NT Lesson 9 (From Cheryl)
Posted by Robert C. on February 25, 2007
Matthew 6-7 “Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God.”
The completion of the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7)
True motivation: 6:1-18
This section discusses three acts of righteousness: (1) giving (2-4), (2) praying (5-15), and (3) fasting (16-18). Jesus is reshaping the exercise of piety. Jesus takes for granted that his disciples will give alms, will pray, and will fast. The warnings are not against pious practices, but against ostentation, and will be reiterated in 23:1-27. (see note on hypocrites below)
To think about:
- Is it possible that Jesus would say the same words today? Or would his complaint perhaps be the opposite? That is, in a secular society (the opposite of the society in which Jesus taught) would the command be different? In our society, are people embarrassed by any display of piety? By any open prayer? Does a secular society see any sense in self-denial such as fasting?
- What is the challenge in these verses? What is the challenge of the kingdom of God? In addition to/in tandem with having pure motivation, perhaps one of the challenges is that those belonging to the kingdom need to act in such a way that challenges the presuppositions of the society around them. As followers of Christ, how are we continually asked to, by our differences, challenge the society in which we live?
6:1-8 The ultimate goal is to do all good acts/service with pure and righteous motivation (alms/prayers/fasting).
What is this motivation? How is it obtained?
(See Moroni 7:47-48).
v. 2 Giving alms is one way of showing mercy.shown by the Greek word used here (elenmosun = mercy).
Do not sound a trumpet before thee. Or: Do not announce it with trumpets.
Interestingly, the offertory-boxes in the Temple and the synagogues were called trumpets (Mishnah, shekalim 2,1; 6,5) on account of their shape (they were smaller at the top than at the bottom to prevent theft.
v. 3 What does this mean?
One explanation: The left hand (a man thinking about himself) must not know what the right hand (a man giving) is doing, i.e., not only are we not to perform our good works to be rewarded, but we must even forget the good we have done (see Matt 25:37-40).
v. 4 Some translations omit “openly,” for instance, NIV and NAS.
v. 7 What are vain repetitions? (babbling) How does this apply to us?
But do not be too harsh on yourself! God knows your heart.
v. 8 The pattern of prayer, given next, is powerful, but short (no babbling, no vain repetitions).
6:9-13 The Lord’s Prayer (doesn’t discuss thanking, but asking)
v. 9 Father in Heaven
Father – a very near relation
”Hallowed” or kept holy. Both praise and petition: see Ezek. 36:30-33, where the hallowed name is a promise made by God to Israel. Just as God’s name is not hallowed in our time, we look forward to a time when all will keep God’s name holy.
v. 10 Two more petitions or two ways of stating the original petition (hallowed be thy name, understood as a petition).
God’s work to progress.
Men can do God’s will (Thy will be done in earth)
v. 11 Bread: Two layers – Temporal and spiritual nourishment.
Just as God provides bread for us today, so our spiritual nourishment will also be provided today, as well as in the future.
v. 12 How is sin a debt? Are we praying for mercy? When we forgive others are we extending mercy?
(Prayer of Appolonius of Tyana: “Oh ye gods, give me the things which are owing to me.”)
v. 13 Ability to avoid future sins/trials
temptation refers not just to sin, but to trials of all kinds.
Deliver us from evil: Hold us fast through our trials. (Lehi’s dream – iron rod)
Does God lead us into temptation? see JST footnote and footnote b.
6:14-16 Our relationship with others affects our relationship with God (again the theme of reconciliation (5:9, 5:21-26)
6:17 Usually people put ashes on their head when they were fasting, and walked shoeless, with torn clothing, and no greeting was given. This was all a consequence of the close connection between fasting and mourning (I Sam 20:34; II Sam 1:12; Dan 10:2-3; Joel 2:12; Zech 7:15). This sort of fasting was so conspicuous that the Romans made it ridiculous by cruelly imitating it in their theaters.
On the other hand, putting oil on the head and washing the face were reserved for joyous
6:18 Again, NAS and NIV omit “openly.”
Some applications and insights: 6:19-7:12
What are the treasures in heaven we need to lay up? What is the “eye?” See Prov. 20:27
– “the spirit of man is the candle of the Lord.” See 3 Nephi 13:22
(Mammon = money/possessions)
See Col. 3:1-2
How do these words apply to us?
Note: in 3 Nephi 13, Christ directed these words only to the 12 Nephite Disciples, still they can apply to all.
6:25 Therefore (linking to what has just been said, esp. in vs. 24)
- Do not be uneasy or worry about the future
- Do not be anxious
v. 25 Life is more than meat, the body more than raiment (See Matt 4:4)
v. 26-27 God feeds the birds; helps the grass to grow; all is his creation; he can take care of you. Learn from this. (see Psalm 104:10-18; Job. 12:7-8)
can add one cubit unto his stature? Or can add a single hour to his life?
v. 30 Oh ye of little faith. This expression is used four times in Matthew: 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8, always in reaction to his disciples showing intense anxiety about a situation where we also would be frightened.
v. 31 Again: don’t be worried. See Psalm 55:22.
v. 32 The challenge with the reassurance (The challenge of the gospel is to demonstrate a way to live that is different than/challenges the assumptions of the surrounding society.) See 6:8. Only in the King James is the statement about the Gentiles in parenthesis.
v. 33 Seek (hunger and thirst) for the kingdom of God.
v. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (NIV)
”So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (New American Standard)
Philippians 4:6 (NIV)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Psalm 39:5-7 (NIV)
5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Each man’s life is but a breath.
6 Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro:
He bustles about, but only in vain;
he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.
7 “But now, Lord, what do I look for?
My hope is in you.
Also see D&C 6:6-7, Mosiah 2:41, 3 Nephi 13:25; D&C 84:80-84
Are we not to judge? See Moroni 7:14-18.
Also see JST 7:1 and JST 7:4-8.
But . . . Jesus has just spoken at length on showing mercy, on being reconciled to your brother. So the prohibition against judging, or against judging unrighteously, is connected to the immediately preceding teachings on mercy, which is still the emphasis.
The man with a great beam in his eye who therefore can see nothing accurately, proposed to remove the little splinter from his brother’s eye, a delicate operation, requiring clear sight. (again, hyperbole – see 5:29)
(The figure of a splinter to represent something painful is a common oriental theme.)
See Alma 12:9
See JST 7:9-11. How does the JST relate when we are sharing our belief
with others? (Teaching should be given in accordance with the spiritual capacity of the learners.)
- Meat to dogs: The reference is to the meat offered in sacrifice. The picture is that of a priest throwing a piece of flesh from the altar of burnt-offering to one of the numerous dogs which infested the streets.
- Pearls before swine: or boar, a half-tamed unclean animal. A picture of a rich man wantonly throwing handfuls of small pearls to swine. Small pearls, called by jewelers seed pearls, would resemble the pease or maize on which the swine feed. They would rush upon them when scattered, and discovering the cheat, would trample upon them and turn their tusks upon the man who scattered them.
- Turn again: the quick, sharp turn of the boar.
There were/are stones in the area that perfectly resemble loaves of bread.
Prayer: The key to getting God’s help (Grace) so we can make progress toward perfection.
See JST 7:12-17
The ultimate measure of the rightness of our thoughts, words and actions is love. See Matt 22:34-40.
Epilogue: Way of Life and Way of Death: 7:13-29
What do these images mean?
How does the Sermon on the Mount relate to the path?
Is the gate at the beginning or the end of the path?
What is the fruit?
How do we bring forth good fruit?
(Compare Moroni 7:5-14)
Doing, not professing, is most important. Doing what?
What could v. 22 refer to?
- “prophesy” – in the NT this verb primarily means to give a message from God, not necessarily to predict.
- These people will bring for their works, but their works will not save them.
v. 23: A statement of great power and authority.
Note: this phrase (I never knew you) was used by the rabbis to excommunicate
See JST footnote
Are we saved by our own works/efforts?
What then does it mean that we are judged according to our works?
What does it mean to build on the Rock?
This short parable stresses the importance of practicing what has just been taught.
“Great was the fall of it.” What does the house on the sand symbolize?
- Rain/floods/winds: unusually strong terms dealing with a cloudburst and winds of hurricane strength. See Job 1:19; Isaiah 28:16-17. Remember what we’ve learned that winds, etc. can represent. Hel. 5:12, Psalm 69:1-2, 14-15, Psalm 93:4
- The Sermon on the Mount concludes with a choice between the way of life and the way of death (house on the rock/house on the sand). See Deut. 30:15-20, as the Torah, the law of Moses, concludes with an explanation of the way of life and the way of death.
Jesus teaches with exousia, i.e., divine power and authority, and by this
empowerment makes possible a new existence. (See 5:1, where Jesus sits in the posture of the rabbinical teacher.)
Something to think about:
“Pharisees are often called “hypocrites” in the gospels. It is important to note that the Greek hypocrites means “overscrupulous, casuistic,” but not “insincere.” The English definition of hypocrite possibly presents an overly negative picture.
“Matthew’s extremely hostile critique of the scribes and Pharisees as casuistic (especially in chap. 23) is not untypical of the harsh criticism of one Jewish group by another Jewish group in the 1st centuries BC and AD – a criticism that at time crossed the borderline into slander. . . .for many of the recorded views of the rabbis of the second century AD (often looked on as the heirs of the Pharisees) are not casuistic but sensitive and ethical.” (An Introduction to the New Testament, Raymond E. Brown, 1996, p. 222)