Bible Commentaries
Matthew 6

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

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Verse 1

6:1 To be seen is the key to this verse. To say it means we should do all of our good deeds unknown to others would make it contradict chapter 5:16 where others were to see our good works. But our motive in doing good deeds should not be to be seen of men. If we do so, we will get only the reward that men can give us in the form of praise, for the Father will not give us any reward for it.

Verse 2

6:2 The three words sound a trumpet are from SALPIZO which Thayer defines "to sound a trumpet." The same author comments on the word as follows: "To take care that what we do comes to everybody's ears, to make a noise about it." In the preceding verse the alms were done in order to be seen of men. This verse goes further and sounds the trumpet in order to be sure the deeds will be seen. Hypocrite is from HUPOKRITES which Thayer defines as follows: "1. one who answers, an interpreter. 2. an actor, stage-player. 3. in Biblical Greek a dissembler, pretender, hypocrite." The word originally had no moral significance, meaning only a man who went upon the stage to play a certain role in a drama. It then got into the moral and religious language to mean a man who acts a part on the stage of human experiences. The word means one who pretends to be something he knows he is not. Have their reward. The first word is defined, "To have received all that one can expect." The praise of men is what these hypocrites sought and that is what they will have; nothing else.

Verse 3

6:3 Hands cannot literally know anything hence we have to conclude this verse means we should not make a great ado over our good deeds.

Verse 4

6:4 Alms in secret. We have seen in verse 1 and chapter 5:16 that our good deeds are not required to be done literally in secret. The meaning of this verse, therefore, must be that we should do good even in cases where men may not realize the good we have done. But God knows all things and will give full credit where it is due.

Verse 5

6:5 The place of the praying is not what is condemned, but the motive, to be seen, is the thing that is wrong. At any proper time it would be right to pray even on the streets, but it must not be done for show. Have their reward virtually means they may not expect any further reward. (See verse 2.)

Verse 6

6:6 The servants of the Lord may offer either private or public prayers in lawful service to Him. Both kinds should be considered in connection with this chapter. But it is improper to pretend to be offering a private prayer and yet do it in a way to attract attention. This verse means that if a disciple actually means his prayer to be private he should seek a private place to offer it.

Verse 7

6:7 Vain repetitions is explained in the lexicon to mean saying the same things over and over again for the sake of taking up time, or for the purpose of making a favorable impression. Heathen is from ETHNIKOS which Thayer defines, "3. in the New Testament savoring of the nature of pagans, alien to the worship of the true God, heathenish." Much speaking means the same as vain repetitions as to its motive. Many prayers of disciples of Christ today have unnecessary phrases that would come under the disapproval of Jesus. Our prayers should be brief and simple and made to pertain to the occasion that caused the prayer to be called for.

Verse 8

6:8 Prayer is not for the purpose of informing God about our needs for He already knows that. It is an occasion of showing our faith in the Heavenly Father.

Verse 9

6:9 After this manner denotes that Jesus only intended this to be an example of the kind of prayers he wished his disciples to offer. It therefore is not "the prayer he taught his disciples to pray." There are no set forms of service in the kingdom of heaven as to the wording of them. Hallowed is from HAGIAZO and is defined, "to render or acknowledge to be venerable, to hallow." It is equivalent to saying that the name of our Father is holy.

Verse 10

6:10 Both John and Jesus had taught that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. That would mean that it was near but not yet set up. The prayer for the kingdom to come would therefore be a scriptural one for the disciples to offer at that time. However, it would be unscriptural to make that prayer today since the kingdom is in earth now. As in heaven. God's rule had been going on for centuries in heaven, hence the prayer was to recognize that fact while praying for it to take place on the earth. Such a prayer indicated two things; that the disciples wished the kingdom to come, and also that they believed in the promise of Christ that it was to come soon.

Verse 11

6:11 There are two outstanding thoughts in this verse. Daily is from a Greek word that means "necessary," showing they were to pray for what they needed and not what they merely desired. And this day indicates that prayer should be offered daily.

Verse 12

6:12 God does not have to be given an example of righteous performances before He will do it. But if a disciple is unwilling to forgive those indebted to him, the Lord will not regard him as worthy of such a favor. (See Mat 18:23-35.)

Verse 13

6:13 Temptation. is from a word that sometimes means "adversity, affliction, trouble," and evil is from one meaning "hardships." God never leads men into sin and the words are not used in that sense in this place. The clause is simply a prayer for God to help the disciples in the trials of life. For thine is the kingdom, etc., is given as a reason for believing that God could control the elements of creation according to His will, and hence he would be able to give the disciples this assistance. For the meaning of the word amen see the comments at Mat 5:18.

Verse 14

4-15 See the comments on verse 12 for the explanation of these.

Verse 16

6:16 Fasting was never commanded as a regular practice, but it was voluntarily done on particular occasions as an outward symbol of grief or penitence or great anxiety. The act was approved by the Lord when prompted by a sincere motive. But the hypocrites wished to obtain the praise of men for fasting when they had not actually abstained from food long enough to produce any visible effects on their countenance. To accomplish their purpose they would disfigure their faces and then put on a sad look. Thayer defines the word disfigure, "to deprive of lustre, render unsightly; to disfigure." This was done in order to appear unto men to fast or appear as men fasting.

Verse 17

6:17 When David was ready to cease fasting (2Sa 12:20) at the death of his child he arose and washed himself. Jesus instructed his disciples to proceed with the usual customs of daily life in spite of their season of fasting. That would tend to the opposite effect of the disfigurement that the hypocrites practiced for attention.

Verse 18

6:18 Appear not unto men to fast. By following the usual routine as described in the preceding verse the disciples would not appear to be men on a fast. That would take them out of the class of hypocrites who made a show of their performance in order to receive the praise of men. God who knows the hearts of men would see and reward the devotions of His servants as would be fitting.

Verse 19

6:19 For yourselves is the key to this verse and is in line with 1Ti 6:18. To say the passage forbids the accumulation of property beyond the present day needs would be to set some scriptures against others. We may lay up something for the future but not simply for ourselves: it Is that "we may have to give to him that needeth" (Eph 4:28). When we have thus accumulated a surplus we must be careful not to trust in it or become attached to it lest we make it an idol.

Verse 20

6:20 In addition to the reasons against hoarding described in the preceding verse, it is also foolish from the standpoint of an investment. Our idle wealth may be attacked and taken by thieves and all be lost for any good use. But the treasures in heaven, which consist of the credits from God for our righteous lives, will be safe because no thief will ever be admitted to that place, neither will any form of decay be possible there. That is why Paul used the impressive words, "Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life" (1Ti 6:19).

Verse 21

6:21 This is another reason for not hoarding material wealth for ourselves, because that will become the object of our greatest interest which will lead to a form of idolatry. Doubtless that is the reason for Paul's statements in Eph 5:5 and Col 3:5. The heart is the inner man and the seat of emotions and the cause of activities. If that is centered in worldly wealth it will induce man to devote his attentions upon it to the neglect of God.

Verse 22

6:22 The human body is again used for illustration, the eye being the particular part for the comparison. This organ is the only one that admits light into the body and hence complete dependence upon it is necessary. Single is from HAPLOUS which Thayer defines by, "good, sound." The literal fact is that if a man's eyes are sound or normal he will be able to receive all the light that is offered him.

Verse 23

6:23 Evil is defined in the lexicon to be "in a bad condition." If the light that is in thee be darkness. If the only means that one has for receiving light be darkness (which it would be if it became in bad condition), then the darkness would be great because one has no other means of seeing. The lesson in this illustration is that a man has only one means of receiving spiritual light which is his intellect or mind. It is that part of his being by which he either accepts or rejects spiritual light. (See Joh 3:19-21.) Therefore if that mind is rendered "unsound" by the love of darkness or evil deeds, "how great is that darkness."

Verse 24

6:24 In the time of Christ and the apostles the country had many slaves and the relation of master and slave was referred to frequently in the speech and literature. If a man belonged to a certain master he would not be able nor even should desire to serve another or to divide his services. It he so much as attempted to do so he would be brought to punishment by his rightful master. Jesus made his own application of the illustration by comparing it to God and mammon. That word is derived from a Chaldean one that is defined, "what is trusted: treasure; riches." We have seen in verses 19-21 above that our wealth can become an idol in our hearts, and that would make it another god that would be a rival of the true God. The lesson is that we must not try to divide our devotion between God and anything or anyone else.

Verse 25

6:25 Therefore". If you are going to serve God and not riches, you will not he so concerned about temporal things which do not constitute the object of your chief devotions. Take no thought is from MERIMNAO, which Thayer defines, "to be anxious; to be troubled with cares." It is the word for be careful in Php 4:6 where the connection shows it means not to be too much concerned but to look to the Lord for help. Hence Jesus does not mean that his disciples were to be indifferent about the needful things of life, but they should not be overanxious about it. The reasoning the Saviour offers is both simple and forceful. The body and the life within it are certainly more valuable than the clothing for the body or the food for the life. But they already possessed the major blessings, then why have any doubts about God's ability and willingness to give them the minor ones?

Verse 26

6:26 This verse Is not intended to encourage indolence on the part of man, for the fowls cannot perform the scientific works of production while man is able to do so. The idea is that since these helpless creatures are abundantly supplied without their own help, it shows the power and willingness of the Creator to accomplish all that is necessary. Therefore the servants of God should have full confidence in His ability and willingness to supply all the needs of man that he cannot obtain for himself.

Verse 27

6:27 Undue anxiety will not add the slightest amount to one's size, hence it is useless to be concerned about the necessities of life to the extent of foolish worry.

Verse 28

6:28 This verse has the same lesson as verse 26 except it has to do with clothing only. The lilies are as helpless as the fowls and do nothing to produce their outward appearance and growth.

Verse 29

6:29 The glory of Solomon's royal robes was artificial, made by the art of man, and doubtless was unexcelled by any other king of his time. His general surroundings also were the greatest of his time. (See 1 Kings 10.) The glory and beauty of the flower is natural and hence is made directly by the hand of the Creator without the instrumentality of man, which shows the ability of God to accomplish the utmost in the field of adornment and clothing.

Verse 30

6:30 Grass is from CHORTOS and is defined in the lexicon, "grass, herbage, hay, provender." The lily is of the vegetable kingdom and hence is in the general class of the herbs. Which is comes from ONTOS which is defined, "truly, in reality, in point of fact . . . that which is indeed."--Thayer. The thought is that this beautiful lily is actually in existence but only for a brief time. Notwithstanding its uncertain and short existence, God thinks enough of it to give it a beauty that far excels that of Solomon. Certainly, then, He will not forget man who is made in His image. Cast into the oven refers to the use of light fuel such as leaves and grass that was burned in the portable baking stoves of many homes in that day. Smith's Bible Dictionary says the following of these ovens: "The eastern oven is of two kinds--fixed and portable. The latter is adapted to the nomad [traveling] state. It consists of a large jar made of clay, about three feet high and widening toward the bottom, with a hole for the extraction of the ashes. Each household possessed such an article, Exo 8:3, and it was only in times of extreme dearth that the same oven sufficed for several families; Lev 26:26. It was heated with dry twigs and grass, Mat 6:30, and the loaves were placed both inside and outside of it."

Verse 31

6:31 This verse is a summing up of the thoughts in the verses starting with 25 and the repetition is for the purpose of emphasis.

Verse 32

6:32 Gentiles is from ETHNOS and refers to the nations in general out over the world. God knows all about our needs for He has created the very bodies that have them, hence he certainly will not refuse to provide what is necessary to support them.

Verse 33

6:33 There is nothing that we really have to do in making a living that will need to interfere with our work in the kingdom of God. The point is that we must be concerned first about the righteousness belonging to the kingdom. While doing that we can also do what is necessary for our temporal needs, and it is in that way that "all these things shall be added unto us."

Verse 34

6:34 Again the exhortation comes not to be overanxious about the morrow which means the future in general. Evil is from KAKIA and Thayer defines it at this place, "evil, trouble." The thought may well be ex-pressed with a familiar one "don't borrow trouble" from the future. Also by another household saying not to try to "cross a bridge before we get to it." Sufficient unto the day, etc., means that each day has enough trouble for itself without looking ahead and worrying about some evil that may never come anyway. When the morrow comes, if it brings trouble to us it will then be time enough to think about it. We will be able then to care for it in the way Just set forth in this chapter.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Matthew 6". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.