Matthew 6

1 God has always expected His people to act charitably to those in need. By Jesus' time, contributions to the poor were considered an important measure of one's righteousness. People felt they could make themselves righteous simply by giving to the poor. Obviously, this is incorrect since it is faith in God that leads to true righteousness.

God expects us to be charitable, but He also expects that we will not use our giving as an opportunity to bring honor to ourselves. It is as if only so much "honor" is allowed for a charitable gift. If you selfishly garner honor from men, then God will withhold the honor He would have given you. Being honored by God is better than being honored by the whole world.

2 It may seem outlandish us that rich philanthropists in those days would sometimes have a parade commemorating their charitable donations. However, we carry on this same practice today, even if it is in different forms. Some charitable givers do so in front of the media. If their donation is large enough, they will guarantee themselves a spot on the evening news. Some famous people (notably movie stars) hold glamorous banquets or appear at fundraisers to show the world how rich and generous they are. Arguably, they could claim that their image helps raise more money for a cause, but if people are giving because a "star" gives, then they are not giving for the sake of God. God does not honor such things.

A hypocrite is one who pretends he is someone else -- similar to an actor with a mask. In this example, the hypocrite pretends to seek approval from God when, in fact, he is seeking the approval of men. This passage indicates that a person will be rewarded according to his motivation. If his motivation is the approval of people, then he will get it and no more. If his motivation is the approval of God, then he will get it along with a great reward.

3 When we give to charity, it should be done secretly. This verse could be taken such that your friends, relatives, and spouse will not know how much (or even if) you are giving. This verse could also be applied to our tax returns. The government has no business knowing how much and to whom one is giving. Yes, we can get tax breaks, but this "reward" is paltry compared to what God has for us.
4 Some actions, such as witnessing and "good deeds" are to be done openly (Mat 10:32, Mat 5:16). Others, such as charitable giving and personal prayer are to be done in secret. Make no mistake about it -- God will reward those who honor Him, even if no one else knows what was done. We all want to feel validated for the good things we do, but it is better to be approved of by God rather than by people.
5 Some men prayed out in the open so that people would think they were more righteous and religious than others were. This is not to restrict prayer from public places, but it is to restrict prayer from the realm of pride. When we pray only for our own image and benefit, God is not honored. Whatever honor one receives from men will be his only reward under such circumstances.
6 God sees everything and knows everything. God may judge us with an emphasis on who we are and what we do when no one else is around. If we do God's will when no one else is around, then we are truly God's children. If instead we are selfish and evil when no one is watching, then we are showing God that we are following Satan's lead, not His. On Judgement Day, the veneer of our public life will be stripped away, and the whole universe will see who the true followers of God were.
7 Some religious practices encourage the extended repetition of a request or phrase when praying. However, God hears a righteous prayer the first time, and one can not ware down God or "badger" Him into giving you what you want (especially if it is against His will). Jesus called this a pagan practice, so it should not be done by Christians. Indeed, there are so many things to pray about that we could pray our entire lives about different things and never have to repeat. However, this verse does not encourage praying once about a subject and never coming back to it. Sometimes it is necessary to revisit areas of prayer as the need arises. Persistence is a good thing if it is done with the right attitude.
8 Furthermore, God knows what we need before we ask Him. This is not to say that we should not pray. When we pray (i.e., talk with God) about a need, we show Him that we are willing to acknowledge our dependence on Him. We seek His counsel and then listen for His direction or action. Prayer is for our sake, not God's.
9 Jesus gives His disciples a model prayer. This not a prayer that is simply to be recited by rote. Instead, it is an example of the kinds of petitions we should bring before God. The first three requests deal with our acknowledgement of God. The final three requests request the satisfaction of our physical and spiritual needs.

Here is a detailed breakdown of this prayer:

Our: This prayer is an individual's prayer, yet the pronouns are plural. "My" would be too exclusive. "Your" would be too impersonal. "Our" emphasizes that there is only one God for all people. He does not belong to a group or an individual. We belong to Him.

Father: This indicates that we have a close, personal, and loving relationship with God. He made each one of us in His image, and it is proper for us to address Him as Father. We are His children, and we should learn from and obey Him. As a father, He is understanding, encouraging, correcting, and disciplining. He is approachable and we can speak with Him.

Who is: Those who seek God must believe that He exists (Heb 11:6). We also must believe that He hears. When we pray we are not merely speaking into the air. We are speaking to the true and living God. If we do not have faith that He exists, then prayer would be useless anyway.

In heaven: This places God above, and man below. We have a proper perspective of our place in relationship with Him. He is ruler over all.

Hallowed: His Name deserves to be respected. It is sacred. The mere thought of Him should fill us with awe and reverence.

Your Name: Every name has meaning. To know a name meant more than identifying someone -- it implied that one knew the person. God indicated that His name would dwell in the Temple. This implied that His identity, His attributes, His very nature resided there. We are to respect and revere God's Name because it is the summary of everything He is.

10 You kingdom: At the top of the list is the request that God's Kingdom will come. We must remember that it is God's Kingdom, not ours. The Jews stumbled over this because Jesus outlined a Kingdom that was different from what they expected or wanted. Jesus' Kingdom will eventually be a physical and political reality, but it begins in the hearts of people (Luke 17:20-21). Those who reject God in this lifetime will not participate in His Kingdom. The establishment of the Kingdom on earth will not happen until the Second Coming and the end times. Jesus' Kingdom will be the last Kingdom and will last forever.

Your will: God's will is distinct from man's will. It is God's desires and plans that people are to conform to. We know that His will is best, so we must change our will to conform to His will. His will is already perfect and does not need to change.

On earth ... in heaven: God is always honored in heaven (with the possible exception of Satan as described in the book of Job). We look forward to the day when His Kingdom and will are established over all the earth. In having God's will be done on earth, it must begin with His people. God's will for us is to believe in Jesus and be obedient to His commands. These commands are summed up as loving God and people.

11 Daily bread: This phrase alludes to the time when God fed the Israelites in the wilderness. God provided the food, and they were required to gather it and prepare it. Those who hoarded it or ignored it were rebuked. In just a short while the Israelites learned that their day-to-day existence depended on God's provision. We are to have the same attitude, even if God has granted us abundance.

This request means, "give us what we need to live." When praying for "things" one might pray for excess or luxuries, instead of for things he really needs to live and glorify God. God often replies negatively to selfish prayers. God will provide abundance for some, but this is not an invitation to overindulge or hoard. Instead, it is an opportunity for us to share with those who do not have the necessities. God provides for us through our work (He provides the skills and opportunities), gifts from others (when we are not able to work), or miraculous intervention (when there is no other source).

12 Forgive: When most people get to this verse, they tend to ignore the second half. We ask God to forgive us our sins, and as imitators of Christ, we should forgive those who sin against us (i.e., when others do something that displeases us). In effect, we are asking God to use the same measure of forgiveness for us as we have given to others. When we take this verse to heart, we should be fearful to hold grudges against others.
13 Temptation: God does not tempt us (James 1:13), but he can allow us to be tempted. Recognizing our weaknesses and short lives, we beg not to be put in tempting situations. We do not want to fall and displease God, hurt others, or get hurt.

Deliver: We do ask God to deliver us from the devil and his punishment. This is tied up with the forgiveness that we find through the sacrifice of Jesus. His death on the cross made it possible for our sins to be forgiven. Our faith in Him makes it possible for us to be "born again" with a new spirit that can resist temptations and sin. God protects us from any satanic attack that we are not ready to handle. Best of all, we escape the eternal punishment of Satan and his followers. Instead, we will be delivered to God Himself, and enjoy His love and goodness forever.

Yours: At the end, we again recognize that God is the eternal King, He has all power, and He alone deserves adoration.

14 This is the spiritual application of the Golden Rule: do unto others and you would have them do unto you (Luke 6:31). God is very willing to forgive us, and we likewise should forgive others. As in verse 12, God's forgiveness of our sins hinges on our forgiving attitude towards others. When we are in a close relationship with God, this forgiving attitude becomes natural, especially when we realize how much we have been forgiven (Luke 7:36-50). Those who do not know God will have little, if any, capability to forgive. Forgiveness is a sign that a person knows about true love from God. A grudging heart is a symptom of one's lack of relationship with God.
16 There are occasions when it is appropriate to go a time without eating. Prophets (Exo 34:28) and people in repentance (1 Sam 7:6) or mourning (1 Sam 31:13) would sometimes go for a time without food. However, by Jesus' time, many leading Jews would fast two days a week to show how pious they were (Luke 18:12). They were doing this for themselves, and not for God. They received the attention of men, and God was not going to reward them further. Jesus described fasting "in secret." Wash and dress normally so that you will not stick out.
19 Many people strive to have possessions for themselves, and many Americans strive to have as much excess as possible. However, while these "treasures" can help us to live comfortably and entertained, they are of no value in the end. When God judges us, we will not be able to bribe Him with material things.

What we have spent excessively on ourselves could have been used to help those who do not even have the necessities of life. Some might ask, "why doesn't God provide for them." The answer is that God provided for you in excess so that you could share His ministry to the poor as you imitate Him.

20 Someone has said, "the only things that last forever are God's Word, and the souls of men." We can live up to 120 years in our earthly bodies, but we will live forever in our spiritual bodies.
21 How do we build up treasure in heaven? First we must study God's Word so that we know how to produce spiritual treasures that will follow us (Gal 5:22). Then we must share with others so that they might believe and be saved for heaven.
22 Our human eyes are limited and can not see God working behind the scenes. Thus, it is not always clear how we should interpret the events around us. Furthermore, our interpretations are further clouded by our sinful nature. If we look at the world with a "sinful" eye, then we will always remain spiritually dark. However, when Jesus restores our vision to a proper, godly perspective, then we can be illuminated with God's truth.
24 The spiritual and physical worlds are so different that one can not hope to excel in both. We are primarily physical beings, but we can comprehend and work in a spiritual world. However, because we are limited, we can not excel in both. From the Christian perspective, the spiritual world is more important and will last forever, so it is important to excel in that arena. The only way we can do that is with the help of God, who knows how we can excel in spiritual matters.
25 This does not mean that eating is completely unimportant. However, when we become overly consumed with such things, it distracts us from what is really important.Our bodies are stamped with the image of God. That means that we are more important than what we eat or what we wear (e.g., cloths do not make the man).
26 Birds don't seem to be concerned about anything. They eat wherever they land. God gives us the talents and opportunities we need to work and earn food.
27 I find it profound that God can measure time in units of length.
28 Flowers grow, and can't help but be beautiful. We are beautiful in God's eyes, just because He made us that way. We do wear clothes because sin has marred that image. But when we attempt to wear a mask of beauty, it actually detracts from the image that God stamped on us.
29 Solomon was the richest and most glamorous ruler of all time. He had the best of everything. But God says that the simple flowers of the field were "dressed" better.
30 When we consider that the simple flowers often last only a day and see how beautiful God made them, we should realize that God will also cloth us. Yes, He makes sure we are clothed physically, but He will also clothe us with righteousness and His glory -- far more beautiful things.
32 When we obsess over such things we show that we don't trust God to provide.
33 When we seek to please God, He provides for us.
34 Tomorrow will come whether we are ready or not. Unexpected things will happen. We can make plans and have hopes, but we must be flexible enough to cope when situations change.When we make plans, we should recognize that God controls all things. He may allow our plans to succeed, or He may have other plans for us. We should take steps of faith, but also be willing to change plans if necessary.