by Mike Ratliff
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25 ESV)
I was in a discussion earlier today with some friends. We were discussing the current economic issues. I shared some of what I had been reading and hearing about from some very good sources. Then I asked some “what if” questions based on the following scenario. Let us say that sometime next year that the US Dollar fails. It becomes worthless. What would happen to our consumer driven economy/society? What would or could we do to stay in our houses, buy groceries, and put gas in our cars? No one had a clue. Neither did I. I left the discussion and went back to my desk. A few minutes later my phone rang. It was my wife. She asked me how I was doing. I lied as I said, “Oh I am fine.” She knows me too well and I could tell she did not buy it. Then she said she had just come from her morning devotions. She had started by praying about whether we should put away a year’s worth of food in our basement, just in case. Then she prayed for our family and friends. She prayed for wisdom and discernment. Then she realized that there was a question in her heart. That question was, “If you buy all that food, will you be willing to share it with those in need?”
When she said that it was as if the coil of chain that was wrapped around my heart shattered and fell away all by itself. My wife then quoted Matthew 6:25. My heart soared. I knew right then that all of the worry in the world over the economy and the “what ifs” will accomplish nothing more than putting us into paralyzing bondage. I knew all along that our role as Christians in this is to trust God and obey Him by living holy, righteous lives in face of these problems. I knew that. However, for some odd reason I was falling into a pit of self-protection and self-focus. It was the reading of God’s Word to me by my wife that opened the door in my heart so that God’s truth sank in. The worry departed and was replaced with an overwhelming sense of joy and trust. My role, our role, is to joyfully obey Him, share what we have with those in need while trusting that He will supply all our needs. I got the impression that I had been under oppression in this by an evil spirit and it was God’s Word hitting my heart that shattered the hold he had on me. Our enemy cannot steal our salvation. He cannot do one thing to us without God allowing it (see the book of Job). However, if we worry and fret instead of trusting God as we pray and seek His face then we open ourselves up to this.
God’s Kingdom is real. It is not completely fulfilled in this world. It exists in the hearts of His people here, but in eternity, it is totally manifest. God is transcendent. He is not affected in any way by His creation, the Universe. However, He is also imminent in that He sent His beloved son as a Man to become the New Adam. He did this to start the process of developing Kingdom Life in this world. Our Lord’s atoning work on the Cross purchased His people by His blood. All those believe and repent as God effectually calls them. They are regenerated. This changes them forever. They become like unto their Lord. The Kingdom of God becomes manifest in their lives as the old man remains, but is displaced over time through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. We await the return of our Lord to fulfill His Kingdom. In the meantime we must learn how to conform ourselves to Kingdom Life in this world. In Matthew 6:1-7:12 our Lord sets forth principles for spirituality in religious life, everyday life, and community relationships.
Our Lord begins this by showing us that our faith can be expressed in a hypocritical way. In vv1-4 we see that it is very easy to be hypocritical in our giving.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their 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. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4 ESV)
We are to give to the needy. This is true in all circumstances. We are to give to those in need, but we are to do so secretly. Why? It is so that the only ones who knows we have done so is God and us. Why? God will reward those who give this way, but will not reward those who give to be seen by others.
We can also be hypocritical in our praying.
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:5-15 ESV)
Our Lord give us the wrong way to pray then shows us the right way. We are to go into our room and shut the door. We are to pray in secret to our Father. Notice that the Father does reward those who do this. We are not to use empty phrases when we pray, but we are to use what has come to be called the Lord’s Prayer as our model. This model prayer begins with an invocation and contains six petitions that give us proper priorities. The first three petitions focus on the preeminence of God while the second three focus on personal needs in a community context. There is nothing selfish about this prayer. It is not wrong to ask God to provide for our needs. Instead, we are commanded to ask Him for what we need.
God the Father loves the Son and those who belong to Him can also address Him as their Father. This is an incredible privilege my brethren. However, we must never forget that He is our Heavenly Father. When we pray to Him our concern should be that His name is hallowed. That means we deeply desire that God would be treated with the highest honor and set apart as holy. We are also to pray for the continued advance of God’s Kingdom in the hearts of believers. We are to pray for the Church to submit to the reigning presence of Christ. Much of what has gone wrong in the visible Church in our time is due to this not being true. Those who are submitted to the sovereignty of God reflect to all His love. They obey His laws, honor Him, do good for all people, and are obedient at sharing the Gospel. When we pray for God’s will to be done we are referring to His revealed will, which involves conduct that is pleasing to Him as revealed in Scripture. We must pray that His will be done on earth as it is perfectly done in Heaven. We are to ask God for the necessities of life. This is an expression of the trust we have through the supernatural faith all genuine believers have. Instead of hoarding food for ourselves, we are to pray for God to provide and trust Him to do what is best. We are to ask God to forgive us of our sins to the same level that we forgive others. If we are unforgiving then we are not expressing the divine nature that we have through our salvation.
The final petition speaks of asking God to “lead us not into temptation.” What does this mean? The Greek word translated here as “temptation” is πειρασμός or peirasmos. This word can indicate either temptation or testing. However, in this case it most likely means, “allow us to be spared from difficult circumstances that would tempt us to sin.” God does not directly tempt anyone, however, He does, through His sovereignty, allow us to be “tested.” Tests and trials are part of the Christian life and we are to count it all joy when they come (James 1:2). However, our Lord tells us here that we should pray to be delivered from them. Why? It is when we are in the fires of tribulation that it is more difficult to be obedient and it is very easy to slip into sin. Therefore, we should pray to be delivered from temptation. What does it mean that we are to ask God to deliver us from evil? The best protection from sin and temptation is to turn to God and depend on His direction.
We can also be hypocritical in our fasting.
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18 ESV)
Fasting is to be a matter of the heart between God and us. When we fast, we are not to make spectacle of that fact. In fact, it should be like our giving and praying. It is strictly between God and us. Again, if we do this right then God will reward us.
The righteousness of the Kingdom of Heaven works out in the details of our lives. Our Lord calls us to choose our master, either God or wealth, and to choose our outlook on life, either faith or worry.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:19-34 ESV)
The physical things that we prize so much here are only temporal things. These treasures are subject to decay or theft. We are not to place our trust in these things. Instead, we are to lay up treasures in Heaven. This implies that the choices we make in our daily walk involve decisions that will either lead to greater earthly reward now or in the future or they will cause us to store up greater future reward in heaven. I have not read the book yet, but I saw this one today by G.K. Beale titled We Become What We Worship. If we are dedicated to laying up temporal treasure than we are guilty of idolatry and we will experience the dire consequences. On the other hand, if we deliberately live this life with a heavenward focus then our treasure is in God’s treasure house and no matter how often we make withdrawals in this life, we never diminish our account. What we have stored up in this life is fragile and with the current economic issues, they are probably going to end up becoming either nonexistent or worthless. Where should our focus be my brethren?
In vv22-23 we read of the eye. Our Lord calls it the lamp of the body. This lamp reveals the quality of a person’s inner life. The eye (the heart) is healthy when it is totally devoted to God. It will then have clear vision. On the other hand, the bad eye (the heart) has bad vision because it is morally corrupt.
In v24 we read of the act of serving our master. The Greek word that is translated here as “serve” is δουλεύω or douleuō. This is the work of a slave, not an employee or hired servant. Christians are slaves of their master, our Lord Jesus Christ. Slaves must give their master their complete service. They cannot serve two masters. When Christians serve money, they have become slaves to it and prove that they are not slaves of Christ.
Now we arrive at the key passage in this section (vv25-34). If we are laying up treasure in heaven instead of laying up treasure on earth and if we are possessors of healthy eyes (our hearts) then we will not be worshiping money or serving it. Instead, we will be focused on God’s will as we pray in secret, fast in secret, and give in secret. If we are focused and living like this then we will not be anxious about our lives… However, if we are living with our focus on ourselves then we won’t be praying right, nor will we be living right, nor will we be laying up treasure in heaven. No, instead we will have a bad eye (our hearts) and so will have a corrupt view of everything. Then when the economy does what it is doing now and it looks like we could be in for a very rough time in the future, we will make selfish decisions and will be all wrapped up in worry and grief and despair.
No, we are not called to live this way. Instead, we are to live with a Kingdom focus and if we do this then we will not be anxious about our lives, what we will eat or what we will drink, or about clothing. Our faith will be strong and vibrant. Our trust will be in God. No matter what tribulation we are experiencing, we will be like Paul.
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (2 Corinthians 4:5-10 ESV)
Do you see it my brethren? This is what our faith is supposed to look like. Paul walked the Kingdom walk and we are called to do the same.
We will close this study by looking at Matthew 7:1-12. Here our Lord moves from personal temptations to interpersonal temptations. Here He warns us against inappropriate judging and commends appropriate evaluation. Then He looks at God’s guidance as the source of the believer’s stability in relationship with others.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:1-12 ESV)
There are many so-called Christians out there who attempt to mask their apostasy by accusing all who point out that what they are doing is unbiblical of violating Jesus command here to ‘Judge Not.’ I have written a study of this called ‘Judge Not!’ I wrote this several years ago. It was very eye-opening for me to write that because of the accusations flying everywhere at that time condemning those of us who were exposing some who were ministering in a way that was not biblical. As I studied this it became apparent very quickly that Jesus is not commanding us to never judge others. No, He is commanding us to not judge hypocritically. However, our ‘judging’ should always be done with the goal of restoration and forgiveness. It is serious business, which should never be undertaken by anyone who is not both prepared spiritually and is dedicated to God’s glory alone through the process. Notice that our Lord tells us further into the passage to make a judgment on not preaching or teaching or debating with dogs and pigs. How can we obey this if we do not make a judgment call?
We cannot walk this walk without God’s direction and guidance. Also, we are to always seek God for our needs.
My brethren, I pray that all of us will reevaluate how we are walking this walk. It is quite easy to tell others to trust God and not worry about stuff, however, as we saw in this study, the way we reach the ability to do that requires prayer, fasting, obedience, serving God rather than money, and not being hypocritical in anything we do. We can do this only as God grows the ability to do it in us. He will not do that in anyone who is enslaved to idols and self.
Soli Deo Gloria!