Matthew 6

Matthew 6:1

Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

(a) Beware of the temptation to draw attention to yourself, for this is the way of the flesh. The flesh craves recognition. “Look at me. Look at how good I am.” Self-righteousness is the deadliest sin for it inflates our pride and draws us away from the grace of God.

(b) Practicing your righteousness. The religious Jews who lived under the old covenant were moral people who made a habit of giving to the poor, praying, and fasting (Matt. 6:2, 6, 16). These were good deeds done by good people, but ultimately it was their own righteousness they were cultivating.

In the new covenant, we are clothed with the righteousness that comes from God and is received by faith (Rom. 1:17, 3:22). It is our Father’s righteousness that makes us righteous and inspires us to do righteous deeds.

(c) Reward. Under the old covenant you were blessed if you did good and cursed if you didn’t. It was a carrot and stick arrangement where good deeds were done in the expectation of being rewarded or blessed by God.

(d) No reward with your Father. If you are self-righteous (you do good deeds to make yourself look good to others), don’t expect anything from God. You already have your reward (see next verse).

It is a mistake to upend this verse and conclude that God blesses us in accordance with our good deeds. “Do good, get good.” All the blessings of God are freely available to us on account of grace (Eph. 1:3). However, there are rewards given in accordance with our labor (see entry for 1 Cor. 3:14).

(e) Your Father; see entry for Matt. 5:16.

Matthew 6:2

“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

The self-righteous man justifies himself by trusting in his performance and by drawing attention to his good deeds. “I fast twice a week and give a tithe of all I get” (Luke 18:12). See entry for Self-righteousness.

Matthew 6:3

“But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

Don’t trumpet your acts of charity in public but give quietly and without fuss.

Matthew 6:4

so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

(a) Your Father; see entry for Matt. 5:16.

(b) What is done in secret is done with no thought for self-recognition.

Jesus is contrasting two ways to live. We can live for ourselves always seeking to advance ourselves through self-reliance and self-promotion, or we can humbly submit to God, trusting in his care.

(c) Will reward you. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Jas. 4:6).

The Jews who heard Jesus utter these words expected to be blessed for their acts of charity, but in the new covenant we are blessed on account of his goodness, not ours (Eph. 1:3). All the blessings of heaven come by grace alone. So why give and do good works? Because those who have been apprehended by the grace of God become grace-givers themselves. They give and pray so that others might experience the blessing of God.

Matthew 6:6

“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

(a) Your Father; see entry for Matt. 5:16.

(b) What is done in secret; see entry for Matt. 6:4.

(c) Will reward you; see entry for Matt. 6:4.

Matthew 6:8

“So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

Your Father knows what you need. The God Jesus revealed is a listening and responsive Father (Matt. 7:11, 18:19, Luke 11:13, John 15:16, 16:23, 26). He cares for you (Matt. 6:30, 32, Luke 12:30).

Matthew 6:9

“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name.

Our Father. When you pray, you are not just praying to the Almighty Creator and the Ancient of Days. You are praying to our heavenly Father who cares for you and knows your needs (Matt. 6:31–32). Abba Father is the name of God who loves you as much as he loves Jesus (see John 17:23). See also the entry for John 12:28.

One sign that a church is established in grace is that they preach a God who loves you like a father.

Further reading: “8 Signs of Hypergrace Churches

Matthew 6:12

‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

(a) Forgive. The original word (aphiemi) is a verb that means to send away or release. Forgiveness is not merely ceasing to be angry, but a deliberate action of dismissing a debt or offence. This word is translated as forgive or forgiven 47 times in the New Testament.

(b) Debts. In Luke’s account of this prayer, Jesus says “Forgive us our sins” (Luke 11:4). To someone living under the obligations of the old covenant, sin can be thought of as a debt owed to the Lord.

(c) As we also have forgiven; see entry for Matthew 6:15.

Matthew 6:13

‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]

Glory. The original noun (doxa) means dignity, honor and praise. In the context of God’s glory, it implies his radiant majesty, awesome splendor and transcendent beauty. The “glory of the Lord” sometimes refers to the visible manifestation of God’s presence (e.g., Ex. 16:10, 24:16–17, 40:34–35, Luke 2:9). The majesty, splendor, and beauty of God the Father is revealed to us through his Son (John 1:14, Heb. 1:3).

Matthew 6:14

“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

(a) If you forgive. Jesus is preaching conditional forgiveness to those living under the law-keeping covenant. See next verse.

(b) Your heavenly Father; see entry for Matthew 6:9.

(c) Forgive you. The God Jesus revealed is a merciful, gracious and forgiving Father (Matt. 18:27, Luke 6:36, 7:47, 15:22, 23:34, John 1:14).

Matthew 6:15

“But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

(a) If you do not forgive others. Prior to the cross, Jesus preached conditional forgiveness to people living under the old law-keeping covenant. “If you forgive, God will forgive” (Matt. 6:14, Mark 11:25). However, as the messenger of the new covenant of grace, he also demonstrated and proclaimed unconditional forgiveness (Matt. 9:2, 18:27, Luke 7:42, 47, 11:4, 23:34). On the night he rose from the dead, he told the disciples to preach the good news of unconditional forgiveness (see entry for Luke 24:47).

(b) Your Father; see entry for Matt. 5:16.

(c) Forgive your transgressions; see entry for Forgiveness.

Matthew 6:16

“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

(a) Whenever you fast. The Jews practiced fasting, because they believed it attracted God’s notice. “Why have we fasted and you do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and you do not notice?” (Is. 58:3). But in reality, it was just another way to impress people with your religious performance. In the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector, the religious man boasted that he fasted twice weekly (Luke 18:12).

(b) Reward in full. Those who make a great show of their religious performance may impress men, but they will get nothing from God. God’s grace is not for sale.

Matthew 6:18

so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

(a) Your Father; see entry for Matt. 5:16.

(b) What is done in secret; see entry for Matt. 6:4.

(c) Will reward you; see entry for Matt. 6:4.

Matthew 6:20

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;

(a) Store up for yourselves. When Jesus exhorts us to store or lay up treasures in heaven, he is not saying, “Store up me.” How would we do that? He’s saying, “Be fruitful and multiply so that when this moth-eaten, money-grubbing world passes away, you will have treasures in heaven—spiritual children, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.”

Jesus lived in a culture that was very much aware of the hereafter. When discussing heaven, Jesus did not pluck phrases out of thin air, but he borrowed phrases and metaphors that were familiar to his listeners. His words here are almost identical to those spoken 500 years earlier by a king who gave his possessions to the poor. When asked why he was giving away his wealth, King Munbaz of Adiabene replied, “My ancestors stored up for this world, whereas I am storing up for the world to come.” The story of King Munbaz was repeated by the rabbis and recorded in the Babylonian Talmud.

(b) Treasures in heaven. What is treasure that never wears out and the reward that cannot be stolen? It’s people (see Ps. 127:3).

The Father’s heart bursts with love that craves expression. Just as a painter has to paint and a writer has to write, a father has to father. It’s what he does. In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus introduces God as our heavenly Father. In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus says he is a Father who rewards us. And what is a father’s reward? It is children.

The Father’s desire is to grow the world’s largest family and he treats people like treasure (see Deu 7:6, 14:2, 26:18). You are your Father’s treasure.

See entry for Heavenly Treasures

Matthew 6:21

for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

(a) Treasure. The original noun (thesauros) means deposit, storehouse, or treasury. It’s the place where your valuables are kept.

(b) Heart. The thoughts of our heart are focused on the place where our treasure is.

Our hearts and treasures are connected. If you want to know where your heart is, you only need to look for where your treasure is. A heart inclined towards God, will find its treasure within his heavenly kingdom. It will view people as precious, because Jesus died for them, and use worldly wealth to make eternal friends (Luke 16:9).

Matthew 6:33

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

(a) Seek first. Stop trusting in your own righteousness and receive the righteousness that comes from God.

First means first. Jesus knew if we sought his kingdom and his righteousness second, say, after we’d gotten ourselves all cleaned up and sorted out, it would never happen. Sin-conscious people don’t seek his righteousness; they hide behind fig leaves. “Don’t do that,” says Jesus. “Come as you are to his throne of grace and receive his righteousness.”

(b) His righteousness. Having dismissed the righteousness of the righteous Pharisees as insufficient (Matt. 5:20), Jesus introduces us to the better righteousness that comes from God.

The Jews were familiar with the righteousness that came by the law (Rom. 10:5), but Jesus introduced them to another kind of righteousness that came from God (Rom. 3:5, 21-22, 25-26, 10:3, 1 Cor. 1:30, 2 Cor. 5:21, Php. 3:9, Jas. 1:20, 2 Pet. 1:1, 1 John 2:29). The problem with the first kind, is that the law never made anybody righteous (Rom. 9:31). The good news that Jesus proclaimed, is that anybody could freely receive the gift of God’s righteousness (see entry for Rom 5:17).

The Grace Commentary is a work in progress with new content added regularly. Sign up for occasional updates below. Got a suggestion? Please use the Feedback page. To report typos or broken links on this page, please use the comment form below.

Leave a Reply