Whole-Hearted Righteousness and Piety - Matthew 6:1-21

Thirdmill Study Bible

Notes on Matthew 6:1-21

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Whole-Hearted Righteousness and Piety - Matthew 6:1-21

Jesus applies the theme of greater righteousness (Matt. 5:20) to three areas of life: ethics (Matt. 5:21-48), piety (Matt. 6:1-21), and relationship to the world (Matt. 6:19–7:12). Within the topic of piety Jesus teaches his disciples about whole-hearted righteousness with three practical examples: almsgiving, praying, and fasting. In each case Jesus motivates his audience through the promise of great reward with the heavenly Father (Matt. 6:1).

Reward - Matthew 6:1

reward. Jesus often speaks about God rewarding people for their faithfulness. This is an especially frequent theme in Matthew, where the language of reward/recompense (Matt. 5:12, 46; 6:1,2,5,16; 10:41-42; 16:27; 20:8) and treasure (Matt. 6:19-21; 12:35; 13:44, 52; 19:21) occur regularly. Disciples do not earn favor with God by merely doing righteous things, but God does honor and bless his people for their faithful and obedient response to Jesus. See also the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30)

Left hand, right hand – Matthew 6:3

Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Here, Jesus is teaching about giving to help those in need (almsgiving) and doing it secretly. He does not mean that all service must be anonymous (see Matt. 5:16). Rather, he is challenging the motive for righteousness. If good is done to get praise from others rather than out of love, then God is not pleased.

Hypocrites – Matthew 6:5

Hypocrites. In Matthew Jesus frequently criticizes the hypocrites (Matt. 6:2,5,16; 7:5; 15:7; 22:18; 23:13,15,23,25,27,29; 24:51). Hypocrites in Matthew are people who do good and righteous deeds but who lack wholeness and a heart dedicated to God. One example of that is people performing acts of piety to receive praise from people rather than honor from God (Matt. 6:1).

The Lord's Prayer – Matthew 6:9-13

One of the most famous portions of the Bible is the prayer Jesus taught his disciples. The Lord's Prayer provides a framework for how God's people should approach him (Matt. 6:9-10) and how they should be oriented to the world (Matt. 6:11-13). The central idea is that Christians live in a time and posture where they are looking for the heavenly realities of God's kingdom to become the earthly realities. See WLC 186; WSC 99; HC 119.

Forgiveness - Matthew 6:14-15

If you forgive people their trespasses. Forgiving others and the related practice of exhibiting compassion and mercy on others are the dominant ethical teachings in Matthew (Matt. 6:12; 9:13; 12:7; 18:15-35). Jesus is not saying here that any struggle to forgive means that God rejects but rather that the disciple's life will be marked by the posture and practice of forgiveness. See WCF 21.3; WLC 194; HC 126.

Fasting - Matthew 6:16-18

When you fast. Fasting is the practice of abstaining from food to dedicate oneself to prayer, meditation, and study. Sometimes people fast for a specific need, such as deliverance from one's enemies or disease, for repentance, or for grief (Exod. 24:18; 1 Sam. 1:7-8; 2 Sam. 1:12; 2 Chr. 20:3; Esth. 4:16; Matt. 4:2). For many people fasting is a regular habit, as it was especially for the Pharisees in Jesus' day who fasted two days each week. Jesus expects his disciples to fast but focuses on their motive for doing so. If one fasts to get praise and honor from others, then this does not please God or result in good for the person. See WCF 16.7; WLC 113.

Where your treasure is - Matthew 6:21

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. In the Bible "heart" refers to the true inner person, not just one's emotions. Jesus teaches here that the heart/inner person is revealed in whether people give their time, energy, and love to the things of earth or to those of heaven.

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