Therefore, we are not promised blessing when people insult us because we have been acting in a way that invites insult. We are not blessed when people attack us personally for our personal attributes and actions separate from Christ. But when we are spoken evil of because we are followers of Christ and trying to live in conformity with His character, we are promised blessing.11e By lyingThis proposition is the final modifying explanation of the kind of evil speech which Jesus was addressing in this section. He clarified that it was being the subject of false speech which is the occasion of the blessing of His hearers. He was talking about false accusation, false gossip, false slander, and insults that are not true. Jesus was not promising blessing when people accuse you of things that are true about you, only false accusations. And like the other propositions in this section, this is directly linked to our relationship with Christ, not necessarily concerning lies told about us separate from our Christian faith and lifestyle.12a-c Respond with JoyThis section is the response which Jesus was teaching His followers to have whenever they experience this kind of persecution. This response may seem counter-intuitive at first until Jesus explains the reason for this response, which He did at the end of this section.12a-b Be happy about it12a RejoiceJesus suggested that we respond to persecution suffered for His sake by rejoicing. We are to be glad when we suffer for Christ. This does not make sense until we connect this with the reason for rejoicing which Jesus will give in 12c. But because of Christ and His truth and promises, we actually can be happy in difficult times. This is because the blessedness we experience in Christ is eternal and therefore it transcends our temporary circumstances, both good and bad.12b And be gladThis proposition is parallel to the previous one. The terms
be gladare basically synonymous. If there is any difference in meaning,
rejoiceis more of an inner attitude, and
be gladis more of an outward action and demonstration of our gladness. But both terms include the inward attitude and outward response. So, in this passage they are basically interchangeable. Jesus did not repeat His thought with a synonymous term to say something different or to add information. He repeated Himself for emphasis, to highlight the magnitude of the joy which we should experience when we are persecuted for His sake. Again, this does not make sense until it is connected with the reason that Jesus gave in the next proposition.12c Reason: Because your reward is great in heavenThe reason why we should rejoice when persecuted for Christ's sake is that God will reward us. And the reward He has stored up for us in Heaven is great, according to Jesus. It is an excessive reward that far surpasses the experience of suffering. In other words, we will get far more good from God as a reward than we will suffer bad in the persecution. God's reward will be greater because God is both just and generous. He will pay us back for the harm we suffered, and He will give much more because of His love and grace. This multiplied reward will totally overshadow anything we suffered, and make us forget the persecution in light of the joy of our reward. And this reward is guaranteed because God is completely faithful to His promises.12d Reason: Because, they persecuted the prophets before you in the same wayThis proposition brings out the reason which is implicit in Jesus's earlier promise of reward (12c), and which underlies all of this passage. It is the reason why we are blessed when we are persecuted for Christ's sake, and the reason we can expect a reward. It is that we are proven to be on God's side, like the earlier prophets, who were likewise persecuted for standing firm in godliness and challenging their ungodly society. The Old Testament prophets were persecuted because the evil people could not put up with their righteous message from God, which showed their own sin.
In the same way, when we are persecuted for Christ's sake (and not for our own sinfulness or stupidity), we find assurance that we are actually God's people, and that we genuinely are a part of the Kingdom of God, and that we are guaranteed the full experience of His Kingdom when it is consummated. It is evidence that we are no longer of this world. As Jesus said in John 15:19,
If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.This is the reason the Apostles rejoiced
that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name(Acts 5:41). Martin Luther once said,
the only way we can avoid offending guilty people is by our silence or by their patience. We cannot be silent because of the command of God, and they cannot be patient because of their guilt(paraphrased). In other words, if no one in the wider, ungodly society is somehow put off by your Christian lifestyle and speech, then there is reason to question whether you are adequately applying Christ to the way you live and speak. But if you receive resistance for your faith (again, not for your rudeness or personality), you can find assurance and joy that you are Christ's to the extent that the people around you notice the difference. You share in the kind of persecution the prophets experienced, and you will share in their reward.5:13-16 Salt and Light
Detailed OutlineIntro:At first glance, in this section, Jesus seemed to be speaking about the identity and character of believers. His main ideas are both started with the words
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You are...followed by a metaphorical description of His disciples. And these verses do inform believers about an aspect of their identity in Christ and the character they should demonstrate. However, the main point of this passage is about the function and role of believers in the Kingdom and the ways that believers should impact the world around them. In other words, this section is mostly about what believers should accomplish, and only secondarily about who believers are, which enables them to accomplish this.13 You are like salt, so, make a difference13a You are the salt of the earthIn this proposition, Jesus metaphorically likened His disciples to salt, and said that they are the salt
of the earth.In that age, with no refrigerators, salt was a primary means by which they kept food from spoiling. Salt was used as a preservative. It penetrated into the surrounding food in which it was placed, and kept it from going bad. And of course, it impacted the taste of their food, usually for the better. And the phrase
of the earthpoints to the fact that the salt, representing the disciples, would somehow impact the world around them.
So, Jesus was saying that, in some way, the presence of His disciples living according to His standards would keep society from getting worse and worse. And by their tasteful seasoning, they would even make their society better. History has proved that a strong Christian influence typically made cultures stronger, more just, more peaceful and safe, and more prosperous. Genuine Christian influence is a blessing to any society.
In this verse, Jesus was teaching that His disciples should pervade our surroundings with Christ's influence. We should impact our surroundings with Christ's goodness. And we should preserve and even improve our surroundings with Christ's grace and power through out witness to Christ. Jesus's disciples are to make a difference, because we are the salt of the earth.13b-f Therefore, make a difference in the world13b If the salt loses its tasteIn this proposition, Jesus brought up a hypothetical situation - if salt would stop being salty, if it would lose its taste. There is a problem in that natural salt never loses its taste. It always remains the same chemical compound. If it remains salt, it will always be salty. The only way that it can lose its effectiveness as a preservative and seasoning is if it is mixed with something else, like dirt, for example. The word translated
loses its tasteis literally
to become foolish.Some suggest this reflects a double meaning from the word in Jesus's native language. But in this context, it clearly means to lose its effectiveness as salt - to cease being a preservative and seasoning influence. He was saying that if salt no longer tastes like salt and no longer accomplishes what salt was used for, there was no point in its existence as salt.
But Jesus was not primarily talking about natural salt. He was addressing His disciples as a preserving and positive influence. His disciples should not lose their influence in society, because they cannot help but be influential as long as they live according to the truth of Christ. So, here, Jesus was warning against not exercising a positive influence in the surrounding society. The only ways that this would happen is first, if His people get so mixed in the corrupt society that they themselves are corrupted by that society, or second, that they cease to live out their trust in Christ and His way of Kingdom living. Neither of which is a legitimate option for genuine Christians. And so, Jesus was warning against this in the next propositions, where He told what would happen if His disciples lost their saltiness - if they failed to have a pervasive preserving influence. He did not tell His disciples to become salt, but suggested they remain what they were.13c-f It cannot go back to being useful [again]This section communicates the result if salt loses its saltiness. If this ever happens, the salt would lose its identity and reason for being. If salt is not salty, it is not anything. And if a Christian loses his difference from the world, and therefore, his preserving and bettering influence on his surroundings, his Christianity is fruitless and called into question.13c In what way will it become salty?This proposition is a rhetorical question that expects a negative answer. It functions as a statement that salt which lost its influence cannot be made influential again. Like in the preceding proposition, salt does not change its chemical makeup. So, Jesus was introducing the fact that for salt to love its influence was an unthinkable event, which could not be remedied. For salt not to be salt means that it loses itself beyond repair. It needed more [different] salt to be made salty. It no longer had the saltiness in itself.
In applying this metaphor to His disciples as witnesses and influences on the surrounding society, Jesus probably held to the possibility that un-salty disciples could repent and return to being a positive influence by the convicting and empowering work of His Spirit in their lives. But, like in the warnings included in the letters to the churches in Revelation (see Rev. chs. 2-3), there is a possibility that a church may be so compromised that Christ takes its lampstand away and it ceases to be a church. Here Jesus was strongly warning against His disciples losing their preserving influence in the first place by pointing out that if they are not salty, they are betraying their identity and purpose.13d-f It won't be useful, but will be discardedThis continues to describe the results if salt loses its saltiness.13d It will no longer be capable of anythingSalt without saltiness has no power, no ability to accomplish anything it was created to accomplish. It would literally be good for nothing. It would lose its identifying characteristics and reason for being. If it is not salty, it is not anything.
Jesus was using this statement to challenge His followers not to lose their preserving influence on their surroundings. If we don't make a difference in the world around, then what good is our Christian faith? If we are not salty, somehow making an impact, we have stopped having evidence that we ourselves have been impacted by Christ, and we may question whether we have been changed. A Christian or church that is not making a difference may not actually be a genuine Christian or church.13e-f Except being discarded and disdainedThis section is in the form of an exception, given to state the alternative that will happen to salt that has lost its saltiness. It is no longer capable of anything else, and so it will experience these things.13e Except being thrown outsideThis proposition uses the phrase
thrown outin the same way we use this phrase to refer to trash that is discarded. It is no longer useful, so we get rid of it by sending it away from us. Salt that has lost its preserving and seasoning power will be treated in this way. Jesus did not specify whether this meant that His supposed followers, who lack this influence, would be rejected by Him or by society. He has already spoken of His true followers being rejected by society because of their positive influence (see vv. 11-12). And so, this more likely implies that they would be judged and rejected by Christ Himself as not fulfilling a function for which they were created and redeemed. But, as the next proposition shows, there is also an aspect of rejection by society as well.13f Result: to be trampled by peopleThis proposition is in the form of a result statement. This is what happens when the un-salty salt would be thrown out - it will be trampled by people.
Being trampledhas the connotation of being injured or even destroyed by being crushed. But it mostly has the idea of being disdained and thought nothing of. It is not even worth avoiding or picking up. It is not given a second thought and just stepped on.
We have seen this in our society. Christians that have tried hard to be relevant and liked by the unbelieving world have not succeeded in winning the world through that strategy. Instead, they have mostly been ignored and/or disdained. And they have compromised their own identity. Why would the world see the need for supposed Christians who are just like them? They already have all that these people are seeking to imitate and affirm. But those Christians who are intentionally not just like the world will make a difference. Sometimes that difference results in persecution, as seen in the previous passage. But sometimes the result is conversions. This is so much better than un-salt
Christianswho make no difference at all.14-16 You are like light, so, be conspicuous for goodThis section is parallel to the previous verse. It uses the metaphor of light instead of the metaphor of salt. But the main point is similar. Because of His people's identity and role, they should have a positive impact on the society around them. And there is something wrong if they don't.14a You are the light of the worldIn this proposition, Jesus metaphorically likened His disciples to light, and said that they are the light
of the world.In John 8:12, Jesus proclaimed that He is the light of the world. And He is the light of the world in a way that His disciples are not able to be. But, in a way, He has called us to imitate Him in this role and be the light of the world. The function of
lightis to illuminate - to enable people to see things as they really are. Light is the opposite of darkness, and in the Bible, it is a symbol for goodness, truth, righteousness, and the transparency of doing good, as opposed to evil, falsehood, sin, and the hiddenness and sneakiness of all wrongdoing. Light is the vehicle for the revelation of truth.
And so, the application of this proposition is that God's people should somehow communicate the truth of Who God is. This happens by proclamation. But it is also reinforced and demonstrated by living truthful, righteous lives of integrity and transparency. We are to speak the truth, live the truth, and demonstrate the truth. When we do this, we illuminate and show the world the right way to live - the way that is blessed and flourishing. But we also, by contrast, highlight that the other ways of living are cursed and harmful in comparison. Like shining a light in a dark room will more clearly show up the dirt and imperfections, shining the light of Christ in a dark world will expose and confront sin, while at the same time, showing a better way. And that is why, according to John 3:19-21, many people hate and avoid the light, and even persecute the people that expose their darkness and sin.
But truth is always better than falsehood and deception. Light is always better than darkness. And so, shining the light gives more accurate knowledge, and revelation of the truth of Christ. The truth will inevitable come out and be victorious in the end. And so, shining the light is a beneficial thing, even if it is resisted by some. So, Christ's disciples are called to be part of this illumination of reality, and the revelation of Christ's goodness, and even the exposure of the world's darkness. We expose the world's sin and darkness, not so that we can look down on them, but so that they can see the truth and find rescue and healing in Christ - Who is the ultimate light.14b-16 Therefore, let your good works be conspicuous, for God's glory14b-15 Conspicuous things will be noticedJust like, in the previous verse, Jesus pointed out the absurdity of salt that is not salty in order to encourage His followers to live out their calling to influence our world, so here, Jesus pointed out the absurdity of light that does not shine and illuminate, in order to encourage us to demonstrate Christ's impact and influence our world.14b-c A city on a hill cannot be hiddenIn this section, Jesus was negating an absurd possibility in order to make a point. This is an illustration by exaggeration. A city on a hill will be visible. It will be blatantly obvious and conspicuous. In the same way, His disciples should make their good works conspicuous and obvious. It should be as unthinkable that their Christian life could not be noticed.14b A city is not able to be hiddenA city, being a very large object, is difficult, even impossible, to hide. It is obvious to anyone within the range of vision. And in the next proposition, Jesus made it even less thinkable that it would be hidden.14c Reason: being on top of a hillAny city would be difficult or impossible to hide. But this is made even more unreasonable to think if the city was on top of a prominent hill. It is elevated with no obstructions to sight, and therefore prominently visible for miles around. This kind of city is clearly conspicuous and cannot be hidden. In the same way, as Jesus will emphasize later in the punchline of this section, our good deed should be plainly seen.15 No one hides a light, but rather uses it to illuminate thingsThis section is parallel to 14b-c. Something created to be conspicuous cannot and should not be hidden. It is the nature and purpose of light to shine and illuminate things around it. To not shine, or to somehow prevent it from illuminating things is a contradiction and absurdity. Why would anyone have a light and not let it shine?15a-b Neg: No one hides a lamp15a No one lights a lampThis proposition must be taken in connection with the next one. It is a setup for the main idea in the next proposition. Obviously, people do light lamps. But what they do not do is, after the preliminary action of lighting the lamp, do what is described in the next proposition. People do not light a lamp and do the next action together.15b And places it under a basketThis proposition is the completion of the though begun in the previous one. Once a person lights a lamp, they do not cover and obscure it. They do not put a lamp under a cover that blocks out its light. If someone were to take a typical first century lamp and put it under a basket, it would illuminate under the basket, but would give no light to the rest of the room. However, the purpose of lighting the lamp, as will be seen in the next section, is to illuminate the entire room. so, putting it under a basket would defeat its purpose.
This is parallel to a disciple that only shines in a limited private sphere. Of course, there are parts of the world, where it is more dangerous to be a Christian. And in those places, wisdom needs to be exercised on how to avoid persecution as much as possible without denying Christ. But in other parts of the world, there should be no such thing as a purely private faith. If someone's faith is genuine, then it should automatically impact their public as well as their private lives. It should go with them into the public sphere and influence all that they do there. Everyone else acts in the public square according to their deeply held beliefs. It is hypocrisy and dishonesty to try to force Christians to keep their religion private, when everyone else's religion is public, especially in countries where there is freedom for other religions and viewpoints only because that freedom has come from from the influence of Christianity on that culture. Christians should not buy into the historically mistaken understanding of
separation of church and stateor the
secular public square.Both of those ideas are a distortion of the historical reality and intention of our founding principles, as well as manipulative for the advantage of the opposite worldview, not to mention directly opposed to Jesus's teaching in this passage. Christians should not be ashamed of Christ and His way, either in private or in public, as illustrated in the following propositions.15c-d Pos: Rather, they position it to illuminate things15c But he places it on the lampstandIn that day, lamps were typically place on lampstands, which elevated them and allowed them to illuminate more of the space in which they were placed. The proper use of light is to be seen and to illuminate. So, a lamp was put in a conspicuous place to shine and give light to the rest of the area. In the same way, Christians should allow their commitment to Christ to be conspicuous in their lives and make an impact on the society around them.15d And it shines on all the things in the houseThis is the continuation of the previous proposition. This shows the result of putting a lamp in a conspicuous position. The result is that it makes a difference - it illuminates the entire house. All things in the house receive its light and become more clearly seen.
In the same way, disciples should make a difference in society. There is no part of society where disciples should not have an illuminating influence. Our faith should not just impact our lives in private and in church (though it should make a difference there as well). Rather, Christ should transform every area of our lives and everythign we are involved with, including our public roles.16 In the same way, let your good works be conspicuous, so God will be glorifiedIn this verse, Jesus applied the illustrations He had used in the previous verses. He translated the ideas of salt and light into how His disciples should respond to this teaching. We are to be salt and light by living righteously, so that our good works will be seen in public for God's glory.16a In the same way, let your light shine before peopleIn this proposition, Jesus applied His illustration to the real life of His disciples. We are to let our faith make a difference in every part of our lives so that it is seen by the people around us. Christ should make a tangible difference in our everyday lives so that it is noticeable. The people who know us should be able to see the difference our discipleship has on everything. And this is further explained in the following propositions.16b-c Purpose: so that they will glorify God for your good worksThis section explains the result of letting our light shine before people. In other words, when we succeed in letting our light shine, this section describes the result of that.16b So that they may see your good worksThe result of Christ's impact on our lives will be a variety of good works, both in our private and public lives. We will live in a righteous manner. We won't be perfect in this lifetime, but we should be markedly different from the unbelieving people around us. And this lifestyle and these good works should be demonstrably different from those who do not follow Christ. And when we do this, it will be noticed by the people around us. Our good works are the result of Christ in our life. And our good works will be noticed because of Christ.
This verse must be compared with what Jesus will later say in 6:1. In that verse, Jesus taught us not to do our good works to be seen. But in this verse, Jesus said people should see our good works. This is not a contradiction. If we read each verse carefully and understand what Jesus was teaching, the difference is in the motivation and purpose why we do good works. in 6:1, we are taught not to do good works in order to glorify ourselves. But in this verse, we are taught to do good works, and the next proposition will give us the correct motivation and purpose for doing them.16c And glorify your Father in heavenIn this proposition, Jesus taught the ultimate result of our letting our light shine, which He explained as doing good works in the sight of the people around us. But this is also the ultimate purpose for why we do these good works. It is for the glory of God our Heavenly Father.
This is the first verse in the New Testament where Jesus referred to God as
Father.And what is striking is that He did not use this to speak of God as His Father (which is true). He spoke of God as the Father of His genuine disciples, Who would be glorified by their demonstrably changed lives. In the Old Testament, God was said to be the Father of all of Israel, and He spoke of some kings of Israel as His son. But never was God described in the close father/son relationship with all Israelites. Now, here in the New Testament, Jesus called God the Father of all of His true disciples. Jesus never said that God is the Father of all humanity. But He does say this of all His disciples. So, His disciples are all in an intimate Father/child relationship relationship with the God of the universe. He cares for us, and provides for us, and teaches us, and disciplines us, so that we are molded into His family likeness and character. But God is also described as our Father in Heaven. He is far above us. He is holy, and Sovereign Lord of all the universe. In this one phrase, Jesus clearly communicated both the immanence and transcendence of God. He is close to us as Father, and He is infinitely High above us as Lord.
When people see the positive change in our lives; when we tell of Jesus and let our light shine by our proclamation and righteous lifestyle, people will conclude that God is real and has made a change in us. And they will be drawn to Him and glorify Him. In other words, we are to be salt and light - we are to live differently, so that people will see God in our lives.
We are to do all things in the Name of Christ (Col. 3:17). And Peter echoed Jesus' teaching when he wrote
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.(1 Pet. 2:12). And we are to
always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have(1 Pet. 3:15). Our lifestyle and speech are to demonstrate the reality of God and draw others toward Him, for His glory.That is the point and aim of Jesus's teaching in this section. We are, by virtue of being His disciples, salt and light in this world. And that means, we should make a difference in the world around us as Christians, pointing to Christ as the difference maker. And as we do this, God will be glorified in us and through us, because people will see our good works and conclude that we could not have done this on our own, and therefore, God must have been working in our lives.5:17-48 The True Fulfillment of the Law
6:1-18 Don't Do Righteousness Just to be Seen
5:17-20 Jesus' Relationship with the LawDetailed OutlineIntro:In this passage, Jesus discussed His (and His disciples') relationship with the Old Testament Law. This passage serves as the overall thesis and introduction to the following section of the sermon. The following passages (vv. 21-48) are specific examples of application of the principles Jesus taught in this passage. In this passage, Jesus claimed to honor, embody, and fulfill all that the Old Testament Law taught. And He expected His disciples to do the same. However, because of the changing of epochs which Jesus was bringing about, His (and His disciples') following of the Law was not exactly what the Scribes and Pharisees of His day expected or required. They had (at least partly) misunderstood the purpose of the Law, and therefore, they misunderstood how it should, and would be obeyed. And therefore, part of Jesus's teaching about the Law in this sermon is to correct the misconceptions common during that period. And Jesus connected all of the teaching in this section with the character and purpose of God. Because the Law is an expression of God's righteousness, a correct understanding and application of the Law will be in conformity with His character and purpose in giving the Law.
This larger section is similar in form to Old Testament wisdom teaching. Jesus acted in the role of the wise teacher, showing the better way. In fact, throughout His entire ministry, Jesus was the epitome of wisdom, and demonstrated, as well as taught, the truly wise life and lifestyle. And in this section, He applied this approach specifically to the idea of applying the Law of God. And He was contrasting two approaches. One approach is good, and one is bad. One approach is wise, and the other is foolish. Throughout the Sermon on the Mount (and indeed, throughout the New Testament) Jesus contrasted two different ways of understanding and attempting to apply the Old Testament Law and Prophets. first is the unwise approach, demonstrated and taught by the Pharisees. And second is the wise approach demonstrated and taught by Jesus and His followers.
The approach of the Pharisees was to strictly, conscientiously obey all the details of the Law, in order to attain, maintain, and/or restore good standing with God. An example of this is the fact that they followed the law of tithing even on their spices (Matt. 23:23). And they attempted to obey every law even to the smallest detail in every part of life. They did this because they considered obedience to the Law as a means of righteousness before God, and conformity and standing with the Law as something that human diligence could and should accomplish. And this approach is not completely stupid, and we can easily understand why they took this approach. It came out of historical circumstances where God had punished Israel, specifically for their unfaithfulness, and part of that unfaithfulness was demonstrated, and condemned by God as their failure to keep His Law. Therefore, that movement began out of a godly restoration and revival, which wanted to remain faithful to God and to please Him. And they reasoned that a conscientious focus on obedience to the Law was the best way to do so. In fact, Jesus agreed with the Pharisees on many things and recommended that people listen to them and do what they say in regard to obeying the Law (Matt. 23:1-3). However, over time, this approach became unbalanced and led to bad consequences and a subtle shift of focus from God and what He has done to ourselves, and what we must do. And Jesus harshly criticized the Pharisees and scribes for their attitude, motivation, and hypocrisy in keeping the Law (Matt. 23:3-39).
The approach of the Pharisees inevitably leads to relying on our own attainment, which leads to self-righteousness. And this leads to a lowering of God's standards to a level that we can attain by our own deeds. And so, the Pharisees surrounded and effectively replaced the Law of God with a growing body of man-made rules. These were claimed to be instructions how to obey the Law, but functionally drew attention away from God's revelation and its intention. They focused only on outward conformity, without grasping the purpose of the Old Testament laws and their connection with the character of God. Therefore, they ignored the motivation for obeying God. And therefore, the movement of the Pharisees, while having a decent understanding of the details of the Law, failed to grasp God's heart and intention behind the giving of the Law. And this approach bred self-righteousness and a legalistic looking down on others who don't perform like we do. And it led to much hypocrisy, where people outwardly performed to be seen as righteous by other people, without caring to actually be righteous in their heart.
This should be contrasted with the approach which Jesus modeled and taught. This approach demonstrates and teaches us to honor and keep God's Law, but for completely different reasons and motivations. We are to completely reject self-righteousness and we are to despair of the possibility of attaining righteousness on our own. That means that our own performance of the Law is not the means (or even a means) for us to attain, maintain, or restore our relationship with God. Jesus perfectly kept the Law, and He served as a model to follow. But His people are realistic that we are not, and never will be, as righteous as Jesus on our own strength and as a result of our own behavior. Nor are we required to be as righteous as Jesus, because He was perfectly, and sufficiently righteous on our behalf. And His righteousness is granted to us by grace through faith. Therefore, we should not seek to attain our own righteousness. But rather we should seek His righteousness, and His Kingdom. However, this does not mean that we can cease caring about the Law or about our own behavior and attitudes. Because we do not need to attain righteousness on our own, we have no need to lower God's standards revealed in the Law. We can recognize and affirm the high standards of God, and seek to attain toward them,even if we will not perfectly attain them. And in order for us to be able to do so, Jesus focused on our inward love and motivation. This is connected to God's character and purpose for giving each example of Old Testament Law. And we are to trust that our outward behavior will flow out of the inward change which God will bring in our lives by trusting in Him. We are to seek lives change by God's grace and power, so that we are able to live out His high standards by our loves and motivations being changed more and more. God's standards, as revealed in the Law, remain high. And yet, we are not necessarily ultimately condemned by these high standards. If we try to attain righteousness by the Law, we are certainly condemned by God's standards. But God has revealed a means of righteousness in Christ, apart from the Law (see Rom. 3:21-26). God's holiness is recognized and honored, and so is His grace and provision in Christ.
Because of the Pharisees' approach to the Law current in His time, Jesus's approach may have seemed like He was rejecting the Law, compared to what they were used to. And therefore, Jesus took pains to clarify and protect against the equally dangerous, opposite mistake of antinomianism in this section of the Sermon on the Mount. And later in His ministry, He would address the mistakes of the Pharisees in more detail (see especially Matt. ch. 23). And Jesus also implicitly showed that this opposite mistake of unbounded license and rejection of God's standards is the logical outcome of their current mistaken approach to Law. And both were in contrast with the proper approach Jesus modeled and taught.17-18 The Law and Prophets have continuing significanceThis section addresses a key issue for understanding the Bible and the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament. Jesus contradicted and corrected those who want to throw out the Old Testament Law completely - those who think that the Law does not apply to Christians in any way. All responsible Bible interpreters acknowledge that there is some continuity between the Old and New Testaments because they are both the work of the same God. And all good interpreters also recognize some discontinuity between the testaments because Jesus brought something totally new and brought God's purposes to a climax. There are differing opinions about the exact nature of the continuity and discontinuity, but responsible Bible teachers all agree that both are true to some extent. However, some have attempted to completely disconnect the Old Testament Law from Christian life and practice. It is true that Jesus, Paul, and others seem to teach that the Law does not apply to Christians in the same way it applied in ancient Israel. But in this passage, Jesus seemed to disallow the idea that there is not continuing significance and application of the Old Testament Law at all. The Law is still revelation from God, and still valid, at least in some way. But something has definitely changed in Jesus. Therefore, the way we relate to the Law is not exactly the same as the people of His day understood it to apply. Jesus spent the next few sections of this sermon correcting their misunderstanding and teaching the truth about how His followers should understand the Law. Jesus will elaborate on the details in the rest of this passage and in the following larger sections of this sermon.17 I have not come to annul the Law and Prophets, but fulfill them.In this section, Jesus contrasted two options in order to protect His hearers against misunderstanding His mission and purpose. These are not the only two possibilities. But they are the two that Jesus mentioned, because these were the most important for His hearers to understand, and they communicated the contrast He wanted to highlight. This way of communicating is very similar to wisdom literature in the Old Testament, and Jesus was acting as a wisdom teacher to contrast two ways of understanding the Law - one good and wise, and the other foolish. The wrong way of understanding the Law was embodied by the Pharisees, whom Jesus argued against a lot in this sermon (and throughout Matthew's Gospel). The understanding and approach of the Pharisees leads to legalism, but also, ironically, it leads to lowering the standards of the Law and relying on our own self-righteousness to fulfill these new standards, which have been lowered for the purpose of being in reach of our own attainment. Jesus rejected that approach and advocated holding and pursuing the highest standards of righteousness, which are beyond our ability to attain on our own. This leads to an apparent paradox - we are to pursue a standard of righteousness that is beyond our reach. This sets up for the solution hinted in the rest of this sermon and clearly communicated in the rest of the New Testament - that we don't rely on our own attainment of righteousness, but trust in God's righteousness graciously given to us in Christ, which then empowers us to actually live in a way that more closely (but never perfectly) conforms to God's high standards.
Ultimately, this is a question, not about what we do, but about what Christ has done on our behalf. But in order to get to that conclusion, Jesus had to disallow the misunderstanding which keeps people from seeking righteousness from Christ by falsely giving them hope of attaining righteousness on their own by lowering God's standards given in the Law.17a-c Don't think I will annul the Law and Prophets17a Do not presumeJesus started this section with a command not to presume. The word
presumemeans to tentatively form an opinion. It has the connotation of a lack of certainty, possibly based on a lack of evidence. Jesus discouraged thinking this certain thing even provisionally. He was saying, in essence, "Don't even give this thought the time of day; don't even consider it, because it is so far from being possible." This idea, which Jesus will specify in the next proposition, is so far from being true that to even consider it tentatively would be silly and unwise.
Unfortunately, some modern Christians presume the exact thing that Jesus will describe, based on a misunderstanding of what Paul taught. Some put Jesus and Paul in opposition. But Jesus and Paul both profoundly agree on what they taught about the Law. It is possible to misunderstand and misapply what each of them taught, because Jesus and Paul were sometimes addressing and pushing back on slightly different errors. They both had to combat both legalism and license at various times. And they did it in various ways, depending on the circumstances. So, we must be careful to read them well, in their context, in order to protect ourselves from error. Jesus clearly said not to presume what He was about to describe. Therefore, we cannot think that. And we must understand all the rest that the Bible says about the Law by taking what Jesus said here into account.17b-c That I have come to annul the Law and ProphetsThis section is the content of what we are not to think, as introduced in the previous proposition. Jesus had commanded His hearers not to presume something. And in this section, He told them exactly what it was that they were not to presume. This section contains two ideas: first that Jesus was present, and second is the supposed purpose why He was present, which they were not to believe, because it is incorrect, as Jesus will explain in the rest of this passage.17b That I have comeThis proposition is an introduction to the more central idea in the next proposition. It introduces Jesus as the center of all of this discussion. It is about Him and His presence as the Messiah and Savior, and on the purpose(s) why He was present among them. The word
comerefers to arrival, but the point is about His resulting presence with them in their midst. And this was leading up to the emphasis on the purpose of why Jesus was present with them. This actually addressed the universal purposes of God for all of history, because Jesus is the center and climax of all of God's purposes in history.17c Purpose: In order to annul the Law and ProphetsThis proposition is the completion of the thought begun in the previous proposition. It gives the supposed purpose for Christ having come that He told His hearers to reject as untrue. He has not come for this purpose, and they are not to presume that He has!
annulmeans to bring something to an end - to make it to no longer be in force or in effect. It is similar to the idea or repealing a law or invalidating a previous decision. Jesus denied that making the Law and Prophets to be invalid was any part of His mission and purpose. Some people may claim that the Law and Prophets are no longer in force because of the coming of Jesus. But that claim is directly contradicted by Jesus in this proposition.
the Law and the Prophetsrefers to the revelation of the Old Testament, specifically given in the two major divisions called the Torah (Law) and the Prophets. But Jesus likely intended this designation also to include the third category of Old Testament revelation, typically called the writings (or Psalms). In other words, this phrase probably referred to the totality of God's revelation in the Old Testament. Jesus clearly stated that His purpose was not different from what God had done in the earlier revelation. His mission was not at all at cross purposes with the Old Testament. What Jesus was doing was not against, or even different from God's prior revelation in a way that would make that prior revelation invalid or even unimportant. Jesus clearly denied that He had come to annul the Old Testament at all.17d-g I won't annul the Law and Prophets, but fulfill themThis section partially repeats, and then completes the idea from the previous section. It is in the form of a negative-positive contrast. Jesus restated what He did not come to do, followed by a statement of what He did come to accomplish. And the contrast between these two serves to highlight the purpose for which He did come.17d-e Neg: I have not come to annul the Law and ProphetsThis section restates the ideas of 17a-c in order to prepare for the contrasting idea that will be stated in 17f-g. 17d-e is almost an exact restatement of 17b-c. The only differences are that 17d adds the word
notin parallel with the idea of
don't presume thisin 17a, and that 17e omits the reference to
the Law and the Prophets,because it is clearly implied from the parallel in 17c.
These two propositions are the negative part of the negative-positive contrast, stating what Jesus did not come to accomplish, as an introductory contrast for (part of) what He did come to do, which will be communicated in 17f-g.17d I have not comeThis proposition is basically an echo of 17b. It repeats the fact of the current presence of Jesus among His people as the preliminary for stating (part of) the purpose for which He came. Or in this case, to deny a supposed purpose for His coming that His hearers could mistakenly have thought, and which Jesus commanded them not to suppose, as clearly stated in the previous section (17a-c).17e Purpose: In order to annul [them]This proposition is a repetition of 17c with the omission of the phrase
the Law and the Prophets,which is clearly implied here from 17c. Jesus repeated that He did not come to repeal the Old Testament revelation or to make it no longer valid. As will be seen in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, and in the rest of the New Testament, Jesus did not change our relation to the Law. Rather, He corrected our misunderstanding of the purpose and function of the Law. And ultimately, He changed our standing before the Law.
Some of the larger concepts about the Law corrected by Jesus and the rest of the New Testament are: The Law was never intended for us to use in order to somehow earn, attain, or prove our relationship to God. The Law was given to Israel after God had already rescued them from Egypt and entered into a covenant relationship with them. This clearly shows that the Law was never intended as a means to attain salvation and relationship (which they already had), but (at best) was instructions for how to live in that salvation and relationship. The Law (and Prophets, which often just reminded Israel of the Law and God's character) are a revelation of God's character and will. And so, they serve as an accuser whenever we transgress against God's character and will. But our legal and moral standing is never about a legal code, but about the Holy standards of the God Who revealed the legal code. And the Law was never intended as a way to bring atonement and restore relationship with God which is broken by sin. However, the Law gives instruction for atonement by describing God's gracious giving of the means of atonement through substitutionary sacrifice. And these all point forward to God's gracious climactic provision of full atonement in the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. And all this leads into the next section, where Jesus pointed out His relation to the Law and Prophets as part of the explanation for why He came.17f-g Pos: Rather, I have come to fulfill the Law and ProphetsThese two propositions are the positive part of the negative-positive contrast, stating what Jesus did come to accomplish, as the emphasis in this contrast begun in 17d-e. They tell (part of) the reason why Jesus came to the world. So, this clearly communicates Christ's mission and what He actually accomplished throughout His ministry, life, death, and resurrection. This is not necessarily exhaustive, telling everything about His mission and purpose. But it does clearly communicate a key aspect of what Christ accomplished.17f But rather [I have come]This proposition is very elliptical, in the sense that it is only the words
but rather.However, in context, the idea of
I have comeis clearly implied from 17d. This proposition is the contrasting statement parallel to 17d. That proposition introduced what is not the reason Jesus was present with His people. This proposition introduces (part of) the reason Jesus actually was present with His people, especially in terms of His relationship with the Old Testament. This is an introductory statement setting up for the main purpose statement in 17g.17g Purpose: In order to fulfill [them]This proposition is the completion of the idea begun in 17f. It tells (part of) the reason why Jesus came to be present with His people. And He said that His purpose was to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. The phrase
the Law and the Prophetsis supplied from 17c, and is clearly central throughout this section. The term
fulfillmeans to somehow bring something to its designed completion. This shows that all of the Old Testament revelation had an overall design, purpose, and goal. Everything that God was doing in the Old Testament was intentionally preparing for something. And Jesus claimed that He was the climax of that design, and that He was actually bringing it to its intended conclusion.
And, in looking at the overall message of the New Testament, it undoubtedly claims that Jesus actually did fulfill the purpose of all of God's previous revelation. He fulfilled the ceremonial aspects of the Law in that He honored temple rituals, and brought to completion the functions which all the ceremonial rituals of the Law performed. Jesus fulfilled the civil/national aspects of the Law. He was the true Israelite, succeeding in Israel's mission to demonstrate God's glory and thereby to be a light and a priesthood for all the nations of the earth. Jesus fulfilled the moral requirements of the Law. He lived a perfect life, completely pleasing to God, and without any hint of sin. He fulfilled the sacrificial aspects of the Law. All of the Old Testament sacrifices pointed to the ultimate fulfillment in the once for all atonement which Christ accomplished by His death on the cross and resurrection. All of the Law and prophets were fulfilled in Him because all of the Old Testament was intended to prepare for Him. Jesus Himself taught His disciples how all of the previous revelation is about Him (see for example, Lk. 24:25-27, 44-48). All of the Bible, all of previous history, and all of subsequent history - all the universe is about Jesus. And so, it is no surprise that He fulfilled the intention and purpose of the Old Testament.
And yet, in light of the entire New Testament, it is necessary to clarify that the reality of Jesus having fulfilled the Law and the Prophets does not mean that everything is now completed. Jesus fulfilled and completed much - all that was intended for Him to accomplish at that time: He brought atonement for His people, inaugurated the Kingdom of God and the new people of God by His resurrection (among many other things). But there are still other things which He has promised to complete, for which we continue to wait and hope. There is still more to come when Jesus returns to bring all of human history to its final completion and consummation, and to bring the life of the next age to full realization.18 The Law is as long lasting as creation/this ageThis section is the second part of Jesus proving that the Old Testament revelation continues to have significance for the Christian. Not only did Jesus not come to annul the Law (quite the opposite), but Jesus explicitly stated in this section that no part of the Law has, nor will disappear as long as heaven and earth continue. This is a very stark and clear statement about the continuation of the Law. Of course, the details of how this works out in the Christian life must take into account all that the New Testament teaches on this issue (there is both continuity and discontinuity). But what Jesus said in this verse prohibits us from thinking that the OT Law has no continuing significance at all for His people in this age.18a For truly I am telling youThis proposition is a standard discourse formula, introducing the following propositions. The way that Jesus stated this gives emphasis and gravity to what He was about to say. It is a solemn signal to pay attention to His words, because they have importance. This is a standard formula that Jesus used at various times, whenever He wanted to especially emphasize the importance of His words, such as 5:26, 6:2, 5, 16, 8:10, etc.18b-d The Law will not disappear until creation disappearsIn this section, Jesus stressed that no part of the Law will disappear. And He connected this certainty with the continued existence of creation. This continued existence, which grounds the certainty of the continued relevance of the Law is described by two different phrases, each of which begins with the word
until.These two phrases are parallel in the sense that they both tell the time extent of the continued validity of the Law. And these two phrases mutually reinforce and define the meaning of each other. However, these two phrase are not exactly parallel, because one of them is frontloaded before the main idea for emphasis, giving it more prominence and weight in our understanding of the timing Jesus was communicating.18b Until heaven and earth would cease to existThis proposition is the first to define the time frame until which nothing from the Law will disappear. This is put before the main idea for emphasis. It will not happen until heaven and earth pass out of existence. The phrase
heaven and earthis not intended to refer to two different entities as much as it is an all-inclusive concept intending to refer to the totality of physical creation as a whole. This phrase refers to the entire created universe, to all of God's material creation. And the term
cease to existmeans to come to an end so as to no longer exist. It means to disappear and go out of existence, to cease completely. Therefore, Jesus was saying that the next proposition will not be true until this material universe, as we know it, completely ceases to exist. And clearly, that has not yet happened. Other places in the New Testament (e.g. 2 Pet. ch. 3) suggest that the universe (at least in its current state) will pass away in the future consummation of this age. But this is still in the future. And so, the idea He will communicate in the next proposition has not yet taken place. And it won't until this universe ceases to exist.18c-dNothing will disappear from the Law until all is completed18c Even one small letter or smallest mark will certainly not cease to exist from the LawThis proposition is the main idea of this section. It tells what will not happen until heaven and earth cease to exist (18b), and until all things would take place (18d). Jesus promised that not even the smallest detail of the Law will cease to exist. He did this by commenting about even the smallest letter or smallest mark of the Law.
Small letterrefers to the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, which resembles a dash - just a short horizontal line - a mere stroke of a pen. And
smallest markrefers to an even smaller stroke of a pen, which distinguished very similar letters from one another. These marks could be very small, similar to a
serif- the little extension on some modern fonts. For example, this font (i l h m) has the extensions, while this font (i l h m) does not. As you can see, these marks are very small. But these kinds of marks could distinguish between different letters in the Hebrew alphabet, and therefore, change the meaning of words.
And Jesus stated that not even the smallest parts of the Law would cease to exist. The term
cease to existis exactly the same work He used in 18b to refer to heaven and earth ceasing to exist. Therefore, to whatever extent the universe continues to be functional and significant in the life of a Christian, the Law will continue to be functional and significant in the life of a Christian. If the universe ceases to exist, the Law will cease to exist. If the universe continues, even the most insignificant part of the Law will continue.
Christians still live with the Law, according to Jesus. However, Christians are no longer under the Law according to Paul (Rom. 6:14-15, 1 Cor. 9:20-21, Gal. 5:18). This apparent contradiction is resolved when we understand exactly what Jesus and Paul were saying about the way the Law should actually function in the life of the believer. Jesus will elaborate on this in the next few sections of this sermon, and Paul's writings should be examined on their own terms and in the context of what Paul was addressing. In one sense, God's people were never under Law in the sense taught and modeled by the Pharisees, which reflects a misunderstanding of the purpose of the Law which both Jesus and Paul corrected. In another sense, the Law still applies to us. Yet it never applies to us as a means of salvation, because it has never applied to anyone as a means of salvation. It was always intended to function in the realm of our response to salvation. And at the same time, the New Testament clearly teaches that some applications of the Law (e.g. in the realms of sacrifices, food, and some ceremonial rites) have been permanently changed by Christ and what He accomplished. It also, just as clearly teaches that other moral precepts, which reflect the unchanging character of God are not changed, and never will be changed, even though they may be applied in different ways, as is most appropriate in order to conform to the consistent character of God. And one thing is certain from this verse: The Old Testament revelation will never have no significance and relevance for a Christian, because Jesus clearly disallowed that possibility.18d Until all things would take placeThis proposition is the second proposition (after 18b) to define the time frame until which nothing from the Law will disappear (as stated in 18c). It uses the same language
untilto introduce this statement as Jesus used in 18b, showing that these two propositions are parallel ideas, basically performing the same function in His argument. However, Jesus did not use the same word
cease to existas He used in 18b-c or
fulfillas He used in 17g. In 17g, He was speaking about how He came to fulfill the Law. In this proposition, He said something broader and more general to explain the timing of the Law passing away. He used the more unspecific term which is often translated "happen." And the subject of this statement is
all things.Therefore, Jesus stated that the Law would remain significant in the life of the Christian until everything happens. He did not define what He meant by
all thingsin this verse. In one sense, this was (at least partly) fulfilled in Christ's cross and resurrection. But in another sense, this is still waiting for Christ's second coming, and the consummation of all things, because, obviously, the totality of all things will not have happened until all of God's promises and purposes are ultimately completed. Therefore, this proposition points to the end of the age (which is still future) as the time before which no part of the Law will cease to exist and function in the life of the Christan.19-20 Therefore, the Law and Prophets are in conformity with the KingdomThis larger section begins with the word
therefore.This shows that Jesus intended this section to be seen as the implication and consequence of the things He said in the previous larger section (17-18). Because the Old Testament revelation still has relevance for His followers, this has implications for the role of the Old Testament revelation in the Kingdom of God. And the implications are that the Law is still significant for the Kingdom, and that the righteousness described by Old Testament revelation (rightly understood and practiced) is a necessary part of God's Kingdom.
This is the second part of Christ's argument that the Law is still viable and significant for His followers. The prior section was looking back to the Old Testament, and this section is looking forward to the Kingdom, which was being inaugurated in Christ's ministry. Jesus clearly stated that the Law and Prophets were in conformity with the Kingdom, and should not be downplayed or ignored. Because genuine righteousness in conformity with God's character and revelation is a key part of Kingdom living.19 Therefore, the Law is in line with the KingdomJesus continued the wisdom contrast between two approaches to the Law. These approaches influence both a person's standards and their resulting lifestyle. One approach leads to legalism as a standard, which ironically results in a form of license in lifestyle. Christ's approach leads to a high standard of righteousness which results in a godly lifestyle. And Jesus equated this second approach with the standard and lifestyle of the Kingdom of God.
This section is given in the form of a negative-positive relationship. Jesus first stated what is not good in order to heighten the contrast when He then stated what is good. He said, in essence, that rejecting the Law is bad, and keeping the Law is good and in conformity with the Kingdom.19a-c Neg: Rejecting the Law is not in line with the KingdomThis section is the negative side of the negative-positive relationship. In this section, Jesus stated that rejecting any part of the Law was in opposition to the values and standards of the Kingdom. Those who downplay the Law and teach others to do this will find themselves devalued by God.19a-b If someone denies or downplays the Law and teaches the sameThis section is a conditional statement setting up for the conclusion given in 19b. In it, Jesus described one type of person. This person will not necessarily reject all of God's revelation in the Law and Prophets. And they may even claim to be champions of the Law. However, they will reject and/or ignore at least the most insignificant part of God's revelation, and also influence others to follow their approach. In other parts of His teaching ministry, Jesus confronted the Pharisees, because they were doing the exact things Jesus warned against in this section. They actually rejected parts of God's Law by replacing His revelation with their own traditions (Matt. 15:3-9). And by their teaching and example, they kept others from being a part of God's Kingdom (Matt. 23:13-15). The Pharisees were not the only people who fit the description Jesus gave in this section, but they were a prime example.19a Therefore, if someone would do away with one of the smallest of these commandsThe word
thereforeshows that this section is the implication of the previous larger section. And the word
ifsignals that this is the beginning of a conditional statement (which includes 19b), setting up for the conclusion which follows if this condition is true, as stated in 19c. This condition describes a hypothetical person of a type described in the rest of this proposition and in the next. This hypothetical was almost certainly meant to describe the Pharisees in Jesus's day. But this description is not limited to the Pharisees. It applies to anyone at any time who fits this description by having the attitude and actions Jesus described. This type of person would do away with one of the smallest commands of the Law and teach others to do likewise.
do away withmeans to destroy, bring to an end or abolish. It signifies actually transgressing a command because one thinks that the command is invalid, unnecessary, and/or insignificant. In another context (Jn. 10:35), Jesus clearly said that
the Law cannot be broken,using this same term. And the term
smallestoften means something that is physically small, but in this case, it refers to something considered to be of least importance. In this proposition, Jesus was most likely not saying that some parts of the Law actually are insignificant. Rather, He was acknowledging that some parts are considered less important by others. And the term
commandsobviously refers to the Old Testament revelation, as seen in the rest of the larger context.
In this section (as will be shown in the results of this conditional in 17c), Jesus was disallowing the attitude and action He was describing in this proposition and the next. Christians are not to disregard or consider invalid any part of the Law and Prophets. And this brings up many questions for the Christian. In other parts of the New Testament, Jesus and His apostles at least seem to set aside some part of the OT regulations. In Jn. 5:18, Jesus Himself was accused of setting aside the Sabbath. This proposition must be understood in the context of all that the rest of the New Testament says about the Christian's relationship with the Law. And Jesus elaborated on these issues in specific detail in the next few passage in this sermon (21-48). Even in not strictly following some laws (such as ceremonial, food, and sacrifice), Christians should not do away with them. Rather, we point to their complete fulfillment in Christ, and the fact that Christ Himself taught the release from keeping these kinds of laws in the same way as ancient Israel. We can never disregard any of the Old Testament revelation on our own whim or authority. Rather, we learn from the New Testament the modified manner in which we understand and follow the Old Testament revelation, based on how it was fulfilled in Christ.19b And would teach people likewiseThis proposition is a continuation and completion of the conditional statement begun in the previous proposition. Jesus was describing a certain type of person who rejected at least part of the Old Testament revelation from being significant and applicable. And in this proposition, Jesus continued that this type of person also recruits and influences others to this same kind of attitude and actions. They get others on board to their point of view and disciple and mentor them into their attitude and lifestyle that flows from their understanding of the Law. The old saying is that
misery loves company.But this is true in most parts of life. When people hold an attitude and position on many sorts of issues, they try to influence others to do likewise. This proposition, like the previous one, likely had the PHarisees in mind. But it is not limited only to them, and applies to anyone who fits this description.19cThis one will be called least in the Kingdom of HeavenThis proposition describes the conclusion of the condition given in 19a-b. If a person rejects any of the commands of the Law and influences others to do so also, then this proposition will be true of them as well. That kind of person will be judged to be least in the Kingdom of Heaven. The way that Jesus stated this proposition leaves open the possibility that someone may indeed be a part of the Kingdom while still rejecting the Law. This is because membership in the Kingdom is dependent on relationship with the King, and is not dependent on one's view of the Law. However, this also does not guarantee that such a person will experience the Kingdom, because a non-believer can also (and usually does) reject God's moral standards.
Jesus's point was not about this person's membership in the Kingdom (or not). His point was that even if this kind of person is in the Kingdom, they will be judged to be less acceptable and in lower conformity with the values of the Kingdom to the extent that they reject God's revelation. They will somehow, in a way that Jesus did not define, be recognized by all as on a lower level of rank in God's Kingdom. This is an indication of a level of punishment and shame compared with those members of God's Kingdom who do not make this mistake. And therefore, this shows Jesus's disapproval of the attitude and actions He had just described, and serves as a warning for His followers not to fall into this error.19d-f Pos: Keeping the Law is in line with the Kingdom19d-e But whoever keeps and teaches the Law19d But whoever would do [them]19e And would teach [likewise]19f This one will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven20 Righteousness is a requirement of the Kingdom20a For truly I am saying to you20b-c You won't enter the Kingdom unless your righteousness is much greater20b That unless your righteousness significantly surpasses the magnitude of the Scribes and of the Pharisees20c You will certainly not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven
5:21-26 Avoid Not Only Murder, but HateDetailed Outline21 Neg: You have heard that murder is forbidden and punished21a You have heard21b-e the Ancient Law forbids and punishes murder21b That it was said to the people of ancient times21c-e Don't murder, because murder is judged21c Do not murder21d-e Because murder is liable to judgment21d Whoever would murder21d This one will be liable to judgment22-26 Pos: I am saying that harming people in other ways is also liable to punishment22a And I am saying to you22b-26 Harming other people is also liable to judgment22b-h Hatred and its expressions are also liable to judgment22b That everyone furious with his brother will be liable to judgment22c-h Even expressing hatred to others is liable to judgment22c-e Verbal abuse is liable to judgment22c-d If someone verbally abuses another22c Whoever would say to his brother22d Raka -
you fool/numbskull22e This one will be liable to the Sanhedrin22f-h Offensive insult is liable to judgment22f-g If someone makes an even more offensive insult22f But whoever would say22g Moron -
foolish/stupid22h This one will be liable to the hell of fire23-26 Wronging others in various ways is liable to judgment23-24 Don't try to have fellowship with God, while having wronged someone23 If you want fellowship with God, while having wronged someone23a Therefore, if you would offer your gift on the altar23b-c And you remember you have wronged a brother23b And there you remember23c That your brother has something against you24 Be reconciled to your brother before offering your gift24a Leave your gift there before the altar24b-c First, go and be reconciled to your brother24b And go first24c Purpose: to be reconciled to your brother24d-e And then return and offer your gift24d And then, coming [back]24e Offer your gift25-26 Be reconciled to the one you have wronged25a-c Be reconciled quickly with the one you have wronged25a-b Be reconciled quickly with your opponent25a Be [command]25b Making friends with your opponent quickly25c While you are with him on the road25d-26 In order that he not bring you to exact justice for your wrong25d-f So that you are not turned over to the justice authorities25d In order that the opponent will not hand you over to the judge25e And the judge will hand you over to the bailiff25f And you will be thrown into prison26 I am warning you that justice will not be lenient on you26a I am saying to you truly26b-c You won't be released until you have paid the full debt26b You will certainly not go out from there26c Until you will have paid back the last penny
5:27-30 Avoid Not Only Adultery, but LustDetailed Outline27 Neg: You know the Law said do not commit adultery27a You have heard27b-c The Law says don't commit adultery27b That it was said27c Do no commit adultery28-30 Pos: I am saying that lusting is analogous to adultery28a But I am saying to you28b-30 Lusting after a woman is analogous to adultery28b-d Looking at a woman in order to lust is committing adultery in your heart28b-c Everyone looking at a woman with the purpose of lusting after her28b Everyone seeing a woman28c With the purpose of lusting after her28d This one has already committed adultery with her in his heart29-30 Therefore, take radical steps to avoid sin29 Illustration from an eye29a-c If your eye causes sin, get rid of it29a If your right eye causes you to sin29b-c Tear it out and throw it away29b Take it out29c And throw [it] from you29d-f It is better to live without it than to be condemned with it29d For it is more advantageous for you29e-f To lose one part in order for your entire body to avoid hell29e That one of your members be destroyed29f And your entire body not be thrown into hell30 Illustration from a hand30a-c If your hand causes sin, get rid of it30a And if your right hand cause you to sin30b-c Cut it off and throw it away30b Cut it off30c And throw [it] from you30d-f It is better to live without it than to be condemned with it30d For it is more advantageous for you30e-f To lose one part in order for your entire body to avoid hell30e That one of your members be destroyed30f And your entire body not go away into hell
5:31-32 Avoid DivorceDetailed Outline31 Neg: The Law spoke about the proper procedure for divorce31a It was said:31b-c Whoever divorces should give a written statement of divorce31b Whoever divorces his wife31c Let him give to her a written statement of divorce32 Pos: Rather, I'm saying that divorce, except for sexual immorality, is not legitimate32a But I am saying to you32b-e Divorce, except for sexual immorality, causes adultery32b-c Everyone divorcing his wife except for sexual immorality causes her to be an adulteress32b That everyone divorcing his wife except for a matter of sexual immorality32c He is making her to be an adulteress32d-e Whoever marries the divorced woman commits adultery32d And whoever marries the divorced woman32e He commits adultery
5:33-37 Avoid Not Only Oaths, but DeceitfulnessDetailed Outline33 Neg: You have heard that you should keep your oaths33a Again, you heard:33b-d The ancient Law forbids swearing falsely and commands keeping oaths33b That it was said to the people of ancient times33c-d Don't swear falsely, but keep your oaths33c Do not swear falsely33d But fulfill your oaths to the Lord34-37 Pos: But I am saying that you should not swear oaths at all34a But I am saying to you34b-37 Don't swear any oath, but rather, keep your simple word34b-36 Neg: Don't swear any oath, calling on things beyond your control34b Do not swear an oath at all34c-36 Don't swear by things you cannot control34c-d Don't swear by heaven, because it is God's throne34c Neither [swear an oath] by heaven34d Reason: Because it is the throne of God35a-b Neither by the earth, because it is God's footstool35a Neither [swear an oath] by the earth35b Reason: Because it is the footstool of His feet35c-d Neither by Jerusalem, because it is the King's city35c Neither [swear an oath] by Jerusalem35d Reason: Because it is the city of the great King37 Pos: Give a simple promise and keep your word37a-b Let your word be simple, and keep your word37a Let your word
Yes37b [Let your word]
No37c That which goes beyond these is from evil/the evil one
5:38-42 Don't Just Punish Evil, but Give GoodDetailed Outline38 Neg: You have heard that you can exact strict retribution38a You have heard38b-d That the Law authorized exacting retributive justice38b That it was said38c-d Eye for eye and tooth for tooth38c An eye in exchange for an eye38d And a tooth in exchange for a tooth39-42 Pos: But I am saying that you can also be gracious and generous39a But I am saying to you39b-42 Seek to be gracious, good, and generous39b-41 Be gracious and good to the one harming you39b Neg: Do not be hostile toward the evildoer39c-41 Pos: Rather, be lenient and generous39c-d Turn the other cheek39c But whoever strikes you on your right cheek39d Also turn the other one to him40 Give your cloak in addition to your tunic40a And to the one who wants to sue you and to take your tunic40b Permit also [your] cloak to him41 Go the extra mile41a And whoever requisitions/compels you for one mile41b Go two [miles] with him42 Be generous to the one begging from you42a Pos: Give to the one asking you42b Neg: And do not turn away from/reject the one wanting to borrow from you
5:43-48 Love Your EnemiesDetailed Outline43 Neg: You have heard the command to love neighbor and assumed this meant hate enemies43a You have heard43b-d The Law commanded love of neighbor, and it was assumed this excluded enemies43b That it was said43c-d Love your neighbor and hate your enemy43c Love your neighbor43d And hate your enemy44-48 But I am saying that you should be gracious and generous even to enemies44a But I am saying to you44b-48 Be gracious and generous to all, just like God44b-47 Go beyond strict reciprocity to grace, just like God does44b-45 Do good to your enemies, just like God does44b-c Love and pray for your enemies that harm you44b Love your enemies44c And pray on behalf of those persecuting you45 Purpose: So that you will conform yourself to God's character45a In order that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven45b-c God blesses all people, even bad ones45b Because He causes His sun to rise over evil ones and good ones45c He causes it to rain over righteous ones and unrighteous ones46-47 Only responding in kind is not virtuous46 Only loving those that love you is not virtuous46a-b What is virtuous about loving only those that love you?46a For if you love the ones loving you46b What reward do you have?46c Are not the tax collectors doing the same thing?47 Only greeting your brothers is not exceptional47a-b What is exceptional about only welcoming your brothers?47a And if you only welcome your brothers47b What exceptional thing are you doing?47c Are not the gentiles doing the same thing?48 Therefore, be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect48a Therefore, you, be perfect48b As your Heavenly Father is perfect
6:19-34 The Priorities of the Kingdom
6:1-4 Give Alms Rightly
Detailed OutlineIntro:This is the first of three passages (1-4, 5-15, 16-18) which warn against doing good deeds only for the purpose of being seen doing the good deeds, with the motive of receiving public acclamation for doing them. Jesus elaborated three specific examples that were prevalent in His time. But the emphasis in all of these is the underlying attitude and purpose for doing them more than the actual deeds. All of the deeds which Jesus addressed are good things, and should be done. Jesus's point in these passages is about how and why they are done. They should be done because it is right to do them. They should be done in obedience to God, and for the pleasure and glory of God. The problem which Jesus was addressing is that human pride easily distorts these good deeds into hypocritical measures of piety which are done to puff up the one doing them before their peers more than to serve God. Deeds which are supposed to glorify God were being done to glorify self. And Jesus strongly warned against doing this by addressing the contrasting rewards one would receive for doing these things rightly verses doing them selfishly.1 Good deeds done for the sake of publicity and image is not pleasing to GodThis verse introduces the first of the three passages warning against doing good things for public acclaim. It directly introduces the acts of charity and alms giving. But this verse serves as a general introduction to all of 6:2-18, and, in a sense, to all of chapter 6. Jesus stated this verse in general language
- Sentence Flow
- Greek Sentence Flow
- Mini Word Studies
- Teaching Outline
righteousnesswhich applies to all of the first three passages. And then, in the next verse, He changed to language more specific to charity giving.1a-c Be careful not to do good deeds for the sake of publicity and image1a Pay attention/Be alert/Be conscientious!The first word is a word of warning. It is a command to pay close attention to something - to consistently be on guard and alert against a genuine danger, and to take the necessary steps to prevent it. This is an attitude of diligence in taking something seriously, and also an attitude of being wary of something dangerous and/or being zealous for something that is good. Throughout Matthew, Jesus used this word to warn His disciples against something that would harm their spiritual well-being if they did not guard against it (see 7:15, 10:17, 16:6, 11, 12).1b-c Don't do good deeds for publicity and acclaim1b Not to do your righteousness before peopleThe main emphasis in this proposition is on the phrase
before people.this connects with the following proposition to give the main idea of this verse. Jesus was obviously not commanding His followers to not do righteous deeds. But He was commanding them not to do them with a particular attitude and purpose.
Jesus used a general term here, literally
do not do your righteousness.Based on the following contexts, this means something like
works of righteousness.These are just various possible was of saying
do things that demonstrate and work out your righteousnesswhich actions themselves are righteous and rightly called
deeds of righteousness.The term
righteousnessin this contexts means something that conforms to God's standards and character. And so, these are good deeds that proceed from piety and obedience to God. And they are characterized by upright moral behavior and gracious benefit to those who are recipients of these actions. All of this is good, and Jesus (and the rest of the Bible) commands these kinds of works. Jesus was not forbidding righteous works.
Rather, Jesus was addressing the motive why His followers should do their righteous deeds, and forbidding doing them in a certain manner, and for certain purposes. They were not to be done to be seen by people. Jesus was not forbidding doing any good deeds when there was a possibility that they might be observed. There are some deeds, that by their nature must be done with others present and able to observe. Rather, as shown in the next proposition, we should guard our attitude so that we are not doing them in a conspicuous place and in a conspicuous way that would make them seen by people in order to build up our own pride and reputation. We are not to care whether they are seen or not for our own sake.1c Purpose: In order to be seen by themThis proposition is clearly a purpose statement: in order to be seen for selfish, prideful reasons. This purpose is what Jesus was telling His hearers to guard against, not righteous deeds themselves. Righteous deeds done for righteous purposes are a good thing. We should do them for the purpose of benefiting others. We should do them because they are the right things to do. We should do them for the glory of God. Earlier (5:16), Jesus told His hearers to let their light shine
so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father Who is in Heaven.And we should even do them for the reward which we will receive from God.
But the one reason we should not do them is for the acclamation and praise which we expect to receive from other people for doing them. This purpose, Jesus said, is dangerous because it leads to hypocrisy. And it is ultimately fruitless, robbing us of a greater reward.
To say this in contemporary terms, Jesus loves and commands virtue. But Jesus hates and warns against virtue signaling. We have all seen the hypocrisy of many people who seek the spotlight to pontificate and/or protest about some issue that claims to have the moral high ground. But they only do it for selfish benefit, and rarely, if ever, actually do anything beneficial to solve the problem they are talking about. And many times, their actions are ultimately counter-productive.
And another problem with this motive is that the standards of righteousness and praiseworthy behavior held by the people may not be the same as God's standards. If we are doing good deeds for the approval of people, our good deeds are limited to those things which the crowd approves of, which may or may not actually be righteous by God's standards. And we can be manipulated into doing very unrighteous deeds in order to win the approval of unrighteous people.
Jesus strongly warned against an attitude and motive of doing (or pretending to do) good things in order to bolster our reputation for being virtuous and righteous. It is more important to actually be righteous according to God's standards, and not human standards. It is more important to actually do truly righteous things than to receive credit for having done them. And Jesus will go on to tell about the different rewards (good or bad, fleeting or eternal) we can expect for acting out the various motives for our righteous deeds.1d-e Good deeds done in the wrong manner/attitude have no reward1d If you don't do otherwiseThat is, if you don't guard yourself and avoid doing these things for selfish, prideful motives. Jesus was warning of the consequences of ignoring or disobeying His warning and allowing yourself to do good deeds hypocritically and for the purpose of impressing people with your
righteousness.He clearly stated that there would be consequences for this kind of attitude and motive, which He spelled out in more detail in the next proposition, and in the rest of this passage.1e You don't have a reward from your Heavenly FatherThe primary consequence of ignoring Jesus's warning is that you will miss out on the reward from God. In this passage, Jesus did not specify the exact nature of the reward. Later in this chapter (v. 20), Jesus mentioned that the heavenly reward never decays, and is never taken away. So, we can infer that this reward is permanent. But beyond that, He left His hearers to imagine the character of the reward. But it is clearly implied that it is wonderful, based on the fact that it comes from our Father in Heaven. Later in this passage, Jesus will make it clear that this reward from God far surpasses any earthly reward we can get from our good deeds. It will be great beyond our imagination because it comes from our Father, Whom Jesus will later describe (see 7:11) as giving only good gifts. And it is our Heavenly Father, Who is the God Who created the universe, Who is all powerful, and therefore able to give any conceivable gift. Therefore, a reward from this God is greatly to be desired over any earthly reward. And to miss out on such a reward is a horrible consequence indeed. Therefore, this is a great reason to take Jesus's command seriously and guard ourselves against the attitude of which He warned.2-4 Therefore, do charity in a manner and attitude that gains true heavenly rewardIn the rest of this passage, Jesus draws out some implications from the warning which He gave in the first verse. In the rest of this passage, He applied it specifically to the issue of charity giving. In the next two passages (5-15 and 16-18), He will apply it to other issues. And in the rest of this passage, He addressed the positive side of the negative warning which He gave in the first verse. In other words, He had just said what not to do. And in these verses, He was saying how to do charity well, in a way that avoids the danger He had warned about.2 Don't do charity for the reward of public acclaim, which is worthless2a-d Don't do charity for public acclamation, like hypocrites2a Therefore, when you do acts of charityThe word translated
acts of charityis related to the word
mercy.It has some connotation of the attitude behind the action, but mostly refers to the benevolent action toward someone in need, based on a kind, merciful attitude. This can refer to any charitable action, but in the New Testament primarily refers to giving of money or goods for the benefit of the poor.
Notice that Jesus did not say
if you do acts of charitybut He said
when you do acts of charity.Charity is not optional for a Christian. It is a given part of a godly lifestyle. This is not because God wants or needs our money and help (which is an absurd idea). It is not even because the poor need our money and help (which is true). It is because God wants us to be conformed to His character. He is generous and cares for those who need His help (which is everyone). And so, He invites us to share in His character and priorities by caring for those in need within our sphere of influence. God does care for the genuinely needy and often meets their needs through His people, like us.
Unfortunately, in our society, a necessary part of charitable giving is discerning between genuine charitable needs and con artists posing as needy people or promoting charitable causes. Not everyone who claims to be needy is genuinely needy. Not every charitable appeal is really a good cause. Some people are unfortunate or disadvantaged poor. And others are the lazy or irresponsible poor. Our giving should take that into account. But we should never use the reality of scammers as an excuse not to give or to keep us from being generous. We just need to work a little harder to do it well.
The New Testament never sets a legalistic amount which we should give, but only says we should give cheerfully and generously in order that people's genuine needs would be taken care of. And in the rest of this passage, Jesus instructed how to do it without prideful hypocrisy, drawing attention to ourselves, and thus robbing ourselves of our reward from God.2b-d Don't publicize your charity like hypocrites do2b Do not blow a trumpet before youThis proposition refers to blowing a trumpet as a means of announcement. You may have seen a scene in a movie where a trumpet fanfare announces a king or a proclamation from a king. This is the kind of phenomenon Jesus was referring to. The purpose of the trumpets was to get people's attention. And Jesus's point was that we are not to attract attention to our giving. Rather, we are, as much as possible, to avoid bringing attention to our charitable acts.2c-d Like hypocrites who do it for publicity and glory2c Like the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streetsJesus compared the trumpet blowing, which He had just forbidden, to what the hypocrites do. Apparently, there were people who were doing such things to make their giving noticed in the synagogues (religious meeting places) and in the streets (where they would encounter poor people). Jesus called them hypocrites, who were just acting a part to be seen by others doing acts of charity.2d Purpose: in order that they would be glorified by peopleHere Jesus clarified that the purpose of the hypocrites in drawing attention to their own giving was for their own vanity - that they would be seen and spoken well of by other people. Their purpose for being seen (1c) is made explicit in this proposition. They want to be seen in order to be glorified - in order to enhance their reputation and image. They did not give generously in order to help other people. They gave selfishly in order to help themselves to a better reputation. Their attitude was exactly the attitude which Jesus was warning against in this passage.2e-f I emphasize that this is all the reward they will get2e Truly I am saying to youThis proposition is an introductory statement, introducing what Jesus was about to say in the next proposition. Jesus often used this formula (see v. 5, 16, 5:18), including the word
trulyto emphasize, not only the truth of what He was about to say, but also its importance. This was a prompter of attention, signaling to His hearers that they should pay particularly close attention to what He was about to say.2f They have fully received their rewardJesus's point in this proposition is that the fleeting glory and pride which they would receive from people witnessing their charity was the only reward they would receive for it. This is in direct contrast to the reward they would have received from God (mentioned in 1e above, and 4b below) if they would have given charity with the proper attitude. Their reward is nothing compared to the reward they missed out on. It is appropriate that in English, the word
vanitymeans selfish pride and it also means to no ultimate result, as in the phrases
all is vanityor
in vain.That is the point of this proposition. Their vanity is in vain. The momentary rise in reputation sometimes attained by hypocritical pretense to righteousness is worthless. It will do no one any good in the long run, and it is a fool's errand to chase after such vanity. In our culture, it is especially necessary to strongly understand the difference between image and reality. We need to care more about our genuine character than we care about our public image. We need to care more about the kind of people we really are than about what other's think about us. We need to put our energy into actually being virtuous and avoid virtue signaling. Because the former has eternal reward, and the latter is completely worthless.3-4 Do your charity in God's sight, for His reward, which is eternal3a When you are doing acts of charityThis proposition is very similar to 2a, with slightly different wording. The word for
acts of charityis the same. The word for
whenis not stated, but implied by the grammar. The word for
youis more explicit. And the word for
doingis in a different form. The result of these grammatical changes is that this proposition is more subordinate to the following propositions. It is not the focus, but just a reminder of doing charity in order to concentrate on how to do charity, as communicated below, which is the point of these verses. This proposition is just a setup for the main point communicated in the following propositions.3b-4 Don't publicize them in order that you will receive God's reward3b Do not let your left [hand] know what your right [hand] is doingIn this proposition, Jesus used an intentional exaggeration to communicate how secretive our charitable giving should be. It is hyperbolic language that does not really make sense if taken literally (because it was not intended to be taken literally). Rather, it makes His point in an over the top fashion, in order to drive it home.
He said we should do something with our right hand in such a way that our left hand is unaware of it. Of course, neither of our hands do anything on their own. They only do anything because they are connected to our brain. And so, in that sense, our hands are never completely independent. And that is why Jesus used this image - to compartmentalize those things that cannot be totally compartmentalized, as an illustration of the kind of zeal with which we should be secretive in giving. We should take pains not to give in order to be seen. Rather, we should go out of our way not to be seen, as much as possible.4 Purpose: So that your private righteousness will be rewarded by God4a In order that your acts of charity may be in secretThe purpose for our not letting our left hand know what our right hand is doing is so that our giving will not be publicly known. Rather, we should give as secretively as possible. Of course, Jesus did not intend that we take this to extremes. It would be better to be seen giving, than for someone to suffer the lack because we didn't give, because we could not find a way to be completely secretive about it. There are some forms of giving where it is necessary to be known at least by someone. Jesus's overall point is not that no one should ever know that we give. Rather, His emphasis is on our own motivation and attitude. His point is that we should make pains to guard our heart, so that we don't take pleasure in the accolades we get for giving. And we should give in a way that prevents, as much as possible, us taking pride in our giving in order to bolster our reputation.4b And your Father, Who is seeing in secret, will recompense/reward youAs usual, whenever Jesus forbids something, it is ultimately so that we would gain something infinitely better than the thing that He forbids. He is constantly calling us away from sinful idolatry in order that we may experience the One True God. He is forbidding the fleeting pleasures of sin in order for us to gain the eternal pleasures of holiness and relationship with God. And in this passage, He was commanding us not to seek the puny, temporary reward of accolades from other people, in oder that we would experience the eternal rewards from our Heavenly Father.
This proposition is parallel to 1e above. In that proposition, Jesus warned us not to miss out on the reward from God. In this proposition, Jesus motivated His hearers with the promise that giving done in the right way would find that reward from God. Jesus does not expect us to give without any promise of reward, but He wants us to get the best possible reward. Of course, God is not a vending machine. And we cannot treat giving as a selfish means to extort material blessings from God. God is not stupid, and if we selfishly give only in order to get a selfish reward, He will not be fooled. We don't give because we love the reward, but we give because we love God. Or, to put it in another way, the greater reward we will get is God Himself, Who is better than any of His gifts. And He has promised, as part of His giving of Himself, to take care of our material needs (not always all of our material wants) as we are generous to others.
And Jesus highlighted that God is able to see in secret. He will notice our giving when we give in a way that is private and hidden from other people. Therefore, we can give in a way that protects us from taking selfish pride before other people. We can do this because of the assurance that God knows and God will bless us, because our giving is for His sake - for the sake of conforming to His character by helping others, and for the sake of pleasing Him by our obedience and sacrifice for His glory. And we can give in the assurance that God will reward us greater than whatever we have given away.
6:5-15 Pray Rightly
Detailed OutlineIntro:This is the second of three passages (1-4, 5-15, 16-18) which warn against doing good deeds only for the purpose of being seen doing the good deeds, with the motive of receiving public acclamation for doing them. Jesus elaborated three specific examples of doing this that were prevalent in His time. But the emphasis in all of these is the underlying attitude and purpose for doing them, more than the actual deeds. All of the deeds which Jesus addressed are good things, and should be done.
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Jesus's point in these passages is about how and why they are done. They should be done because it is right to do them. They should be done in obedience to God, and for the pleasure and glory of God. The problem which Jesus was addressing is that human pride easily distorts these good deeds into hypocritical measures of piety which are done to puff up the one doing them before their peers, more than to serve God. Deeds which are supposed to glorify God were being used to glorify self. And Jesus strongly warned against doing this by addressing the contrasting rewards one would receive for doing these things rightly, verses doing them selfishly.
However, this passage is different from the other two, in that it contains much additional information about how to pray. Not only does this passage contain the negative warnings against doing good to show off, and instructions how to do good without showing off. But Jesus also taught in depth about how to pray, both negatively and positively. This is probably because prayer is not as straightforward as giving (1-4) and fasting (16-18). Most people already know how to give and fast, and don't need detailed instructions about how to do it. But many people don't known how to pray well. And so, Jesus taught more extensively on the fundamentals of prayer in this passage. He spoke about mistaken ways to pray that were to be avoided. And He also gave a model prayer, which teaches the kind of things we should pray about when we pray.5-6 Don't pray for public acclaim, but to please GodThis section parallels the surrounding passages (1-4, 16-18) in addressing the motives and attitudes for praying. Prayer is a very good activity. But like everything, it can be twisted into something sinful by our motives and attitude. We are not to pray in order to be seen by others and thought well of. We are not to use prayer as a means for trying to make ourselves look righteous and spiritual. We are to pray before God, and for His notice and blessing.5 Neg: Don't pray for the sake of public acclaim5a-g Praying like the hypocrites - for the sake of publicity - is not pleasing to God5a-c Be careful not to pray for the sake of publicity and image5a When you prayPrayer is the activity of speaking to God, either out loud or silently. It is the means for communicating with God, making our needs and requests known, and also for confessing our sins and expressing our worship and gratitude, among other things. Jesus assumed that His disciples would pray regularly, and addressed these instructions for those times when we pray. He did not specify or suggest how often we should pray, but Jesus modeled setting aside specific times daily for prayer. And in another sense, the New Testament teaches that we should constantly be in an attitude of prayer throughout the day (see 1 Thes. 5:17).5b-c Don't pray for public acclamation, like hypocrites5b Do not beThis proposition is closely connected with the following one. Jesus was commanding His disciples not to be a certain way, which is further defined by the comparison in the next proposition. There are characteristics and habits and attitudes that are not to be a part of His disciples' lives, which He will define by comparison.5c Like the hypocrites [are]This is the completion of the thought began in the previous proposition. Jesus's disciples are not to be like the hypocrites.
Hypocritesare people who pretend to be something they are not. It is play acting and deception that does not match reality. We are not to fake it when we pray. We are not to have the attitudes and habits they have, as will be elaborated in the following propositions. And we should pray with different goals and manners, as Jesus will also teach later in this passage.5d-g Reason: Because they pray for the sake of publicity and gloryIn this section, Jesus gave the reason why not to be like the hypocrites. Because their motivation and goal for praying in the way that they do is an ungodly motivation which is ultimately unrewarding. Jesus told what their motivation was and then described the purpose behind it.5d-f Because they love to pray in front of othersThis is the motive for the hypocrites praying in the way that they do. They love their hypocrisy and the accolades it gains them.5d Because they loveThis proposition goes with the following ones to give a complete idea. This one introduces the thought by stating that they love to do something which will be described in the following propositions. They are motivated by what they love to do. In fact, everyone is motivated by what they love, by their affections. So, it is important to cultivate godly affections, so as to have godly motivations, so as to have godly actions. That is why Jesus consistently throughout the Sermon on the Mount, concentrated not only on the outward actions, but on the inward affections and motivations. But here He said that the hypocrites love something which is not godly, but rather selfish and prideful, as described in the following propositions.5e-f To pray in prominent public placesThis section elaborates on what the hypocrites love to do. They love to pray. But this is qualified in a way that makes the typically good activity of prayer to be something ungodly. The first proposition describes the manner in which they love to pray. And later (5g), Jesus will tell the purpose for which they pray. As stated earlier, praying is a good thing, and loving to pray is even better. But what makes the hypocrites to be hypocrites is that they love to pray in a selfish, prideful manner, for selfish, prideful purposes. The manner in which they pray comes first in this section (5e) for emphasis, and then the main idea of them praying (5f) follows.5e While standing in the synagogues and on the corners of streetsThis proposition describes the manner in which the hypocrites love to pray. They love to pray in public places in order to be seen. Their love is not in praying, but their love is in being seen. Their love is in other people noticing them and thinking them to be righteous and spiritual. And therefore, they love to pray standing in the synagogue (the place of religious observance) and on the corners of streets (where people would congregate, or where there would be significant foot traffic, and therefore larger amounts of people). Their praying is purposefully done in conspicuous places so that their praying would be conspicuous, for the purpose described in 5g.5f To prayThis is the main idea of what the hypocrites love to do. But his idea needs to be connected with the proposition before, which tells the manner in which they love to pray, and the following proposition, which tells the purpose for which they pray. Again, prayer is a good thing. But by their ungodly motive and purpose, they turn it into an ungodly thing. And this is exactly the motivation and purpose which Jesus was warning His hearers to avoid.5g Purpose: in order that they may appear to the people [to be pious]This proposition marks the purpose why the hypocrites prayed in a public place. The main emphasis in this proposition is on the phrase
to the people.They do it to be seen. They do it to draw attention to themselves, just like the people announcing their giving with trumpets in the street (see v. 2). They want to be visible - to receive people's attention. They value what people think about them, and desire and work toward enhancing the perception they have in the eyes of others. Their prayers were not intended to be heard by God as much as they were intended to be seen by people. This shows that their motivation and intention was not to connect with God, and please God, as much as it was to impress the people around them with their prayer as a demonstration of their own piety. This is the exact motivation and attitude which Jesus was warning against.5h-i I emphasize that this is all the reward they will getThis section is exactly the same as 2e-f in the previous passage and 16f-g in the following passage. This is because Jesus was making the exact same point in all three of these passages, just applying it to different acts of righteousness. In those passages, He applied it to charity giving and fasting. Here He applied it to prayer.5h I am saying to you trulyThis proposition is an introductory statement, introducing what Jesus was about to say in the next proposition. Jesus often used this formula (see v. 2, 16, 5:18), including the word
trulyto emphasize, not only the truth of what He was about to say, but also its importance. This was a prompter of attention, signaling to His hearers that they should pay particularly close attention to what He was about to say.5i They have fully received their rewardIn this proposition, Jesus stressed that the fleeting glory and pride which they would receive from people witnessing their prayer and being impressed with their piety, was the only reward they would receive for it. This is in direct contrast to the reward they would have received from God (mentioned in 6e) if they would have genuinely prayed with the proper attitude and motivation. Their reward is nothing compared to the reward they missed out on. Their momentary rise of reputation before people is worthless. It will do no good in the long run. It is nothing compared to the reality of genuine character, genuine prayer, and our standing in God's opinion, which is the only opinion that truly matters. Reward from God is eternal, and vainglory before people is worthless.6 Pos: Pray to please GodJust like in the previous passage, Jesus did not just warn them against praying with the wrong motivation and attitude. He also taught how to pray with the correct motivation and attitude, and in a manner that will protect against the dangers of taking selfish pride in doing good things.6a-d Pray to your Father in secret6a When you prayThis proposition is the exact same wording as 5a. This demonstrates the parallel structure of these two verses. Verse 5 tells what not to do
when you pray.And verse 6 (and following) tells what we should do
when you pray.6b-d Pray to your Father in secret, away from observationJust like in v. 3 and v. 17, Jesus countered the dangerous motivation of doing good works only in order for people to see and be impressed with us, by suggesting a manner of doing good works which protects (as much as possible) from people observing them, and so protecting from the pride that might result from being seen. The problem is not in being seen doing good works, but in the pride that would result. So, the solution is not to legalistically refuse to do good works when people may see, but to cultivate an attitude and practice of humility and secrecy (as much as possible) to protect oneself from this kind of pride. Note that there is also a temptation to spiritual pride in your own secrecy and humility. We need to guard against that attitude as well. As C. S. Lewis once wrote,
humility is not thinking too much of yourself. Neither is it thinking too little of yourself. It is not thinking of yourself at all.6b Go into your inner roomAn
inner roomis a room in a house without windows. The focus is not so much on going to a particular place, but on the privacy of this place, where people cannot see what you are doing. The purpose is to avoid the temptation of praying just to be seen. And this has the added bonus of minimizing distractions to prayer because of the privacy.6c-d Pray to your Father in a private place6c Locking your doorThis proposition continues the instructions for finding a private place for prayer without the possibility of being seen doing good works. The reason for this is not because we are in any way ashamed of our prayers, or the fact that we pray. And the reason is not to be undisturbed when we pray, although that is an added benefit. The reason in the larger passage is to pray unhindered by the thought of what other people think about us, so that our prayers would be concentrating on God, rather than on how we look before people.6d Pray to your Father, Who is in HeavenAs usual, Jesus gave the better alternative to something that is a sin (or a dangerous temptation to sin). We can avoid the sin of pridefully caring what others think of our praying by caring what God thinks about our praying. We should avoid praying before people by praying before God alone. We are to pray exclusively to our Father, Who is in Heaven. And we should have this same kind of attitude, even when we pray in public settings. Group and corporate prayer is a good and beneficial practice, when done in addition to private personal prayer. But it should be done with the same devotional attitude toward God, and not in order to show off before other people.
Jesus described God, to Whom we are to pray, as our
Father.We have an intimate familial relationship with God that is demonstrated by His making Himself available to us in prayer. And He cares for, protects, and provides for us, which can all be accessed through prayer. And we are being changed into His family likeness more and more, which also happens partly through prayer. All of these things will be brought out in the model prayer which Jesus will give later in this passage (see vv. 9-13).
But Jesus also described Him as our
Father, Who is in Heaven.That is, He is the Holy, Sovereign Lord of all the Universe. He is infinitely powerful and completely able to answer any prayer with good things (see 7:11). He is able to satisfy any longings we try to satisfy by puffing up our ego by doing good works before people. He is better able to satisfy them than we could in any other way, because all our longings were created to be ultimately satisfied only by Him. And so, we should go to Him, in secret whenever possible. But we should also go to Him in public if secrecy is not possible, because the primacy of going to God for intimate familial and dependent relationship is the entire point of prayer, and the best antidote to the abuse of prayer.6e And your Father, Who is seeing in secret, will recompense/reward youThis proposition is exactly the same wording as 4b (on charity giving) and almost exactly the same wording as 18c (on fasting). It gives the ultimate motivation for praying in the proper manner - not for human recognition, but to please and connect with God, our Father. We are to pray privately, because God, Who knows what we do even in private will see and reward us. We are to assume that the reward we will receive from the infinite God will be infinitely better than any puny, momentary benefit we could receive from impressing others by praying in public. Therefore, we are to delight in God and His benefits, which we will receive for praying rightly (and by connecting with God in prayer), and let that be our primary motivation to pray in a way that is pleasing to Him, and to avoid the danger of pride that Jesus was warning against in this passage.7-8 Don't pray with unthoughtful, superfluous babblingIn this section, Jesus gave a second warning against another possible hindrance in prayer. This problem is saying an abundance of words without actually saying anything. And this problem stems from a mistaken understanding of God and of the purpose of prayer. Jesus both pointed out the nature of the problem, and gave the solution. He taught the proper way to pray, which avoids this problem, and gave the theological reason why.7 The Gentiles' bad example of babbling prayer7a-c Don't follow the Gentiles' example of unthoughtful formulaic prayers7a When prayingThis proposition is similar to 5a and 6a, but is in a different grammatical form. The word
whenis not stated, but rather implied. And the form of the word
prayingshows it to be a subordinate idea, just restated in order to focus on the more primary ideas in 7b-c. This proposition is not the focus of this section, but just a reminder of prayer in order to concentrate on the way not to pray, as communicated in the following propositions.7b-c Don't spew an abundance of unthoughtful, meaningless words7b Do not speak an abundance of unthoughtful, meaningless wordsThis phrase is a translation of just two words: One word is the negative, translated
not.And the other word means to babble or stammer, and communicates the idea of speaking a lot of words, often using the same words again and again. Jesus was communicating the idea of speaking a lot without really thinking - using a lot of meaningless words.
Some people, because they have not yet learned to pray well, repeat the word
Godor similar phrases a lot in their prayers. This is a bad habit, which should be corrected. But this is probably not a violation of this command, because it was not what Jesus was talking about. In order to understand this prohibition, we must understand the following propositions, where Jesus explained what He was forbidding and why.7c As the Gentiles [do]This proposition is the first statement clarifying and explaining what Jesus was talking about when He warned against praying with an abundance of unthoughtful, meaningless words. His example of what not to do was the Gentiles. Gentiles are all the people who are not Jewish. The primary difference highlighted when this term was used was that they did not worship the God of the Jews - the One True God. They did not pray rightly, and the defect in their prayers had something to do with the fact that they did not pray to the true God. They had a mistaken view of God, which hindered their prayers in a way which Jesus will explain in the following propositions.7d-e Because they think that abundance of words is helpfulThis section gives the reason why not to pray as the Gentiles do. It explains what is deficient with their manner of prayer, which is based on their deficient understanding of Who God is, and how He interacts with His children. Their mindset and deficient opinion about God caused them to pray in a way that is deficient.7d For they supposeThe reason they pray in the way they do is because of their mistaken belief about God (or the gods they think they are praying to). They have a theological understanding which they believe to be true about the gods, which drives their practice of prayer. But Jesus pointed out that their belief system is wrong, and therefore, they pray in the wrong way - with an abundance of thoughtless words. The next proposition tells exactly what they thought about God and prayer, and how it was wrong.7e That they will be listened to because of the length of their speechThis proposition is the content of what Gentiles think about prayer, based on what they think about their gods, as introduced in the previous proposition. They think that they will be heard by God (or their gods) because they speak with an abundance of words. They suppose that the more they speak in prayer, the more they will be heard and answered. This is based on the underlying assumption that somehow their prayers hold power over their gods.
This could mean they were thinking in terms of a magic formula - that if they say the right words (like
abracadabra), or the right amount of words, their gods will somehow be compelled to answer by the force of their words and/or their abundance. Or their thought process could be in the sense of gaining the attention of the gods by speaking more abundantly - along the lines of the one who speaks the loudest gets heard (the squeaky wheel gets the grease). Or they could think in the sense that they would somehow earn the attention of the gods by their extra effort of praying extensively - they would somehow prove their merit to be answered by praying with more effort, as if they were being paid by the word count. Or they could think in the sense that the amount of prayer could somehow serve or benefit the gods - that the more words used, the more benefit the gods would receive from our prayer, as if the amount of prayer was somehow connected to the amount of honor or empowerment the gods would receive.
All of these possibilities are because of the Gentiles' understanding of their pagan gods and how they could be manipulated and influenced. They thought their gods were somehow needy and/or impressed with their prayers. They thought their prayers had an influence over their gods because their gods were someone subject to whatever influence their prayers, including their length, would have. None of these things is true of our relationship with the True God in prayer, as Jesus will clarify in the following verse.8 Don't follow their unprofitable example8a Therefore, do not be like themJesus's obvious conclusion to pointing out the deficiencies in the Gentiles' theology and practice of prayer was not to follow their example. Their understanding of prayer is wrong, so think differently. Their practice of prayer is deficient, so don't do it. He warned against having their mindset and praying in their manner for the reasons given in the following propositions.8b-c Reason: Superfluous words are not necessary or helpfulThese closely connected propositions are the reason Jesus gave for His hearers not to pray like the Gentiles. Jesus rejected their approach to prayer because it was the effect of bad theology - incorrect understand about God and how He interacts with His people. And here Jesus connected the way His people should pray with an accurate understanding of God and how He relates to His people. He corrected the theology and thereby (implicitly) taught how to pray properly, which He will explicitly cover later in this passage.
In this verse, Jesus reminded His hearers that God is not manipulatable. God is not like the pagan gods who can be controlled and bribed with prayers and favors. God's arm cannot be twisted by our prayers to do something that He, in His infinite wisdom is not already inclined to do. Our prayers are not so that God can get information or insight or motivation which He does not already have. Our prayers are not to supply something that God is lacking or fill some need which God has. God is not needy or impressed with our supposed contribution to His ability by our prayers. God is all-knowing and so, He has no need for us to give Him advice or reminder through prayer.
And that brings up an obvious question:
If God already knows what we need, and (at least in some sense) is already committed to the wisest course of action, then why should we pray? What difference do our prayers really make?Part of the answer to that question is hidden in the mystery of the interaction between God's sovereignty and human responsibility. God is fully in control of everything that happens. And yet, He has also designed the world so that human actions are genuinely significant, and make a real difference under the umbrella of His sovereignty. God has order the universe in such a way that things are genuinely accomplished by our prayers, and He has included our prayers in His design to accomplish these things. And we are responsible to pray and held accountable for how we pray. The Bible clearly commands prayer and teaches that it matters and accomplishes things, while still leaving God in charge of how and when He answers our prayer (including saying
Noto some prayers).
And therefore, another part of the reason why we pray is better explained by its benefit to us rather than its benefit to God. He delights to include us in His life and working through inviting us to communicate with Him in prayer. He does not need our input, but desires to bless us by making us a part of what He does. It is analogous to a parent letting their child help with whatever chore they are doing. The child (at least at first) is more of a distraction than a help, but the parent involves them for the child's benefit and for the loving interaction with the child. For further exploration of this question, I recommend
Prayer and the Sovereignty of Godby Bruce Ware, in For the Fame of God's Name, edited by Sam Storms and Justin Taylor (Crossway, 2010).
Therefore, rote, unthinking prayers are unhelpful. They fall into the mistake of the Gentiles by thinking that we accomplish something just by rattling off some magic formula without really connecting with God. If we just go through the motions with out mouths, reciting some memorized or read prayer, it does no more good than reading a warranty document, unless we mentally, emotionally, and spiritually engage with what we are saying and Who we are speaking with. But there is a constant danger of praying like the pagan Gentiles, when we think we must say our prayers to earn God's favor, or protect ourselves from harm. God knows what endangers us better than we do. So, if we think of prayers like some talisman for our protection, we are praying no better than pagan Gentiles. And so, Jesus, in this section warned against this kind of theology about prayer, and these kinds of practices in prayer. Therefore, we should not pray with unthoughtful babble, thinking that the large quantity of our words is somehow virtuous. In the next verses, He will spell out the implications for the proper way to pray, including His model prayer for us to follow.8b For your Father knows a need which you haveGod is all knowing, and He knows our needs. Notice that Jesus used the word
desires.Of course, God knows these as well. But the focus in prayer should be on what we genuinely need, and on those things that are truly good for us in God's estimation. Therefore, prayer is not just like reading a Christmas list to Santa, telling Him what we want. Prayer may include our requests, but it should be much more than that. To only use prayer to get what we want is to pray with the same attitude as the pagan Gentiles.8c Before you ask HimAnd God already knows all our needs long before we ask Him. This means that our prayers are not somehow initiating or motivating God's action. Our prayers don't change God's mind as much as they tap into God's mind - His already existing knowledge, wisdom, and gracious character.9-15 How to prayThe previous two larger sections of this passage concentrated primarily on how not to pray. for the rest of this passage, Jesus concentrated on how we should pray. This section is a positive example given in a model prayer, and then an elaboration on one portion of this model prayer, giving the reason why we should pray in this way.9-13 A model prayerThis section, which is traditionally called
the Lord's Prayer,is a model of how we should pray. It is the positive alternative to the negative dangers Jesus warned against in the previous sections. This is a model for prayer and not primarily a set prayer to recite. It is not wrong to recite this prayer as it is written. But it is wrong to recite this prayer as written without thought. If we just rattle off this prayer from memory as a mere formality, or as a substitute for thoughtful engagement with God, we would be guilty of unthoughtful, superfluous babbling, which Jesus was forbidding in the previous section. This prayer is not given for rote repetition. If we thoughtfully pray this prayer in the form in which it was written - understanding, agreeing with, and heartfelt expressing what it says - then it can be beneficial. But quoting this prayer as written is not what Jesus intended it to be used for. Rather, this is a framework, an outline and example of the kind of things we should be using in addressing God. And it shows a very helpful order and development of our thoughts as we communicate with God in prayer. It is like a roadmap for prayer. It is also like training wheels for prayer. It gives us a track to ride on as we learn to pray and express the kind of things to God which are in line with His character and will. And this model prayer tells us a lot about Who God is and His priorities for the world and our individual lives, in which he invites us to participate with him through our prayers.9a Therefore, you, pray in this wayIn this proposition, Jesus introduced the positive manner in which His disciples should pray. The word
youis emphatic in this proposition, as a contrast to the pagan Gentiles mentioned in the previous section. Jesus was saying
in contrast with the Gentiles, who prayed wrongly, YOU are to pray rightly, in this way.And the word translated
in this waypoints to what follows in this passage. We are to pray according to the model Jesus was about to give. If Jesus had wanted us to use the Lord's Prayer as a set prayer for rote recital, He could have said something like
pray these words.But He used the more general
in this wayto indicate that this is a looser pattern and model for our prayers.9b-13The Lord's PrayerThis section is the content of the model prayer itself, which Jesus taught His disciples. It begins with how to address God, which teaches about the relational dynamics we have with Him, as exhibited in our prayers. And then the rest is a series of petitions modeling the kind of things we should ask from God, based on His revealed priorities, promises, and plans for our lives, as well as our needs.9b Personal address: Our Father, the One in HeavenThis proposition is the way Jesus taught us to address God in prayer. There are two parts of this address. First, God is our Father. And second, God is the One in the heavens. With these two phrases, Jesus taught the immanence of God - that He is intimately present with us - and also the transcendence of God - that He is high above creation, and greater than all creation. Both are true. And both matter for how we come to God in prayer.
Jesus taught us to approach God as our Father. He has made Himself available to us in an intimate, protecting, providing, leading relationship. God is to us all that we desired from our earthly fathers, and so much more. The ideal of fatherhood comes from God Himself (see Eph. 3:15). And He is the One we should go to with all our issues, needs, and desires, because He genuinely cares for us and every part of our lives (see 1 Pet. 5:7). And we have open access to God (through Christ) as a part of His family (if we are genuine disciples). He is not related to us as an overlord whom we have to approach through channels of hierarchy or bureaucracy. God is our Father, Whom we can approach freely, and with confidence He will hear us and answer us.
But God is also our Father, Who is in the Heavens. In other words, He is infinitely greater than any human father. He is the Father Who is in sovereign control over the entire universe, Who sits as Lord over all. He is not a part of creation, but is over creation as transcendent creator. He is not in time and space, but over time and space. Even though He is intimately present in time and space, He is in no way limited or contained in time or space. And He is omnipotent. He is infinitely powerful and able to do anything that He, in His infinite wisdom, decides to do. So, there is no limit to His ability to answer our prayers in the best way possible. In prayer, we address the only Sovereign Lord of the universe. And so, our prayers must have an attitude of submission and reverence, as well as a confidence that He is powerful to act.9c-13 Model petitions to pray:This section is a model of the kind of requests we can and should make to our Heavenly Father. It is helpful to notice that Jesus modeled this prayer on the promises God gave to His people in Ezekiel chapter 36. Each petition in this prayer, as well as their order and progression, echoes something God promised to do in restoring His people from their exile and bringing them back to the full blessings as His people. The promises of Ezekiel 36 were given to the nation of Israel as they were in captivity in Babylon, but looked forward to the time when they would return to the promised land, and be restored to the blessings they had known earlier in history. And part of that chapter was a description of some of the blessings of being God's people which would be restored. The petitions of the Lord's prayer line up with the promises of restoration in Ezekiel. For example:Ezek. 36:23 -Therefore, the petitions of the Lord's prayer can be seen as requests that God would fulfill His promises and complete the restoration of His people to the fullness of blessings which He has planned and promised. Our prayers are ideally a participation in the fulfillment of God's good, eternal purposes.
I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations= Matt. 6:9
Let Your Name be revered as holy./
Hallowed be Your Name.
Ezek. 36:27 -
I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.= Matt. 6:10
Let your Kingdom come. Let your will come to pass also upon Earth, as in Heaven.
Ezek. 36:29 -
...I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you.= Matt. 6:11
Give us today our necessary food.
Ezek. 36:31 -
Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices.= Matt. 6:12-13
And forgive us the guilt of our sins, as we also have forgiven those in debt of guilt to us. Do not bring us into temptation, but rescue us from evil.9c Let Your Name be revered as holyThe first petition is for God's Name to be revered as holy. This petition is first for a reason. The Old Testament consistently says that God does things for His own glory and the glory of His Name (see, for example, Psa. 115:1, Isa. 43:7). And in Ezekiel chapter 36, God said that He would do all the things that He promised
for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone(Ezek. 36:22). And we see that God is constantly worshipped as
holyin the heavenly throne room (see Isa. 6:3 and Rev. 4:8). God is Holy, and one of His highest goals is for all the universe to recognize and acknowledge His holiness. So, a petition for this to happen is first in the model prayer Jesus gave.
All of the petitions of verses 9-10 have a grammatical form that does not occur in English. These are all imperatives, but in third person. What this means is that they are commands or requests, but they are not focused directly to the person being asked, but focused on someone or something else. In English, this would take the form of
I want [this person or thing] to do [whatever is commanded].But this is not addressed directly to the other person or thing, but to the one being spoken to. So, these are often translated something like
Let [so and so] do [something]or
May [so and so] do [something.Ultimately, the request is for the one being addressed somehow to work or influence so that the person or thing is caused to do whatever is commanded or requested. In this case, the request is asking God, but the focus is on the desire for His Name to be hallowed. And this particular imperative is also passive, which means the request is not for the Name to do something, but for something to happen to the Name. So, in this petition, Jesus modeled a request that God would somehow work to cause His Name to be revered as holy. And again, some of the ways that God would work to do this are described in Ezekiel chapter 36 and mentioned in the following petitions.
This petition is a request that God's Name would be
hallowed.This word means to be though of and treated as holy (because it actually is holy). It is related to the words translated
sanctify.To be holy is something that only God is in the ultimate sense. It means to be separate and different - to be in a class by yourself. And it then has the connotation of perfection, especially moral perfection. And therefore, for God's Name to be regarded as holy means that God would genuinely be revered and honored as the only God - the God Who is like no other. It is a request that we would be in tremendous awe of God and all that He is. The first petition of the Lord's prayer is that God would be honored, revered, and worshipped as the Holy God Whom He is - that we all would think of and treat God in the way that He genuinely deserves.
This is the opposite of His Name being
profanedor thought to be common. This is not just the opposite of God's Name being used as a swear word. It is the opposite of God's Name being ignored, and the attitude that God is not relevant to life. Many people in our culture do not think of God, or do not think that He is involved in any way in the things we do every day. He is not brought into consideration, or He is mocked as a fantasy or relic of superstition from a pre-scientific age. But none of those things are true. And if we are honest, on some occasions, this is how we treat God (or more accurately, how we ignore God). And this prayer is that all people (including us) would consider God first in all that we do, and acknowledge His intimate involvement in our world. He is real, and He is present, and He is relevant. In fact, He is the most important thing in the entire universe, and the most important part of every aspect of our life. And we should revere God, and live all of life with awe, recognizing His involvement in it, and working for His glory in all that we do. And we should pray that all others would do the same.
May His Name be honored as Holy, because He is holy. This is the first petition that Jesus taught us to pray. And this request is an umbrella concept that covers all the other petitions in this model prayer, because all these other petitions will somehow contribute to God's glory and this world's acknowledgment of His holiness. And the glory of God is the ultimate purpose of all creation.10 Let Your Kingdom purposes take placeThis section contains two main petitions, which are closely related:
Let Your Kingdom come,and
Let Your will be done.These are two separate petitions, but say roughly the same thing in two different ways. Therefore, they are mutually defining. When God's Kingdom will come, His will and purpose will be accomplished. And when His will is done on earth, as it is in heaven, that is what it will look like when His Kingdom comes.10a Let Your Kingdom comeThis proposition has the same grammatical form as 9c, where there is a request directed to God, but focused on something else, in this case
His Kingdom.And the petition is that His Kingdom
come,as in arrive/take place. This is the same word that is used when someone comes from a different place, or when a time comes, as in
my birthday is coming next week.So, this is a petition for God's Kingdom to arrive in a way that is undefined in this proposition, but assumed in the larger culture of the New Testament. Jesus and John the Baptist had already announced that the Kingdom had drawn near (see 3:2, 4:17). And throughout His ministry, Jesus proved the presence of the Kingdom through His miracles and preaching. But here was also a promise that God's Kingdom would arrive in a full consummation in a way that had not been experienced. And this is what Jesus taught His disciples to pray for.
God's Kingdom is the full and manifest rule of God on the Earth. Of course, in some sense, God has always ruled as King over the entire universe. But in another sense, His rule has been challenged and rebelled against by His sinful creatures. And God, in His forbearance, has not yet fully manifested His rule, in order to bring us to repentance. But He has promised and predicted throughout the Old Testament that He would completely, manifestly demonstrate His complete rule in a way that He had not yet done - righting every wrong and bringing the fullness of restoration, perfection, and blessing to His creation. This was partly manifested in the ministry, death, and resurrection of Christ, Who now rules with all authority in Heaven and on Earth (see 28:18). But there are still areas of rebellion which (in His mercy and patience) He has not yet crushed. And the devil is still exercising some influence, though limited.
So, now we live in this tension, where God's Kingdom has already arrived, and is partially experienced by those who trust in Christ and live as His disciples. But there is also a future hope of the time when the devil's kingdom will be fully destroyed and the totality of God's Kingdom blessings will be revealed for His people. And every rebellious earthly Kingdom will submit to the Lordship of Christ. God is already King. But we are to pray that His rule be completely manifested in this world. And this is partly illustrated in the next proposition. When God's Kingdom fully comes, His will - what He wants to happen - will be completely done on earth, as it is already done in Heaven.
This is a foundational petition that Jesus was modeling for His disciples to pray. All of the other petitions of this model prayer are in some way an elaboration and specific facets of this petition. This not only means that His disciples should pray for the full manifestation of God's rule on the Earth in general, and in our individual and corporate lives in particular. But we should also desire for this to happen. We should long for the consummation of God's rule and live in anticipation of it by praying and working toward it, as well as submitting to God's rule with heartfelt obedience in every area of our lives. We pray for God's Kingdom to fully come, but we also are to live in light of the fact that His Kingdom has already partially come in Jesus and His rule over His people, including us.10b-c Let Your will be doneThis section is one complete petition made in two separate propositions. The first proposition is the main petition, and the second is a comparison to more clearly define what is meant by the petition in the first proposition. As mentioned above, this petition is closely connected with the previous petition, and they mutually define and explain each other.10b Let Your will come to pass also upon EarthThis proposition has the same grammatical form as 9c and 10a, where there is a request directed to God, but focused on something else, in this case His
will.God's will is all that God wants to happen. It is His purpose and plan. His will is revealed in all the moral commands and prohibitions revealed throughout the Bible. This is shown in such things as the Ten Commandments, but is not limited to just the
Lawportions of the Bible. And His will is not primarily negative, such as
You shall not murder.The negative prohibitions are just expressions of His positive will, in this case (
Don't murder), that we should delight in the sanctity of life, protect life and promote its thriving. Jesus summarized God's will for human activity by quoting
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.And God's will also includes all of His promises and plans to bring all of human history to consummation.
And this petition is for God's will to be done. This means that God's purposes will be fulfilled - they will
happen,they will take place. In one sense, everything that happens, happens because God has chosen at least to allow it to happen. But here Jesus highlighted God's revealed will for human history as well as His ultimate will to bring the universe to its intended consummation, where He will place all His enemies under His feet, and reign over His creation in unstained blessedness forever (see 1 Cor. 15:224-28, Rev. 19:11-22:6).
And Jesus included the phrase
on Earthto clarify the place where God's will should be done. This is where we want His will to take place - in our lives and societies. This is not just a pie in the sky wish for the sweet by and by. But it is a realistic looking forward to what we can already experience in part, and what will eventually take place in its fullness in this realm. And this phrase is also a setup for the comparison that will be made in the next proposition.10c As [it is done] in HeavenThis proposition is a comparison, completing the thought begun in 10b. The petition for God's will to be done on earth is clarified by the comparison with the way God's will is already being done in Heaven. What is currently experienced in Heaven is what we are to pray to experience on Earth. Not only is God's will being done completely in Heaven - there is no rebellion, sin, evil, or pain in Heaven because God rules absolutely over that blessed realm. But also, God's will is being done voluntarily and wholeheartedly in Heaven. The current residents of that realm are not obeying God grudgingly, only out of a sense of duty, or fear of punishment. The heavenly beings are all serving God delightedly, with reverence and worship, fully loving what God wants to be done, and therefore, doing it with their whole heart. This is the kind of attitude and activity we should pray to take place in our world. The Earth will indeed be this way after the consummation at the second coming of Christ. And we should intensely look forward to that day. But we should also pray and strive for this kind of delighted, heartfelt obedience to God's will to take place in our own lives, families, jobs, and communities, as much as possible in this age.11 Give to us today our necessary foodThis proposition is in the form of a simple imperative, not the same grammar as the previous petitions. In it, Jesus taught His disciples to request their daily sustenance from God, Who is our ultimate provider. God requires humans to work to grow, procure, or somehow earn their food. But He is the One Who ultimately provides the growth for the plants, the existence of the animals for meat, and/or the opportunity to work in order to earn food. And therefore, we should acknowledge our dependence on Him, and request our daily needs from Him.
The term Jesus used was
bread.But this word stands for any kind of nourishment. Bread made from grains was the staple food in the promised land, just as rice or yams are the the staple in other parts of the world. It was the basic food that sustained life, and this is what is being requested in this petition. God often provides much more than just the bare staple of nutrition in His generosity. but this request is simply for the basic necessity of nourishment and provision to sustain the disciple's life for another day.
And this request is for God to provide
today.It is assumed that this prayer would be prayed every day because we have need for provision every day. This does not rule out the possibility that we might somehow obtain a week's worth of food (or more) at one time. But it acknowledges that each day we are ultimately dependent on God for the necessary provisions we have received.
And that is why Jesus taught us to pray for our
dailybread. The word translated
dailyis not related to the word for
dayor the word
todayused in this proposition. It is sometimes translated
dailybecause of its connection in this context with the petition to provide the food
today.But the basic meaning of this word is closer to
necessary.This request is asking for that which is needed. And only in the context of asking for what is needed for each particular day does it take on the connotation of
daily.Again, this is a prayer for the necessary staple, for provision of what is needed for the continuation and sustenance of life. But God will often provide a banquet far beyond the bare necessity for life. However, this prayer is a humble request only for what is necessary, and an acknowledgment of God's gracious provision of what we receive, whether that is an abundance, or only the bare minimum each day.
God knows our daily needs, not just for food, but for all other kinds of things (see v. 8, 25-34). And this petition is a model for us to request all of these things from God, believing that He is a good Father, Who delights in providing for our needs, and even for our desires in a way that is better than the best of human fathers could provide (see 7:9-10). And therefore, we should make our requests to Him in dependence, but also in assurance that He will provide.12 Forgive our sins, as we forgiveThis verse is a petition for forgiveness and dealing with the guilt of sins. This acknowledge our guilt and need for forgiveness, and addresses God as the only One Who can grant this. But this forgiveness is also connected with our willingness to forgive others who have wronged us.12a And forgive to us our debts/guilt of sinsThis petition is asking God to forgive us the debt of our guilt. To forgive means to release someone from some consequence and obligation they deserve. It is declining to take any retributive action that rightly could have been taken, or in many cases, should have been taken. This is a request for God not to give us the punishment we justly deserve for the debt of our sins.
And the word
debtis a word that typically refers to finances, but here is transferred to the moral sphere. It means something that is owed, an obligation to pay or repay. And in this context, it refers to the guilt and moral debt incurred by our sin. So, this is a petition to release us from the obligation and guilt caused by our sin. The problem is, like with financial debt, the person who forgives ends up eating the debt themselves. The person gives up something that is rightly owed.
So, this is a request for God to take the obligation, loss, and punishment of our sin upon Himself instead of requiring it from us, as we justly deserve. On the one hand, this seems like a very presumptuous request. We have no right to ask God to give up on His perfect justice in terms of what we legitimately deserve and owe. It is only by His amazing grace that we have any chance that this kind of request would be granted.
But God has invited us to make this kind of request, not only in this petition, which Jesus taught us to make, but also in the Old Testament sacrificial system. In the Old Testament, God had taught His people that a substitutionary sacrifice would make atonement and take away the moral guilt of their sins. God had provided the means by which people could experience the remission of the debt of their moral guilt before God. So, this petition looks back to the model from the OT sacrificial system. But this petition primarily looked forward to the cross of Christ, where the ultimate fulfillment of the substitutionary sacrifice that takes away the moral obligation and debt of our rebellion took place. God literally did take our debt upon Himself in the punishment of the cross of Christ, so that our sins could be justly forgiven. And so, we are invited to make this request, knowing that He has already provided the means to answer this petition in Christ.12b As we ourselves also have forgiven to those in debt/guilt to usThis proposition is closely connected together with the previous one, explaining and elaborating on it. They are connected with the word
as,which could signal a comparison or possibly a contemporary time. It could be a comparison, that we would be forgiven in the same manner that we have forgiven others. Or it could be a marker of contemporary time, that we would be forgiven while we have forgiven others. In 5:23-24 Jesus told His disciples to be reconciled with other people before offering a sacrifice to God. So, our vertical relationship with God is not completely independent of our horizontal relationships with other people. In either case, Jesus taught us to pray either with a complete willingness to forgive others, or from a standpoint of already having completed forgiving them. This proposition uses the same word for
forgiveas the previous one, but in a tense that signifies a completed action -
we have forgiven.And the word for
those in debtis related to the word for
debtin the previous proposition. Except in the previous proposition, the word signified the
debtitself. And in this proposition, the word signifies the person who is indebted, the
debtor.We are to forgive people, and not just the debt, though the two ideas are obviously related.
In light of the rest of the teaching of the New Testament, we should not take this proposition to mean that our forgiving others somehow earns or contributes to our own forgiveness. In the same way, we cannot even say that our lack of forgiveness is a hindrance to our forgiveness. Our forgiveness is dependent on Christ and His grace, and not on our merit in any way. A better way to understand this proposition is that our forgiveness of others is a clear indication of our having experienced forgiveness. As Jesus said in Luke 7:47,
He who has been forgiven little, loves little.Our forgiveness of others is a response to our forgiveness and a fruit of our new life. And we can pray to receive forgiveness, knowing that we will receive it, because we have already seen the result of our ongoing forgiveness in the fact that we are forgiving toward others. And yet, we cannot escape the force of this statement, that we should not expect forgiveness if we are not, or have not been willing to forgive others for the same kind of things for which we are requesting pardon and release. Jesus will elaborate on this proposition in verses 14-15.13 Keep us from temptation and evilThis verse contains two closely related petitions concerning temptation and sin. The first petition is that we be kept from temptation, i.e. that we would not experience temptation, sin and evil. And the second petition is that we be protected from evil on those occasions when we do experience temptation, sin, and evil. This verse builds on the previous verse in that the prior petitions are to deal with past transgressions in restoring our relationship with God and other people. And this verse is pro-actively working to prevent future transgressions that would break these relationships again.13a Neg: Do not bring us into temptationThis petition is that we not be brought into temptation. The word
bringis a common word for causing something to enter - to bring in, to lead in, to cause to experience. This petition is that God Himself would not bring us into temptation, but the implication is that God would also protect us from being brought in by any other factor. In other words,
don't bring us into...probably also means
keep us out of....
And the word translated
temptationhas a range of possible meanings. It can mean
testinglike when something is put to a test to find out something about it, whether it will pass the test. Christians are often tested in this way, sometimes by God. For instance, Jesus tested Phillip, even though He knew what he was about to do (Jn. 6:6) and God tested Abraham (Heb. 11:17 [see also Acts 9:26,20:19]). And we are to test ourselves and others (2 Cor. 13:5, Rev. 2:2). And this meaning shades into various trials and difficult situations, by which we are tested (Gal. 4:14, Jms. 1:2, 12, 1 Pet. 1:6-7, 4:12). And people have put God to the test, which is a sinful sign of unbelief. This activity is condemned as sinful wherever it is mentioned (Acts. 5:9, 15:10, 1 Cor. 10:9, Heb. 3:9). This possible meaning of
testingis most likely not what Jesus had in mind in this proposition (even though many school kids pray that God would keep them from having to take a test, typically by asking for the school to burn down).
For this word translated
temptationcan also mean the kind of test that is intended to make someone fail the test by enticing them to do something they should not do, or not to do something they should. This is the normal meaning of the English word
temptation.This meaning is seen in many verses in the New Testament, such as when the devil tempted Jesus (Matt. 4:1, Lk. 4:13), or when people are tempted (1 Cor. 7:3, 10:13, Gal. 6:1, 1 Thes. 3:5, 1 Tim. 6:9, Jms. 1:14, Rev. 2:10). Jesus commanded His disciples to pray that they would not enter into temptation (Matt. 26:41, Mk. 14:38, which is very similar wording to this petition), at the same time when He was tempted and/or tested (Lk. 22:28). And there are many passage where it is not clear whether this word means testing or temptation, or some combination of both meanings (Matt. 16:1, 19:1, 22:18, 22:35, Lk. 8:13, Heb. 2:8, 4:15, 2 Pet. 2:9, Rev. 3:10).
In this context, this word almost certainly means temptation in the negative sense. God clearly tests people on some occasions, but He never tempts people, nor can He be tempted (Jms. 1:13). God sometimes allows that we are tempted by evil, and by various situations, and especially by our own sinful inclinations. But temptation and the sin made possible by temptation are certainly not God's desire for His people. This is a prayer to be protected from temptation, knowing our weakness and susceptibility to temptation. And we know that God wants to, and will protect us from such temptation. We know that we will encounter temptation, but we are to ask God for help to avoid it as much as possible. And often, the times when we think we won't be tempted, or think we are too strong to be tempted, are the very occasions when temptation comes, and when we most easily fall for it (1 Cor. 10:12). So, Jesus instructed His disciples to pray that God would spare us from temptation.
The old saying goes:
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.This means that it is so much better to prevent something bad than to try to fix it once it happens. This concept is reflected in this petition, that God would somehow keep us from being tempted in the first place. And whenever temptation does happen, that He would keep us from succumbing to that temptation. It is better to avoid and resist temptation than to have the need to be rescued from the results of giving in to it. And we need God's help, accessed by prayer, in either case. And this model prayer from Jesus even covers the situations where we have given in to temptation and sin, which is reflected in the next proposition.13b Pos: But rescue us from evil/the evil oneThis petition is the flip side of the previous one. The previous request was not to be led into temptation, and this request is to cover those situations where we have come into temptation, sin, evil, and all the results of evil.
This proposition covers the evil that results from our own sin, but it also covers all evil that exists in the world that is not directly the result of our own sin as well. Jesus used a general word for evil that covers all that is wicked, degenerate and morally worthless. This word means
badin a variety of ways, all of which are contrary to God's character, standards, and design. Some translations say
rescue us from eviland some says
rescue us from the evil one.Both possibilities are equally valid according to the word and grammar which Jesus used, and there is no conclusive way to decide between them. They are both true, and we should pray for both. This petition covers rescue from all the personal enemies of God, and also from the impersonal occurrences of evil, whatever they may be. And in the context of verse 12, this especially includes our own sin.
And this petition is that we would be rescued from evil, however it is encountered. The word for
rescueis also fairly general, and covers all situations. It implies that the danger is severe and we are in genuine peril from it, typically already suffering from its effects. And it also implies that God will remove us from and and protect us from this danger completely. We pray that God will rescue us from evil because He is willing and able to completely deliver us, as demonstrated in Christ. Paul advised, whenever we are tempted, to look for God, and for the way out that God has provided in any temptation (see 1 Cor. 10:13). And Peter asserted that
the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials...(see 2 Pet. 2:9).
In essence, this petition comes from the same root and looks to achieve the same result as the previous petition. They both acknowledge our own weakness and susceptibility to temptation and sin. They both recognize our need to be protected and rescued from evil and all its effects. And they both go to God as the One Who is able to protect us and rescue us. We are completely dependent on God to overcome evil on our behalf because we cannot do so on our own. These propositions are similar to the petition to forgive our moral debts in that they recognize the reality of sin and evil in the world, and especially our part in it. And they recognize that God is greater than sin, and is actively working to defeat all evil, to rescue and cleanse His people from all its forms and effects.[For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, amen]Some translations contain these phrases at the end of the Lord's prayer. However, none of the earliest and most reliable copies of the Bible have these words in this passage. Neither are these words a part of the Lord's prayer as recorded in Luke chapter 11. Neither do any of the early church fathers, quoting and commenting on this prayer, mention these words. These words began to be included in much later copies of Matthew, likely because they were added to the prayer when it was used in the liturgy of the churches. These words are similar to 1 Chron. 29:11-13 and were almost certainly added to this prayer long after the book of Matthew was written.
This means that these words were not written by Matthew or said by Jesus when He was teaching the Sermon on the Mount. Therefore, they were not intended by Jesus to be a part of the Lord's prayer. And if we don't include them, we are not being irreverent to the Bible, but rather are agreeing with Jesus and Matthew, out of reverence for what they actually said and wrote.
The meaning of these words is fairly self-explanatory. And these phrases are still true, and are a good basis for prayer. But they are not the basis which Jesus gave for the model petitions He gave in this passage. Jesus grounded our prayers in God's goodness and Fatherhood, and not in His power, even through His power and sovereign authority are assumed throughout this model prayer. So, these words are ancient tradition, and valuable and true tradition. But they are not a part of the prayer which Jesus originally gave.Summary of the Lord's PrayerThis prayer is a model framework and pattern on which we should build our own specific prayers. As such, the order and development of thought is important. Notice that this model prayer is extremely God-centered. It brings us into God's priorities and activities more than it tries to bring God into our own priorities and activities. And even when it does address our own personal needs and desires, it does it from God's perspective.
This prayer starts with address to God as our Heavenly Father, both immanent to hear and care as Father, but also transcendent as powerful sovereign Lord with full ability to answer any petition. And then it transitions to a request for God's acknowledgment and glory as the Holy One over all, as well as a petition that His will would be accomplished and His plans fulfilled on earth, as in Heaven. Praying these requests is to buy into God's purposes for the universe and make them our own. Thus God's glory and God's purposes take precedence over any of our issues in this model prayer. And only then, flowing out of the request for God's will is the petition for our own needs to be supplied. This is not to downplay any of our needs as insignificant, but rather it raises all our needs and issues into the greater significance of God's overall plan for the universe. And God is honored as the One Who can and will supply all our daily needs. And then, not only are our physical needs addressed to God for provision, but also our spiritual needs for forgiveness are addressed to the same Father Who provides. He provides not only forgiveness for our past sins, as we forgive others, but He also provides protection against present and future temptations and evil. And our prayers are addressed to Him as our Father Who will provide and protect, as part of His grand plan, and for His glory.14-15 Prayer is connected with forgivenessThis section is not a part of the prayer itself, but is an instructional elaboration on v. 12, about the connection between our willingness to forgive others and our expectation of receiving forgiveness from God. It begins with the word
forwhich, in this case, is a marker of explanation, not of reason. This section is a series of two conditions and their results - one stated positively and one stated negatively. These two conditional statements make the same point, just from the standpoint of the two opposite possibilities. As mentioned above regarding v. 12, we should not understand these verses to teach that we somehow earn our forgiveness by forgiving others. But we should clearly understand the connection Jesus made between these two things. We should take His warnings very seriously and not presume upon our own forgiveness if we are not willing to forgive others. Jesus later elaborated on this concept in the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt. 18:21-35).14 Pos: If you forgive, you will be forgivenThis verse is the positive side of this concept: if we forgive, God will forgive us. This is a conditional statement, but it is not cause and effect. We do not cause our forgiveness by forgiving others. But we can be assured of our forgiveness as we forgive.14a For, if you forgive to people their transgressions/wrongdoingsThis proposition begins with the word
forwhich connects this section with the previous petitions, especially with verse 12. And it is a conditional statement, beginning with the word
if.This sets up the condition (which may be true, or it may be false) for 14b. If this proposition turns out to be true (depending on our response) then 14b will be true as well. This proposition uses the same word
forgiveas was used in v. 12. And our forgiveness in this statement is directed
to the people.In other words, the forgiveness which Jesus was describing is totally open ended and applies to any and every situation, and to any and every person. But in this proposition, Jesus used a different word -
transgressions- than He used in v. 12. This word means any violation of moral standards, anything that goes against the law and will of God, including all offenses against other humans. It is something that breaks a rule or norm, doing something that is clearly known to be wrong and a violation of God's standards of morality. And the word Jesus used is plural. That means that there are no limitations or exceptions given in this verse of any transgressions that we are not to forgive. As Jesus will say later in Matthew, we are to forgive seventy times seven transgressions (see Matt. 18:22). In other words, there is no limit to the number of transgressions that we are to forgive, any more than there is a limit of our own transgressions for which we may ask forgiveness from God.14b Your Heavenly Father will also forgive to youThis proposition is the continuation and result of the conditional statement begun in the previous proposition. Notice that Jesus referred to God as
your heavenly Fatherusing similar language to the way God is addressed at the beginning of the Lord's prayer. It is the same intimate, yet transcendent, Father Whom we address in prayer, Who is the One we look to for forgiveness. And Jesus used the same word
forgiveas in the previous proposition. The word
transgressionsis not stated in this proposition, but is clearly implied by the grammar. This proposition does not say that God will
forgive you.But it says that God will
forgive to you [your transgressions].The result is virtually the same. But here the connection is more clearly made to the previous proposition by using a parallel structure in the way that it was said.15 Neg: If you don't forgive, you won't be forgivenThis verse is the negative side of the idea begun in v. 14. It is very similar wording to v. 14, except stating the negative side of the possibility. This verse, likewise, is stating a condition, and what will be true if the condition is true. But it is not stating cause and effect. Jesus still was not teaching that we somehow earn or cause God to forgive us (or not forgive us). But Jesus clearly stated that if we are unforgiving, we should not presume to receive forgiveness from our Heavenly Father.15a But if you do not forgive to peopleThis proposition is almost exactly the same wording as 14a. Except the phrase
the transgressionsis implied but not stated for brevity. And this phrase is stated in the negative by the inclusion of the word
if you do not forgive to people.15b Neither will your Father forgive your transgressions/wrongdoingsThis proposition is very similar to 14b, except stated negatively. In the way that He described God, Jesus called Him
your Father,leaving out the word
heavenly.There is probably no significance to this omission. It is just stylish for brevity. But in this case, Jesus said He will not forgive your transgressions. Jesus used the same words for
transgressions.The transgressions are clearly stated in this proposition through implied in the previous one, which is the opposite of the way it was stated in the previous verse. This is possibly to emphasize that when the transgressions are unforgiven, they are more significantly connected with us, because they are still a stain and weight on our soul. And the word
transgressionsis plural in this case as well. So, this is a very strong warning that we should avoid unforgiveness to others, because we do not want to bear the burden, guilt, and punishment of our own transgressions before our Heavenly Father.Summary:In this larger section, Jesus taught His disciples about prayer. He continued as part of a series of sections teaching not to do good deeds for the sake of being seen and rewarded by people, for pride's sake. But rather, we are to do them to be seen and rewarded by God, for His sake. And Jesus taught this lesson about prayer in very similar terms to the other two sections. But in this passage, Jesus expanded His teaching about prayer to include other issues as well. He taught about an additional danger to avoid in prayer - not to think that our prayers are made more effective by rote recital or unthinking flow of many words, like the pagans. Our prayers are not punching a time clock to earn a hearing from God, but rather they are connecting to our heavenly Father, Who already knows our needs before we even ask. Therefore, we should communicate with Him using our full attention, with all of our minds, emotions, and passions, not just rattling off many words disconnected with our whole being and concentration. And the last part of this section is a model prayer, where Jesus gave positive teaching and example how we should pray. He included a profound new way to address God as our Heavenly Father. And then He gave an ordered series of petitions for us to imitate in learning to pray in a God-centered and God-honoring way.
6:16-18 Fast Rightly
Detailed OutlineIntro:This is the third of three passages (1-4, 5-15, 16-18) which warn against doing good deeds only for the purpose of being seen doing the good deeds, with the motive of receiving public acclamation for doing them. Jesus elaborated three specific examples of this that were prevalent in His time. But the emphasis in all of these is the underlying attitude and purpose for doing them, more than the actual deeds. All of the deeds which Jesus addressed are good things, and should be done.
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Jesus's point in these passage is about how and why they are done. They should be done because it is right to do them. They should be done in obedience to God, and for the pleasure and glory of God. The problem which Jesus was addressing is that human pride easily distorts these good deeds into hypocritical measures of piety which are done to puff up the one doing them before their peers, more than to serve God. Deeds which are supposed to glorify God were being used to glorify self. And Jesus strongly warned against doing this by addressing the contrasting rewards one would receive for doing these things rightly, verses doing them selfishly.16 Neg: Fasting done for the sake of publicity and image is not pleasing to GodJust like charity giving in 1-4 and prayer in 5-15, Jesus was not warning against fasting, but only fasting done with the wrong motives. The Bible speaks of fasting as a good and beneficial practice, when done in the right way.16a-c Be careful not to fast for the sake of publicity and image16a When you fastFasting is the act of intentionally going without food and/or drink for a set period of time in order to discipline yourself by self-denial, and usually spending the time that would have been used for eating in prayer and communion with God. This is a common spiritual practice throughout the Bible, and is usually spoken of as a good and helpful practice. Fasting is usually paired with prayer, grief and/or repentance. It was used as a way to intensify prayer - not as a way to try to bribe God to answer prayer, but as a way to cut out hindrances to prayer and to demonstrate grief, repentance, and humility.
Notice that Jesus said
when you fast.It was His assumption that fasting would be a regular (or at least occasional) practice of His disciples. The Old Testament Law required fasting on the Day of Atonement and people often fasted when they were mourning. Here Jesus did not specify or suggest how often or how long His disciples should fast. That is left open to the individual disciple's wisdom and circumstances. He only directed this warning to whenever that would be.16b-c Don't fast for public acclamation, like hypocrites16b Do not be those who look gloomy and sullenIn this proposition, Jesus told His hearers not to look gloomy and sad when they were fasting. This proposition must be understood in connection with the following propositions. Jesus was not forbidding people from being and/or looking sad. It is legitimate to appropriately grieve when mourning and to show remorse when repenting. Jesus was not forbidding these kinds of expressions and demeanors when done appropriately. What He was forbidding was doing them for prideful and hypocritical motives, as elaborated in the following propositions.16c As the hypocrites doThis proposition is the continuation and clarification of the previous one. Jesus was forbidding looking sad in the way that is comparable to what the hypocrites do. The word
hypocriterefers to someone who pretends to be or do something that they are not. It is play acting and deception that is not conformed to reality. So, Jesus was forbidding pretend sadness and mourning when fasting. He was forbidding putting on the disguise and expression of repentance and grief if it did not match the reality appropriate for fasting. Again, the issue is not about fasting, but about doing religious rituals for the purpose of appearing to be righteous when in fact you are not actually righteous. Don't be a hypocrite when you fast.16d-g The hypocrites fast for the worthless reward of public acclaimThis section is the reason Jesus gave not to draw attention to yourself when fasting. The reason is twofold: First, He clarified that they reason they did it was for public notice and selfish acclaim. And second, He pointed out that this reward is worthless, especially when compared with eternal reward from God the Father.16d-e They do it for publicity and glory16d For they distort the appearance of their facesThe word translated
distort the appearancehas the connotation of intentionally making an effort to change their appearance. And in the context of 16b, this means that they took on a dour and gloomy appearance, probably by forsaking regular grooming (see 17b-c). If a person is genuinely mourning and/or repenting, they do not need to make an effort to appear sad. The facial expression comes naturally. but if someone needs to put intentional effort into looking gloomy, that means that they are faking it. In other words, Jesus accused some people of intentionally play acting when they fasted to look more miserable and gloomier than they genuinely were. And they did it for the purpose which will be communicated in the next proposition.16e Purpose: in order that they may appear to people to be fastingThis proposition clearly marks the purpose for why people distort the appearance of their faces, as stated in the previous proposition. They do it to be seen. They do it to draw attention to themselves. And Jesus modified this statement with a few words to specify more clearly what they were doing. They were doing it in order to be seen by people. They were doing it for the approval of others, as Jesus warned against in 6:1. And they were doing it to show off that they were fasting. They wanted to appear to be fasting. And when their natural expression did not show clearly enough that they were fasting to get noticed by others, they intentionally altered their appearance to draw more attention to the fact that they were fasting. And they did all this to be seen by others to be fasting, and therefore, (hopefully) to be seen as more righteous and spiritual. In other words, their primary concern in fasting was not to humble themselves before God, but it was to exalt themselves before other people as more religious and righteous. That is the very motivation and attitude which Jesus was condemning in this whole wider section.16f-g I emphasize that this is all the reward they will get16f I am saying to you trulyThis proposition is an introductory statement, introducing what Jesus was about to say in the next proposition. Jesus often used this formula (see v. 2, 5, 5:18), including the word
trulyto emphasize, not only the truth of what He was about to say, but also its importance. This was a prompter of attention, signaling to His hearers that they should pay particularly close attention to what He was about to say.16g They have fully received their rewardIn this proposition, Jesus stated that by being seen by other people and supposedly causing them to think more highly of the person fasting, they received all their reward. The emphasis is on them fully and completely having received all that they would ever receive. They had been paid in full and should expect no other reward. In the larger context of v. 1 and what Jesus had already said in this chapter, this is obviously a contrast with the greater reward which they were missing out on. They got all of the reward they were aiming for, and they would find out that it was a far smaller and more fleeting reward than they had hoped. Everyone finds out sooner or later that the opinions of other people are fickle and not as important as we often think. In this larger section, Jesus's point is to focus on the better reward which comes from God Himself. And by doing righteousness with selfish, prideful motives and manners, we risk losing that greater reward, which is infinitely better than building our image before other people. Our true reality and character before God is more important than our reputation before people. And if our primary goal is to build our reputation, we will see what a weak reward that is.17-18 Pos: Do your fasting in God's sight, for His reward, which is eternalIn the previous verse, Jesus warned His readers what not to do when fasting, because the reward for doing that is worthless. In these verses, Jesus positively showed how we should fast, and elaborate on the greater reward we can expect for doing so in the correct attitude and manner which He taught.17-18b Don't fast for public acclaim, but to please God17a But while fastingThis proposition is very similar to 16a, but not the exact same wording. In 16a, there was more emphasis on
when you fast.But in this proposition, the emphasis is on the action of fasting. So, this proposition could be translated
while you are fastingor
as you are fastingor
during the act of fasting.The emphasis is on the fasting and its connection to the actions of the following propositions.17b-18b Don't fast for public acclaim, but for the true reward17b-c Don't show you are fasting by your appearanceThis section shows, in contrast to those who intentionally changed their appearance in order to highlight the fact that they were fasting, that disciples were not to alter their appearance. They were to have the same grooming habits and appearance when fasting as they did when not fasting. Jesus was not teaching his hearers to do anything different, but to keep the same grooming routine in order not to draw any unusual attention to themselves when fasting.17b You, anoint your headThe word
youis emphatic in this proposition, making a strong contrast with the person who makes a display of their fasting. A disciple of Jesus is to take a different approach and not be like them.
Anointmeans to put oil (likely some form of perfume) on your head. This was a normal part of grooming in that culture. It would be analogous in our culture to combing your hair or putting on deodorant.17c And wash your faceThe meaning of washing your face is obvious. Some of the Jewish rabbis taught that a person should not wash on the Day of Atonement when they were fasting. Jesus contradicted (overruled) their teaching by saying that when fasting, His disciples were to continue their normal hygiene and grooming routine so as not to draw any attention to their fasting. The goal in these two commands is that no one would be able, from mere physical appearance, to notice whether His disciples were fasting or not. They should have the same outward appearance and bearing in either case, because drawing attention to your fasting is not the point of fasting, and can be counter-productive if done for selfish pride. And the ultimate purpose of keeping one's fasting disguised is communicated in the next section.18a-b Purpose: in order that your fasting would only be seen by GodThis section is parallel to v. 4 (on charity) and v. 6 (on prayer) in that it commands us to do our righteous deeds in secret, away from the notice of other people, and noticeable only by God our Father. It clarifies the purpose of 17b-c, telling why we should keep our normal appearance and avoid changing it to highlight the fact that we are fasting.18a Neg: in order that you would not appear to people to be fastingThe purpose of anointing your head with oil and washing your face (i.e. doing your normal hygiene and grooming), is so that people will not be able to tell that you are fasting from your appearance. This proposition is very similar wording to 16e, where it described the purpose why hypocrites change their appearance when they are fasting - in order to be seen. Of course, this proposition is the negative of that one. In other words, Jesus was commanding His disciples to do the exact opposite of the hypocrites for the exact opposite motivation, in order not to be seen. And we should also apply this command, not only to our outward appearance, but also to our demeanor and speech. In other words, this also applies to not talking and/or bragging about the fact that we are fasting, in order to win accolades from others for our righteousness.
Like in the previous passages, this is not an absolute prohibition. Sometimes it may be unavoidable that the people close to us would know that we are fasting. And Jesus was not commanding us to be deceptive or fanatic about the secrecy. Because, like in the other passages, the issue is not whether people see us, but about our attitude and motivation - that we not do our good deeds in order to be seen and show off our righteousness. It should make no difference to our attitude, whether people see us or not. But Jesus suggested, for the protection against our own pride, that we should always aim for secrecy, and downplay our fasting as much as possible.18b Pos: but [in order that you would be apparent] to your Father, Who is in secretThis is the other side of the equation of not attempting to appear to be fasting before people. Even though people don't see that we are fasting, even though we do not fast in order to be seen by them, we know that God knows, and that is part of our positive motivation for fasting. We fast to please Him. And we fast, knowing that He will take note of our good deeds. As usual, God is smarter than we are, and we cannot do good deeds with bad intentions and/or hypocritical motives and expect that God will be fooled or pleased by this. But when we genuinely fast with godly motives and in a way that is pleasing to God, we can be assured that God takes note, which leads into the final proposition of this passage, which tells the ultimate purpose of doing this.
And again, in this type of statement, God is described as our Father, the One Who oversees and takes care of us. But instead of being called
our Father in Heavenas in the previous passages (see 1e and 6d), He is called
our Father Who is in secret.This could highlight the fact that God is hidden from general sight, and does many things that are beyond our knowledge, just as we are to fast without the knowledge of the people around us. But more likely, this highlights that when we are fasting away from the sight and knowledge of other people, God is present with us in that private place.18c And your Father, Who is seeing in secret, will recompense/reward youThis proposition is parallel to 4b (on charity giving) and 6e (on prayer). It gives the ultimate reason for fasting in general, and especially for fasting in the manner which Jesus was emphasizing in this passage. We fast privately, as much as possible away from the notice of other people, because God, Who knows what we do, even when we do it in secret, will reward us. Here Jesus used a slightly different (but related) word for
secretthan He used in the previous passages. It has the connotation of being kept from general knowledge, being private. It is the same word used in 18b about God, Who is in private with us. He sees what we do in private, both the sinful things (so that we should never think we can get away with sin) but also the righteous things. And being a gracious, generous Father, He always faithfully rewards us for our godly deeds, far beyond what we deserve. We can be assured that even if we miss out on the accolades of other people for our fasting, even if we miss out on the reputation of being godly and the praise and pride that would accompany this reputation, the reward we will receive from our Father will be far greater. And so, we can fast with motives unspoiled by pride and self-aggrandizement. Because we know we have a far greater reward. In all these passages, the ultimate reason and motivation behind what Jesus was forbidding, was a promise of something greater that we don't want to forfeit.
7:1-12 The Humble Attitude of the Kingdom
6:19-24 Store Up Treasure in Heaven
Detailed OutlineIntro:In this larger section of the Sermon on the Mount, consisting of this passage and the next (6:25-34), Jesus addressed and challenged our
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ultimates.That is, He challenged His hearers to consider what is their ultimate desire, their ultimate authority, their ultimate goal and purpose. He was challenging people to make God their ultimate standard and reference in every part of their life and reject any form of idolatry.
In every aspect of our lives, we are constantly making choices, in big and small issues. In every choice, we must choose one option over others. And we always make decisions based on what we value more. For example, some people value money over time and safety. So, they will spend their time and risk their safety in order to get money. Some people are willing to give away their freedom in order to secure their safety (which is always a foolish choice, because losing freedom is to give away the ability to protect your safety and security). So, everyone has a set of priorities in what they value that impacts their choices, for better or worse.
And sooner or later, by our choices, we will demonstrate what we value and trust the very most, by always choosing it over other options. What always wins when we are forced to choose? This is our
ultimate- that which we desire and trust more than anything else. That is our
god.And so, we must honestly evaluate what truly is our
ultimate.Is it the One True God, or is it some form of idol?
This passage is a continuation of the previous section in challenging our motivations in order for us to have the correct actions, which flow from the correct motivations and attitudes. In the previous passages, Jesus challenged His hearers to do good works with the proper motivation and for the best reward. In this passage, Jesus taught His hearers to examine, acknowledge, and, if necessary, change our
ultimate,knowing that our
ultimatewill always decisively influence our motivations, choices, and actions in all of our life.19-21 Your ultimate treasure will determine your heartThe point that Jesus made in this first section is that the identity of your
ultimateis extremely important, because all of your life will follow after your
ultimate.We all pursue the thing or things that we treasure the most. And what that treasure is, will determine what our life pursuits will be. And therefore, we should be very careful what we choose as our ultimate treasure. Don't choose treasure that will let you down. There are some treasures that don't satisfy. There are some treasures that are easily lost once they are gained. And so, Jesus taught to pursue the kind of treasure that will eternally satisfy because it is certain and durable. He did this by contrasting the kind of treasure that is found on earth and the kind of treasure that is stored in heaven.19-20 Wisely choose your ultimate treasureIn these verses, Jesus commanded His disciples to examine and wisely choose the kind of treasure they love and pursue. He pointed out that there are different kinds of treasure, and He divided treasure into two categories: that which is insecure and temporary, and that which is secure and eternal. In verse 19, He warned against loving insecure and temporary treasure. And then in verse 20, He commanded us to love secure and eternal treasure.19 Neg: Don't pursue unsafe, insecure, temporary treasureThis verse is the negative warning against temporary, insecure treasure. Jesus spoke of this kind of treasure as being stored up
on the earth.19a Do not treasure up treasure for yourself on the earthThe verb
treasure upis closely related to the noun
treasurethat refers to that which is treasured. Both words come from the idea of storing something for long term benefit. But they also clearly refer to something that is valuable and worth having and storing because of its value and usefulness. Jesus used the same word here (referring to earthy treasure) that He will use in v. 20 for heavenly treasure. He used the same word for both kinds of treasure, because they are both treasured. But it also clearly implies that they are different kinds of treasure, because one is stored on earth, and one in heaven. By commanding not to store up our treasure on earth, Jesus is setting up a contrast between different kinds of treasure based on where that treasure is located. He will contrast the
earthlythings we could treasure with the
heavenlythings we should treasure. Only certain things can be stored on earth, and only certain things can be stored in heaven.
And Jesus commanded that we not treasure the
earthlythings. This is consistent with other statements in the New Testament, such as 1 Jn. 2:15-17, where John wrote (among other things)
Do not love the world or the things in the world.It is important to clearly understand what Jesus and John meant (and what they did not mean) when they said and wrote these things. There is the sense in which we should love the people and things of the world by desiring and working for what is best for them. We should love everyone, including our enemies in this sense. That is the sense in which
God so loved the world...(Jn. 3:16). But that is not what Jesus and John were talking about. We should not love the world in the sense that it or anything in it is our
ultimate- our highest delight and goal. Because the world and all the treasure that is in it is as dung compared with God and all the heavenly things connected with Him (see Phil. 3:7-9).
And by commanding us not to treasure up treasure on earth, Jesus was indicating that we can, at least to some extent, determine for ourselves what we treasure. Yes, we are influenced by many things. We are drawn away toward useless treasure by our sinful fallen nature. And we need a work of God's Spirit in our lives to see and love the beauty of Christ. but we are also responsible to choose our treasure, to put our mind and affections on the things that we are to treasure as our
ultimate.And Jesus commanded us not to do this with earthly things.19b-d Where it is unsafe and insecure, i.e. temporaryIn this section, Jesus elaborated on why we should not treasure up treasure on earth. And by doing so, He described some of the characteristics of earthly treasure that make it unworthy to be our
ultimate,concentrating on its temporary and perishable nature. The location of this treasure makes it subject to two dangers: It may be destroyed, and it may be taken away.19b Where moth and corrosion destroyThis proposition highlights that earthly treasure is subject to corrosion and destruction. Jesus gave two examples of things that ruin earthly treasures. First, He mentioned moths, which consume clothing and other similar goods. In modern times, people use
mothballsto keep insects away from ruining clothing and valuable textiles. And second, Jesus mentioned corrosion, which is sometimes translated as
rust.Rust is a good example of the kind of corrosion which Jesus was talking about, because it causes iron things to waste away and be destroyed. However, the word Jesus used is more general than rust. Therefore, the corrosion Jesus mentioned not only destroys iron, but also tarnishes, corrodes, and otherwise spoils and destroys all other materials as well. His word covers all of these kinds of corrosion. Jesus used these two terms as examples of the kind of decay inherent in all earthly materials. All treasures stored up on earth will fail because they are subject to various kinds of consumption, corrosion, and destruction. They are not permanent and will eventually fall short as an
ultimate.19c-d And treasure is stolenAnd not only are earthly treasures subject to corrosion and destruction, they are also subject to being taken away. In these two propositions, Jesus continued giving the reasons not to treasure up treasures on earth by mentioning thieves who may steal this kind of treasure, in order to point out the insecurity of earthly treasure.19c And where thieves break inThe word
thievesrefers to any and all people who steal. There are people who want earthly treasure enough to try to attain it by immoral means. The presence of thieves and the possibility of having our property stolen is a reality in this fallen world. In this proposition, Jesus mentioned that they
break in.This draws attention to the fact that thieves are willing to break through barriers and walls and safes in order to get at other people's property. Locked doors, strong boxes, and security precautions are good and will often delay or deter thieves. But no precautions are able to completely guarantee that a determined and resourceful thief will not be able to get past any security measures we take in this world. So, before mentioning that a thief will steal (in the next proposition), Jesus mentioned that they will break in, through whatever security barriers are in place.19d And they stealThis proposition is the completion of the thought begun in the previous one. After a thief breaks in, he will steal the earthly treasure. The point that Jesus was making is that treasures stored up on earth are liable to being taken away from us, and therefore are not reliable and secure enough to be our
ultimatetreasure.In this verse, Jesus spoke about moths and corrosion and thieves as the reason treasure is not to be stored up on earth. But the difference between earthly and heavenly treasure is about more than just moths and thieves. It is more than just temporary and insecure vs. eternal and secure. It is ultimately about the comparative worth of the two kinds of treasure.
However, Jesus emphasized the temporariness and insecurity of earthly treasure as a key way to point out its comparative worthlessness. But He also put the spotlight on the reason why people are tempted to delight in earthly treasure. The temptation of earthly treasure is its current availability and present tangible experience. We are tempted to store up our treasures on earth, because here we can currently control and experience this treasure, whereas we must wait in faith to experience much of our treasure stored in heaven.
In other words, by pointing out the corrosion and temporary nature of earthly treasure, Jesus was promoting delayed gratification and faith in God's eternal promises. And He was confronting a
have it nowphilosophy. Disciples need to be wise and play the long game in our treasure investments. We can have a temporary, ephemeral treasure right now, which will not ultimately satisfy. Or we can patiently and faithfully wait in the hope of the promised eternal, secure treasure, which will eternally satisfy. Fulton Sheen once wrote that there are two general philosophies of life. Some people say,
let's feast now, and worry about the hangover later.And some people say,
I'm willing to fast now, in order to enjoy the feast later.Jesus was pointing out the stupidity of the first attitude and training His disciples to have the second. We are not to treasure up treasure on earth simply because that is a stupid investment which will leave us treasureless in the end.20 Pos: Rather, pursue safe, secure, eternal treasureThis verse give the positive contrast to the negative command in the previous verse. We are commanded not to store up treasure
on earth. But we are commanded to store up treasure
in heaven.20a Rather, treasure up treasure for yourself in heavenThis section is the continuation of the comparison and contrast begun in verse 19. And this proposition is parallel to 19a. The wording is almost exactly the same, except this proposition does not contain the word
not,and it has the phrase
in heaveninstead of the phrase
on the earth.It uses the same words for
treasurewith the same meanings. But they refer to different realities, and therefore, have different emphases. In this proposition, the word
treasurerefers to transcendent things; it does not refer to material treasure, but refers to non-material things. Our treasure in heaven refers primarily to God Himself, Who is the greatest treasure imaginable. But this can also include the rewards mentioned (but not defined or described) in the previous passages.
Heaven is defined as the transcendent dwelling place (or throne) of God. So, treasure stored up in heaven is all in relation to God, and ultimately from God, and an expression of His greatness and goodness. Because knowing and experiencing God is the ultimate treasure and goal of any genuine disciple. Because God literally is the One Ultimate Being, our
ultimateshould be God Himself, and everything only in relation to Him. And therefore, we can
treasure upthis treasure by knowing and experiencing God through Jesus, through genuine, faithful, obedient discipleship as described in this sermon, and throughout the New Testament.20b-d Where it is safe and secure, i.e. eternalThis section is parallel to 19b-d, giving the opposite reason we should treasure up treasure in heaven as opposed to treasuring up treasure on earth. And by doing so, Jesus described some of the characteristics of heavenly treasure that make it more worthy to be our
ultimate,concentrating on its eternal and secure nature. The location of this treasure guarantees that it will not be destroyed, and it will not be taken away.
But, just as the deficiency of earthly treasure is more than just being temporary, the greatness of heavenly treasure is more than just being eternal. We can all imagine something that would be great for a little while, but which would become boring after a while. We have all probably had a similar experience with toys as children. They were all we wanted, and we were thrilled with them, but we also eventually outgrew them. Our heavenly treasure will be of such a nature that we will never outgrow it or become bored with it. Our heavenly treasure needs to be as infinite in greatness as it is eternal in duration. And that is why God, and not any of His gifts, needs to be our
ultimate.Only God is so infinitely glorious and good that we will experience Him as greater and greater throughout all eternity. God is as infinite in His awesomeness as eternity is infinite in length.20b Where neither moth nor corrosion destroyThis proposition is parallel to 19b. It uses the exact same wording as 19b except that it adds the negatives
norto make this proposition state the exact opposite of 19b. This proposition highlights that heavenly treasure is not subject to corrosion and destruction. Jesus described the glorious, new nature of everything in heaven, as compared to earth. Just as Paul wrote that we will all be changed, because the perishable cannot inherit the imperishable (see 1 Cor. 15:50-51), everything in heaven is of a different kind of nature and life than in our present earthly experience. Revelation tells us that heaven will come down to earth, and our eternal existence will somehow be in a new heaven and new earth. We will not be disembodied spirits, but have renewed bodies. But our new bodies and the new nature of the new heavens and new earth will be dramatically different from our present bodies and experience.
And the glorious new nature of the next age, coming from heaven, will not be subject to corrosion or destruction. Moths may still exist in the next age (we don't know yet), but they will not destroy our garments. Iron may still exist, and it still may have the same chemical properties that make it able to oxidize, but rust will not disintegrate, nor will any other forms of corrosion tear down the things we treasure. This creation was created very good, and corrosion, destruction, and death were only introduced into this creation by the fall into sin (see Gen. chs. 1-3). All of creation waits in eager expectation for the time when it will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God (see Rom. 8:19-21). The very nature of heaven is of an unspoiled and/or renewed creation, so that corrosion and destruction are not a part of that reality.20c-d And treasure is not stolenThis section is a continuation of the thought begun in 20b. It is also parallel to 19c-d, giving the positive alternative in contrast to what was described there. Heaven is the dwelling place of God, unspoiled by sin. And our experience of heaven in the next age will be a glorious new reality, completely different from our present age. There is no sin in heaven, and there will be no sin in the next age. Paul clearly wrote that thieves (among others) will not inherit the Kingdom of God (see 1 Cor. 6:10). There is no sin in heaven, therefore, there is no stealing. There are no unredeemed sinners in heaven, therefore, there are no thieves. In heaven, there is no need or temptation to covet and steal. Everything in heaven is completely blessed and fulfilled, so there is no possibility of theft. And therefore, everything is completely secure in every way, because God's perfect rule is completely manifested in heaven, and in all of the next age.20c And where thieves do not break inThis proposition is parallel to 19c. It uses exactly the same wording as that proposition with the addition of the word
notto make it say the exact opposite of 19c.20d And neither do they stealThis proposition is parallel to 19d. It uses exactly the same wording as that proposition with the addition of the word
neitherto make it say the exact opposite of 19d. Jesus clearly used repetition, making verse 20 parallel with 19 in order to make His statements more memorable, and to highlight the contrast between the two treasures.In this verse, Jesus commanded us to treasure up treasure in heaven, in obvious contrast to storing up treasure on earth. He used the contrast between the temporary and insecure nature of earthly treasure compared with the secure and eternal nature of heavenly treasure as the stated reason for making the wise choice. But this is also about the comparative worth of the two kinds of treasure. Only one kind of
ultimateis worthy of being our
ultimatebecause it genuinely is ultimate. Only God Himself is worthy of being our ultimate treasure. And therefore, we need to treasure Him, even in this world, even though He can seem less tangible than earthly realities. We need to live in hope and faith in His promises, knowing that by doing so, we are storing up treasures that cannot be, and never will be taken away. We are storing up treasure that will satisfy for all eternity because our treasure is in God Himself, Who is more real, and more valuable, and more ultimate, than anything else in existence.21 Reason: Your heart automatically will follow your treasureIn this verse, Jesus gave the foundational reason to choose treasure wisely. The reason is that our heart inevitably follows our treasure. We automatically love and make decisions based on what we think is most desirable and most valuable. Our affections will always follow our
ultimate,and therefore, it is very important what our
Notice that Jesus did not teach His disciples that their treasure will follow their heart, but He taught the other way around. Our culture often focuses on the heart, saying
follow your heart.But according to the Bible, that is unnecessary advice, because we automatically follow our heart. Rather, we should
guard your heart, because it is the wellspring of life(Prov. 4:23). Everything in our life is directly influenced by the state of our heart. And
follow your heartis horrible advice, because
the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure(Jer. 17:9). However, Jesus did not say
get your heart right and your treasure will follow.He said,
get your treasure right, and your heart will be right, because your heart always goes where your treasure is.The point that Jesus was making is that we should guard our heart by guarding and wisely choosing our treasure. If we get the right treasure, then our heart will follow into good places. If we get the wrong treasure, then our heart will follow into bad places. Therefore, we should guard and get our heart right by getting our treasure right, by treasuring up treasure in heaven, with God.21a For wherever your treasure isThis proposition is the first part of one main idea, expressed in two propositions. Technically, this gives the location for the action of the next proposition. Jesus began this idea by giving the location as
wherever your treasure is.In the previous two verses, He gave two possibilities:
on the earthor
in heaven.And each person will store up their treasure in one of these two locations. Where our treasure is treasured up will determine what will be true in the next proposition.
And, based on the previous two verses, the wise choice is for our treasure to be stored up in heaven, with God. As Paul wrote in Col. 3:1-3,
...set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.21b You heart will also be thereThis is the completion of the idea begun in the previous proposition. The previous proposition gave the content of the word
therein this proposition. Therefore, the meaning of this proposition is dependent on the place that is true as described in the previous one. If our treasure is on the earth, our heart will be on the earth. If our treasure is in heaven, then our heart will be in heaven. The point of these two propositions together is that our heart will inevitably seek after and follow our treasure, wherever it is. And therefore, the location of our treasure will determine what our heart will automatically pursue, and therefore, what our affections and actions will be. If we are wise, then our treasure will be stored up in heaven, with Christ, in God.
And so, we can ask,
What does it look like for our heart to be in heaven, with Christ, in God?Paul partly answered that question in the quote from Colossians given in the comment on the previous proposition. And Jesus answered that question throughout the Sermon on the Mount. For instance, in the Beatitudes, He pronounced blessing on those who live by heavenly priorities and display heavenly character. He defined righteousness by inward heart affections and attitudes more than by outward actions in keeping the Law (5:17-48). In the earlier passage is chapter 6, He described those who do not live for rewards from people, but live to please God and receive their reward from Him. Later, He will command His disciples to
seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness(6:33) and to
enter through the narrow gate.(7:13) and to hear His words and put them into practice (7:24). And, of course, throughout the rest of the New Testament, Jesus and the apostles proclaim the Gospel and the proper response of genuine disciples, including instructions on how to live in light of the Gospel, which is to life for Christ and delight in Him, Who is in Heaven, and to conform our hearts to Him. Our ultimate treasure will determine our heart, and our heart will determine our life. If God in Christ is our ultimate treasure, this will determine all of our attitudes and actions, leading to eternal life.22-23 Your ultimate focus and purpose determines your lifeThis second section in this passage is somewhat difficult to understand at first. It is not immediately apparent what is meant by
the eye is the lamp of the body.However, when we put this section in the context of the larger passage, it is much easier to grasp what Jesus was talking about. This section partly answers the question
How do we store up treasure?It acknowledges and teaches that whatever fills our attention fills our mind and eventually fills our entire life. And in this section Jesus also warned that focusing on evil things will have a tremendously detrimental effect on our minds, hearts, attitudes, and actions. Therefore, our ultimate focus - what we most often and most intensely put our focus upon - will determine our life, because that will be what we treasure.22-23b What you focus upon determines your life22a The lamp of the body is the eyeIn this proposition, Jesus used the metaphor of a lamp. A lamp was an oil pot that fed a flame used to illuminate a room or any dark place. A modern equivalent would be a flashlight. In a dark place, whatever we shine the flashlight upon is what we see - what we concentrate on. In this proposition, Jesus said that our eye functions in this way. Whatever we turn our eyes to look at is what we concentrate on. Our sight is one of, if not the primary sense by which we interact with the world. The experts say that we remember what we see more than we remember what we hear. Our sight has a strong influence on our mind. And therefore, whatever we put our eyes on with concentrated attention (as opposed to an unintentional glance) will have a strong influence on our thinking and eventually our worldview. The entire body somehow responds to and follows wherever the attention of the eyes leads it.
Throughout the Bible, the eyes are spoken about in this way. Things are pleasing or displeasing
in the eyes ofsomeone. Things are good or evil
in the sight ofsomeone. People can find favor or rejection
in the eyes ofsomeone. When people come to a profound realization, it is said that
their eyes were opened.And therefore, godly people determined not to let their eyes look at evil things (see, for example, Job 31:1, Psa. 101:3, 119:37) rather, their eyes are on the Lord (see, for example, Psa. 25:15, 123:2, 141:8). But evil people have no fear of God
before their eyes(see, for example, Psa. 36:1) and their eyes wander to worthless things (see, for example, Prov. 17:24).22b-23b Your life depends on what you ultimately focus uponThis section is the natural consequence and implication of the truth Jesus spoke in the previous proposition. If the eye is the lamp of the body, if the body follows where the focus of the eyes goes, then our life is strongly influenced by whatever we focus our eyes upon, either for good or for bad.22b-c Pos: If the focus of your life is good, your life will be goodThis is the positive possibility: that a person's eye will focus on good things and therefore have a positive impact on their life.22b Therefore, if your eye is without guile/straightforwardThis proposition begins with the word
therefore.This connects this entire section (22b-23b) with the previous proposition (22a). This section is an inference which is true because the eye is the lamp of the body. Because the eye is the lamp of the body, the quality and focus of the eye will have an impact on the entire body - the mind, attitude, and actions.
This proposition is closely connected with the following one in a conditional relationship. If the statement of this proposition is true, it will have the effect described in the following proposition. This proposition gives the positive possibility, that an eye may be good. Jesus described this as an eye without guile. This term has the connotation of being simple, straightforward, and sincere, without hidden motives or agendas. And it may also have the implication of generosity. Overall, it conveys the idea of
what you see is what you get,
genuinewith nothing deceptive, and
without ulterior motive.This kind of eye is simple and not divided by other loyalties and schemes, in contrast to the kind of divided loyalties described in v. 24. And it is pure in the sense of not being diluted and intermixed with other focuses. An
eye without guile,therefore, basically means to be single-minded, to not have an inward struggle based on divided loyalties. And this assumes that the single focus will be on godly things, and not a single-minded focus on pursuing evil.22c Your whole body will be illuminatedThis proposition describes the effect if the statement of the previous proposition proves true in anyone's life. If someone's eye is simply focused on godly things, their whole body will be full of light. And Jesus used the adjective
wholeto emphasize that the entirety of the body will be affected. The entirety of a person's life is impacted by the quality of their eye (or lack thereof). The body with a good eye will be illumined and therefore, bright and radiant. That may have the implication, not only that the entire life will be illuminated for good, but also that the entire life would outwardly give evidence of that goodness (typically through the manifest godliness of good deeds).
A singleness of attention on good things will have a positive outcome on a person's life. That is why Paul told the Philippians to think about
whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy(Phil. 4:8 NIV). To have this kind of blessed, healthy input into our minds, lives, and attitudes will change our lives for the better. So, we should be single-mindedly focused on good, godly things. That is why we should consistently fill our minds with Scripture and remind ourselves of the Gospel on a regular basis. It will fill our life with blessing and light.23a-b Neg: If the focus of your life is bad, your life will be badThis is the negative possibility: that a person's eye will focus on bad things and therefore have a negative impact on their life.23a But if your eye is evil/diseasedThis proposition is exactly the same wording as 22b except that the word
without guileis replaced with the word
evilwhich Jesus used in this proposition is normally used for something that is morally worthless and defective, therefore evil and degenerate. But it can also mean worthless in the sense of poor quality, or in the sense of an unhealthy physical condition. It is similar to the English word
sick,which can mean a physical sickness as well as moral degeneracy. In this proposition, both of these meanings are possible. But the point is that this eye is somehow defective, likely by being filled with sick and morally worthless things that it focused upon, and it will therefore, have adverse impact on the entire body.
This verse may also be making reference to Proverbs 21:4, which says
Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin!(NIV). If this is the case, this proposition would also have the implication of arrogance. And in Proverbs, this is also called a
lamp,both being sin, and leading into more sin. There is an old cliche that says
garbage in, garbage out.This saying originated from computer programming, but it also applies to our moral lives. If we feed our eyes with garbage and darkness, then we should not be surprised if our life is characterized by garbage and darkness.23b Your whole body will be darkenedThis proposition is exactly the same wording as 22c except the word
darkenedreplaced the word
enlightened.Jesus said that the inevitable result of a sick/evil eye is that the entire body will be in a state of darkness. As in the rest of the New Testament,
darknessare often used symbolically for the moral concepts of
evilrespectively. A life filled with the input focused primarily on dark and evil things will be filled with darkness and evil, and will automatically be characterized by an evil, twisted mind, which leads to an evil, twisted attitude, which works out in evil, twisted actions.
This is constantly demonstrated in many unfortunate examples from everyday life. People who fill their minds with depressing and gloomy things will have a negative and gloomy attitude and lifestyle. People who fill their minds with violence and depravity tend to act out in violent and depraved ways. There are famous examples of notorious criminals who have talked about their early lives. They told of filling their minds with violent entertainment and pornography, which they confessed had a decisive impact in making them the violent sociopaths they became. Jesus clearly taught that the focus of our eyes will determine the result in our life. And that included a warning of the dark consequences of having an evil eye, filling our life with evil and dark things.23c-d If your ultimate purpose is bad, your life will be badThe final two propositions of this verse pick up on the previous section, which gave both the positive and negative possibilities and their effects. However, these propositions emphasize only the negative possibility in order to issue a strong warning against that possibility. This section starts with the word
thereforeshowing that this is the inference and application from the previous section. Because there are two possibilities, given in the previous section, and because the negative possibility is bad, this section brings out the further implications of how bad the negative possibility really is.23c Therefore, if the light in you is darknessThis proposition is a conditional statement, setting up for the following proposition. This is the same kind of construction seen twice in 22b-23b. And the content of this condition, at first glance, seems like a contradiction. Jesus spoke of the possibility of light being darkness. But this is an exaggeration in order to illustrate a strong point. On the one hand, it is a play on
lamp.The point is that if the
lamp,the thing that is supposed to give light, is dark, then the whole room remains in darkness, because there is no light to offset the darkness. On the other hand, because
darknessare themselves symbolic language for moral categories of
evil,this is an illustration of the possibility that a person's
goodis so corrupt or lacking that it would validly be considered
lightis really better described as
darkness.If that which is supposed to be the positive is really more on the negative side of the scale, that is an indication that the entire entity has radically shifted toward the negative side. And therefore, that which is negative, must be even further down toward the negative side of the scale. In other words, if the thing that gives light is not actually light, but the opposite, then the entire person is doubly slanted toward the opposite. In this case, there is no source or possibility of light, and so, there will only be darkness. If the lamp concentrates only on the dark things, it does not bring light to the body. Rather, it adds even more darkness, making it more and more dark.
And Jesus described this as
the light in you.There is something in us that delights in some things and rejects others. There is something in us that is automatically drawn toward what is our
ultimate.If that part of our nature is corrupted by and characterized by darkness, if it is drawn toward the darkness and focuses on evil things, then we will be drawn toward ever-increasing levels of darkness. Evil and sin tend to lead us into more and deeper evil and sin unless something intervenes.23d How severe/total the darkness must be!This proposition is the result if the condition of the previous proposition is true. If the eye, which is supposed to bring light to the body only brings darkness, the body will totally be characterized by darkness. If our physical eyes and inner faculties, which are created to be a primary gateway of light and truth into our life, are corrupted, so that they only bring darkness and evil into our life, our life will be completely filled with darkness.
The phrase that Jesus used is an exclamation and declaration about the extent of the darkness.
How intense is the darkness!It is almost an expression of shock at the high magnitude of the darkness. It is an expression of the severity and totality of the darkness that is inevitable in a life where the eye, the lamp, is characterized by darkness. If our ultimate focus is on darkness, then how dark will the life inevitably be? Therefore, this is a strong warning against allowing our ultimate focus to be drawn to any form of darkness. Because darkness compounds and leads to the total darkening of a life, if not guarded against. The negative consequences are so severe, that Jesus strongly warned against this possibility. Our ultimate focus determines our life, and therefore, an ultimate focus on something that is dark determines an extremely dark destiny.24 You can only have one ultimate masterThis verse is the third major section in this passage about
ultimates.In this verse, Jesus stressed that there can be only one
ultimateby definition, and explained why this is so. And He used money as an illustration and application of this truth because money is commonly a rival
ultimateto God in people's lives.24a-e You can't have more than one ultimate master24a No one is able to serve two mastersIn this proposition, Jesus stated His main thesis in this verse, before illustrating and applying it in the rest of this verse. He stated that it is impossible for anyone to serve two masters as
ultimates.Of course, it is possible to have two bosses, or two people who tell us what to do, and who have authority over us. But the core issue will show itself whenever these two people tell us to do opposite or different things. We cannot obey both at the same time, and so a choice will necessarily have to be made. At this point, it becomes clear who is the more ultimate boss.
I recently read the illustration of a dog following two men. If you see two men walking down the road with a dog following them, it might be difficult to determine which man is the dog's owner and master. But whenever the two men take different roads, it becomes clear who is the dog's master, because the dog will only follow one of the two men. In the same way, when we have competing desires and loyalties in our life, going in two different directions, when we need to make a choice, we cannot serve both of them equally. And the choice we make will be based on whatever is our more
ultimatemaster. And the choices we make will determine what our
ultimatemaster really is. It is impossible to follow two different masters which are going in different directions.24b-e He will have greater affection for one master, and the other will be shortedIn this section, Jesus showed the reason that no one can serve more than one master. To a certain extent, He was speaking hyperbolically, exaggerating the different of loyalties and affections to the extremes of love and hate in order to make His point more dramatically. But when it comes down to the choices that demonstrate what is our
ultimate,the differences displayed are as great as the difference between love and hate, because the loser will be totally discarded in favor of the
ultimateone as if it had been hated all along.24b-c He will have opposite heart affection toward the different mastersJesus used hyperbolic language to explain the difference in affection toward the different masters. His meaning here is similar to Luke 14:26, where He said
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.In that verse, Jesus was not saying that people who are naturally hateful toward their family will be better disciples. Rather, He was saying that they must be so committed to Him that their commitment toward their family would seem like hatred by comparison. This was in the context of calling His disciples to count the cost of discipleship and to take up their cross, in order to follow Him (Lk. 14:27-33). So, this language is about decisively preferring one's
ultimateover all other things. In practice, it may be that we love one master more than the other. But it also means that we will completely reject the non-ultimate master whenever it is necessary because it comes in conflict with our loyalties to our ultimate master.
These first two propositions speak more of the heart affections toward the
ultimate.This also has the connotation of the actions that flow from these affections.24b Neg: For, he will either hate the oneThis proposition starkly states that the person confronted with two possible masters will hate one of them by comparison with the one who is the
ultimate.This thought is completed in the next proposition where Jesus gave the other possibility.24c Pos: and love the otherThis proposition is the completion of the contrast begun in the previous proposition. When put in a situation with two possible masters, a person will, of necessity, reject one of them (as communicated in the previous proposition) and serve the other one. Jesus described this in stark language of the affections choosing one master over the other. We will
ultimatemaster, and hate the other one by comparison.24d-e He will have opposite mental evaluation of the different mastersThis section is parallel to 24b-c, giving fuller illustration of the thesis which Jesus was making about not being able to serve two masters. He continued to do this by contrasting dramatically different responses toward the two possible masters. In this section, the terms Jesus used were not as much affection, as in the previous sections, but about mental evaluations and loyalties.24d Pos: or he will be devoted to oneIn this proposition, which is parallel to 24c, Jesus stated the positive possibility first in the contrast, which is switching the order from 24b-c. Jesus said that the person will be devoted to one. This term means to hold fast to someone in loyalty because of a strong attachment and positive mental evaluation of the person that concludes that they are worthy of such a strong loyalty.24e Neg: and he will despise the otherThis proposition is the negative conclusion to the contrast begun in the previous proposition. It is parallel to 24b as describing the rejection of one possible master in favor of the
ultimatemaster. The term
despisemeans to have a mental evaluation of something that is so negative that it results in contempt and aversion toward it, because it is thought to have so little value, and/or to be so disgusting and contemptible. It is the proper attitude toward something that actually is worthless - to scorn and reject it. But Jesus used this term to describe something that is rejected with similar scorn, even though, on its own, it may have some value. But it is considered to have no value when compared with something that is
ultimate.When forced to choose, anything that is not our
ultimatewill be rejected with such contempt and scorn as if completely worthless when in competition with our
ultimate.24f You are not able to serve God and worldly wealthIn this last proposition of this section and passage, Jesus used money both as an illustration and application of the point He had been making. The word
mammonwhich He used, means all kinds of wealth, riches, and property, and has a negative connotation in LUke 16 by being connected with the word
unrighteous.So, though money can have good and neutral uses, Jesus here used it for materialism and delight in this-worldly wealth as opposed to trusting and delighting in God and heavenly things. Jesus used money as an example of a rival
ultimateto God. We cannot serve God as our
ultimateif money and material things are, in fact, our
Money is the rival
ultimatewhich Jesus used in this passage to illustrate something that might take our loyalty away from God if we misplace it in a false, rival
ultimate.But money is not the only possible rival
ultimate.There are many other thing that are also potential rivals for our ultimate loyalty and affections. Jesus just chose money from among many possibilities to illustrate this truth.
However, money is a very fitting illustration, because it is a very common rival for people's trust and affections, which brings many people into idolatry. To be clear, almost no one is enamored with the pieces of paper or coins in themselves. But people delight in the security, control, power, influence, and many other things that money represents and that money is a primary means to obtain. Money gives the illusion that those who have it are more in control of their lives than those who do not. Money is occasionally highlighted other places in the New Testament as a potential danger. Paul wrote that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10) and he equated covetousness/greed with idolatry (Col. 3:5). Money is such that it invites our ultimate allegiance based on all that is promises to obtain for us.
Therefore, money is a dangerous rival
ultimateand we cannot serve both God and money. We are forced to choose one or the other. But we should choose wisely based on all that Jesus has said in this passage. Because money is not eternal, and will always let us down. Nothing in this world is a good
ultimate.And therefore, we should completely reject the temptation to allow them to have our ultimate loyalty and delight. Rather we should hate and despise them by comparison with the love and delight which we have in God, Who is our only worthy
ultimate,because He actually is ultimate in all the universe.
6:25-34 Don't Worry, but Seek the Kingdom
Detailed OutlineIntro:This passage concentrates on a prohibition against anxiety, which is a wrong kind of worry and concern. This is different from wise planning and discerning foresight. The kind of anxiety Jesus warned against is the product of unbelief and therefore, is evidence of loving something else more than God. This passage is part of a larger section dealing with the priorities of the Kingdom. The kind of sinful anxiety Jesus was prohibiting tempts us to take our priorities away from the Kingdom and put our focus on lesser things. Jesus countered this temptation by not only warning against it, with solid theological reasons, but also by bringing His hearers' focus back onto the priorities of the Kingdom.
- Sentence Flow
- Greek Sentence Flow
- Mini Word Studies
- Teaching Outline
In this section, Jesus was still talking about
ultimates.This passage is connected with the previous passage, which instructed about seeking the right treasure and pursuing only one
ultimate.Our anxiety and the focus of our ultimate concern, which is addressed in this passage, demonstrates what we truly hold as our one
ultimate.Jesus warned that sinful anxiety is evidence that we have made our own comfort and security to be our
ultimate,which is a betrayal of God.
Jesus did not say that any of these other things were completely unimportant. Rather, He put them in their proper place of importance and concern. They are important, and God cares about them. But they are not as important as we often make them. And God has promised to provide them. And they are relatively unimportant compared with the greater priorities of the Kingdom. God and His Kingdom are infinitely more important. And that is what should be the focus of our concern, because that is what should be our
ultimate.And when God is our
ultimate,all of these other things will be provided to us.25-30 Don't be anxious about unimportant things25 Don't be anxious about self-centered things25a Because of this, I am saying to you:The phrase
because of thisis connecting this passage to the prior passage where Jesus commanded His followers to store up treasure in heaven, where it does not perish. And he warned that we can have only one ultimate master. Therefore, in this passage Jesus was continuing to warn against false ultimates and worrying about things that are not ultimate.
I am saying to youis a standard discourse formula, introducing what is about to be said. So, this proposition is the transition connecting to the previous section, but then introducing the rest of this passage.25b-h Don't be anxious about things that are not most important25b-f Don't be anxious about nourishment and clothing25b-d Don't be anxious about how you will find nourishment for survival25b Do not be anxious about your lifeIn this proposition, Jesus warned His followers against being anxious about our life.
Liferepresents a word normally translated
soul.In this verse, it refers to all of life. But in this specific case, Jesus was concentrating more on physical life, based on what follows. However, His warning also applies to all of life.
And He warned against being anxious. The word translated
do not be anxiousis the main theme of this entire passage, and is repeated in verses 27, 28, 31, and 34. This word is not forbidding any concern at all. We should have a proper level of concern and make appropriate plans, provisions and actions for all of the things Jesus was talking about. Rather, Jesus was warning against being unduly concerned and apprehensive. We should not obsess about things beyond our ability to do anything about it. This would not be evidence of proper, wise concern and diligence. Rather, it would be evidence of unbelief and idolatry. If we are anxious, it means we love something more than we should, to the point that it could be a false ultimate. Or it means that we do not trust God to do His promised part in providing and caring for His creation, and especially for His people. If we are anxious, it demonstrates that we doubt God's providence, His power, and/or His goodness. And that is why the alternative solution to doubting, which Jesus is about to offer in the following verses, is to be reminded of God's providence and care.25c-d Specifically: Don't be anxious about food and drinkThese two propositions give specific examples of what Jesus was talking about in the previous proposition. They could be specific examples that do not cover all that Jesus meant by
life.For instance, concern about our health could also be covered by Jesus's warning against worry. But more likely, in this section, Jesus was more specifically defining what He meant by
lifeby concentrating on the primary examples of physical needs (food and drink) which are necessary to sustain and continue life. And Jesus will bring the point together in 25g-h.25c What you will eatEating is a universal experience that does not need definition or explanation. The point of this proposition is in the word
what,because it represents an unknown. People may have a question about what they will eat, especially in times and/or cultures at risk of poverty or famine. So, Jesus was saying, in essence, don't worry about whether or not you will eat, or how much, or what type of food you will find available.25d Or what you will drinkThis is a continuation of the previous proposition, adding another example, and completing the picture of all the intake that is necessary to sustain life. The definition of drinking is obvious. And like the previous proposition, the point is about the uncertainty of drinking in a place or time threatened by drought.In much modern culture, we don't have as much anxiety about food or drink, because we have been blessed with more steady supplies and our local supermarket has proved dependable. However, recent events have shown how vulnerable these kinds of things can be. In addition, economic insecurity gives many people plenty of opportunity to worry about provisions, even in a wider culture characterized by plenty. Even if our food security is taken away by unforeseen events, Jesus still commands us not to be anxious in a manner characterized by unbelief and sin. Rather, we should do what He will recommend in the rest of this passage.25e-f Don't be anxious about what you will wear on your body25e Neither [be anxious about] your bodyThis is a continuation of the same general theme form the previous propositions. Not only are we warned against sinful worry about life, but now we are also warned about sinful worry about our body. The term
bodyrefers to all of our physical body, and could apply to our physical health. But in this context, Jesus most likely limited His meaning to what He mentioned in the next proposition.25f Specifically: What you will wearThis proposition is a specific explanation of what Jesus said in the previous proposition. Jesus elaborated what He meant by our
bodywhich we should not worry about. Here it is specifically defined by the body's covering - what we wear. Like in 25c-d, Jesus could be just giving one example among many possible applications. but more likely, He was narrowing and explaining His meaning to concentrate on clothing, because that was the primary provision for the body that His hearers were most likely to be anxious about. And Jesus will bring the point together in 25g-h.Food and clothing have typically been seen as the two most important necessary provisions throughout history. And Jesus told us not to be anxious about them, not because food and clothing are not important. But He warned against being fixated and anxious about food and clothing because these things are not the most important. And because God knows that they are important, and He has promised to provide.25g-h There are more important things than nourishment and clothingIn these last two propositions of this verse, Jesus drew all the previous statements together by making His point using two rhetorical questions. These are in the form of questions about the relative importance of food and clothing compared to other parts of life. But the clear point is that there are much more important things in life than just food and clothing.25g Is not life more than food?This question shows that we are often mindful and anxious about the less important things. There is more to life than food and drink. There are more important things in life than the bare minimum activities to sustain physical life. Jesus was prodding His hearers to consider higher spiritual things as more worthy of our mindfulness and effort. After all, if you are a miserable slave to sin, who cares what's on the menu? True spiritual freedom and life is a greater concern. And therefore, these kinds of issues should always be a greater concern to us.25h And [is not] the body [more than] the clothing?This is a continuation from the previous proposition and a second illustration of the same main point. Jesus was still confronting the relative importance and priorities and ultimates. There is more to the body than clothing. Who cares what brand of jeans you are wearing if your leg is broken? Or more to the point Jesus was making: If you end up in hell, it does not matter how well you are dressed on the way there. Therefore, put much more attention into the things that matter more. And trust God with provision of food and clothing.26-30 Don't be anxious, because God providesIn this section, Jesus gave the answer to the problem warned about in the previous verse. His response to the possibility of His people being anxious in an unbelieving way is to encourage faith, by reminding us of the trustworthiness of the object of our faith. There is no need to be anxious about a sure thing. God is faithful and sovereign, and there is no way that He can fail to provide what He has promised. And God is good and generous, and there is no way that He will withhold from us what He has demonstrated to provide for all of His creation. All of verses 26-30 gives and illustrates the main reason why we don't need to worry about these things.
This section has three parts, arranged in a sandwich (chiastic) structure. Jesus started with an illustration from birds to show how God provides food (v. 26). And He ended with an illustration from flowers to show how God provides clothing (vv. 28-30). And in the center of these two complementary illustrations, He made the central point that sinful anxiety is not productive or helpful in any way. And, by extension, this kind of unbelieving anxiety is actually counterproductive.26 Don't be anxious about food, because God providesThis verse is the first illustration, using birds to demonstrate that God can be trusted to provide food. It starts with the observation about birds, and how God provides for them. And it ends with an argument from lesser to greater - if God provides for them, He will provide for you, because you are more valuable than the birds.26a-e The example of God's provision from birds26a Look carefully at the birds of the airThis proposition is the introduction to His illustration using birds. He commanded His hearers to look at the birds of the sky. The word He used means more than just to glance at and notice something. It has the connotation of looking carefully and considering - to give something serious thought and attention. In other words, most people have seen birds, but Jesus wants us to go beyond that to notice and mull over the implications of one set of facts about birds in order to form a conclusion about God and how He provides for them. We are to learn a theological lesson from thinking about how God treats birds.26b-e God takes care of feeding them without them being anxiousIn this section, Jesus more specifically told His hearers the lesson we should learn from considering the birds. And the lesson is that God takes care of them, even though they are not anxious about their food. This is demonstrated by the fact that they are provided for, even though they do not do the kind of work necessary for humans to have food.26b-d They don't work to provide or worry about their foodJesus illustrated His point by listing some typical human activities done to obtain food, and pointing out that birds do not need to do those kinds of activities. We should be careful not to push this illustration too far. We know that birds do have to do certain activities (like getting up early to get the worm), which are appropriate and necessary for birds to obtain food. Jesus is not here suggesting that we should stop sowing and harvesting. He is not promising that we can quit our job and expect God to drop provision into our lazy laps. Elsewhere in the Bible, it is clear that we should exercise proper diligence to earn our keep (e.g. 2 Thes. 3:10-12).
Rather, Jesus's point is that the birds do not need to make any effort beyond what is normal for birds in order to find provision from God, because God is faithful to provide what they need. They find sufficient provision from God without having to resort to efforts beyond their nature and station. And so, while we do need to make the appropriate effort and have the appropriate concern to earn a living. We should not think we need to take effort and have anxiety beyond our nature and station in order to find sufficient provision. When we move beyond the appropriate level of concern and effort, we have moved into idolatry - either by loving these things more than we should, or by considering ourselves to have more power and control over the world than we actually do.26b That they do not sow seedThese three activities seem exaggerated and silly when applied to birds. And that is the point that Jesus was making. It would be silly to think that birds have to sow seeds. It is not necessary because of the way that God provides for them. Just like it is unnecessary for us to be anxious.26c Neither do they harvestIn the same way, it would be silly and unnecessary for a bird to try to harvest crops, because of the way that God provides for them. In the same way, it is unnecessary for us to be anxious about food.26d Neither do they gather into barnsThis proposition is a continuation of the previous two, making the same general point. Just as throughout this verse, we need to be careful not to push the illustration too far. It is silly for birds to gather into barns for future use. But it is appropriate for humans to gather crops into barns, because many crops are only harvested one time per year. And therefore, they need to be stored in order to be eaten throughout the rest of the year. And yet, in Luke chapter 12, Jesus told the story of a man who wanted to build bigger barns to selfishly store beyond what was needed. And He criticized that man's actions as foolish and selfish and greedy, because he wanted to store and hoard beyond what is appropriate. So, there is an appropriate level of work and planning and wise stewardship in order for us to have food for ourselves and our dependents. But there is also an inappropriate level of worry, work, and greed that demonstrates either a sinful greed and obsession for material things, or a lack of trust in our Heavenly Father to provide our needs (or both).26e And your Heavenly Father feeds themThis proposition is the conclusion of Jesus's illustration about the birds. Even though they do not do the minimum kinds of activities necessary for humans to have food, God still provides food for them. The emphasis is not on the work the birds do or do not do. But the emphasis is on the fact that God does not fail to feed them in ways appropriate for birds. Birds (and all of creation) are amply supplied by God's gracious overflowing provision. And we should conclude from this fact the truth about God's gracious and abundant generosity to all of His creatures. And this realization leads into the point Jesus will make in the next proposition.
Notice also that Jesus referred to God as our
Heavenly Father.He used this title for God throughout the Sermon on the Mount (5:48, 6:14, 32) and had just taught His hearers to address God in prayer as
our Father in Heaven(v. 9). In this passage, again, Jesus used this kind of language to stress both God's close familiar, loving connection to His people, but also His transcendent majesty, with its accompanying power to accomplish His will. In other words, God cares for us as Father, demonstrating His willingness to provide, at least as much as He provides for the birds. And God is Lord of Heaven, demonstrating His infinite ability to provide, at least as much as He provides for the birds.26f Are you not more valuable than them?This proposition gives the point of the entire illustration of the birds. Jesus did not explicitly spell out the point, but rather expected His hearers to grasp the point from the challenge He gave using a rhetorical question. Jesus often used rhetorical questions to communicate His points in a more impactful way that drew His hearers into considering more actively for themselves the implications of a particular truth. He will make the same point much more explicitly as part of the illustration from flowers in 28-30. But here, He invited His hearers to make the conclusion for themselves.
He asked if we are more valuable than birds. And the expected answer is that we are in fact more valuable, not least because humans are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27) and placed as ruling stewards over all the rest of creation (Gen. 1:28-30, Psalm 8). Jesus used a similar kind of argument in 10:31 and 12:12. And from this expected answer, Jesus wanted His hearers to reason along the following lines, using a
from the lesser to the greaterkind of argument: 1) God provides for birds, which are less important, 2) since God provides for the less important, we can reasonably expect that He will even more certainly provide for something that is more important, 3) humans are more important than birds, 4) therefore, we can expect that God will more certainly provide for humans, at least as much as He provides for birds, and 5) therefore, we can trust God will provide for us in the appropriate ways, and 6) therefore, we don't have a need to be anxious about our provision of food, because God has demonstrated both His ability and willingness to provide food for us in the appropriate manner.27 Being anxious does not help in any wayThis verse is placed in the center of the two illustrations from birds and from flowers. This arrangement highlights this verse as giving the point of the two surrounding illustrations - that unbelieving anxiety is unhelpful and even counterproductive.27a By being anxiousThis proposition is subordinate to the next one, introducing it. This proposition most likely gives the means for the next one. In other words, this tells how - by doing this, by being anxious - the next proposition would be true or happen (or in this case, fail to happen). Someone may try to make their life longer by being anxious, but the next statement declares that this will not work. Or possibly, this proposition may be concessive. In that case, it would be saying something like,
even if you are anxious, who of you...In that case, it would be suggesting a hypothetical expectation which someone might have, that their worry would make a difference, in order, in the next proposition, to show that this expectation is not true. In either case, this proposition is setting up for the main point of this verse, which comes in the next proposition. But this proposition introduces the main idea of this larger section (being anxious) in order to complete the point about it in the next.27b Who of you is able to add one single length to the span of your life?Like in 26f, Jesus made what was effectively a statement, but He did it using a rhetorical question. He asked who is able to add any time to their life. But He was essentially denying, and forcing His hearers to recognize the impossibility of doing this.
The word translated
lengthis normally a measurement of physical length, and is sometimes translated with the archaic word
cubitto represent the length of a typical forearm used to measure things. That is why some people then take the term translated
span of your lifein the sense of
heightand translate this proposition as
Who can add one single length to your height?This is a possible translation, because the term is used for physical stature in Lk. 19:3. However, this second word almost always means age or maturity, referring to the time span a person has lived. And therefore, it only secondarily can mean physical stature in reference to the fact that children grow taller as they grow older, and reach full height when they are mature of age. So, this term almost certainly refers to the length of life, and then the first term is used metaphorically for adding length to life.
In either case, the point is the same - that we are unable to do it. We cannot - on our own, by our own worry, or even by our own activity - either make ourselves taller or make ourselves live longer. And therefore, worrying is especially ineffective and pointless for this purpose. And modern medicine teaches that anxiety and stress can actually have negative consequences for physical health, possibly shortening a person's life. So, Jesus's point is that sinful anxiety and doubting God is, at best, ineffective and an unnecessary waste of time and energy. And at worst, it is counterproductive, because it takes our focus and energy away from more productive things. And it can take us away from faith in our gracious Heavenly Father into sinful doubt and idolatry.28-30 Don't be anxious about clothing, because God providesThis section is parallel to v. 26. The point of both is basically the same, just applied to slightly different topics. And the structure is similar. However, in v. 26, the implication of the illustration is only hinted at with a rhetorical question. And in this section, it is spelled out more explicitly.28-29 The example of God's provision from flowersIn v. 26, Jesus used the illustration of birds to argue that God will provide food for His people. And in these verses, He used an illustration from flowers to argue that God will provide clothing for His people.28a And why are you being anxious concerning clothing?This proposition begins this section by drawing attention back to the main theme of being anxious. Based on what He just said in v. 27, His hearers should realize that being anxious does no good. And before that, He argued that they should not be anxious about food. And here Jesus continued to apply that thought and challenge His readers not to be anxious about clothing either. After nourishment, adequate clothing was (and still is) one of the most fundamental needs for human life on the physical level.
This is a leading question to introduce this next section and to move the overall topic forward. but it is also an accusation that His hearers were indeed anxious about their clothing in an appropriate way. And therefore, Jesus was challenging them to no longer do this. And He was about to give them good reasons not to worry in the rest of this section.28b-29 Learn from the flowers, that God clothes His creaturesLike in v. 26, Jesus used an illustration in order to make a point about God's willingness and ability to provide, based on His abundant provision evidently displayed in creation. And in this case, it is God's provision, not only of covering, but of beautiful adornment that Jesus pointed out in order to show that God abundantly supplies.28b Learn from the lilies of the fieldParallel to 26a, Jesus drew His hearers' attention to the wild flowers, which were probably visible all around while He was speaking to them. He commanded that they learn from the lilies of the field. The word translated
learn fromis a different word than was used in 26a. It also has the connotation of observing, but also of observing well, with the ultimate purpose of understanding, thinking about, and therefore drawing a conclusion and gaining insight. They were to think about and learn from the lilies of the field.
liliesrefers to one of a few types of flowers, and it is unnecessary to pin down a particular species. Because the obvious reference is to the natural beauty of the flower, which is a common characteristic of many species. And He also added the modifying word
of the fieldwhich probably designates this kind of flower as a wild flower. In other words, this reinforces His point about God clothing them, because they were wild flowers. They were not beautiful because some farmer cultivated them and took care of them. But they grew wild, and their beauty was only because God clothed them with natural beauty out of His abundant provision.28c-29 God takes care of clothing them without them being anxiousIn this section, Jesus more specifically elaborated on what His hearers should learn from the lilies of the field, and the implication they should draw from this about their own anxiety about clothing.28c How they growThis proposition is a general statement, drawing attention to the growth of the flowers. This general category will be elaborated in the rest of the section, more closely defining how they grow, and the lesson Jesus was teaching from the way that they grow.28d-29 They don't manufacture their clothes, but God clothes themNext, Jesus spelled out the particular details about how the flowers grow, and then the implications to be learned from this. Jesus communicated this in a negative-positive contrast. He first described how the flowers did not grow in order to then make a point about how the flowers were clothed. This is all setting up for the larger application He will make in verse 30.28d-e Neg: They do work to make their clothingThis section is the negative portion of the negative-positive contrast. It tells what is not true about the flowers in order to set up for the positive point about the flowers Jesus will make in v. 29.
Similar to 26b-d, Jesus pointed out that the flowers do not even make the effort that humans have to make in order to be clothed. Again, this is not promising that humans likewise don't need to do the appropriate work to attain clothing. Rather, it is to show that flowers do not need to go beyond what is natural for flowers. Flowers do not need to attempt to do God's part in clothing them. They only need to do the flower's natural part, and trust God to do His part.28d They do not toilObviously, flowers do the appropriate flower activities of drawing nutrients and water from the soil and converting sunlight into chemical energy in order to grow. Jesus was not claiming to set aside normal biological processes. Rather, He was pointing out that flowers do not go beyond their station in trying to provide for their clothing. Jesus was using an exaggerated hypothetical, portraying flowers as if they were acting like humans, which would be unnatural and unnecessary for a flower to have to do.28e Neither do they spin [thread]This is a continuation of the same illustration Jesus began in the previous proposition. He is still exaggerating as if flowers were acting like humans in order to clothe themselves. Spinning thread is the process of binding fibers such as cotton or wool into a string, which is then woven into cloth in order to make clothes. In the ancient world, this was a time and labor-intensive process.
Flowers do not need to do what humans need to do because God has created flowers with a particular manner of having adornment which is appropriate for flowers. Toiling and spinning may be (at least part of) an appropriate manner for humans to attain covering and adornment. So, Jesus's point was not that we don't need to take the necessary human effort to attain clothing. But we should not go beyond the human manner of providing clothing and attempt to usurp God's role of provision because we doubt that God is either willing or able. In other words, to be anxious about our clothing is to go beyond what is appropriate to a human, just like spinning and weaving would go beyond what is appropriate for a flower to do. And it is unnecessary, as highlighted in the next verse.29 Pos: But they are better clothed than SolomonThis section is the positive side of the negative-positive contrast begun in v. 28d. It tells what is true about flowers in spite of what they do not do, as just communicated above. The point of this section is not just in how the flowers are clothed. It is that they are clothed this way in spite of not exerting more than their natural, normal effort. In the same way, humans should not go beyond our normal means of clothing into being sinfully anxious or controlling about it. Because that would be unnecessary and counterproductive.29a But I am saying to you:This is a typical discourse formula, introducing what Jesus was about to say. This type of formula puts emphasis on what follows, and is equivalent to verbal highlighting or italics.29b-c They are clothed better than SolomonIn this section, Jesus compared the beauty of the appearance of the typical wild flower with the beauty of the clothing worn by the greatest, most gloriously clothed person in Israel's history. And His point was that the best of human clothing falls short when compared to the adornment that God gives to plants.29b That Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himselfKing Solomon was the richest man in all of Old Testament history. His riches and opulence were famous throughout his world. Jesus used him and the way he was clothed at the height of his glory as a means of comparison with wild flowers.
Jesus made His point by drawing attention to two things about Solomon. First is his glory, which refers to the magnificence and splendor of Solomon that was shown in his extravagant clothing. The greatest possible display of human wealth and resources cannot compare to God's resources. And second, Jesus specifically said that Solomon clothed himself. This is likely to highlight that the very best humans can do on our own cannot compare with what God does on a mundane basis for flowers, many of which will never be seen by anyone. This is not to put down Solomon or the way that he was clothed. But it is to use the very best of humanity to show that God is magnitudes better. Therefore, we should not rely on our own resources, but trust in God and His resources and grace.29c like one of these [is clothed]This proposition is the completion of the comparison began in the previous one.
One of theseobviously refers to the flowers Jesus was mentioning in this context. The flowers were compared with the way Solomon was clothed, and the flowers were found to be more beautiful and glorious. And the reason is that they were adorned by God Himself, without being anxious about the way that they were clothed.30 God will take care of your clothing, even more than the temporary plantsThis section is another rhetorical question intended to drive home the point Jesus was making. It is parallel to 26f, but much more explicit in spelling out the application of this truth. Jesus put this in the form of an if-then statement, first giving the condition, which is true, and then asserting the conclusion from that condition in the form of a challenging question.30a-c If God takes care of even temporary things in this wayThis is a conditional statement setting up for the conclusion in 30d. If this section is true, then the implications stated there must be acknowledged. And the statements in this section are assumed to be true, and therefore, the implications of 30d should also be considered true (even though given in question form).30a-b If even in the case of temporary thingsThis section is a concessive statement, setting up for the point Jesus will make in 30c. It highlights that the grass is temporary and transitory. God is still generous and abundantly supplies the seemingly disposable things in life. This tells us about how He will treat the people made in His image.30a If existing todayThis is the first part of the concessive statement, setting up for the next proposition. The grass of the field (implied from 30c) is existing today. But, as stated next, it won't exist forever.30b And the next day being thrown into the furnaceThis is the conclusion of the concessive statement started in the previous proposition, and which is leading up to the main proposition in 30c. The plants exist one day, but the next day they are burned for fuel. The word translated
furnacemay better be translated as
ovenbecause this typically described something used for baking bread, rather than for heating a home.
In any case, the point is that if it is destined to be burned for fuel, one would think that its adornment does not matter. And in one sense, that is true. But the seeming futility of the plant's adornment serves to highlight the fact that God adorns them so well, as stated in the next proposition.30c In this way God clothes the grass of the fieldAgain, Jesus was speaking in an exaggerated manner to point out the contrast between what one would expect and what God actually does. This is to show that God's grace and generosity go beyond what we normally expect from other people. In spite of the futility and temporary nature of grass and other plants, God adorns flowers in such a beautiful way. This demonstrates God's extravagant blessing to His creation. This is an argument from less to greater. If God does this extravagance even for seemingly unimportant and disposable things, how much more will He do this for His people, which is the point of the next proposition.30d Will not [He clothe] you much more, one of little faithThis proposition is the conclusion of the argument from less to greater. If God so clothed the temporary and disposable plants, we are to consider and conclude that He will clothe His people much more. The phrase
much moredoes not necessarily mean better clothing, which would contradict v. 29. Rather, it is a statement of degree, in this case, a greater degree of certainty that God will clothe His people. It is more certain and dependable that God will provide adequate clothing. And in the larger context, this is not limited to physical clothes, because human clothes will not compare with flowers. Therefore, this likely also has a secondary significance with regard to being clothed with righteousness and spiritual qualities that are more important, and which are much better than just outward adornment. This possibility is reinforced by the regular teaching in this sermon that the inward reality is more important than the outward show.
And Jesus ended this proposition by addressing His hearers as
one of little faith.This is a challenge, and a prod to those who are sinfully anxious to no longer be worried in a sinful unbelieving manner. He has given sufficient reasons to back up His command not to be anxious about food and clothing. So, if someone is still anxious, it displays sinful unbelief toward the God Who has proven His ability and willingness to provide by the way He provides for the birds and the flowers.31-34 Therefore, don't be anxious, but trust God and pursue the most important thingsThis final section of this passage is the inference and application of all of the previous teaching in this passage. Because of all that He had just said, Jesus gave a twofold command in order to respond to the truths He had just spoken. There are two parallel commands in this section, both using exactly the same language -
do not be anxious.They just command not to be anxious about two different, but related, things. And in this section, Jesus continued to give more reasons not to be anxious. But He also gave an alternative. He commanded His hearers to do something positive instead of being anxious. And that positive alternative was connected with a tremendous promise.31-33 Therefore, don't be anxious about these things, but seek the things of GodThe first command in this inference and application section was given in the form of another negative-positive contrast. Jesus reviewed and applied what He had said before, giving more reasons why we should not worry about these things. But then He gave the positive alternative, what we should pursue and give our attention and effort to. This is the central focus to the entire passage, event though it is not given much definition or elaboration in this section. The rest of this sermon and the Gospel of Matthew is the elaboration of this truth. If we give our focus, affections, and effort to the pursuit Jesus recommended, we won't spend our time and energy being anxious about things that are relatively trivial in comparison.31-32 Neg: Therefore, don't be anxious about these thingsThis is the negative portion of the negative-positive contrast. Jesus commanded what His hearers are not to do. And in the next portion, He will counter that with the positive command that His hearers should do instead.31 Therefore, don't be anxious about food and clothesBecause of all that Jesus had previously said about God's character and promise to provide sufficient food and clothes, He then reiterated His warning against unbelieving anxiety over these things.31a Therefore, do not be anxiousThis proposition is the exact same wording that Jesus gave in 25b, with the addition of the word
thereforeto connect it with the previous section. Again, Jesus was not forbidding the proper amount or reasonable concern for our physical needs. He was forbidding the sinful, unbelieving kind of anxiety that goes beyond our station and ability, and aspires to exercise godlike control over our situations, which we are not able to do. And in desiring this, we are implicitly suggesting that God cannot be trusted to do His job or keep His promises. And thereby, we are insulting God whenever we are anxious in the way Jesus was forbidding.
And the word
thereforeconnects verses 31-34 with all of the previous verses. All of this section is a direct consequence of what He had previously spoken. We should not be anxious, based on all of the reasons Jesus had previously given.31b-e Asking about food and clothesIn this section, Jesus elaborated the manner in which people may demonstrate they are being anxious, and the content which they are being anxious about.31b Saying:People demonstrate their anxiety by saying the things Jesus will delineate in the following propositions. This word could refer to saying something out loud to the people around. Or it could just refer to thinking, as in saying something in our heart. In either case, it is giving expression to the anxiety by somehow communicating questions that are evidence of sinful doubt and anxiety. This proposition functions as a discourse formula introducing all of the next three propositions, which form a section describing the content of what is said. And it shows the manner in which people demonstrate sinful anxiety.31c-e What will we eat, drink, and wear?This section contains three parallel questions which show the content of the speech or thought which demonstrates sinful anxiety in a manner that Jesus was warning against. All three of these questions were directly answered in the earlier verses. Jesus returned to the same three issues He had mentioned earlier to review a typical manner in which inappropriate worry may be expressed. And so, if someone is still asking these questions, it is clear evidence of continued unbelieving anxiety of the kind that Jesus was forbidding.31c What will we eat?This proposition echoes 25c, where Jesus commanded His hearers not to be anxious about what they will eat. And He answered that concern in v. 26, using an illustration of how God feeds the birds. And this ended with the implied promise in 26f, that God will feed His people, because they are more valuable than the birds. Therefore, if someone still asks about what they will eat, after all that Jesus had said, they are expressing their unbelief and sinful anxiety.31d Or what will we drink?This proposition echoes 25d, where Jesus commanded His hearers also not to be anxious about what they will drink. His answer to that concern was clearly implied in all that He said about God providing food. Jesus certainly could have given an illustration about how God waters the trees with rain, parallel to His illustration about how God feeds the birds. But this was unnecessary. Because if God can be counted on to provide sufficient food (which He certainly can), then it can be taken as a given that we can also count on Him for sufficient drink, which can be considered together with food in terms of physical nourishment. Therefore, to also question how we can attain this provision is another way of expressing unbelief and sinful anxiety.31e Or what will we wear?This proposition echoes 25f, where Jesus commanded His hearers neither to be anxious about what they will wear. He answered that concern in verses 28-30, using the illustration of the wild flowers. And that illustration ended with the promise in 30d, that God will much more certainly clothe His people. Because God has clearly promised and demonstrated His willingness and ability to adorn His people, we should not be anxious about it. And if we do continue to question how we will be clothed, it demonstrates we are being anxious in a manner that is inappropriate and filled with sinful doubt.32 Reason: These are common needs that God provides to allThis verse contains more reasons grounding His reiterated command not to be anxious in v. 31. First is a reason based on an argument from lesser to greater. And second is a reason based on the character and competency of God Himself as our Heavenly Father.32a For the Gentiles desire all of these thingsThis first reason is an argument from lesser to greater, and it contains a few steps in the argument that are implied but not explicitly stated. This argument is similar to the illustrations of the birds and flowers used earlier in this passage. The given statement is that the gentiles desire and strive after food, drink, and clothing. There is no indication that this desire and striving is bad in any way, even though gentiles were thought of as the bad guys by many of Jesus's first hearers. Rather, the logic of the implied argument is most likely as follows: 1) The gentiles need all these things, 2) God provides all of these things for gentiles, even though they are not (yet) His people, 3) how much more, then, should we expect that God will provide all these things to those who are His chosen people, in special covenant relationship with Him, because He has promised to care for His chosen people as part of the covenant relationship. Because all of these things are common needs for all of humanity, supplied by God, His people can reasonably conclude that God has taken this into account in His providence over all the earth. And therefore, this applies even more to His people. And this inference is reinforced in the following propositions.32b-c For God knows what you needThis is the second reason in this section, reinforcing the command not to be anxious in v. 31. This reason also contains implicit steps, which Jesus expected His hearers to connect, based on what He explicitly stated. This argument is based on the character and ability of God, and His relationship with His people.32b For your Heavenly Father knows:This proposition is, in one sense, an introductory formula, setting up for the statement of the content of what God knows, which is found in the next proposition. But in another sense, this proposition is actually the main focus of the two. It is not just that we have needs. It is that God is very conscious of those needs, which should lead us to the expectation that He will do something about it. Jesus was reminding His hearers that God was vigilant to be involved in their lives. He has not forgotten us, nor will He ever do so. Because He reminded His hearers that God knows, Jesus expected them to conclude that God would make the appropriate response, based on this knowledge.
And again, Jesus described God as our
Heavenly Father.This again carries all the connotations of promise that God cares for us infinitely more than a good human father cares for his children. And God is able to accomplish His providential care, because He is Lord of Heaven, above all earthly limitations. Our infinite God knows everything. And the clear implication is that He will take care of everything under His care, including our needs of physical provision.32c That you have need of all these thingsThis proposition gives the content of what God knows about us, as introduced in the previous proposition. God's people, along with the gentiles mentions in 31a, all have need of the basic provisions of life. This is not something unusual, warranting special anxiety on our part. Rather, it is the common experience of humanity. Therefore, to be anxious, as if our case were a special case, is to think too much of ourselves. And it is also to doubt that God knows or cares about our needs.
However, Jesus clearly stated that God does know, and earlier illustrated that God does indeed care for us and our need. Therefore, for His people to be anxious for food, water, and/or clothing is unreasonable and sinful. God's proven character is reason not to have unbelieving doubt about either His willingness or ability to provide. One solution to sinful anxiety is to take our focus off of our need and put it onto our Heavenly Father, Who is the solution to all of our need. And another solution to sinful anxiety will be given in the following verse.33 Pos: Seek first God's Kingdom, and you will be provided forThis verse is the positive alternative to being anxious, which Jesus provided His hearers. Jesus did not just tell people what not to do, but He also gave His hearers something better to do instead of the bad thing. Just like the old saying that
nature abhors a vacuum,our spiritual and moral lives cannot remain empty. We will always find something to fill our desires and attention with. And if it is not something good, it will be something bad. This is the meaning of another old saying,
Idle hands are the devil's workshop.Jesus warned that if a person is freed from a demon, but remains empty, more demons will come and fill that person, and their new state will be worse than their previous state (Lk. 11:24-26).
But this also works in the opposite direction. Something harmful in our lives can be squeezed out if we replace it with something good. That is why people are better able to beat addictions and/or habitual sins when surrounded by supportive community, and often by pouring themselves into something better. There is a famous essay, which I highly recommend, called33a But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousnessThis proposition is the positive command Jesus gave to His hearers as an alternative to being anxious. The word
seekmeans to desire something, but also to give significant effort to realizing this desire. His disciples should both have affection for, and work toward what Jesus was commanding in this verse. If we say we are following Jesus, but lack either the desire or effort, then we are not living in obedience to this command.
And Jesus said that we are to seek it
first.This word does not refer to time, as if we are to seek this earlier than we do other things, although that may end up being the case. This term emphasizes the priority and intensity of our affections and effort. We are to desire and pursue this to a much greater degree than we desire and pursue other things. In this context, we are to put more affection and energy into pursuing this thing than we are to put into being anxious about food, drink and clothing. But this also applies to all other human concerns. There needs to be certain priorities in a disciple's life which are conformed to God's priorities. And Jesus clearly communicated standards for our priorities throughout this sermon, coming to a climax in this verse.
There are two things Jesus stated in this verse that we should seek first: The Kingdom of God, and His righteousness. The Kingdom of God is not explicitly defined in this verse, nor is it clearly defined as such in the New Testament, because Jesus rightly assumed His Jewish hearers would already know what He meant when He used this term. Jesus had already used the term
Kingdomin 5:3, 10, 19, 20, 6:10 and He would use it again in 7:21. See the comments on these verses for further definition and discussion of this term.
But in this verse, the definition of His Kingdom, and how we are to seek it primarily has to do with the Kingdom as the full and unmistakable manifestation of God's good and gracious rule. In one sense, God always rules. But in another sense, we don't always experience the full blessing of His rule in this fallen world. So, this command is to wholeheartedly long for God to demonstrate the fullness of His rule, which includes judgment as well as blessing. But this command also includes the idea that we would seek God's rule by willfully submitting to His rule in glad obedience to all that God has required of His people, not in order to earn God's rule and favor, but because God is Lord over all, Who has graciously given us to be a part of His rule and its accompanying blessings. This proposition echoes when Jesus taught His disciples to pray,
Let Your Kingdom come, let Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.Implicit in that prayer, and in this command, is that God's people would not only welcome that rule, but actively seek and work toward it, as much as it is possible for us to contribute to His rule, and to joyfully submit to His rule and obey His commands.
The second thing that Jesus commanded His hearers to seek was
His righteousness.This phrase is parallel to, and related to, God's Kingdom. The concept of righteousness and its related terms is important in the Sermon on the Mount (5:10, 15, 20, 45, 6:1), and in the Gospel of Matthew as a whole (3:15, 9:31, 10:41, 12:37, 13:17, 43, 49, 20:4, 21:32, 23:28, 29, 25:35, 37, 46, 27:19). This vocabulary comes from the legal sphere and refers to being on the right side of a legal and/or moral standard. In the Bible, this is the same language used for the concepts expressed in English by the words
righteousnesscan have a range of possible specific meanings, all within this general idea. It can mean a position or standing of being in the right as far as legal sanction and responsibility. In other words, it can mean the same as being innocent of legal or moral wrongdoing. And it can also mean being on the right side of the law by having paid your debt to society or to the lawgiver. All of these have to do with the standing of a person on the right side of the legal and/or moral standard, as opposed to being guilty or a lawbreaker or a sinner. And this term can also refer to the actions and lifestyle of a person, which is in conformity with the legal and/or moral standard. There can be righteous deeds and attitudes and lifestyles, as opposed to unrighteous or wicked actions and lifestyles. And therefore, there can be righteous people, who typically live in a righteous manner. And this language can also refer to the standard itself as the proper measurement of what is good and true and right.
With God, the legal and moral standards are the same, because He is the ultimate lawgiver and the ultimate standard of right and wrong. Therefore, any transgression against His moral standards is also a transgression against His legal sanctions, as well as being an affront to His person and dignity. With human standards, it is possible for something to be immoral, but not illegal, or illegal, but not immoral. This is not the case with God. And throughout the Book of Matthew, especially in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus regularly contrasted God's ultimate perfect standards of righteousness with various human standards. The Pharisees thought their traditions and rules were in line with, and even guarding and improving God's standards of righteousness. But Jesus clearly disagreed in many cases.
Jesus commanded His hearers to seek
His righteousness,that is, God's righteousness. Of course, God's righteousness is the same as Jesus's righteousness, but that is not relevant to the point that Jesus was making. Jesus was contrasting God's righteousness with human righteousness. Earlier in this sermon, Jesus had made it clear that our own righteousness is not enough unless it surpasses the righteousness of the Pharisees (5:20), which it is not likely to do on our own. And our righteousness is not enough unless we are perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect (5:48), which is impossible to do on our own. A lot of the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is aimed at raising our standard of righteousness to which we are aspiring and working, while at the same time, forcing us to despair of reaching that standard of righteousness on our own. We can never do it, though we should desire and strive to live this way.
All this is to point us away from our own righteousness, the way of depending on our own merit, and to point us to an alien righteousness and power for righteous living that comes from God alone. We are not to seek our own righteousness, but His righteousness. Jesus is beginning to reveal that there is a righteousness available to God's people that comes from Him as a gift. This will only be fully developed in the rest of the New Testament, but Jesus is showing the necessity of this different kind of righteousness. This righteousness is a position and standing before God graciously given to His people by means of relationship with Christ and the atonement He brings. This righteousness is a gift, which we should long for. Like the Kingdom of God, we cannot bring this about on our own, nor even contribute to it. But in the same way, we can respond to it, and live our entire lives in light of it, and strive to live in conformity with this righteousness from God which we don't deserve on our own. We should seek to live in conformity with this righteousness we have been given in Christ, but never think that we have this righteousness because of an obedience and conformity on our part. We are to live righteously because we have been given righteousness from God. We are not given God's righteousness because we live righteously, as will be clearly stressed later in the New Testament.
These are the two things we are commanded to seek as first priority: His Kingdom, and His righteousness. This is the positive activity given to us an alternative to being anxious. And this command comes with a promise given in the next proposition.33b And all these things will be provided to youThis proposition is the promise attached to the previous proposition. If we seek first God's Kingdom and righteousness, Jesus promised that all these things will be added to God's Kingdom and righteousness as a bonus. Even without seeking God's things, the gentiles get the bare minimum of provision, solely because of God's goodness to His creation. How much more should we expect God to provide the simple things of physical provision when He is also graciously granting the full privileges of His Kingdom rule and righteous standing to those who seek Him.
In this verse, the phrase
all thingsobviously refers to sufficient food, drink, and clothing mentioned in the previous context. This is not a blanket promise for anything and everything we may selfishly desire. And if someone thinks they are seeking God's Kingdom, but doing it primarily in order to get luxuries, they are probably not genuinely seeking God's Kingdom and righteousness.
And the term
providedis the same word used in v. 27 for
addingsomething to our life. In this context, it means graciously adding something to someone else as a means of providing it by grant. It is a gift put into the life of God's people because of His generosity, not something they earn themselves. And it is added, in addition to all the phenomenal blessings of His Kingdom experienced because we have been granted standing with His righteousness. If we fixate anxiously on food and clothing, we miss out on God's Kingdom and all its blessings. However, if we focus on God's Kingdom, we get food and clothing thrown into the blessings.
This promise assumes God's power and willingness to grant all of these things, which was plainly argued in all of the passage above. But it also clearly demonstrates that God is not like humans. Humans, even with the best of intentions, will often let us down. They try, but are not sufficiently able. God never will let us down. God's promises never fail, because God is unable to fail. This is a solid promise of fact, based on God's character and omnipotence. However, we need to be careful to remind ourselves that this is not a precise promise of the manner, timing, or extent in which this promise will be fulfilled. It is necessary to guard our hearts and live with faith and gratitude. Otherwise, we will be tempted to doubt and grumble if this promise is not fulfilled in the exact timing and way that we expect or desire. God will always keep His promises, but not necessarily in the way that we think He should. Nevertheless, this promise is a solid foundation that sustains us against anxiety and motivates us to seek first His Kingdom and righteousness.34 Therefore, don't be anxious for tomorrow, but take care of todayThis final verse of this passage is parallel to verses 31-33. It gives the second expression (vv. 31-33 being the first expression) of the inference and command that flows from the first section of this passage (vv. 25-30). The bottom line of this entire passage is the command not to be anxious. This was repeated and stressed in v. 31 as the first summary application of this teaching. And in this verse, it is repeated and stressed one last time. Jesus made it very clear (again) that His hearers should not be sinfully anxious, gave excellent reasons and motivations not to be anxious, and then wrapped up this teaching by putting the focus on the future, and the proper attitude we should have toward it.34a Therefore, do not be anxious for tomorrowThis proposition is parallel to 31a. It uses the exact same language, but adds
for tomorrow.Jesus repeated the same theme prohibition (see vv. 25, 27, 28, 31) of this section as the conclusion and application of this passage, and as the logical inference from all that He spoke before. And, as with 31-33, this command is supported by all the reasons Jesus gave earlier in this passage.
This verse focuses specifically on
tomorrow,by which Jesus likely meant our short-term future in general. He stated the command in this proposition, and will give reasons to back it up in the rest of this verse. Like in the rest of this passage, this command is not a prohibition against wise planning and preparation for the future. Throughout the Scripture, we are taught to make wise decisions looking toward the future consequences. And we are specially to live every day with eternity in mind. Jesus was not recommending short sightedness or foolish neglect of responsibilities. Rather, like throughout this passage, He was forbidding a sinful anxiety that flows from a lack of trust in God's provision, and desires to usurp God's control of our future and take His sovereign prerogative as our own. Only God controls the future, and we should not aspire to take that control for ourselves. Like James stressed in his epistle (Jms. 4:13-17), we should not boast of our future plans, as if they are independent of God's provision and control. Rather, we should humbly rely on God for our future, even as we try to wisely plan to the best of our ability. The issue is not whether we plan and/or work toward our future. The issue is the attitude with which we look to the future. Do we try to make our future on our own, as if God does not exist? Or do we entrust our future into God's hands, acknowledging and following Him in all that we do?34b-c Today has enough problems without worrying about tomorrowThese final two propositions are introduced by the word
becauseand give the reason for the preceding command. Jesus had already given many excellent reasons not to be anxious. But here, He gave the reasons specific to not being anxious
about tomorrow.And these reasons have to do with the nature of
tomorrowand its relation to itself, and it relation to today.34b Because tomorrow will be anxious for itselfThe word
tomorrowis the same word used in the previous proposition. It still can be referring to the near-term future (including the time after the very next day). But in these last two propositions, it more likely should be taken literally to mean only the following day, because the point is that each individual day should be dealt with on its own.
And the word translated
be anxiousis the same word used throughout this passage (vv. 25, 27, 28, 31, 34a). However, in this proposition, tomorrow is the subject of this verb. It is tomorrow that will be anxious. This proposition is not a command to us, like the other uses of this word in this passage, but it is just a simple statement of the fact that tomorrow will be anxious. This could be taken as stating a bad thing, or it could be taken as stating a good thing. Most likely, based on the following proposition, Jesus was just neutrally stating a fact. Tomorrow will be anxious for tomorrow. And that is the reason not to be anxious about tomorrow today. Tomorrow's anxieties will take place tomorrow, and therefore, it is fruitless and unnecessary to be anxious about tomorrow today.
And the grammar of the last word in this proposition is somewhat ambiguous. Literally it is
tomorrow will be anxious of itself.This could mean that it will be anxious about itself. That is, tomorrow will be the object and topic about which it will be anxious. Or it could mean that it is anxious for itself. In other words, tomorrow will be anxious on its own accord, without our input or help. There is some truth in each of these possibilities. And either option gives good reasons for the command not to be anxious about tomorrow. But this ambiguity is ultimately answered by the context and content of the next proposition.34c Its own problems are sufficient for each dayThe word Jesus used, which is translated
problemsis the generic word for evil or bad. Here it most likely does not have any connotations of moral evil. But rather, Jesus intended to refer to the general bad and/or hard experiences, or difficulties we can typically encounter in any given day. And He more specifically described that word by saying
its [own].That is certainly referring to each individual day, as He will state later in this proposition. So, Jesus was talking about whatever difficulties and trials and needs would be encountered on any particular day.
And the word
sufficientmeans enough, adequate - no more is needed. And this word is emphasized by its position in the sentence - literally,
sufficient for each day is its difficulties.Jesus stressed that each day had an adequate amount of difficulties on its own. No more bad things are ever needed to be imported from other days. There is one day's worth of troubles for each day, and that is enough. Therefore, there is one day's quota of needed concern for each day, and adding anxiety would be sinful, stupid, unnecessary, and counterproductive. Therefore, we should deal with it as it comes. There is enough to handle today, and so we don't need to add tomorrow's anxiety to today.
And again, I need to make the disclaimer: Jesus was not saying we should be irresponsible or fail to plan for the future. We should use all necessary foresight and make responsible decisions and actions. That is not what Jesus was forbidding in this passage. He was prohibiting sinful anxiety that is the product of unbelief.
But Jesus's point in this passage is that we should deal with each day's difficulties without sinful anxiety and doubt in God's goodness, ability, or provision. We should trust God for tomorrow, because we are not God. We are not able to control tomorrow, and worrying about it will not help tomorrow at all. Rather, we should submit to God, and rely on Him to guide and provide for tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself tomorrow, and we should not be anxious about it today. Today has enough problems on its own, without worrying about tomorrow.
There is one additional thought that was not part of Jesus's intention in this proposition, but which is still true and applicable, flowing out of what Jesus said: Because each day's difficulties are sufficient for each day, neither should we err in the opposite direction by trying to push today's difficulties into tomorrow by laziness and procrastination. Be wise and diligent to deal with today's issues today. If we leave them for tomorrow, we will be overwhelmed trying to deal with them in addition to all of the new difficulties that will come with tomorrow. Procrastination and avoiding of issues will come back to bite us if we are foolish not to address them at the proper time.Summary:For all of the reasons Jesus has given, especially the character and promises of God, He counseled His hearers not to be anxious about these secondary things. As a positive alternative, we should wholeheartedly pursue His Kingdom and righteousness. And all else will be taken care of as part of His Kingdom. And this is all because God is the kind of God Who takes care of all these things. Therefore, we should seek Him first, not primarily for the sake of receiving all other things. But primarily for His own sake. And we will receive all other things as a bonus part of experiencing the One Who is all in all. If we forsake Him in order to pursue other things, we will lose both. But if we seek only God, we will get all good things as well. Therefore, He is the priority we should seek before all other things.
7:13-27 The Strict Criteria of Salvation
7:1-6 Don't Hypocritically Judge Others
Detailed OutlineIntro:In this passage, Jesus was giving more instructions on how to interact with other people. And, as usual, He addressed the outward actions by also addressing the inward attitudes that bring about the outward actions. In this passage, He dealt with the action of judging one another.
- Sentence Flow
- Greek Sentence Flow
- Mini Word Studies
- Teaching Outline
This passage contains one of the most well-known, most often quoted, and most often misquoted verses of the entire Bible. It is often misquoted because it is taken out of context. The first verse of this passage is a general statement that, on its own, could have many different meanings. However, Jesus made it very clear in the following verses exactly what He meant in this verse. The problem is that many people quote verse 1 without looking at the surrounding context. And therefore, they misunderstand, and misquote what Jesus was really saying. Therefore, in order to avoid this mistake, we must be careful to take the entire passage into account in order to understand the first verse - what Jesus was saying, and what He was not saying.
When we take the entire passage into account, it becomes clear that Jesus was not forbidding the act of judging other people, or the act of determining and claiming some action to be right or wrong, and properly acting on that determination. Later in this chapter, He commanded His people to make judgment, pronounce judgment, and act accordingly (see vv. 15-23).
What Jesus was forbidding in this passage is the arrogant, hypocritical attitude that looks down on other people in judging them, as if we were perfect and not liable to the same kind of judgment. And He was forbidding a double standard of judgment that is hyper-critical of others while being extremely lax with ourselves. Jesus did not give any excuse to be lax in our judgment, either with ourselves, or with others. We are to uphold God's holy standards in all judgment. But we are to do it with humility and mercy, giving and forgiving, because we have received and been forgiven. And at the same time, we are to resist those who would subvert or attack God's perfect, holy standards. It is not just a little ironic that many of the people who are quick to quote
judge notare, at that moment, hypocritically claiming the moral high ground in order to judge others for being judgmental, without really understanding what Jesus was talking about.1-5 Don't judge with hypocritical/double standards1-2 Don't judge with a standard by which you don't want to be judged1 Don't judge, so that you won't be judged1a Do not judgeIn this passage, Jesus forbade judging. However, the word
judgehas a wide variety of possible meanings [All of the definitions in this section are loosely taken from the BDAG lexicon]. And so, we need to look at the context to help determine which of those possible meanings Jesus intended (and did not intend) to communicate.
Judgemay mean simply to make a selection among possible alternatives. It may mean to make a judgment after considering evidence - to come to a conclusion, to reach a decision after a mental process. It may have a more formal meaning such as to engage in a legal/court process, where a legitimate authority exercises legal oversight and judgment, possibly including punishment. It is what God does when He judges the world. And this word may possibly mean to ensure true justice - to see to it that justice is actually done. The immediate context (as well as the wider Biblical teaching) probably rules out most or all of these meanings. Jesus was not forbidding any of these things.
judgemay also mean to (mentally) pass judgment on the lives and actions of other people, and based on this, to try to influence them. This also has a range of possibilities. A parent may judge that their child is tying their shoes improperly and try to teach them the right way to do it. Someone may make a correct judgment and express their opinion about any number of topics. None of these things seems to fit what Jesus was prohibiting. Or this may also have the idea of passing an unfavorable judgment - to criticize or condemn. This seems to be a lot closer to what Jesus was intending to forbid. However, this also can be a legitimate and righteous action. We should all condemn things like murder and child exploitation, etc. And there is something wrong with us if we don't.
From the context that follows, Jesus seems to have been forbidding this kind of negative criticizing and condemning others if it is done in an overly critical, fault-finding and hypocritical attitude. From the context, and the rest of the Bible, it seems that Jesus was not forbidding us to judge. But He was prohibiting us from judging in a certain way - with a certain attitude that will be illustrated and elaborated in the following verses.1b Purpose: in order that you will not be judgedBefore Jesus illustrated and elaborated on the kind of judgment that He was prohibiting, He first gave the reason and purpose for us to obey His prohibition. We are to avoid judging in the way that He was talking about, in order that we would not experience the same kind of judgment. We can refrain from doing the sinful, prohibited kind of judgment based on our intention of avoiding this same level of judgment from God.
In the following verses, Jesus will elaborate on this standard - that we will be judged with the standard we use to judge others. Earlier in this sermon (6:14-15), Jesus warned that if we do not forgive others, our Heavenly Father will not forgive us. Later, in v. 12, Jesus commanded us to give to others as we would wish to receive. And later in Matthew (18:23-35), Jesus told a parable about a man who was forgiven a huge amount of money by the King. But who then persecuted another for a relatively small amount of money. The point that Jesus made by this story is that such a person will again be held liable for the things he had previously been released from, because he refused the same kind of grace to others. Throughout the Bible, we are told of God's poetic justice, where people fall into the same traps and misery they intended for others (e.g. the fate of Haman in the Book of Esther). And throughout the Bible, we are told to forgive others, as we have been forgiven (e.g. Eph. 4:32).2 You will receive the same standard you use on othersThis verse is an elaboration of the previous proposition. Our judgment somehow takes into account the manner and standard with which we judge others. We will be judged by the same rules by which we have expected others to play. We will receive according to the same standard with which we have given to others.2a-b You will be judged with the same standard you use on others2a For, with which judgment [standard/attitude] you are judgingThis proposition is combined with the next to make one essential point. This one introduces the manner in which the action of the next proposition will happen. Jesus stated that the same internal and external standard will be used with which we are judging others.
Just like in Romans 2:12, Paul wrote that
all who have sinned without the law will perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.In the same way, those who judge others by lax standards will be judged by lax standards. And those who judge others by harsh standards will be judged by harsh standards. We all have some innate knowledge of right and wrong because we are created in God's image. And so, even the youngest child knows that some things are
not fair!No one can, and no one does consistently claim that right and wrong are relative. Everyone judges others by inflexible standards, whatever those standards may be. And those who argue that morality is relative are almost always just advocating that we replace traditional Christian morality with a different morality that is more to their liking (and is usually more inflexible and judgmental). It is never a question of whether we will live by a moral standard. It is only a question of which moral standard we will live by.
None of this is to suggest that God will alter His standards of right and wrong when judging individuals. We cannot hope to force God to be lenient on us by being lenient on others. Everyone will be judged by God's perfect, holy standard, which will never change because God never changes. Rather, what this means is that everyone will be held accountable, and proved to be guilty, no matter which standards they use. Because none of us can live up to our own standards, no matter how strict, or how lax they are. All of us will be confronted with the fact that we condemned others for doing the same kind of things that we have done (see Rom. 2:1-11). Jesus said that unless our righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees, we won't enter the Kingdom (Matt. 5:20). So, if we are legalistic and hyper-critical of others, that will not make us any more righteous. It will only expose our own guilt and hypocrisy more starkly, because we are not able to live up to even the lowest standards, and are convicted of sin. How much more will we be exposed as a sinner by a more arrogant, prideful, and critical judgment of others. Not only will we be shown to fail by our own standards, but we will add the sins of arrogance, pride and hatefulness to others, not to mention the laughable blindness to our own double standards.
We will all be judged. Much better to have the attitude that we are all sinners with no claim but to ask for mercy. When we look at others, we could look down on them for their sin, and despise them in our pride. But a more Biblical response would be to say,
apart from the grace of God, I would be like that, or even worse.We can have an arrogant attitude toward others, or a humble, sympathetic attitude toward others. And Jesus obviously was advocating for the later attitude.2b You will be judgedThis proposition is the completion of the idea begun in the previous one, which told the manner in which we will be judged. We will all be judged. But the manner and attitude with which we judged others will have some kind of bearing on the manner in which we will be judged. But the point that Jesus was making is not that we can somehow beat judgment by being lenient on other people. The Bible makes it very clear that we cannot avoid judgment for our sin on our own (see e.g. Rom. 3:9-20).
Jesus's point in this passage was similar to the point He was making in His parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector (see Lk. 18:9-24). Jesus told that parable to those who
treated others with contemptand
trusted in themselves, that they were righteous(Lk. 18:9 ESV). The Pharisee prayed, glorying in how much better he was than the tax-collector. And the tax-collector mourned his own sin and pleaded for mercy. Jesus said that only the tax-collector went away justified.
No matter what standard we use to judge others, we will be condemned as sinners and hypocrites by that same standard. And so, our hope is not in beating judgment, but our hope is in God's mercy and forgiveness. Jesus made the point throughout the Sermon on the Mount that we should seek God's mercy and rely on a foreign righteousness that can only come from God's work in our lives. And that dependence on mercy will make us merciful to others. And a lack of mercy on our part is evidence that we are not trusting in God's mercy.2c-d You will receive with the same measure you use on othersThia section is parallel to the previous two propositions. Jesus made a very similar point. He just made it with a different illustration. We will receive according to the same standard with which we have given to others.2c And with which measure, you measure/apportionThis proposition refers to the standard practice of measuring goods for sale or trade with some sort of measuring cup or bucket. At that time, there were standard measures (like gallons or liters today). But there were not mass manufactured and standardized measuring instruments like we have today. Therefore, the measuring bucket they used could actually be (for example) a little more than a gallon, or a little less. And dishonest merchants would use a different measuring device depending on whether they were selling or buying, in order to pay less for more product and sell less product for more money. This kind of thing was condemned in the Old Testament Law (see Deut. 25:14, Prov. 20:10). Jesus used this as an illustration for the way we treat others. If we give to them with a large measure, filled to overflowing, then God will give to us in an overflowing manner. If we give to others with a small, stingy measure, then God will repay in kind.2d It will be measured to youThis is the continuation of the idea from the previous proposition, and is parallel to the idea in 2a-b. We can expect to receive from God commensurate with the way that we have given to others, whether generously or stingily. This is true, but not the entire truth. Like the previous proposition, we cannot use this to try to manipulate God into giving to us. He is much too wise to be fooled by our selfish hypocrisy. Neither does this leave us hopeless if we have been less than generous, because God is a good Father (see vv. 7-12). Rather, more likely, Jesus was saying that the way we treat others is a good indication of the relationship we enjoy with God. We are generous because God has been generous to us, or we are stingy because we are not yet trusting God and receiving His grace to the extent that we could or should. But this is also a clear warning to live out to others the grace we have received, or God will scale back our experience of His graciousness as discipline for our instruction, leading to repentance.
But like in the previous propositions, the greatest point that Jesus was making is about our inability to earn or deserve anything from God. We are forced to recognize our lack of sufficient generosity to others and confronted with our selfishness. No matter how high or low the standard is, we all fail. This throws us back into the position of being undeserving recipients, relying solely on God's mercy and grace, and having no ground to rely on our own merit.3-5 Don't judge others without first judging yourselfThis section is the famous illustration of the speck and log in someone's eye. In this illustration Jesus gave an exaggerated, humorously ridiculous story in order to illustrate the tragic silliness with which we can treat others in our hypocrisy and blindness to our own sin. With this story, He confronted the hypocrisy of judging others for small things when we are guilty of big things. In using this illustration, Jesus was not saying that we can never judge. Rather, He was saying that we need to judge accurately and impartially. And we will never be able to do that without first being honest about ourselves and our own guilt, and dealing with our own sin. it is similar to what the airlines tell passengers - in an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask first, and then you will be able to help others with theirs. You can't help others if you are suffocating. In the same way, we cannot help others with their sin while we are still strangled by our own sin. In order to help others repent from and overcome their sin, we must first be truly repentant of our own sin. And it is arrogant blindness to think that we are in a position to judge others when we are, in fact, just as bad or worse than they are. So, Jesus commanded that we examine ourselves and deal with our own sin in order to avoid a condescending attitude in dealing with other people.3-4 You can't be a good judge unless you first judge yourself3 Why do you see other people's problems, but not your own?3a Why do you notice the speck/splinter in your brother's eyeThis proposition must be understood in connection with the next one, because Jesus was making one point with these two statements together. In this first statement, Jesus was inquiring why someone would notice a speck or splinter in someone else's eye. But He was not at all suggesting that doing this, in and of itself, is a wrong thing to do. It can be very helpful to notice an irritant that is harming someone else and helping them with it. And (applying the point of this story) it can be very helpful to point out someone else's sin and help them to overcome it. Later in Matthew's Gospel, Jesus will give instructions how to do this very thing (see 18:10-20).
speckrefers to any relatively small piece of foreign material that, in this case, can get into someone's eye. We have all probably experienced how uncomfortable that can be. And when it happens, we often need the assistance of someone else to see it and help get it out.
Jesus was not at all suggesting that we can't help someone remove the speck from their eye, or that we can't confront others with their sin and help them to forsake it. Later, in 5c, He will suggest that we help our brother in this way. But this proposition is a setup for the next one. We should not presume to help someone else when we are in worse shape than them.3b And you are not discovering the beam in your eye?This proposition is a continuation from the previous one to complete the idea that Jesus introduced there. He challenged His hearers why they noticed a relatively small particle in their brother's eye but did not notice a relatively huge piece of lumber in their own eye. This is a cartoonish, exaggerated comparison to make a strong point. A
beamis a significantly large piece of lumber such as the one used to hold up a roof or above a door. It is laughably absurd that anyone would have such a large chunk of wood in their eye and not notice it.
And the word
discover/noticewhich Jesus used in this proposition is a contrast with the term He used in the previous one. In 3a, He used a more generic term that means to see or notice something. This has the connotation of a more casual glance and notice than the word used here. The word used in this proposition is a more specific word that means to observe carefully through direct observation and thorough examination. It is as if Jesus said the speck just happened to be noticed in a random glance, whereas the beam was not seen even though meticulously examined.
By using such hyperbole, Jesus was accusing His hearers of total spiritual blindness concerning their own sin not to notice it. We all make excuses and exceptions for our own sins. And we have all manner of self-deception mechanisms to protect ourselves from having to admit them and deal with them. But here, Jesus rips off our blinders and says, in essence,
You are ignoring a huge, obvious problem.
And Jesus was accusing His hearers with total arrogance to think that they were better than their brother with a speck, when they had a log in their own eye. We also, often nitpick at the sins of others while ignoring our own sin. Jesus challenged us all to stop doing this. Of course, not everyone does this to the same extent. But we all do this to some extent. So, Jesus's accusation to us may be a harsh rebuke, or it may be a mild correction, as the case may be. But we still need to hear and heed this admonition to whatever extent is appropriate in our own situation.4 How can you help with other people's problems without fixing your own?In this verse, Jesus repeated and elaborated the same point as He made in the previous verse. Like any good communicator, Jesus often used repetition and gave more interesting details in order to drive home His point in a memorable way.
In this repetition, He took the story to the next level. Not only does someone notice the speck in someone else's eye, while having a log in their own. But they also presume to be able to help their brother remove the speck, while still ignoring the log. And they are oblivious to the fact that they need help more than they are able to give help.4a-c How can you help your brother to see?4a Or how will you say to your brother?This is an introductory discourse formula in order to introduce the content of what is said in the next proposition. But in this case, the audacity and arrogance needed to say such a thing in the particular circumstances is part of the point Jesus was making. This question shows disapproval, as in
how dare you say this?4b-c Let me take the speck out of your eye4b PermitThis word is a preliminary request for permission. It is a request that the brother allow the action to be described in the next proposition, as in
Let me do this....4c I will take the speck/splinter out from your eyeThis is simply an offer to remove the speck. By itself, this is a reasonable, even gracious and helpful offer. There is nothing wrong with offering to help someone in this way. And we should try to help others in this and similar ways. What makes this an arrogant and hurtful request in this situation is the fact that the one offering is in no position to be truly helpful because of their own problems, as highlighted in the next proposition.4d And behold, the beam is in your eye?This is the conclusion of the hyperbolic scenario that Jesus was describing in these two verses. It is an intentionally silly picture of someone trying to help a delicate removal of a speck, while having a large beam sticking out of their own eye. Jesus was describing something we could imagine seeing in a Three Stooges movie - like someone leaning in and hitting the other person over the head with the log protruding from their own face. The picture Jesus painted was farcical and satirical in its extremes. But it was done for an extremely serious point.
It would be extremely silly for someone with a log to try to help with a speck. But the point Jesus made was that this would be arrogant and condescending much more than it would be funny. Someone doing this would be displaying a grossly exaggerated sense of their own importance and a
better than youattitude, especially in light of their blindness to their own problem. And this arrogant condescension is made much worse, because it is not warranted. Not only is the person not
better thanthe other and is not qualified to help them. But they are much worse, and completely disqualified by their own problems.
And by this hypothetical story, Jesus confronted all His hearers not to have this kind of arrogant attitude in standing in judgment over others when we have not reason at all to think we are superior to them. If we are honest and self-reflective, we will admit that we deserve judgment and need help as much as, or more than, they do. And so, the arrogant, judgmental attitude Jesus was condemning in this entire passage is shown for the rank hypocrisy that it is.5 Fix your own blindness first, in order to help with your brother'sThis verse is the solution Jesus gave to the problem He had just described in verses 3 and 4. The solution to the arrogant, hypocritical judgment is to stop being a hypocrite. Notice that Jesus gave a
both/andsolution. He did not say to stop judging, but He said to stop being judgmental. He did not say to not confront and help others with their sin, but He said to not do it hypocritically. He did not say we should not deal with our own sin, nor did He forbid helping others deal with their sin. Rather, He taught that we should do both, in the proper order. We should actively work to deal with our own sin first, and then help others deal with theirs. Both of these activities are necessary (and commanded), but they must be done in the proper way, and in the proper order. We must fix ourselves (submitting to God's power and finding His gracious provision). And then we must aid in fixing others (also only through God's power and provision).5a Hypocrite! First take the beam out from your eyeIn this proposition, Jesus first labeled the behavior described in vv. 3-4 for what it really is. He addressed His hearers (to whatever level the story of vv. 3-4 applied to them) as
hypocritemeans a person who pretends to be something different than they really are. It was used in a neutral way for stage actors, because everyone knew they were pretending/acting. But here it is used in a negative sense for people who are pretending in a dishonest way. They are deceitfully hiding who they really are and claiming to be something else. They are pretending to be sinless and better than others, when in truth they are not. Sometimes a hypocrite is conscious of their own deceitfulness, and they are doing it on purpose. And other times, a hypocrite is self-deceived, and they are fooling themselves as much or more as they are fooling others. In the hypothetical story of vv. 3-4, it is hard to believe that if someone was walking around with a beam in their eye, no one would have mentioned it to them. But the story implies that they were unwilling and unable to acknowledge that they had a log in their own eye. And Jesus tells the truth about them (and us) in order to make them/us own up to the problem, and be more willing to follow the solution.
And the solution which Jesus proposed is to remove the beam from your own eye first. This means that we must acknowledge the beam, and the sin that it represents. We must own up to our own sin and need of righteousness which we don't have, and cannot have, on our own. We must confess and forsake all known sin, and ask for forgiveness, and trust in God's given process to receive atonement and reconciliation. This, naturally, is humbling, and does not allow us to continue with pretense or arrogance toward others. This humility is a key benefit that will allow us ot be free, and then to help others.
And Jesus did not say that we need to be perfectly speck-free and sinless all at once, or that we could ever achieve sinless perfection in this life. But this signifies that we would be honest with ourselves about our sin, and fight all known sin, and be open to correction on unknown sin. We learn from the rest of Scripture that this fight against sin is a lifelong process. But it is a process in which we are more and more victorious by the power of God's Holy Spirit in us, as we participate in the fight.
And notice that Jesus used the word
firstin this proposition. Our removing of our own log is the immediate action we need to take, but it is not the last action. It is the most important and necessary action, but it is not the only action Jesus was commanding. And we don't need to wait until we are speck-free before we can move on to (also) doing other righteous and helpful things, as Jesus will command in the next proposition.5b-c Then you will see clearly to take out the speck5b And then you will see clearlyIn the previous proposition, it was clearly implied that removing the log from our eye is for our own good - that we would no longer be hypocrites walking around with lumber filling our face. That we would no longer be arrogant sinners blind to our own sin, and therefore, still living in our sin.
But in this proposition, Jesus also taught that a result of our removing the beam from our eye is that we would be able to help others. Specifically, in this statement, that we would be able to see clearly, and then in the next statement, that we would be able to help our brother with his speck.
It is obvious from the exaggerated story which Jesus told that if someone had a large beam in their eye, that it would somehow block their vision. And so, it is just as obvious that removing that log would improve one's ability to see. Therefore, as a result of heeding Jesus's command to remove the log from our own eye, we will be able to see (and thereby to judge) more clearly and accurately and righteously. Because part of the purpose of removing the log is to better be able to help others, as Jesus will state in the next proposition.5c Purpose: in order to take the speck/splinter out from your brother's eyeThis proposition tells a major purpose of removing the log and seeing clearly - that we would be able to help others more successfully. Helping others with their own sin, including gracious, righteous judgment, is part of the goal of our own personal repentance and growth. We should forsake our own hypocrisy and sinfulness for many reasons. And this will bring many benefits in our life and the lives of those around us. But one goal that Jesus highlighted here is that we will better be able to help others by more accurately exercising the godly kind of discernment and judgment that He wants us to do for the sake of building others up, not tearing them down.
Remember that this entire section about specks and beams in eyes is really about avoiding an arrogant, condescending, hypocritical attitude of judgment. But the solution to such an attitude is not to avoid judgment altogether. The solution is righteous judgment with a godly attitude. And removing the sinfulness and hypocrisy from our own lives is a critical step to seeing clearly and judging rightly. And the right attitude will
judgein a way that lovingly works to rescue others from things that are harming them, and to help bear their burden in finding freedom and forgiveness. And this will help others find the righteousness that can only come from Christ and God's Kingdom, and not from ourselves.6 Don't submit to the judgment of fools and beastsThis verse warns against the opposite mistake from what is addressed in vv. 1-5, yet is closely connected with the previous verses. The previous verses warned against a hypercritical, hypocritical judgment. But this verse warns against a completely uncritical lack of discernment and discretion.
Interpreters differ on the details of what Jesus was pointing to in using these metaphors. Many take
holy thingin 6a and
pearlsin 6b to refer to the Kingdom and its proclamation. This is a plausible interpretation, especially in light of Jesus' use of pearls to symbolize the Kingdom in 13:45-46. And then some conclude that Jesus was making a point of how and to whom we should proclaim the Kingdom. There is some truth to this. We all have a limited supply of time and energy and we need to use them in the manner that is most profitable, which means not wasting them in unfruitful ways. There seems to be some people who are so unreceptive to the truth, that continuing to attempt to teach them about Christ and the Kingdom would not only be a waste of time, but could be counterproductive in that it risks hardening them and making them more hateful toward the truth. We all need to use wisdom in determining which battles to fight. And that includes discerning when speaking with certain people will be more fruitful and speaking with others would be less so.
But there is a danger in this interpretation as well. Jesus spent much of His time proclaiming to sinners, and prostitutes and tax-collectors (but I repeat myself). These people might have seemed completely uninterested in spiritual things. If we were in Jesus's situation, we might have concentrated more on the already religious people. But the religious people were (for the most part, with many exceptions) less receptive of Jesus. And the people who might have appeared uninterested in righteousness were very receptive to Jesus, and were changed by their encounters with Him. Likewise, in His parable of the soils (Matt. 13:1-23 and parallels), Jesus clearly taught that some people would be more or less receptive and fruitful. However, in that parable, the shallow soil seemed the most receptive and productive at first. But in the end, it turned out to be bad and unfruitful soil. And many people, who seemed unreceptive of the Gospel at first, after the patient and persistence of people around them, became genuinely converted. And they are thankful that their friend persevered in witness even when they were unreceptive.
The consistent teaching of the New Testament is that we should proclaim the truth of Christ to all nations and all people (e.g. Matt. 28:16-20). We know that some will be receptive and others will not. Jesus even told His disciples to move on from unreceptive places (see 10:14). But it is impossible to discern with any certainty whether people and groups will indeed be receptive and fruitful until after we have given a level of persistent testimony over time. In other words, to use Jesus's metaphor, we won't know whether the pigs will like the pearls until we have thrown them to the pigs. Or to say it in a different way, we won't know whether the people are the kind of people Jesus would characterize as
pigsuntil after we have offered them the pearls.
Therefore, even though this verse may have a limited application to the strategy for missions and evangelism, this is probably not what Jesus was primarily teaching in this verse. But that leaves the question of what He was intending to communicate using these metaphors. The two best clues to understand this verse lie in its connection to the previous context of verses 1-5 and in the inability of the dogs and pigs in this verse to truly understand and judge the value of what they are being presented.
Just as in the previous verses, Jesus is still addressing the topic of making judgments. God's people are not to judge with a hypocritical, arrogant attitude. Neither are we to surrender judgment to those who are more unqualified to judge because they lack the right standard of judgment. They are usually just as hypocritical and arrogant in their judgments. We cannot surrender the standard of judgment to those without godliness, wisdom and discernment. We cannot submit our worldview, beliefs, standards, and lifestyle to their judgment, because they are beasts and fools. This is an important concept for our time. Many of those who insist on
judge not!are also very quick to judge those they disagree with and to contend against Christian standards. It is never a question of whether we will judge and be judged (and often by hypocritical people not living up to their own standards). It is only ever a question of which standards will be considered the ultimate standards used in judging. Will it be the true, eternal standard of God's character and revealed will and Law? Or will it be the changing, subjective standards of human whim and emotion, usually ultimately based only on carnal desires and pleasures? We should never submit to those standards. Neither should we submit anything, especially not the truth of the Gospel and the Kingdom, to the judgment of beasts and fools who judge only by those deficient standards.6a-b Don't submit precious things to the judgment of beasts unable to understand them6a Do not give a holy thing to the dogs
The holy thingor
that which is holyis undefined in this verse, and therefore is ambiguous. Jesus may have intended it to be ambiguous and therefore refer to anything that is genuinely holy. Some interpreters have suggested that this refers to the meat sacrifices offered in the temple, because they are also referred to as
holy things(see, e.g. Lev. 6:17, 25). This would make sense, because that is something that might plausibly be offered to dogs. However, that interpretation goes beyond what Jesus stated, and cannot be confirmed with any certainty. It is probably best to understand this term as intentionally generic to refer to anything that is holy, because the point is about how the dogs are unable to appreciate its holiness and value. Even if we think of this as the holy sacrifices, the dogs would only see tasty meat and would have no concept of the holiness connected with this meat being used in a holy offering to the Most Holy God. Its significance would be totally lost on them. If this is true of holy meat, which they would at least appreciate the meat, how much more is it true for all holy things, which they may not appreciate at all.
In that culture, dogs were not kept as pets. Rather, they roamed in scavenging packs. Dogs (and pigs) were considered unclean and despised. But they were also wild, vicious and dangerous, and so they were usually avoided and chased away. In this verse, dogs are used to symbolize bad people. The point in this metaphor is that they were brute beasts, living only for their animal appetites, and therefore, they (and the people they symbolized) had no ability to recognize the importance and value of holy things. They are completely unqualified to judge holy things, and therefore, these holy things should not be entrusted into their judgment.6b Neither throw your pearls before the pigsObviously, pearls are precious things. And, as mentioned earlier, Jesus used a pear to symbolize the value of the Kingdom (13:45-46). And pigs, like dogs, were considered unclean and potentially vicious animals.
Likewise, pigs are unable to appreciate the value of a pearl. If someone were to give a pearl to a pig, they probably would, at first, think it might be food because that is what they are primarily concerned with. But after investigating, they would find it inedible and think (if they were capable of this kind of thought) that they had been given a stone instead of bread (to steal a saying from the next passage). They could not appreciate that they had been given a precious stone that could buy a lifetime supply of bread. And that is the point Jesus was making - pigs are unable to make the appropriate judgment about precious things, and therefore, they are unqualified as judges. And therefore, we should never submit to their skewed judgment about holy and precious things.6c-e Purpose: So that they will not harm them and you as well6c In order that they will not trample them under their feetThe purpose which Jesus gave for not entrusting holy and precious things to people who could not appreciate them is twofold. First, in this proposition, is that they would not trample them under their feet. In 5:13, Jesus said that salt which has lost its saltiness is not good for anything, and is trampled under foot. That is, it is completely rejected and treated with contempt. In Luke 8:5, in the parable of the soils, Jesus said that the seed (symbolizing the good news being proclaimed), when it falls on hard ground (symbolizing people unwilling to hear it), is trampled under foot. That is, it is completely ignored and treated with contempt. Because dogs and pigs are unqualified to understand the value of the mindset and morality which Jesus taught, they will ignore it, reject it, and treat it with contempt. However, this does not prove anything about the worth of Christian truth. It proves the lack of wisdom, and beastliness of those who reject it.6d-e And turn and harm youThis is the second part of the twofold purpose which Jesus gave for not entrusting holy and precious things to those who cannot understand and appreciate them.6d And turning aroundThis proposition is a subordinate, preparatory action for the next, main action. The beasts turn in order to tear. This is possibly a picture of the swift change from appearing harmless to showing their true, wild and dangerous nature. This is similar to the phrase of a person or animal
turning on you,which means that they suddenly attacked you.6e They will tear you to piecesThis is the completion of the warning against entrusting precious and holy things to beasts and fools. Not only will they reject and show contempt for holy things, they will also attach and harm those who know their true value. The picture is obviously taken from the metaphor of dogs, and how they attack, bite, and tear their prey to pieces. Just like dogs bite and tear, the beastly people try to destroy those who differ from their opinion. Everyone has an ultimate loyalty - a
god.And all ultimate
godsare jealous gods. People will either submit to the true God or they will hate and fight against Him in the service of their idols. And if they hate and fight against God, they will hate and fight against all those who stand for and serve God (see Jn. 15:18-16:4).
People can rarely be trusted to give fair, impartial judgment unless they have been strongly influenced by a strong Judeo-Christian cultural influence. Historically, the ideas and practices of impartial justice have only flourished in societies with a decisive Christian impact. Without this foundation, people and societies have treated people according to the selfish desires of those who have the most power, and treated them in beastly ways. Christians are never to submit to the judgment of these kinds of people under these kinds of influences, because it will only end in harm and bloodshed - sometimes literally. History has shown that the morality and character of the people entrusted to enact justice is as important as the laws which they are administering. When beastly and foolish people make judgments, justice is destroyed and people are harmed.
7:7-12 The Father's Willingness to Give
Detailed OutlineIntro:This passage continues Jesus's instructions on what His followers should do. And like the previous passages, this one also connects what we are to do with the motivations and empowerment that enable us to do them. And likewise, this passage clearly connects the reasons with the character of God. We can be what He commanded us to be, and do what He commanded us to do, because He is the way that He is, and does the things that He does. That is our hope for success in following Jesus's instructions.
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And this passage also teaches a key strategy for fulfilling Christ's commands - to recruit God's help and power to do so. This passage applies to seeking and finding help for all parts of life. But in this context, it especially applies to seeking and finding help to live out the instructions of the Sermon on the Mount.7-11 Request from God, because He supplies all good things7-8 Request what you need from God7 Request (from God) and you will receiveThis section very clearly and strongly promises God will respond to our requests. There are two dangers we need to avoid when interpreting these passages: 1) thinking they promise more than they do, and 2) thinking they promise less than they do.
It is a mistake to think that these promises turn God into our own private genie. He is not obligated to give us a new Ferrari or to instantly, miraculously zap off those extra pounds just because we asked Him. James 4:1-10 clearly tells why we should not expect an answer to those kind of selfish prayers, as well as challenging those who would ask those kinds of prayers. The things that God is obligated to give are qualified by His own character and revealed will. And these promises must be understood in the context of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus was describing the kinds of things that we should be pursuing. And later in this passage, Jesus likened God to a good father who gives good gifts. So, this promise is also qualified by God's wisdom in withholding things that are not truly good for us.
But when we start to think about all the ways that these promises are qualified, or when we have personally experienced unanswered prayer, it is easy to fall into the opposite error. We need to realize and remember that God is good enough and powerful enough to give us any good thing that we ask. And therefore, we should boldly and persistently request good things from Him, knowing that He is fully willing and able to fulfill His promises. And if we don't immediately receive a response in the way that we expect, we can be assured that God knows best and is honoring our request by giving us what we need the most. That may mean that God is denying our request for our own good. It may meant that He is answering it in a way that we did not expect, but which is better. Or it may mean that He is answering our request on a different timing than we expect, which is better. But in any case, we are invited to continue to ask in faith, knowing that our Father is good and wise and generous. And He will answer our requests in the best way possible at the right time.
This section consists in three parallel pairs of propositions. Each pair reinforces and elaborates on the other two. And each pair consists of two propositions: first, a command to approach God with our needs and desires, and second, a promise that when we do so, God will meet our needs and fulfill our desires.7a-b Ask and it will be given7a AskThis is a generic word for any kind of request. It could mean a humble request or a demand, depending on the relative authority of the one asking and the one being asked. In our relationship with God, He has all the authority, and we have no right to make any demand of Him. And we should approach Him humbly, as a creature approaching its creator. But at the same time, He has invited us to ask from Him and has revealed Himself to be generous, and not at all stingy with answering our requests. He is a good Father Who delights that we would come to Him as the source of all our sustenance. And so, we have good grounds to approach Him with confidence, based on His character, and not on our worthiness or authority.
This proposition does not tell us what to ask for; it just tells us to ask in general. This Jesus left it open for us to ask for anything and everything. Of course, as stated above, this does not mean that anything and everything will necessarily be given. But no limits are given to what we can ask for. However, what we ask for reveals our heart and what we delight in. And so, our requests should be conformed to the kinds of goals and ethics Jesus taught in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount.
And finally, it is assumed in this context (but not stated) that God is the One to Whom we are addressing our request. Because He is the One Who is able to answer our requests, no matter what they may be.7b And it will be given to youThis is a clear promise from Jesus without qualification. He meant us to ask from God with the assurance that we would receive what we asked for. As already stated above, this is qualified by the context and the clear statements elsewhere in the New Testament. But here, Jesus made the point that the Father would respond positively to our requests, and therefore, we should bring all our requests to Him with a faith-filled attitude based on His generous character.7c-d Seek and you will find7c Seek
Seekis a generic word for attempting to find or attain something. In this context, it is parallel to
knock.So, here it most likely has the connotation of trying to attain something rather than trying to find out where something is located. Jesus has invited, even commanded us to try to attain and experience those good things He had mentioned earlier in the Sermon on the Mount. And this word also has the connotation of putting forth effort to get what we are seeking for. In this context, this means effort to do our part in attaining it, as well as making effort in our intercession for God to provide what we are seeking. We are to do our part wholeheartedly. And we are to seek God wholeheartedly so that He will do His part on our behalf.
Like in 7a, Jesus did not specify what we should seek. He put no limits on what we can pursue in this proposition. But is implied that the godly pursuits outlined in the Sermon on the Mount are what we should be seeking. And what we seek is a good indication of what we treasure in our hearts (see 6:29-24).7d And you will findThis proposition is parallel to 7b (see the comments there). It is the fitting counterpoint to
seek.It promises that we will attain and experience whatever it was that we were seeking to attain and experience. Jesus did not qualify this promise in this proposition, but it is subject to the qualifications noted above.7e-f Knock and it will be opened7e Knock
Knockmeans to strike a door as a signal for someone inside, so that the door will be opened and you will be able to enter and gain access to whatever is behind the door. It is a request for admittance to some kind of experience. And in that way, it is similar to
seekabove. Again, Jesus did not specify which door we are to knock upon, but that is implied in the larger context. The point is that we are invited and commanded to make the effort to attain those godly things we should want to attain and take the necessary steps to make it happen.7f And it will be opened to youThis is parallel to 7b and 7d in that it is a promise of attaining what is sought in the preceding proposition. This is the completion of the metaphor of knocking - that the door will be opened and access will be granted. It is implied that God will somehow be the One to grant access to whatever is knocked upon.8 Reason: for requesting is a key part of receivingIn one sense, this verse is repeating and reinforcing the message of the previous verse. But part of the emphasis in this verse is on the action of the one asking, receiving and/or knocking. In other words, Jesus stressed that in order to attain what one seeks, it is necessary to make the effort of seeking it out. This verse stresses our part in attaining the lifestyle and blessings described in the Sermon on the Mount. The rest of this section then stresses God's part - that He is a generous and gracious Father. But before getting to that part, Jesus encouraged His disciples to diligently do their part with the promise that when they did, they would attain what they were striving for. The main focus in this verse is, therefore, on the hope of certain success in our requesting from God. Because, in God's generosity, all those who put forth the effort to pursue godliness will not find their efforts to have been in vain. Rather, Jesus promised that they would get what they wanted. God has ordained that asking, seeking, and knocking are necessary in order to attain. But He has also ordained that asking, seeking, and knocking are guaranteed to attain.8a For everyone asking is receivingJesus used the word
allto stress the comprehensiveness of the this promise. Not just some of the people who ask, but all the people who ask are receiving. There is a direct correspondence between the asking and receiving. Of course, this is subject to all the qualifications mentioned above. But Jesus stressed the certainty of the response from God to the genuine humble requests of His people.
Askingis the same word from 7a. And
receivingis in the present tense. This signifies either that this is a general, proverbial action, that happens on a regular basis. Or it signifies that in the process of asking, the receiving is immediately in process of happening, even if the delivery is delayed until the appropriate timing.8b And the one seeking is findingThis proposition is in parallel to the previous one and has the same general point. It just echoes the wording of the second of Jesus's earlier commands - that we should seek, because we will find (7c-d). This proposition does not explicitly say
allthose seeking like the previous proposition. But the way it was stated implies that everyone who does in fact seek will also find. It is, like the previous statement, a clear promise of success when we do our part.8c And it will be opened to the one knockingThis proposition is parallel to the previous two, corresponding to Jesus's command to knock, with the promise of having the door opened (7e-f). This also is a clear promise of success when we follow Jesus's commands in this section.9-11 Explanation: God gives good things to those who ask HimThis section explains the reason why we should expect to find success when we ask, seek, and knock. We should not expect to be successful because we are so skillful at asking, seeking, and knocking. How hard or skillfully we knock has no bearing on whether the door is opened. And we should not expect to be successful because we are so worthy and deserving to receive what we ask for. The entire Bible makes it very clear that we do not deserve anything from God but wrath. And even if we are more righteous than others, that does not increase our chances of success in receiving. And even the fact that we have requested is not the reason we will receive. It is the means by which we receive, but not the cause of us receiving. The only reason we should expect to receive anything from God is because of God's nature and character. He is generous, gracious, and giving. That is where our hope lies. And that is what guarantees our success.
In this section, God is described as a father. He is a good Father. It is all because of grace on His part, not because of anything on our part. We are dependent on Him like children. But He is like a good father who provides for his children. He is even better than the best of earthly fathers. This is why are commanded to request with the guaranteed expectation of receiving. Because God is the Father Who delights to give.9-10 All humans know how to give proper gifts when askedIn these two verses, Jesus described two hypothetical situations involving sons making a request from their father. And in each case, He suggested an extremely unlikely, even unthinkable response, in order to make a point about how fathers treat their sons. And then in verse 11, He will apply this lesson, using an argument from lesser to greater, to make a point about God.9 Who will give a stone instead of requested bread?9a-b Who among you, when your son will ask for bread9a Or who is someone among you?This is a rhetorical question bringing up a hypothetical father, in order to introduce a situation such a father would face in the next proposition, and his expected response in the final proposition in this verse. This is just a set up for the following statements. But Jesus made this personal by asking about
a man among you.He invited His hearers to personally consider how they would respond to the hypothetical situation He was describing.9b Whom His son will ask for breadThis is a continuation of the hypothetical situation Jesus began in the preceding proposition. The father introduced in 9a is now described as being confronted with a situation in which his son asks for some bread, presumably because he was hungry. This continues to invite Jesus's hearers to consider how they, as fathers, would respond if their own son would make such a request. And all of this is still just setting the rhetorical situation, leading toward the punchline Jesus will make in the next proposition.9c He will not give to him a stone?This is the punchline of the hypothetical situation Jesus introduced in the earlier part of this verse. Jesus asked the rhetorical question of whether a father, when requested bread from his son, would give him a stone instead. And the obvious answer is
NO!It is silly to expect that a good father would give his son a stone to eat when he requested bread. Not only does a stone not satisfy the son's hunger, but it is potentially harmful to the son if he tries to eat it in order to satisfy his hunger. This would be a horrible and harmful response for a father to make, and Jesus expected His hearers to reject this possibility as unthinkable. And rightly so. But all of this is setting up for a greater point about God as a greater Father in verse 11. But first, Jesus reinforced this rhetorical setup by giving another example in v. 10.10 Or will give a snake instead of a requested fish?This verse is parallel to verse 9. Jesus was giving another similar example to the hypothetical situation He described there, in order to reinforce His same point through repetition.10a Or he will also ask for a fishThis is parallel to 9a-b, giving a similar situation for repetition and reinforcement. A son may hypothetically make a reasonable request from his father for some food to satisfy his hunger. In this case, the son requested a fish instead of bread mentioned in the previous verse. This likely reflects the fact that some of Jesus's hearers were farmers, and some were fishermen. And these two foods mentioned were both staples in that land. This, likewise, is setting up for the point made in the following proposition.10b He will not give to him a snake?This is parallel to 9c. It likewise expects a strong negative response. No decent father would give a dangerous serpent to his son when the son requested some food. This would not only not help with the son's hunger, but may even be counterproductive to his health. No sane father would do such a thing. And again, this is all setting up for the comparative point that Jesus will make in verse 11.11 Your Heavenly Father knows how to give good gifts better than sinful humansThis verse is the application of the hypothetical situation Jesus described in the previous two verses. After establishing how a typical father would respond to a request from his son, Jesus used this agreed-upon truth to say something about how God will answer a request from His children. And the point is that if a human father, who is far from perfect, will give his son a good thing, then God, Who is perfect, will at least do as well as that.
The entire argument takes the form of what is called a
lesser-to-greaterargument. This form of logic argues if something is true of something lesser, with a lesser chance of being true, then it must be true of something greater (greater in the issue being argued), with a greater chance of being true. for example, I could argue:
If I can reach that item on the top shelf, how much more could a 7-foot-tall, professional basketball player reach this item?This argument is based on the assumption that the basketball player is taller than I am, and therefore, can reach higher than I can. If that is true, then my maximum reaching height is lower than his maximum reach. Anything I can reach, he can reach, and more. And therefore, anything withing my reach is logically within his reach.
In His argument, Jesus started with the (correct) assumption that God is greater and more generous than any human father. And He argued that God will therefore be and act more generous than a human father. We can expect God to care more for His children in the way that He answers our requests than a human father. And therefore, we can expect God to answer our requests with good things.11a-c Even evil people know how to give good giftsIn this argument from lesser to greater, not only does Jesus assume that God is greater than human fathers. He also clearly states that human fathers are lesser than we typically think. Human fathers are selfish and sinful like all humans. And therefore, even if they, selfish as they are, can do this, it is a much greater probability that God can do even greater.11a Therefore, even though being evilThis verse begins with the word
therefore,showing that it is the conclusion, inference, and application from the previous two verses.
Jesus directly called His hearers evil. This word means morally and socially corrupt and immoral - evil and wicked, and therefore morally worthless. Jesus took it for granted that all humans are sinful and fallen. This is the consistent teaching of the entire Bible. See, for example, Gen. 6:5, Psalm 14:1-4, Jer. 17:9, Rom. 3:9-20, 23. By the way, this is another reason why we need to ask from God and seek His righteousness, and not trust in our own righteousness.
And Jesus used the fact of human sinfulness as an adversative argument to heighten the contrast -
Even though this is true about human fathers.If human fathers are handicapped by their own evil, and they are still able to do good for their sons. That makes the probability that God can do better, because He has no taint of evil whatsoever, even greater. Jesus was highlighting the exaggerated contrast between human fathers and God in order to drive home His point - that God will do so much greater than the minimum generosity show to be reached by sinful humans in the previous verses.11b-c You know how to give good gifts to your childrenIn this section, Jesus highlighted what human fathers could attain, even though they are evil (as stated in the previous proposition). This is to serve as a contrast in His lesser-to-greater argument with what God can attain.11b You knowThis proposition is an introduction to the main idea in the next proposition. Jesus stated that they knew, not primarily in the sense of having information, but more in the sense that they had the skill and ability to perform some task. It is
know howmore than
know that.11c To give good gifts to your childrenIn this proposition, Jesus described what a typical human father knows how to do, and by implication knows that they should do, and actually does this. Human fathers, as established in verses 9-10, know how to give good gifts to their children, and they actually do give good gifts. Human fathers do not give harmful things when asked for good things. Rather, they give good things, as much as in their power to do so. This is the bare minimum that evil, sinful, selfish human fathers typically accomplish. This is set as the standard for the lesser-to-greater contrast. If it is a given that sinful human fathers attain this level of generosity and care to their children, then, Jesus will argue in the next proposition, God will be so much more generous and caring than this.11d How much more will your Father in Heaven give good things to those asking HimThis proposition is the punch line for all of verses 9-11. Jesus has argued from the lesser to the greater. He had established that sinful human fathers give good things to their children when they ask. And here He proved that God is even more inclined to give good things, and therefore, more certain to give good things. God is called our
Father,showing that He has this kind of caring and providing relationship with His people. But He is not just called our Father. He is called our
Father in the Heavens.The One Who cares and provides as our Father is also the Sovereign Lord over the entire universe. He is the powerful ruler over all.
This is a contrast of magnitude and degree. Human fathers are inclined to, and successful in, giving good gifts on a finite, sinful, human level. And therefore, we should expect that God is inclined to, and successful in, giving good gifts on an infinite, heavenly, perfect, holy level.
There is no comparison. There is no chance that God will be unable to fulfill the request. There is no chance that God will misunderstand the request. There is no chance that God will lack wisdom and misjudge whether something is a good gift or a bad gift. There is no chance that God will be having a bad day or be grumpy, and withhold some good thing out of spite. There is no chance that God will lack the generosity and gracious will to bless and take care of His children, especially if they are asking for the kind of things Jesus was teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.
Because God is infinitely better and more generous than any human father, we can, and we should,
ask, seek, and knock,with full assurance that our Heavenly Father will give us good things in response. Our assurance of receiving our request is based on God's good character and willingness to give, which cannot fail to be magnitudes better than the generosity and character of the best of human fathers. Therefore, we should obey Christ's command to make our requests to God.12 Fulfill the Law by treating people the way you want to be treatedThis verse is often called
the golden rule.A similar sentiment had been stated a few times earlier in history. But the earlier statements were always negative -
Don't do to people what you don't want done to you.What made Jesus's statement memorable and profound was that He turned it around to be a positive statement -
Do for others what you want done for you.In order to understand what makes this so profound, we need to understand its meaning in the context of the Sermon on the Mount. This verse begins with the word
therefore,connecting it as an inference and conclusion from what had just been stated. We are to be generous to others because God is generous to us. We can be generous to others because God has been generous to us. We should be generous to others in the way that God is generous to us - giving only good things.
But in another sense, this verse is the conclusion and application, not just of 7:7-12, but also to all of 5:17-7:12. Jesus began the larger section with a reference to Him coming to fulfill
the Law and the prophets.And He concluded this verse with
this is the Law and the prophets.12a-c Treat other people in the way you want to be treated12a-b In whatever manner you want people to treat you12a Therefore, whatever you wishThis is an extremely open and broad statement -
as much asyou wish. This is analogous to a genie giving unlimited wishes. Jesus was inviting His hearers to dream big in honestly thinking about what they really wanted. Of course, this is just a setup for the rest of the verse, where He will ask His hearers to do these these things for others. And that is why He wanted them to imagine without limits to what they would want. However, this is qualified by the context, as seen in the next proposition.12b That people will do to youIn this proposition, Jesus qualified our wishing by what other people can do for us. We cannot realistically think that others could make us 12 feet tall or give us the ability to fly. People (including us) are finite and limited in what they can do. Humans cannot solve the problems of poverty and hate (because we are the cause of the problem). Equal outcomes from unequal people is never realistic, and always breed profound injustice when attempted. We should not expect any human to function as our savior. Only Jesus can truly save and satisfy us. Only Jesus can bring true and lasting peace and prosperity. And anyone else who thinks or claims they can is deceived and/or deceiving. We should be realistic about what we and others can do.
But Jesus is still inviting us to honestly assess how we would like to be treated by other people, in order to give us the standard by which we should treat other people.
Our discernment of what we want from others needs to be filtered by wisdom and Christian ethics. Wives, don't give your husband diamond earrings just because that is what you want. That is not what he wants to receive, and he won't wear them. And if someone asks you for money to buy heroin, or asks you to support their
rightto murder their unborn child, the proper response is a polite but firm
No, because I care for you too much to do that.We should discern what we want (and therefore, what we should do for others) in the same way that God, as our good Father, gives only good gifts. We don't want a rock instead of bread. And therefore, we should give bread, and not a rock.
We should be honest and reasonable about what we would really want for our long-term good, if we were in other people's situations. And that means that we should not settle for the quick fix that makes people temporarily feel good, but does not address the long-term solution to their real deep needs.
And our assessment of what we want others to do for us should be conformed to all that Jesus had previously taught in the Sermon on the Mount. We should not want others to be murderers, liars, adulterers, greedy, anxious, judgmental, etc. toward us. We should reasonably want them to treat us the way that Jesus taught people to act in this sermon.12c In the same way, you also do all things to themAnd in this proposition, Jesus applied the standard He had communicated in the previous two propositions. The very way that we want to be treated by others, in that way, treat others. Having discerned to the best of our wisdom what is really the best in their long-term interests, do that for the people we interact with, for their good.
And this command is positive. We cannot just refrain from murdering people. We must also actively help them find the fullness of life. It would be relatively easy to just negatively ignore people, and tolerate them when necessary. The older ideas of tolerance were an outgrowth of Christian virtues of freedom. But many current ideas of tolerance amount to nothing more than apathy, in essence thinking
I don't care about you either way. I don't care if you do sinful things that ultimately harm you.But Jesus commanded us to work for the ultimate good of others, even if it may seem intolerant to them for a time. We are called to be loving and righteous, not just inoffensive.
And we can do this because we have an inexhaustible supply for our own needs from our Heavenly Father. We can be gracious and generous to others because He is gracious and generous to us. We can forgive others, because we have been forgiven. We can serve others, because we have been rescued. We can point others to the truth, because He has taken us out of the darkness and into the light. And, as Jesus taught earlier in this sermon, we can refuse to make people victims of our hate, lust, deceitfulness, anxiety, greed, pride, etc. for all of the reasons He clearly communicated earlier in this sermon.12d For this is the Law and the ProphetsIn this proposition, Jesus stated that
this is the Law and the Prophets.This brings up two questions and issues for us to understand this proposition: What is the referent of the word
this? And what is the meaning of the word
is? Most think that this proposition means either
this summarizes and explains the Law and prophetsor
this kind of behavior fulfills what the Law and prophets require.
In 22:37-40, Jesus said that all of the Law and the prophets depend on loving God and loving your neighbor. And Paul said that loving one another fulfills the Law (Rom. 13:8, Gal. 5:14). So, it is true in a sense that doing to others what we want to have done is a primary way to fulfill all that the Law and prophets command from us in our relations to others. And the motivation is love. And this love for our neighbors is dependent on our love for God. And our love for God is dependent on His prior love for us, shown in Christ. Jesus has made it very clear that we cannot fulfill the righteous demands of the Law without the new life from God and the presence of His Kingdom in our midst. So, we should
ask, seek, and knockfor the power to love one another, and so fulfill all that the Law demands.
However, there is a danger in too simplistically equating loving others with fulfilling all the Law's demands - that what it looks like to love others can remain undefined and nebulous. We too easily substitute sentimental or twisted definitions of love that come more from our fallenness than from God's standards of love. So, loving fulfills the Law only to the extent that our love is conformed to the standard of genuine love revealed by God.
And, as mentioned earlier, this verse is not just a summary application of 7:7-12, but it is a summary application of all of 5:17-7:12. The word
thisin this verse probably refers to all of the larger section, which is the way that Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the prophets, and the way that we can participate in this fulfillment in our own lives by His gracious empowerment. We can (for instance) fulfill the law prohibiting murder by being so changed by Christ that we no longer hate our enemies, but rather love them, and pray for them, and seek their good. We can (for instance) fulfill the commands to love God by storing all our treasure in Heaven and seeking first His Kingdom and righteousness. Jesus came to bring about the ultimate goal of all the Old Testament revelation. And He has done this, and is continuing to do this in the lives of His people as they are changed by Him and into His image in all the ways described in the Sermon on the Mount up to this point. And so, all that He has taught so far in this sermon is the ultimate point of the Law and the prophets. And all that He has taught so far defines what genuine love for God and others is like.
7:28-29 The Response to the Sermon
7:13-14 The Narrow Way
Detailed OutlineIntro:This is the beginning of the section I have entitled
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the strict criteria of salvation.In this part of the sermon, Jesus was summarizing and applying the importance of obeying all that He had been teaching. It is a strong warning of the seriousness and importance of all that He had been saying, because there were eternal blessings and/or consequences depending on His hearers' reaction and application of what they had heard.
In reading this larger section, we need to see it in the larger context of the New Testament which clearly denies that our good works contribute to our salvation in any way. And yet, in this section, Jesus undoubtedly upholds the extremely high standards of God's Kingdom ethics and demands that His people meet those standards. In light of the rest of the New Testament, this is not so that we would somehow become worthy of salvation. Rather, these good works are a product of genuine salvation, not its cause. As part of the freely given salvation, He empowers us to do good works by His New Birth and sanctification. And we have a part to play in this sanctification. This section is part of His motivation given to us in order that we would pursue this holiness. This new ethical lifestyle and attitude is a blessing of His Kingdom as well as evidence that we are indeed participants in His Kingdom.13a Enter through the narrow gateIn this passage, Jesus does not directly define what it means to enter through the narrow gate. In the rest of the passage, He gives the reasons why we should, but never defines how to do it. In the parallel passage in Luke 13:24, it says that we should
make every effortto enter, which is implied in this context. But this still does not tell us how it is done. However, from the context of the larger Sermon on the Mount, He expects the readers to understand what He meant.
Entering through the narrow gate is clearly a metaphor for having the lifestyle and attitude He taught earlier throughout the Sermon on the Mount. It is the things that lead to life and avoid death. It is those things that are pleasing to God and in conformity with His Kingdom.
The metaphor is defined as entering in through a gate or entrance. It is a transition between two states. The word
gateis the same word often used for the gates of a city. As a person would pass a border, thus changing their experience from being outside to being inside a city, now with access to all the things which the city offered. So, entering through the narrow gate is to transition into the experience that is available only on the inside of this boundary. And this is also the same word used for the temple gate. So, there might be a connotation here of entering God's presence (see Psa. 100:4). And, as shown in the rest of this passage, this metaphor ultimately symbolizes entering into true life and the eternal experience of God's Kingdom.
And in this metaphor, the gate is described as
narrow.This is part of a contrast with the different gate described as
widelater in the passage. In some way, this gate is constraining. It is not easy or automatic to enter through it. Not everyone can, or is willing to do what it takes to enter through this gate. That is why we need to be commanded, warned, and motivated to do so. It is harder to enter through this gate, but Jesus assured us that it is worth the effort. As such, Jesus was saying His way is the opposite of some modern ideas of inclusion and tolerance. Of course, it is a Christian virtue to be welcoming and hospitable to all. But part of our giving love and grace to people is to clearly communicate and warn, like Jesus did, that not everything is acceptable to God. And not everything leads to life. There are some things that keep us from the life and blessing that God offers. And so, we must strive to enter by His way, even though it is narrow and exclusive.13b-14 Reason: Even though this way is harder, it leads to life, not destructionThe rest of this passage is the reason Jesus gave for entering the narrow gate. It may be harder than the alternative, but it is much better in the long run. His reason is similar to the current cliches of
No pain, no gain,and
Anything worth having is worth working for.It is the nature of life in this fallen, broken upside-down world that good things are often difficult. And the difficulty is part of what makes them good. And with our fallen, sinful nature, it takes a miracle of grace to take us off the easy way of doing whatever we want, to the harder, but better way of doing what God wants.13b-d Neg: The way to destruction is wide and easy, [and many find it]This section is the negative warning: The
other wayis harmful and will not end well, even though it is easy and pleasant in the meantime.13b-c The way is wide and easy13b Because the gate is wideThis is the same word for gate that was used in the previous proposition. It is still a transition point, a boundary that one passes for entrance into some state and/or experience. But from the context, here it obviously refers to a different gate - one that is wide. In the contrast with the narrow gate, this particular gate is easy and comfortable to access. Because of its ease, this is seen as the default entrance for all people, unless they strive to enter the other gate. And in this connection, it is noteworthy that this is the same word (
gate) used in 16:18 to describe the gates of hades.13c And the way is spaciousAnd Jesus expanded His description of this option by describing not only the gate, but also the road. Presumably, this is the road on either side of the metaphorical gate. And this road is spacious, which implies ample room and ease of travel. Because of its ease of travel, this reinforces the assumption that this is the default way and destination of humanity unless something intervenes. It is the easy way that we all naturally gravitate toward. And Jesus reinforced this later in the passage, when He said that only a few find the other, better way.13d [that is - the way] the one leading into destructionIn this proposition, Jesus gave the punchline to the metaphor He had been using in the previous ones. This wide and easy way does not lead to an easy, pleasant destination. Rather, it leads to destruction. The ease of the travel is deceptive. Just because the way is easy does not mean that it is better. It is just the opposite. Sugar tastes good, but is bad for you in large quantities. And broccoli is good for you, but it tastes like despair and dirty socks. In the same way, Jesus warned that the easy and broad way - representing the lax lifestyle, which does not intentionally pursue godliness - will lead to destruction. That is where this particular way goes. That is the inevitable outcome of this lifestyle. It is not like a freeway with many off-ramps. It is more like a railroad track that goes only where it goes. And it goes to the eternal destruction which is the punishment for the wicked. That is why Jesus warned His people to enter through the narrow gate, because the other alternative is destruction, even though it may seem easier at the time.14 Pos: Few find the way to life, because it is narrow and hardThis section is the positive alternative to the
other waydescribed in 13b-d. Here Jesus showed that the narrow way He recommended is best, because it leads to life. It will be worth the pain and inconvenience in the end, though its difficulty means that relatively few will travel this path.14a-b the way to life is narrow and hard14a How narrow is the gate!This proposition contains an exclamatory expression
how!to emphasize the degree of narrowness. Jesus did not just say
the gate is narrow,but He said,
How narrow is the gate!as if He were feigning surprise at how narrow it actually is. And the words
gateare the same words He used in 13a.14b And the way leading into life is constricted/difficultNot only did Jesus say that the gate is narrow, but He also said that the way is difficult and constricted. This is the opposite of the broad way that leads to destruction (see 13b-d). It is a similar metaphor to a narrow two-lane mountain road, where one needs to drive extra carefully to avoid the cliff on one side and the oncoming traffic on the other side. There is less room for wandering or inattentive travel on this kind of way. This also has the connotation of being like a narrow hallway with many people trying to move at the same time. There is little room to move and it is constraining and uncomfortable.
This dramatic way of saying it highlighted the truth that His way is focused and purposeful. One needs to intentionally follow this way, because our fallen nature will never lead us through this gate automatically. It goes against our selfish inclinations for ease and comfort. It is often constraining and uncomfortable, and our sinful nature needs to be suppressed in favor of the higher calling and destiny. If anyone is tempted to despair at how difficult the Christian life can be, they should be reminded of the command of Jesus in verses 7-11 - to ask and seek from God, which includes the promise that God will answer and we will find. If you need strength to walk the narrow way, ask God and seek Him, and you will find the strength.
The faithful Christian life is not easy. But it is totally worth it, because Jesus said that this way leads to life, in contrast with the destruction which is the destiny of the other way. It is just the opposite of the previous option - where the way was easy, but painful in the end. This way is difficult, but joyous in the end. The elite athlete knows from experience that the long hours of difficult training are painful and inconvenient. But they do it for the hope of winning the prize. And when they win the gold medal, they realize that all of the difficult training was worth it to reach their goal. In the same way, the faithful follower of Christ will find many difficulties in this life. But we will gladly go through the constraining and painful experiences because of our assured hope of the eternal life which Jesus has promised.14c And those finding it are few [in number]However, Jesus also noted, as a sober warning, that because His way is narrow and difficult, only a relatively few people will find and follow this way. He honestly acknowledged that the faithful Christian life is not for those who can only follow the crowd. It will sometimes be unpopular. But His stress was on the difficulty of this path, which is the reason why only a relatively few people are willing to pay the price. Jesus was up front about the price to pay. And on another occasion (see Luke 14:27-33), He asked His disciples to count the cost of following Him. But at the same time, He was also up front about the eternal reward for following Him, and the eternal danger of any other path and lifestyle. The obvious encouragement is for His hearers to make whatever sacrifice is necessary to be among the few who find and travel the metaphorical road that leads to eternal life.
7:15-23 Judge a Tree by its Fruit
Detailed Outline15 Watch out for false prophets15a Be on guard against false prophetsJesus warned His disciples to actively guard, to be in a consistent state of alert against false prophets. A false prophet is someone who falsely claims to be speaking for God and/or who speaks falsehood claiming it to be the truth about God. Jesus knew that false prophets have always been a possibility, because the devil is always active, and he is always a deceiver. And whenever false prophets speak, they are a serious problem to be resisted. Of course, there is the possibility of an opposite problem, where people become overly zealous
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heresy hunterswho are hyper suspicious and accuse people over the smallest mistake or disagreement on peripheral issues. But his can never be an excuse to relax our guard against genuine falsehood and deceptive teachers and their teaching.
There is a difference between a false prophet and a teacher who mistakenly teaches something that is not correct. That does not necessarily mean that false prophets know that they are false prophets and are doing so intentionally, although that will be true in some cases. In the next few verses, Jesus will tell how to determine whether someone is a false prophet. Another helpful test is how they respond to correction when they are shown to be wrong from the Bible. Church leadership ideally will be watchful and discerning to recognize false prophets before they are given any influence or authority in a local church. But they must also make the effort to recognize and remove any influence or authority from a genuine false prophet who has someone infiltrated the church.
Jesus has clearly commanded us to guard ourselves, and the people under our care from false prophets (this shows the necessary limitations and qualifications for our understanding of 7:1). They are a serious danger, and so we need to take them seriously. Church history is full of the damage caused when people did not recognize or resist false prophets when they subverted the church.15b-c Reason: They deceptively pretend to be good, but are really dangerous15b Pos: who come to you in covering/clothing of sheepOne of the greatest dangers of false prophets is that it is not always immediately apparent that they are false prophets. They attempt to appear as genuine prophets and teachers and learners. We should not be shocked that they do this - that false prophets are false about who they are. For as Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 11:13-15,
such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.
Jesus said that they come in the covering of sheep. That is, they are disguised as sheep, attempting to look just like the people they are trying to deceive, capture, and plunder. They take on the appearance of innocence and harmlessness, and affect the attitude of
we're one of you,in order to gain acceptance of themselves, in order to gain acceptance of their teaching. In this passage, Jesus says they try to appear as sheep, which is typically the symbol of a disciple, and not a leader. But in John chapter 10, He said that false teachers also try to appear and act as shepherds, which is a figure of Christian leadership. These people typically try to fit in with the Christian congregation in order either to advance to positions of leadership, or to draw people away to their own group over which they assume leadership.
And these false teachers rarely tell outright lies at first. But rather, they start by telling half-truths to induce people to doubt the full truth and to follow their line of thought until it gets to the outright lies. Just like the serpent in the garden, they start by sowing doubt and misunderstanding, and then run with it as if it were the truth (when it is not). And they end up directly countering God's character and clear revelation. But they do it, not directly, but by attempting to substitute an alternate source of revelation and
truth.The core strategy of all demonic falsehood is to induce people to trust themselves and their own judgment more than they trust the character of God and His revelation. And a telling sign of a false prophet is that they downplay, ignore, and subtly try to draw people's attention away from God's objective truth and Scriptural revelation. But they do it by appearing reasonable and by saying things that are partly true, at least at first. And Jesus clearly said to guard against them. And the next proposition will give even more reason why.15c Neg: but on the inside, they are vicious wolvesThis proposition is the conclusion of the contrast begun in the last. False prophets try to take on the outward appearance of sheep, but inside that disguise, they are really ravenous wolves. They are destructive, vicious, and extremely dangerous. All falsehood is corrosive and dangerous. And therefore, all who spread falsehood are corrosive and dangerous. And we see the harm done by these kinds of people throughout church history, including in our own time.
When Jesus said,
on the inside,He may have been referring to what we call the
inner self.But more likely, He was referring to the contrast with their outer disguise. In other words, their real nature and character as opposed to the deceptive image they try to convey. It is extremely important for Christians to learn the difference (in so many various types of circumstances) between image and reality, between what people think someone is and who they really are.
In a similar way, Jesus's words here may or may not refer primarily to the false prophets' intentions. Some likely are fully aware that they are being deceptive, and are purposely trying to take advantage of people, even destroy them, for their own selfish gain. But it is also a possibility that some of these people don't yet realize the full picture of what they are doing. They may not intentionally be deceivers, but are completely blinded by sin to the true nature of what they are doing. Jesus warned of those who thought they were doing God a favor by persecuting the church, and fighting against the truth (see John 16:1-4). In the same way, false prophets may be fully convinced in their own mind that they are in the right and are deceiving people because they themselves have already been deceived.
And the main point is not about the intention of the wolves, but rather about their harmful result. Whatever they were trying to do, they are destructive and vicious, and have the possibility to do great harm in the church. And that is why Jesus strongly warned His people to watch out for them. In Acts 20:29, Paul warned the Ephesians that wolves would infiltrate and false teachers would arise from their own congregation. And his letters to Timothy and John's three epistles all show evidence that these letters were trying to clean up the mess in the Ephesian church that these wolves had caused.16-23 Here is how you will recognize a false prophet16-20 You will know false prophets by their fruit16-19 They will inevitably produce fruit according to their nature16a You will know them from their fruitIn this proposition, Jesus begins to describe how we can discern who is a false prophet. He will illustrate this concept in the following propositions, but here it is simply stated using a common metaphor of fruit.
Fruitmetaphorically stands for the results and produce from something. Jesus suggested we examine the long-term results of someone's life and teaching in order to see if it produced good or bad results. It is very easy to promise that an idea or action will bring a good result, but the real test comes when that idea or action is put into practice and its actual, real-life results are examined.
Our society is filled with examples of bad consequences from things that may have sounded good at first, when they only existed in the realm of ideology and propaganda, and before they were implemented in the real world. Many politicians make great sounding promises, but the results of their policies don't actually deliver, or they have unintended bad consequences. For example, the proponents of the sexual revolution promised liberation, but brought about broken families through divorce, the explosion of STDs, the bondage of sexual addiction, the murder of millions of innocents, and a variety of perversions and confusions to the point that many cannot even tell if they are a boy or a girl. Those who demanded that God be removed from the public square promised a more rational and peaceful common discourse built on secular principles and scientific truth. But this has resulted in exploding tribalism and fanaticism, the kind of political correctness that fanatically tries to silence and punish all dissenters, and the censoring of all viewpoints that do not align with the politically and/or ideologically determined
scienceand the canceling/de-personing of those who hold those viewpoints.
Heresies of all kinds may seem enlightened and freeing at first. But all deviations from God's truth are ultimately cruel and bring untold misery, because they are rejecting and fighting against reality itself and the Lord or all reality Himself. And those who are caught up in those kinds of lies will share in its failure and consequences.
And history has shown that faithfulness to God's truth has always brought the greatest blessing and prosperity in the long run. The Gospel has lifted the quality of life and the justness of all societies in which it has taken hold.16b-19 Illustration from creation - things produce according to their nature16b-18 Things produce according to their natureIn this section, Jesus used the illustration of literal fruit in nature to make His point that the product of something is a trustworthy indication of its true nature. Things cannot produce differently from their essential nature, and things inevitably produce the results that are consistent with their nature.16b-c the fruit never goes against its natureHere, Jesus used two specific examples of the impossibility of something producing a result different from its nature. A fruit cannot be harvested from a source that differs in nature from the desired fruit. The different kinds of plants are incapable, because of their inherent nature, from producing the other kinds of fruit. These propositions are similar in meaning to the modern saying
you can't get blood from a stone.His point is that we cannot expect a false prophet to be able to produce genuinely good, long-term results, either in their own life, or in the lives of those who believe their falsehood. And this is evidence, in turn, that they are indeed false prophets.16b Surely, people don't gather grapes from thorn-bushesObviously, His point is that only grapevines can produce grapes. And thorn-bushes can only produce thorns, and whatever else is naturally produced from its particular nature as a thorn-bush. But they cannot produce grapes.16c Nor figs from thistlesFig trees can only come from fig trees. And thistles can only produce those things characteristic of the nature of thistles, which do not include figs among the natural possibilities.17-18 The fruit is a certain demonstration of its natureThis section is similar to, but the mirror image of, the section above. It begins with the connection
in the same way.Just as plants are not able to produce fruit that is not its natural product, these plants are able to produce the kind of fruit that is its natural product. And not only that, plants naturally do produce their appropriate, naturally occurring kinds of fruit. And therefore, one can confidently assess the nature of a plant by the nature of the fruit which it naturally produces. If a tree produces apples, I can confidently assert that it is an apple tree. If it produces oranges, it is an orange tree. If a tree produces strawberries, it is a fake, because strawberries come from small bushes, not trees.
Jesus used this illustration from nature to show that the good prophets and the false prophets will both eventually show their true nature by the long-term results that their lives and teachings produce. And that is the most reliable way that we can judge their nature.17 Trees automatically produce according to their natureThis is one side of the reality of the relationship with the nature of plants and the fruit they produce. They naturally produce those results which are in line with their nature. And therefore, their nature can be clearly discerned from the kind of results they produce.17a Pos: In the same way, every good tree produces good fruitOn the positive side, good trees naturally produce good fruit.
Goodin this context means a tree that functions as it was created to function. It is healthy and naturally produces a good result. Good fruit is a clear indication that the tree is healthy and of the species that naturally produces the desired kind of fruit.17b Neg: But poor-quality trees produce worthless fruitNegatively, poor quality plants (and people, to apply the illustration) produce poor quality fruit. Bad fruit is a clear indication either that the tree is unhealthy, or that it is of the species that only produces undesirable fruit. That is applied to the false prophets in that their bad fruit demonstrates that they are false prophets.18 Trees are unable to produce outside of their natureThis is the other side of the relationship between plants and their fruit which Jesus used as an illustration. They are unable to produce fruit different from their nature and health. And therefore, their nature and/or health can clearly be discerned from the kind of results which they do not produce.18a Pos: A good tree is not able to produce worthless fruitIt is impossible for a good tree to produce bad fruit. So, the presence of bad or worthless fruit rules out the possibility that the tree is healthy and of a species that naturally produces good fruit.18b Neg: Neither [is] a poor-quality tree [able] to produce good fruitAnd, in the mirror truth to the last proposition, it is impossible for a bad plant to produce good fruit. So, the presence of good fruit rules out the possibility that the tree is bad and/or diseased or of a species that does not naturally produce the desired kind of fruit.19 Every unproductive tree is destroyedIn this verse, Jesus extended the illustration of trees and fruit to show the destiny of the false prophets and the people who follow them. Just like a worthless, unproductive tree is rejected and destroyed, so also, the false prophets will be rejected and destroyed. This is the appropriate destiny of fruitless trees.19a Every tree not producing good fruit is cut downThis proposition refers to only one of the two categories of trees which Jesus mentioned in the previous verses. This does not apply to good trees which produce good fruit. But the other kind of tree, that which does not produce good fruit, is cut down. It is cut down because it is a bad, worthless tree. It is known to be a bad tree because it did not produce good fruit. And (the point of this section) the true nature of a tree is known by the fruit it produces, or the lack thereof. The common experience of a tree being cut down is symbolic for the unfruitful people somehow being destroyed and removed from their previous status.19b And it is thrown into fireThis is a continuation, from the previous proposition, of the illustration of what will happen to an unfruitful tree. Not only is it cut down and removed from the ground that used to give it nutrition. But it is also completely destroyed in the fire. Jesus often used fire as a picture of the eternal torment of hell in speaking of the punishment of the ungodly. Here, he also applied it to the unfruitful, because the unfruitful tree is ultimately an illustration of false prophets and deceivers.20 Therefore, indeed, you will know them from their fruitThis proposition is a summary of the preceding section. It wraps up and restates the point of the entire illustration of trees and fruit. False (and good) prophets will be known by the results they produce in their own lives and in the lives of the people that follow them. We are commanded to watch out for false prophets, and their fruit is the primary evidence by which we will recognize them. This point is qualified and clarified in the rest of the passage.21-23 Fruit is better evidence than just talkThis section must be understood in the context of the previous section. Jesus was still talking about fruit, and how one will know who will enter the Kingdom, and who is false. Here He clarified that the fruit He spoke about in the previous section is more than just outward works. It is not less than outward works, but it is more than that. And He also clarified that some people are self-deceived. They may have at least some evident success in outward works without being a genuine disciple. And many will be surprised to find out that they are not vindicated and accepted in God's judgment, even though they could point to at least some outward fruit. Therefore, in this section, Jesus emphasized that the fruit that is really the most important is the reality of personal relationship with Christ, which, of course, will be demonstrated by outward works and other good fruit.
And the claim to have fruit is not the same as actually having the genuine kind of fruit that is true evidence of genuine discipleship. Just like the saying,
talk is cheap,Jesus showed that someone's claims are not enough if they are not backed up with the kind of genuine evidence that Christ desires. And obedience to the will of the Father is the evidence that Jesus mentioned in this context. We are not saved by our works. But good works, done in obedience to God, and for the glory of Christ, are good evidence that we are genuinely saved. And a lack of these kinds of good works are grounds to question ourselves, even if we have other outward fruit that we could claim. This also shows that it is possible to accomplish seemingly good things in a way that is not obedient or honoring to God.21 Actions and truth, not just talk, will determine the Kingdom21a Neg: Not everyone saying to me
Lord, Lordwill enter into the Kingdom of HeavenThis verse is another strong warning. It is a continuation of the warning against false prophets, elaborating on the kind of
fruitthat is genuine evidence, and the kind that is not. But this also shifts into a warning for all to not presume on their own status. It is relatively easy to call Jesus
Lordand not mean it. And it is also possible to think that we are living in obedience and under the Lordship of Christ, while not actually submitting to Him in heartfelt obedience. Many people are attracted to the benefits of Christ, or go to Christ for a
fire-insuranceticket to avoid hell. But they don't actually know and love Christ Himself. They are only interested in His benefits. They claim to be serving Christ, but in their inward attitude, they are still just serving their own desires, and trying to use Christ in that service. And they may not realize that this is what they are doing. Therefore, this serves as a strong warning to every Christian to examine our hearts and guard against this type of self-deception and hypocrisy. Is Jesus truly our Lord, or are we still enamored with worldly idols and only paying lip service to Christ?
And notice that in the historical context of the Sermon on the Mount, before Christ was crucified and risen, He was working from the standpoint that it is appropriate for people to call Him
Lord.He was already clearly claiming to be an authority of the highest magnitude, worthy of service and obedience, even though He had not yet revealed the full extent of His identity and mission. And He claimed to be instrumental for a person's entrance into the Kingdom.
Jesus warned that not everyone will come to experience and share in the fullness of His eternal Kingdom. Not even everyone who expect that they will enter the Kingdom actually will. This is a sobering passage, but an important passage to motivate us to pursue the narrow way that leads to life, and not to complacently slip into the broad way that leads to destruction (see vv. 13-14).21b Pos: But the one doing the will of my Father in Heaven [will enter]This is a continuation of the contrast begun in the previous proposition. The contrast he made was not between going to Him and obeying God, as if obedience to God would earn entrance into the Kingdom. The contrast He was making was between mere lip service and genuine conversion to Him, which results in heartfelt obedience.
Doing the will of my Father in Heavenis a broad statement which includes at least all of the previous material from the Sermon on the Mount. In that sense, this statement is parallel to the next major section (7:24-27), where Jesus compared those who put His words into practice to a man who built his house on a rock, and those who didn't to a man who built his house on sand. And, as taught throughout the Sermon on the Mount, acts of obedience are inseparable from the proper inward motivations and intentions for those deeds. But also, in light of the entire New Testament, the
will of the Fatherincludes trusting in Christ as Savior and submitting to Him as Lord (see e.g. Jn 6:29). The rest of the New Testament lays out the details of a Christian ethic of a life that is pleasing to the Father. But it also clearly asserts that we cannot live this ethic on our own strength, and we need the presence of God's Spirit and New Birth in our lives, which only comes through faith in Christ. Doing the will of the Father is the result of genuine discipleship and saving faith. It can never be the cause of it.
And in light of the following verses, it is also possible to do many apparently impressive outward things, without them being evidence of genuine conversion. Many good works (like the works of the Pharisees) can be done for motives of personal pride and gaining a reputation for godliness (see 6:1-18). But those works are not the same as doing the will of the Father. The key factor is that our works are done in obedience to the Father, and presumably for His pleasure and reward, and not a reward before people.22-23 Many will claim to be in the Kingdom, but will not be22 Many will claim to be a part of my work22a Many will say to me in that day
In that dayis the day of judgment, when people are either welcomed or denied entrance to the fullness of God's eternal Kingdom. This proposition introduces the objections that some will make at that time to an unfavorable verdict. And the fact that they will object to God's righteous verdict is evidence that they are self-deceived or self-righteous (or probably both).22b-d We took part in your workThis section is the content of the objections that some people will make to the condemnation they will receive at the time of final judgment. These objections may indicate a level of surprise at the verdict, showing that these people were deceived (or self-deceived). Or they may indicate self-righteous argument and boasting, trying to show that their own works should be accepted as earning their entrance to the Kingdom. In either case, as will be shown in verse 23, these objections are not valid, and they will do nothing to overturn the righteous verdict against these kinds of people. They may think their accomplishments are impressive and deserving of reward, but Jesus said that God is not impressed at all.22b Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your Name?These people will claim to have prophesied in Christ's Name. To prophesy means to speak a divinely inspired revelation. And
in your Namemeans that they were claiming to have spoken from and for Christ. They claimed to have spoken His message.
This could indicate a few different possibilities. First they could be lying about what they did. Second, they could have been false prophets, who falsely prophesied, falsely claiming to do so in Christ's Name. And third, they may have genuinely prophesied in Christ's Name. The third possibility brings up some potential questions like
How could God give genuine prophesy through someone who was not a genuine disciple?But even if this is the case, it is not a problem. God, in the Old Testament spoke through scoundrels and questionable people like Saul, Balaam, and even Balaam's donkey. He can speak truly and perfectly through imperfect people. But in this context, where Jesus was warning against false prophets, the second possibility is most likely the case.22c And we cast out demons in your Name?To cast out demons is somehow to drive out a demon - to force an evil spirit to leave a person they had previously taken possession of. This necessarily involves some sort of supernatural power great enough to command and overpower those hostile spiritual entities. And the claim to do it in Christ's Name is a claim that this supernatural power for successful exorcism came from Christ Himself.
This claim, like the previous one, has a number of possible interpretations. It could refer to genuine exorcisms, or it could refer to some form of deception, falsely claiming to be a genuine exorcism. In Acts, there were exorcists who tried (unsuccessfully) to cast out demons in Jesus's Name, even though they did not believe in Him (see Acts 19:11-17). Later in Matthew (see 12:22-32) people accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of the devil. Jesus responded that the devil's kingdom was not divided, and did not work against itself, and so (in His case at least), genuine exorcism was proof of God's power. Therefore, it is still possible that God had worked genuine exorcisms through them, not because of their faithfulness, but for the sake of those being freed from the demonic. But the point, in this context, is that even these exorcisms were not proof of citizenship in God's Kingdom if they were not accompanied with a genuine conversion to Christ and New Life in Him.22d And we did many miracles in your Name?A miracle is a deed that is beyond normal human ability, and therefore demonstrates supernatural power of some sort. And doing miracles in the Name of Christ is a claim that the deed was done by His supernatural power. This is an implicit claim to have access to Christ and His supernatural power.
This claim, also, has a number of possibilities. There are fake miracles, that are made to seem like miracles, but are not. The later New Testament warns also that real miracles can be performed by demonic forces for the purpose of deceiving people. And it is possible that God did a genuine miracle through unbelieving people for His own purposes and glory. Again, the purpose of these claims in this context is to show that even the greatest of outward demonstrations is not enough without genuine inward discipleship and a changed life through relationship with Christ.
All of these claims, even if we interpret them all as being genuine and put them in the best light, were not enough to guarantee entrance into the Kingdom. This should cause us all to examine ourselves and make sure we are not putting our hope in our outward accomplishments (even good ministry accomplishments). Our good works never have, and never will be grounds for our participation in God's Kingdom. Jesus is our only hope. So, we should always trust in Him, and His righteousness, and never in our own, even if we have produced good and impressive fruit. And we should live out this trust and delight in Christ in a way that does produce fruit, not for our vindication, but for His glory. Because, as the next verse shows, we will not be vindicated by our outward works, even if they are impressive.23 I will refuse to acknowledge them and throw them out23a And then, I will confess to them
Thenis still referring to the time of final judgment. It is the same time as
in that dayin 22a. Jesus will respond directly after those people made their claims to have done great things in His Name.
In this context, the word
confesshas the connotation of publicly acknowledging. They made their claims, and then Jesus will make His claim in a public declaration discounting and refuting their claims. And His word has the final authority in these competing claims.23b-c I don't know you and am sending you awayThis is the content of what Jesus will publicly declare at that time.23b That I never knew youJesus will deny that He ever knew them. Of course, in one sense, He knew them, because as God, He knows everything (and everyone). He knew who they are and all about them. But He did not know them in a significantly important personal connection. And more importantly, as a result, He did not acknowledge them. In John 1:10, John wrote that the light (Jesus) had come into the world, but the world did not know/acknowledge Him. In the same way, at the final judgment, Jesus will respond in kind to all those who did not truly know and acknowledge Him - that He does not know or acknowledge them.
Notice that the knowing is described in the direction from Jesus to people. Jesus knows (or doesn't know) people and they are the ones who are known (or not). He did not mention whether they knew Him or not, even though that is important in a sense. This may be a reference back to Psalm 1:6, which says,
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.The contrast in that verse is between being known by God and perishing.
The point of this phrase is that even though those people claimed to be partnering with Jesus in His work, He did not acknowledge that to be true. In fact, He directly contradicted their claim to be connected with Him. And inherent in His public refusal to acknowledge them as His own is a pronouncement of judgment, which will be clearly stated in the next proposition.23c Depart from me, workers of lawlessnessAfter Jesus's public declaration in response to the claims of those who will object to their judgment, Jesus will pronounce the sentence of their judgment, which is part of His rejection of their appeal. He will command them to go away, to depart from Him. And that means they will depart from His presence, and from the blessing of His eternal Kingdom. They will be denied entrance to His Kingdom and sent somewhere else. This verse does not specifically say to where they will go. But Jesus later spelled it out in 25:41, where He said,
Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!Jesus will reject their objection and sentence them to eternal punishment.
And He will also clarify the basis for their sentence by addressing them as
workers of lawlessness.They claimed to have worked prophecy, miracles, and exorcisms. But Jesus declared that they had worked the deeds that were a product of a lawless disposition, rejecting, not only the standards of society, but especially rejecting the standards of God. And the attitude that always underlies the rejection of God's standards is a rejection of God Himself as the standard giver. In other words, they had claimed Jesus as
Lord, Lordin 21a. But He said that their deeds demonstrated that they were not in submission to Him as Lord. Rather, they had rejected any lordship and lived in a lawless way. And therefore, their punishment is just and right.
7:24-27 Not Just Hearing, but Doing Jesus' Words
Detailed OutlineIntro:This well-known passage is Jesus's conclusion and application of all that He had said previously. It is both an encouragement and a warning to heed and follow His teaching. It highlights two opposite possible responses to His teaching, and the inevitable conclusions that will follow on each of these reactions. He used an analogy comparing each response to a homebuilder and the different qualities and resilience of their house, depending on how each of the houses were built.24-25 Pos: The wise way to respond to Jesus' teaching24a-b Whoever hears and puts my words into practice24a Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mineThis passage begins with the word
- Sentence Flow
- Greek Sentence Flow
- Mini Word Studies
- Teaching Outline
therefore.Jesus clearly connected this passage with all that He had spoken before in the Sermon on the Mount. His words in this Sermon were of such an important nature that their inherent truth and power absolutely determined an inevitable consequence depending on whether someone responded well to them, or poorly. Jesus's person and teaching, because He has authority, is such that no one can remain neutral. Everyone who hears His words will experience one of two possible results. And which result they experience will be determined by how they respond to Jesus's words.
Jesus used an indefinite word
whoeverbut qualified it with the word
every.This means that this category is indefinite in the sense that it only applies to those who hear His words. But at the same time, it is fixed, in that absolutely everyone who does hear His words is in the same category. This category will be further refined in the next proposition, because this proposition is only describing the necessary condition for the next proposition to be true. So, this idea is incomplete without the next. Hearing Jesus's words is the necessary prerequisite, but the response to those words will be determinant for the point which Jesus is making in this passage, as will be shown in the next proposition.24b And he does themThe central issue in this first possible response to Jesus is that when someone hears His words, they actually
do them.Later in this passage, this will be directly contrasted with those who hear and don't do them. Hearing is not what makes the different, but responding in an appropriate manner is the difference.
does,which Jesus used, is a very generic word for doing or performing some action. This word could describe a huge variety of activities. Because Jesus said a variety of things in the Sermon on the Mount, a proper response will entail a variety of appropriate attitudes and actions. For example, because Jesus talked about not murdering by not hating others, a proper response would be to not hate others (and thereby to refrain from murder). And because Jesus taught about not being anxious, a proper response would be to trust God and thereby avoid sinful anxiousness. And so on for the rest of Jesus's teachings in this sermon. So
doingJesus's words is a multifaceted response to His multifaceted teaching. And because we all have different situations, our appropriate responses may be different from the appropriate response of others. And because Jesus concentrated on the inward attitude and motivation in the Sermon on the Mount,
doing His wordswill also focus on the inward attitude and motivations, which will then result in proper outward actions.
And Jesus said that this wise person would do them. That is, he will perform the very attitudes and actions which Jesus taught. The power for success which Jesus will promise in the next propositions does not depend on the act of doing something, but in the specifics of what is done - that they are in conformity with what Jesus actually taught. We all actively do a lot of things. But only some things - those things which are in response to what Jesus has taught will bear the good fruit which Jesus will describe. The important point is that our attitudes and activities are in direct response and conformity with Jesus teaching. These appropriate responses will benefit from what Jesus described in the next propositions.24c-25 He is like a wise man succeeding because of his wisdom24c He will be likened to a sensible/wise manJesus used a comparative analogy to describe the benefits of doing His words. He compared the person who hears and does His words to a wise man. This word
wisehas the connotation of understanding combined with the insight and wisdom to successfully put that understanding into practice, which results in a beneficial outcome. Jesus will illustrate more specifically what this looks like in the next few propositions.24d-25 Who succeeded because he built in a wise mannerJesus's illustration to elaborate what it meant to be a sensible wise man has two aspects: First He described what the man did. And second, He described the ongoing result of what the man did. All this is to illustrate the actions and results of a person who puts His teaching into practice.24d Who built his house upon the rockThe activity of the wise man in Jesus's illustration is that he built his house on the rock. Jesus did not mention anything about the construction of the house itself (its materials or workmanship). But He only mentioned the foundation upon which it was built. He will bring out the significance of this later in 25f.25 And it survived bad weather25a-d And bad weather struck the houseJesus did not question whether bad weather would come or not. He just assumed that it would strike the house. This shows His expectance that difficult times would sooner or later be a part of his hearers' lives. We should expect difficulties to happen. And the real issue is whether we will be prepared to survive them well when they do come.
Jesus's illustration comes out of the regular weather patterns in that part of the world, which included occasional severe storms and flash floods. There were many river beds, which were dry for part of the year, but could, without much warning, fill up with raging torrents.
And Jesus was also directly drawing on Ezekiel chapter 13, where God warned against the false prophets. In that chapter, it is described that they built a wall, and the false prophets whitewashed it. But God sent wind and rain, and the wall fell, both destroying the people and exposing the foundation of the wall.25a-c And bad weather happenedThese three propositions relate three aspects of the bad weather in Jesus's illustration. They are obviously separate, but related parts of a bad storm. Jesus probably did not intend any significant distinction between these three events. But rather, he used all three together to colorfully describe the intensity and comprehensiveness of the storm.25a And the rain came downJesus was here picturing, not a light drizzle, but a significant downpour, as shown in the next proposition.25b And the rivers/torrents cameThe picture that Jesus was portraying, is not a slow moving, clam river, like some may have experienced. Rather, He was describing a fast-moving torrent that would carry everything before it.25c And the winds blewThis is a generic phrase for the wind blowing. But in this context, we can assume He was not referring to a light breeze. Rather, this was intended to signify a strong, storm wind.25d And it struck against this houseThis is the point of the description of the storm. The storm struck against the house which the wise man had built. And the word Jesus used has the connotation of hitting it with great force, to strike against it. The result of the storm in this illustration is that it struck against the house. The force of the storm on the house would be a significant test of whether the house would be able to survive such force. And the point of the entire illustration, as seen in the next propositions, is whether or not it would survive, and the reason why or why not.25e-f It survived, because it had a good foundation25e And it did not fallAs expected, because the builder was wise, the house did not fall down. It survived the intense storm intact. And the reason it survived is clearly spelled out in the next proposition.25f Reason: because it had been founded upon the rockIn this proposition, Jesus highlighted the reason why the house did not fall, which is the point of this story. The difference (as seen in the next few verses) between the house that did not fall and the one that did, is not the quality of the workmanship or the quality of the building material. Those things may be important in a literal house, but they are not what Jesus emphasized in this illustration.
The difference that caused this house to remain standing was the quality of the foundation. The quality and success of our lives is dependent on the quality of what we build our lives upon. In other words, the difference for a blessed life is not so much in the
doingbut in the specifics of what is done and the reasons why. The power for success is not in our works, but in the truth, authority, and power of Christ's person and teaching. Our works make a difference only when we build our works in such a way that it is clear they are built on the foundation of Christ, because Christ is the One Who makes the difference.
And the illustration of
rockis significant, because the reason Christ and His teaching are a solid foundation is because they are solid and completely dependable. Jesus is the faithful, true, unchanging, completely trustworthy creator and lawgiver over everything. His unchanging nature, as well as His sovereign control over all the universe makes Him the most solid and reliable foundation possible. He is the literal foundation of all reality, and so, there is no more fitting and reliable foundation for our lives.
On the contrary, to refuse to put His words into practice is to rely on our own righteousness, wisdom, and strength, which are completely weak and fallible by comparison. That would be a complete failure, as will be described in the next two verses. But to put His words into practice is to rely on His wisdom and righteousness. Another term for that kind of wise response (taken from Paul), is
the obedience of faith.This kind of faith-filled response relies on the foundation of Christ and His authority. And it is shown in the faithful working out of Jesus's instructions, knowing that they are good and true, which results in a life that is secure against the difficulties and storms which eventually come into every life. We should become prepared to successfully weather life's storms by building deep on the dependable foundation of Christ Himself. That is the truly wise response.26-27 Neg: The foolish way to respond to Jesus' teachingThese two verses are the negative mirror image of the previous verses. In these verses, Jesus described the opposite possible response to His teaching, and the opposite result, using the exact same illustration, but with the opposite details.26a-b Whoever hears but doesn't do my words26a And everyone hearing these words of mineThis proposition is almost exactly the same as 24a. And the small differences in wording do not seem to change the meaning. See the comments above on 24a.26b And not doing themWith one major exception, this proposition is almost exactly the same as 24b, with small differences in wording that do not change the meaning. See the comments on 24b.
The major difference is that in this verse, Jesus added the word
notwhich makes this proposition describe the completely opposite response. To not do His teaching is to ignore or reject it, which is to ignore or reject Him. This response shows a lack of understanding and/or a lack of trust in Christ. And it is usually strong evidence of a self-righteous rejection of Who Christ is, because He demands the rightful submission that is to be given Him as Lord and King. And because we want to be king of our own life, we reject Him as master. We refuse to do His will, because we want to do our own instead. Of course, it could be argued that someone wanted to do Christ's words, but were unable, or a variety of other excuses why they did not respond. But based on what follows, Jesus would not have believed or accepted these kinds of excuses.26c-27 He is like a fool who is destroyed because of his foolishness26c This one will be likened to a stupid/foolish manThis proposition is very similar to 24c. See the comments there. But here, this person is likened to a
stupid/foolishman. This word does not primarily refer to a lack of intelligence. But rather it refers to a lack of wisdom, often connected with a lack of morality, which results in a lack of success. Very intelligent people can be fools if they use their intelligence in service of bad morality.26d-27 Who came to destruction because he built in a foolish manner26d Who built his house upon the sandThis proposition is very similar to 24d. See the comments there. But here, the foolish man built his house on a foundation of sand.
This is an illustration of a foolish person who does not build their life on the foundation of Christ. Rather they trust in their own righteousness, their own way of doing things, their own wisdom, and their own standards of judgment. There are a lot of people who act like they are smarter than God, because they reject His standards and substitute their own. But in doing so, they show that they are actually fools.
Jesus warned against this when He said that unless your righteousness surpasses the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven (see 5:20). And the rest of this passage shows the result of someone who follows this foolish way of life.
And the illustration of sand is appropriate for a foolish foundation, specifically because sand is not stable. Sand is movable, and its overall form shifts and changes. And therefore, it is not solid and stable and reliable.
In a similar fashion, many people try to build their lives on subjective whims and fashions, and claim that ethics are situational and that truth and meaning are subjective and determined only by the individual. History is full of the catastrophes and atrocities that result from this kind of mindset. Those who marry the spirit of the age are soon widowed. Those who change their position to please the mob are soon destroyed by the mob when the mob has changed its position. To build a life on anything less solid than Christ and His teaching is a very dangerous and foolish thing to do.27 And it was destroyed by bad weather27a-d And bad weather struck the houseMost of this verse (27a-d) is exactly the same wording as 25a-d. See the comments there. Jesus is describing exactly the same kind of difficult situations that will eventually come into everyone's life. The only difference is how people will weather life's storms, depending on their foundation. But here He shows, for all intents and purposes, the storms should be considered to be the same. Of course, the details of the difficulties will be different for each person, but the significance of the difficulties will be the same, in that they will show the quality of our life's foundation (or lack thereof).27a-c And bad weather happened27a And the rain came downSee the comments on 25a27b And the rivers/torrents cameSee the comments on 25b27c And the winds blewSee the comments on 25c27d And it beat against this houseSee the comments on 25d27e-f And it fell with complete destruction27e And it fellAs would be expected in this illustration (especially if you have seen pictures or videos of the damage done by severe storms), the house collapsed. Jesus did not explicitly spell out the reason for its collapse, but the reason was clearly implied. It fell because it was built on the sand, which is not a stable enough foundation. Just as sand is easily washed away by a storm flood, anything build on that sand will just as surely be washed away and fall down. Just as our own self-righteousness or the shifting ethics and ideologies of our surrounding cultures will certainly not be able to stand when confronted with reality, any life built on these unstable and unreliable foundations will also come crashing down.27f And its collapse was intense/thoroughIn the place parallel to where Jesus gave the reason why the wise man's house did not fall (25f), here Jesus did not give the reason why the foolish man's house fell. The reason was clearly implied and did not need to be stated. Instead, Jesus emphasized how thorough and intense the fall of this house was. It did not just lose the roof or only one wall (for instance). But the entire house was completely destroyed. Its destruction was intense and terrible and comprehensive. This shows that there is no neutral response. There is no possibility that one can reject Jesus and still have a somewhat decent result. Either the house will completely stand firm, or it will completely be destroyed. Because Jesus is the true One with all authority, and every other way is inadequate.
7:28-29 The Response to the Sermon
Detailed Outline28 The crowds responded to the Sermon on the Mount with astonishment and amazement28a-b This is what happened when Jesus finished the Sermon on the Mount28a And it happenedThis is a typical Jewish idiom to introduce a change of scene in a narrative. It is shorthand for something like
- Sentence Flow
- Greek Sentence Flow
- Mini Word Studies
- Teaching Outline
moving on to the next major event that took place.... This marks a major transition out of the the Sermon on the Mount to the people's response to the Sermon on the Mount, and then to the next major block of narrative in the Book of Matthew.28b When Jesus finished these wordsThis obviously gives the time for the events of the next proposition. The crowd responded in a certain way (to be described) when Jesus finished speaking these particular words. And the word
finishedtypically has the connotation of not only ceasing, but of having reached a goal, to have completed something. Jesus had successfully completed giving all the words which He intended - all the words which were necessary for them to hear on that occasion.28c The crowds were greatly amazed at His teachingThe crowd was filled with amazement to the point of being overwhelmed. There was something about this sermon that was totally astounding, especially compared with the kind of teaching which they were used to hearing. And this assessment of the Sermon on the Mount has been shared by its readers throughout the centuries. This truly is an overwhelming, astounding teaching, given by a truly overwhelming, astounding teacher. His amazing teaching, and the authority behind His amazing teaching comes from His amazing identity and nature, and is only a part of His amazing mission.
teachingcould refer to the content of His teaching. But it could also refer to the manner in which He taught. Based on the following verse, the second option is more probable in this context. But even this presupposes the astounding nature of the content of His teaching, which is the product of the astounding nature of His teaching style.29 Because He taught with an authority that was not typical of their scholars29a-b Pos: Because He was teaching them as One having authority29a For He was teaching themThis proposition introduces the reason why the people were astounded. It is the first part of a Positive/Negative contrast. And each part of this contrast starts with a simple assertion about his teaching, which is the occasion for a comparison in the following proposition, which gives the manner in which He did nor did not teach. In this first part of the contrast, this proposition introduces the way that Jesus did teach, which will be defined by the comparison to be given in the next proposition.29b As One having authority [teaches]Jesus taught like One Who had authority. He did this because He actually has authority. It is possible to falsely claim to have authority. It is possible to pretend to have authority. It is possible to be placed in a position or role, or to be given a title that is supposed to have a level of control inherent in the position, but to be without the actual relational or institutional backing to actually get anything done. We've all probably seen someone who claims to be a leader, but no one is actually following them. There are people in positions of authority, but who are completely ineffectual to actually accomplish anything. But the authority of Jesus is different from all these things.
Similarly, we may have seen someone who does not have an official title or position of authority, but who is the person everyone looks to for leadership, because their own personal integrity, character, and ability instills this kind of trust in the people around them. True authority is much more than just personal charisma. But it does become evident over time that certain people garner authority by their character, ability, and their initiative in taking responsibility.
The kind of authority with which Jesus spoke was similar to this second kind of authority of character, but it was so much more. Jesus did not speak as one just passing on information. But He spoke as the authorized source of this information. He placed Himself on the same level as the Law:
You have heard that it was said, but I say.... He claimed to be the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets. He Himself promised the blessings and threatened the judgments of heeding or ignoring His teaching. He did not speak as a mere man talking about God. And He did not even speak as a man speaking for God. He spoke with the same authority as the revelation from God, because He is God. And He spoke in a way that empowered people, not only to hear His words, but to obey them.
The entire crowd recognized that He taught with authority. But few (if any) could have recognized the true extent of His authority on that day. Throughout the rest of the Gospel of Matthew, the true extent of Jesus' nature and authority is revealed, until, after His resurrection, He said that
all authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me.(Matt. 28:18).29c-d Neg: And He was not teaching like one of their Law scholars29c And [He was] not [teaching]This proposition is elliptical, depending on the previous context to fill in the content. It is simply
and not.... But from the surrounding context, it is clear that this introduces the second part of the Positive/Negative contrast. It introduces the way in which Jesus did not teach, as described by the comparison given in the next proposition.29d Like their Law scholars [taught]The term
Law scholars,which has been traditionally translated as
Scribes,refers to a specific group of people who were trained experts in the divine revelation, and in all manner of religious teachings, laws and customs in the Jewish society of that time. They were experts both in the revelation we know as the Old Testament, but also in all of the traditions and regulations and teachings which had grown up around the divine revelation of the Old Testament.
This group is often connected with the Pharisees in the Gospels. Some Pharisees were Scribes, and many of the Scribes were Pharisees. So, they could be distinguished, but they could also be addressed together in the same breath. Throughout the rest of the Book of Matthew, Jesus agreed with and commended the Scribes and Pharisees for their teaching on the Law of Moses, and told the people to listen to and heed their teaching. And at the same time, Jesus strongly criticized and rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees, both for holding to their own human traditions (giving them the same reverence and authority as God's revelation), and for their hypocritical failure to live up to the things that they taught, and for failing to help others live out what they taught.
In light of Jesus' criticism of the Scribes, it is not surprising that the people recognized the faults of the Scribes' teaching compared with Jesus. They seemed only to pass on what they had been given by tradition. And therefore, their teaching seemed to lack a personal investment and passion in what they were teaching. And therefore, their teaching lacked the power to apply to the lives their students, and to empower the students to put it into practice. Their teaching, especially because it had been obscured by the addition of human tradition, seemed to keep God's revelation and power at a distance, compared to Christ's immediate appeal as authoritatively, directly speaking for God with power.
10:1-11:1 Teaching About Apostleship
8:1-4 Healing of a Leper
8:5-13 Faith of a Centurion
8:14-17 Jesus Heals People
8:18-22 Jesus Discourages Half-Hearted Discipleship
8:23-27 Jesus Calms a Storm
8:28-34 Jesus Heals a Demon-Possessed Man
9:1-8 Jesus Heals a Paralytic
9:9-13 Jesus Seeks Sinners
9:14-17 The Old and the New
9:18-26 Jesus Heals a Woman and a Girl
9:27-34 Jesus Heals the Blind and the Mute
9:35-38 Jesus Heals and Tells the Need for Workers
11:1-12:50 The Kingdom is Proclaimed
10:1-4 Jesus Sends Out 12 Leaders
10:5-23 Instructions How to Go Out on Mission
10:24-33 Warning to Fear God More Than Persecution
10:34-42 The Challenge of the Kingdom
13:1-52 Teaching about the Kingdom
11:1-19 Jesus and John the Baptist
11:20-24 Woe to Cities that Rejected Jesus
11:25-30 Rest for Those to Whom Jesus Reveals the Father
12:1-14 Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath
12:15-21 Jesus' Healing Fulfills Isaiah's Servant Prophecy
12:22-37 Jesus Deflects Accusation re:satan
12:38-45 Greater Judgment for Unbelief
12:46-50 Jesus' Family
13:53-17:27 The Kingdom Divides - For & Against13:53-16:4 Jesus Completes His Public Popular Ministry
13:1-9 The Parable of the Sower
13:10-17 The Reason for Telling Parables
13:18-23 The Parable of the Sower Explained
13:24-30 The Parable of the Weeds
13:31-33 The Parables of Mustard Seed & Yeast
13:34-35 Why Jesus Spoke in Parables
13:36-43 The Parable of the Weeds Explained
13:44-46 The Parables of the Treasure & Pearl
13:47-52 The Parable of the Fishnet
16:5-17:27 Jesus Moves Toward the Cross
13:53-58 Jesus is Rejected in His Hometown
14:1-12 John the Baptist is Killed
14:13-21 Jesus Feeds 5000
14:22-33 Jesus Walks on Water
14:34-36 Jesus is Welcomed in Gennesaret
15:1-11 Jesus Corrects Misunderstandings of Purity Laws
15:12-20 Jesus Clarifies the Purpose of Purity Laws
15:21-28 Jesus Heals a Foreign Woman's Daughter
15:29-39 Jesus Feeds 4000
16:1-4 Jesus Confronts a Wicked Demand for a Sign
18:1-19:1 Teaching about Church Life19:1-22:46 Kingdom Opposition and Victory19:1-20:34 The Kingdom's Counter-Cultural Values
16:5-12 Jesus Warns Against the Teaching of the Pharisees
16:13-20 Jesus Confirms His Identity
16:21-28 Jesus Predicts the Cross
17:1-13 The Transfiguration
17:14-23 Jesus Delivers a Boy from a Demon
17:24-27 Jesus Clarifies About the Temple
21:1-27 Jesus Confronts the Jerusalem Leadership
19:1-12 Divorce and Marriage
19:13-15 Jesus and Children
19:16-22 The Rich Young Ruler
19:23-30 Riches and the Kingdom
20:1-16 The Parable of the Hired Workers
20:17-19 Jesus Predicts His Death
20:20-28 Leadership and Servanthood
20:29-34 Jesus Heals Two Blind Men
21:28-22:14 Parables Confronting the Jerusalem Leadership
21:1-11 The Triumphal Entry
21:12-17 Jesus Clears the Temple
21:18-22 Jesus Curses a Fig Tree
21:23-27 Jesus Challenges the Leaders About Authority
22:15-22:46 Controversies with the Jerusalem Leadership23:1-25:46 Teaching about Judgment23:1-39 Woe to Unfaithful Leadership
21:28-32 The Parable of Two Sons
21:33-46 The Parable of the Tenants
22:1-14 The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
24:1-44 Teaching on the End of the Age
23:1-12 The Leaders are Motivated by Pride, Not Service
23:13-14 Woe to Hypocrites Who Keep People From the Kingdom
23:15 Woe to Hypocrites Who Pervert Their Converts
23:16-22 Woe to Blind Guides Who Skew Priorities
23:23-24 Woe to Hypocrites Who Skew Values
23:25-26 Woe to Hypocrites Who Skew the Focus of Morals
23:27-28 Woe to Hypocrites Who Create False Images
23:29-32 Woe to Hypocrites Who Pay Lip Service to Godliness
23:33-39 The Leaders Will be Judged b/c They Reject Salvation