Monday, October 31, 2016

Fresh Studies in Matthew: Matthew 6

Matthew 6:1.  Matthew 5 ends with the admonition to be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect.  This is perfect in terms of equitable treatment of people.  I don’t think we see it in that context, that love for all and fair, righteous treatment of all persons is the standard for perfection being discussed here.  I don’t think Jesus is saying, “Be as sinless as God is sinless,” since he knew men’s heart and that that was impossible.  But there are particular ways that we can be as perfect and sinless as God, and the ways he has been discussing up to this point are those:  no murderous, angry thoughts; not making vain oaths, fidelity in marriage, giving grace when not deserved, loving enemies (it doesn’t say here to have no enemies since others can make an enemy of themselves by choice—only love them).

Clearly, Jesus says to not do charitable deeds and public prayer to be seen of men.  If that is your motivation, the only thing you care about is the recognition, not the outcome for the poor and not the glory of God in prayer.  I’m sure you could take this to the extreme and say don’t even the let the church keep a record of it for tax purposes.  One would not be wrong to do that, but a confidential record is probably not the idea.  Having a building named after you is maybe different.  But where would colleges be without named buildings?  The point is freedom in giving with regard to obedience, God’s glory, and meeting needs. 

In verses 5-13, pray directly, secretly, daily, and with emphasis on the request rather than the rhetoric.  The notes in my Bible say that the “Our Father” makes it a corporate prayer, but not necessarily.  Even in private prayer we can remember we are part of a body. 

The “Sermon on the Mount” deals, probably equally, with vertical and horizontal, with duties to God and to man, and it is also an emphasis on “we.”  Don’t babble on; God is not stupid about your needs.  The only commentary Jesus gives after the model prayer is about forgiveness being necessary, something we refuse to believe and do, deep down.  I keep getting reminded of what someone has done and said to me over time instead of forgiving because he did ask for it. What we sometimes call forgiveness is more like a balancing act. 

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