Johan Smulders has a . B.A, B.ED and M.A in Education, Theology and Counselling. Works as an evangelist and counsellor.
Teachings of Jesus –The Sermon on the Mount. Number 4
In this rich collection of teachings recorded in Matthew 5, 6 and 7, the focus in chapter 6 moves from some of the important new interpretations that Jesus brings about the law to the good deeds that his followers need to engage in. The emphasis in this chapter is to do various activities without looking for human admiration and approval. Several times Jesus is quoted as saying that if you perform these important actions to be seen by other people you will already have received your reward. “But when you give to the needy do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what you do in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:3, 4 - NIV translation used with permission).This is one of the several references to this important teaching.
In the 6th chapter, the questions of giving to the needy, prayer, fasting, investing in heaven and being free of worry are dealt with. In the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus introduced the 10 “Beatitudes”, he started with those dealing with attitudes towards trust, faith and belief and then moved on to the more practical issues like how to treat others. Now in Chapter 6 he picks up the theme of what the life of a believer needs to be filled with. Jesus had little time for those who followed religious ritual and neglected righteous living.
The first teaching in this chapter deals with the believer’s attitude towards helping the poor. He takes this action as a matter of fact and so does not argue that his followers need to do it. He deals rather with the attitude that should be shown in helping the poor. In the Old Testament books of the prophets, the attitude of selfishness and self-promotion that was prevalent was condemned over and over again. Isaiah declares that: “Surely the great houses will become desolate and the fine mansions left without occupants” (Isaiah 5:9). He warns about the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of Israel. At the root of the people’s problem lay the false worship that the prophets and Jesus despised. “These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:8). Later in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus declares: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
One of the most famous and well known passages follow as Jesus teaches on prayer. Again Jesus has scathing words for the religious leaders of his time who are called hypocrites because they tried to impress others with their eloquent and long prayers. Jesus emphasises private prayer between a person and God. He also condemns the “babbling” prayers of the pagans. Then he gives his followers an example of how to pray. While reciting this prayer has become a ritual in many religious groups, it is probably better to see it as a masterful example of what is important in the prayer life of the believer. In just a matter of about 52 words Jesus lays out what is really important in life. Jesus starts with recognizing who God is and follows that with a simple request which is essential in life, and finally asks for help in the believers attitude towards others.
As Jesus continues to teach he deals with fasting, something in which his disciples did not participate (Matthew 9:14, 15). Again this Old Testament practice had become a way of showing off how spiritual a person was instead of what it was meant to be and that was a time of introspection and meditation. The need to fast is not taught by Jesus but simply accepted as a practice in his time. His teaching that the Old Testament law had completed its purpose can be seen as the end of this religious practice.
As the sermon continues Jesus emphasise the need to give to God and in so doing laying up treasures in heaven. Here the emphasis is on showing a love for God by showing a love for the church and other people in general. There is no place in God’s family for the greedy and selfish. Laying up treasure here on earth only harms the person whose possessions begin to own him. This can only lead to worries that are not only unnecessary, but even harmful. There is no value in spending one’s life in worrying about things that can safely be left in God’s hands. The beauty of being a child of God is that an absolute trust in God will provide a person with a life that is filled with promises that are not available to the non-believer. God will provide the opportunities in life that will be meaningful on many different levels. With that will come a “peace that passes understanding” as Paul is later describes it. It is the non-believer who wastes a lot of time in worrying about things that can in fact be left to God (Philippians 4:7).
Two well known statements end this important chapter as Jesus is recorded to have said: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well”. Matthew then completes Chapter 6 with a statement by Jesus that would be important for us to hear in every age: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).
The Baker illustrated Bible Dictionary
NIV translation on the Bible
Scriptures taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright 1973,1978,1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
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