by Mike Ratliff
25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Matthew 6:25 (NASB)
As many of you know I turned 70 earlier this week. I am planning on retiring from my DBA job in December. We are working with various financial consultants, lawyers, the V.A., Social Security, etc. to prepare for that time when I won’t be getting a paycheck every couple of weeks. Then, I opened my email this morning and there was one of those scary emails from a company that is selling a specialized investment thing that they say works within an I.R.S. loophole, whatever that is. But the trick they use to get your attention is a quote and testimonial from a financial expert who is predicting that the Dollar will collapse at the end of October this year. Of course, with the stage I am in right now this opened me up to that dreaded “spirit of fear” that I have written about on this blog. What would we do if the dollar became worthless? What about our food, our livelihood, et cetera? Then I remembered how I responded to those professing Christians who were giving in to the spirit of fear when the COVID-19 stuff started as they actually contributed to the spreading that fear instead of being Christlike and not fearful as we are told to do in Scripture. Is this any different?
As I remembered that and also how my wife and I both responded to the same financial crisis back in 2008 when Barack Obama and his policies were wreaking the economy my heart soared. I knew right away 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. Of course, 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 allowing that spirit of fear to cause me to fall into a pit of self-protection and self-focus. As God reminded me of what went on back in 2008 and also of all His promises to us in His Word to take care of us now just like He did then that 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. 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 being overcome by the Spirit of Fear.
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.
1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
2 “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:1-4 (NASB)
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.
5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
9 “Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]
14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. Matthew 6:5-15 (NASB)
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 (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.
16 “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18 (NASB)
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.
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:19-34 (NASB)
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 (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.
5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:5-10 (NASB)
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.
1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 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.
6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
7 “ Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:1-12 (NASB)
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!