The Word Made Fresh
1“Don’t make a show of your piety just to be seen by others. If you do, that will be your reward, and you will have no reward from your heavenly Father. 2So, when you give an offering, don’t advertise it as hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets just to hear others praise them. The truth is that will be all the reward they get. 3When you give, don’t even let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4Give your offering in secret, and your father who sees in secret will reward you.
5“And don’t offer prayers like the hypocrites; they love to pray standing up to be seen in the synagogues and at street corners. They have already received their reward. 6Instead when you pray go into a private room in your house. Close the door. Pray to your Father privately and your Father will see you praying privately and will reward you.
7“When you pray don’t try to use fancy words and phrases like the Gentiles do. They think they will be heard because their prayers are so long and filled with words. 8Don’t copy them. Your Father knows what you need before you even ask.
9“So, pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, your name is holy. 10May your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11Give us the bread we need today. 12Forgive us our sins against you as we forgive those who have sinned against us. 13And don’t let us be tempted, but save us from wickedness, for the kingdom and the power and the glory all belong to you forever. Amen.’
14“If you forgive others for their mistakes, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15If you refuse to forgive others, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you.
16 “Whenever you refrain from eating for a time, don’t look so hungry! Hypocrites do that – making their faces long to advertise to everyone that they are fasting. The fact is, in so doing they have already received what reward they will have. 17But when you fast, oil your hair and wash your face 18so that your fasting will be seen by your Father in private and your Father, seeing you do it privately, will reward you for it.
19“Don’t accumulate earthly riches. Moths and rust will eat them. Thieves will break in and steal them. 20Instead, set aside those treasures you can store in heaven where there are no moths and rust, and where thieves cannot break in and steal. 21Remember that your heart will be wherever your treasures are stored.
22“Your eyes are your lamps. If your eyes are pure, then your whole body will be filled with light. 23But if your eyes are not pure, your whole body will be filled with darkness, and if your light is darkened, that darkness will overpower you.
24“You can’t be a servant to two masters. You will hate one of them and love the other, or you will cherish one and abhor the other. Nor can you serve both God and money.
25“This is what I’m trying to tell you; don’t worry about your life. Don’t worry about what you might have to eat or drink. Don’t worry about what to wear every day. Life is more than food and the body more than clothing. 26Look at birds flying above you; They don’t plant or harvest crops, but your Father in heaven provides them with all they need to eat. Don’t you think you’re more valuable than them? 27Do you think you can add even a single hour to your life by worrying about such things? 28Why worry about clothing? Look at the wildflowers growing in the fields. They don’t worry about working for a living, 29but I’m telling you, not even Solomon had more glorious clothing than one of them! 30If God protects the grass of the field, which is alive today but tomorrow will be thrown into an oven, don’t you think God will do even more for you? Even for you who have little faith?
31“So, don’t worry about what you might have to eat or drink or wear. 32The Gentiles are so concerned about these things! Your heavenly Father knows all your needs. 33So, search first for God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all the other things will be given to you as well.
34“Don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will have its own worries. Today’s troubles are enough for today.”
1: Verse 1 introduces this section of the “Sermon on the Mount” which covers the spiritual practices of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. In each case, Jesus makes the point that spiritual practices are strictly between God and the practitioner.
2-4: Almsgiving, or giving to the poor, is the first practice, and emphasizes the individual’s responsibility to the greater community by seeing to it that the poor are not bereft of the bounty that belongs to the whole. By giving to the poor, we are thus helping to assure the health and wellbeing of the entire community.
5-6: Prayer is the primary way in which the believer can nourish his or her relationship with God. Again, Jesus emphasizes the need to pray in private because to do otherwise begs the question of whether you are really speaking to God or just giving a performance.
7-15: Jesus introduces a model prayer which at first sight appears to highlight the needs of the individual supplicant for daily bread, forgiveness for sins and protection against evil. However, Jesus then lifts out the connection that each believer has with other believers by insisting that forgiveness is a community activity.
16-18: Fasting, a spiritual discipline by which the believer voluntarily gives up the sustenance he or she needs daily, is an act of submission to God. Whereas the emphasis on prayer had to do with the good of the community, the emphasis on fasting has to do with the good of the individual. If fasting is done as a private act of submission to God, God will reward the one who is fasting.
19-24: These verses are a small collection of wisdom sayings that stand alone within the body of the sermon, but are grouped together because they have to do with our attitude toward wealth. Spiritual treasures are more valuable than material treasures (19-21). The things to which your gaze is attracted will influence your spiritual well-being (22-23); in other words, don’t let the pretty glitter of gold make you spiritually blind. God or glitter – you can really only choose one or the other (24).
25-34: Jesus zeroes in on three things by which the rich separate themselves from the poor; food, drink, and clothing. He points out that God is perfectly able to provide for all our needs, so for me to pretend to be better than someone else because I eat rich foods or drink the best wines or wear the snazziest outfits is sheer folly on my part. On the other hand, if I am one of those who seldom have a choice of what to eat, drink, or wear (like most of Jesus’ hearers), I need to remember that God provides those things and I have no cause to covet what anyone else might have, and no cause to worry. If I am in a community of Jesus’ followers there will never be any need to worry about not having enough. There is more to this paragraph than, “Don’t worry; be happy.”
Don’t panic. Don’t worry. Don’t be in a hurry. God sees. God knows. God always bestows us with all that we need.