Sermon on the
Further Illustration of the Righteousness of
General Caution against Ostentation in Religious
Duties (Mt 6:1).
1. Take heed that ye do not your
alms—But the true reading seems clearly to be "your
righteousness." The external authority for both readings is pretty
nearly equal; but internal evidence is decidedly in favor of
"righteousness." The subject of the second verse being "almsgiving"
that word—so like the other in Greek—might easily be
substituted for it by the copyist: whereas the opposite would not be so
likely. But it is still more in favor of "righteousness," that if we so
read the first verse, it then becomes a general heading for this whole
section of the discourse, inculcating unostentatiousness in all
deeds of righteousness—Almsgiving, Prayer, and Fasting being, in
that case, but selected examples of this righteousness; whereas, if we
read, "Do not your alms," &c., this first verse will have no
reference but to that one point. By "righteousness," in this case, we
are to understand that same righteousness of the kingdom of heaven,
whose leading features—in opposition to traditional perversions
of it—it is the great object of this discourse to open up: that
righteousness of which the Lord says, "Except your righteousness shall
exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no
case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 5:20). To "do" this righteousness, was
an old and well-understood expression. Thus, "Blessed is he that doeth
righteousness at all times" (Ps 106:3).
It refers to the actings of righteousness in the life—the
outgoings of the gracious nature—of which our Lord afterwards
said to His disciples, "Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear
much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples" (Joh 15:8).
before men, to be seen of them—with
the view or intention of being beheld of them. See the same expression
5:28. True, He had required
them to let their light so shine before men that they might see their
good works, and glorify their Father which is in heaven (Mt 5:16). But this is quite consistent with not
making a display of our righteousness for self-glorification. In fact,
the doing of the former necessarily implies our not doing the
otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which
is in heaven—When all duty is done to God—as primarily
enjoining and finally judging of it—He will take care that it be
duly recognized; but when done purely for ostentation, God cannot own
it, nor is His judgment of it even thought of—God accepts only
what is done to Himself. So much for the general principle. Now follow
three illustrations of it.
Almsgiving (Mt 6:2-4).
2. Therefore, when thou doest thine alms, do not
sound a trumpet before thee—The expression is to be taken
figuratively for blazoning it. Hence our expression to
as the hypocrites do—This
word—of such frequent occurrence in Scripture, signifying
primarily "one who acts a part"—denotes one who either
pretends to be what he is not (as here), or dissembles
what he really is (as in Lu 12:1, 2).
in the synagogues and in the
streets—the places of religious and secular resort.
that they may have glory of men. Verily I say
unto you—In such august expressions, it is the Lawgiver and
Judge Himself that we hear speaking to us.
They have their reward—All they wanted
was human applause, and they have it—and with it, all they will
3. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand
know what thy right hand doeth—So far from making a display
of it, dwell not on it even in thine own thoughts, lest it minister to
4. That thine alms may be in secret, and thy
Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee
openly—The word "Himself" appears to be an unauthorized
addition to the text, which the sense no doubt suggested. (See 1Ti 5:25; Ro 2:16; 1Co 4:5).
Prayer (Mt 6:5, 6).
5. And when thou prayest, thou shalt—or,
preferably, "when ye pray ye shall."
not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to
pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the
streets—(See on Mt 6:2).
that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto
you, They have, &c.—The standing posture in prayer
was the ancient practice, alike in the Jewish and in the early
Christian Church. But of course this conspicuous posture opened the way
for the ostentatious.
6. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy
closet—a place of retirement.
and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy
Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall
reward thee openly—Of course, it is not the simple publicity
of prayer which is here condemned. It may be offered in any
circumstances, however open, if not prompted by the spirit of
ostentation, but dictated by the great ends of prayer itself. It is the
retiring character of true prayer which is here taught.
Supplementary Directions and Model Prayer
7. But when ye pray, use not vain
repetitions—"Babble not" would be a better rendering, both
for the form of the word—which in both languages is intended to
imitate the sound—and for the sense, which expresses not so much
the repetition of the same words as a senseless multiplication of them;
as appears from what follows.
as the heathen do: for they think that they
shall be heard for their much speaking—This method of heathen
devotion is still observed by Hindu and Mohammedan devotees. With the
Jews, says Lightfoot, it was a maxim,
that "Every one who multiplies prayer is heard." In the Church of Rome,
not only is it carried to a shameless extent, but, as Tholuck justly observes, the very prayer which our
Lord gave as an antidote to vain repetitions is the most abused to this
superstitious end; the number of times it is repeated counting for so
much more merit. Is not this just that characteristic feature of
heathen devotion which our Lord here condemns? But praying much, and
using at times the same words, is not here condemned, and has
the example of our Lord Himself in its favor.
8. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your
Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask
him—and so needs not to be informed of our wants, any
more than to be roused to attend to them by our incessant
speaking. What a view of God is here given, in sharp contrast with the
gods of the heathen! But let it be carefully noted that it is not as
the general Father of mankind that our Lord says, "Your Father"
knoweth what ye need before ye ask it; for it is not men, as such, that
He is addressing in this discourse, but His own disciples—the
poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, hungry and thirsty souls, the
merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, who allow themselves to
have all manner of evil said against them for the Son of man's
sake—in short, the new-born children of God, who, making their
Father's interests their own, are here assured that their Father, in
return, makes their interests His, and needs neither to be told nor to
be reminded of their wants. Yet He will have His children pray to Him,
and links all His promised supplies to their petitions for them; thus
encouraging us to draw near and keep near to Him, to talk and walk with
Him, to open our every case to Him, and assure ourselves that thus
asking we shall receive—thus seeking we shall find—thus
knocking it shall be opened to us.
9. After this manner—more simply
therefore pray ye—The "ye" is emphatic
here, in contrast with the heathen prayers. That this matchless prayer
was given not only as a model, but as a form, might be
concluded from its very nature. Did it consist only of hints or
directions for prayer, it could only be used as a directory; but seeing
it is an actual prayer—designed, indeed, to show how much real
prayer could be compressed into the fewest words, but still, as a
prayer, only the more incomparable for that—it is strange that
there should be a doubt whether we ought to pray that very prayer.
Surely the words with which it is introduced, in the second utterance
and varied form of it which we have in Lu 11:2, ought to set this at rest: "When ye
pray, say, Our Father." Nevertheless, since the second form of
it varies considerably from the first, and since no example of its
actual use, or express quotation of its phraseology, occurs in the
sequel of the New Testament, we are to guard against a superstitious
use of it. How early this began to appear in the church services, and
to what extent it was afterwards carried, is known to every one versed
in Church History. Nor has the spirit which bred this abuse quite
departed from some branches of the Protestant Church, though the
opposite and equally condemnable extreme is to be found in other
branches of it.
Model Prayer (Mt 6:9-13). According to the Latin fathers and the
Lutheran Church, the petitions of the Lord's Prayer are seven in
number; according to the Greek fathers, the Reformed Church and the
Westminster divines, they are only six; the two last being
regarded—we think, less correctly—as one. The first three
petitions have to do exclusively with God: "Thy name be
hallowed"—"Thy kingdom come"—"Thy will be
done." And they occur in a descending scale—from Himself
down to the manifestation of Himself in His kingdom; and from His
kingdom to the entire subjection of its subjects, or the complete doing
of His will. The remaining four petitions have to do with OURSELVES: "Give us our daily
bread"—"Forgive us our debts"—"Lead us not
into temptation"—"Deliver us from evil." But these latter
petitions occur in an ascending scale—from the bodily
wants of every day up to our final deliverance from all evil.
Our Father which art in heaven—In the
former clause we express His nearness to us; in the latter, His
distance from us. (See Ec 5:2; Isa 66:1). Holy, loving familiarity suggests the
one; awful reverence the other. In calling Him "Father" we express a
relationship we have all known and felt surrounding us even from our
infancy; but in calling Him our Father "who art in heaven," we contrast
Him with the fathers we all have here below, and so raise our souls to
that "heaven" where He dwells, and that Majesty and Glory which are
there as in their proper home. These first words of the Lord's
Prayer—this invocation with which it opens—what a
brightness and warmth does it throw over the whole prayer, and into
what a serene region does it introduce the praying believer, the child
of God, as he thus approaches Him! It is true that the paternal
relationship of God to His people is by no means strange to the Old
Testament. (See De 32:6; Ps 103:13;
Isa 63:16; Jer 3:4, 19; Mal 1:6; 2:10). But these are only glimpses—the
"back parts" (Ex 33:23),
if we may so say, in comparison with the "open face" of our Father
revealed in Jesus. (See on 2Co 3:18). Nor is it
too much to say, that the view which our Lord gives, throughout this
His very first lengthened discourse, of "our Father in heaven," beggars
all that was ever taught, even in God's own Word, or conceived before
by His saints, on this subject.
Hallowed be—that is, "Be held in
reverence"; regarded and treated as holy.
thy name—God's name means "Himself as
revealed and manifested." Everywhere in Scripture God defines and marks
off the faith and love and reverence and obedience He will have from
men by the disclosures which He makes to them of what He is; both to
shut out false conceptions of Him, and to make all their devotion take
the shape and hue of His own teaching. Too much attention cannot be
paid to this.
10. Thy kingdom come—The kingdom of
God is that moral and spiritual kingdom which the God of grace is
setting up in this fallen world, whose subjects consist of as many as
have been brought into hearty subjection to His gracious scepter, and
of which His Son Jesus is the glorious Head. In the inward reality of
it, this kingdom existed ever since there were men who "walked with
5:24), and "waited for His
salvation" (Ge 49:18);
who were "continually with Him, holden by His right hand" (Ps 73:23), and who, even in the valley of the
shadow of death, feared no evil when He was with them (Ps 23:4). When Messiah Himself appeared, it was,
as a visible kingdom, "at hand." His death laid the deep foundations of
it. His ascension on high, "leading captivity captive and receiving
gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell
among them," and the Pentecostal effusion of the Spirit, by which those
gifts for men descended upon the rebellious, and the Lord God was
beheld, in the persons of thousands upon thousands, "dwelling" among
men—was a glorious "coming" of this kingdom. But it is still to
come, and this petition, "Thy kingdom come," must not cease to ascend
so long as one subject of it remains to be brought in. But does not
this prayer stretch further forward—to "the glory to be
revealed," or that stage of the kingdom called "the everlasting kingdom
of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2Pe 1:11)? Not directly, perhaps, since the
petition that follows this—"Thy will be done in earth, as it is
in heaven"—would then bring us back to this present state of
imperfection. Still, the mind refuses to be so bounded by stages and
degrees, and in the act of praying, "Thy kingdom come," it irresistibly
stretches the wings of its faith, and longing, and joyous expectation
out to the final and glorious consummation of the kingdom of God.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in
heaven—or, as the same words are rendered in Luke, "as in
heaven, so upon earth" (Lu 11:2)—as cheerfully, as
constantly, as perfectly. But some will ask, Will this
ever be? We answer, If the "new heavens and new earth" are to be just
our present material system purified by fire and transfigured, of
course it will. But we incline to think that the aspiration which we
are taught in this beautiful petition to breathe forth has no direct
reference to any such organic fulfilment, and is only the
spontaneous and resistless longing of the renewed soul—put into
words—to see the whole inhabited earth in entire conformity to
the will of God. It asks not if ever it shall be—or if ever it
can be—in order to pray this prayer. It must have its holy
yearnings breathed forth, and this is just the bold yet simple
expression of them. Nor is the Old Testament without prayers which come
very near to this (Ps 7:9; 67:1-7; 72:19, &c.).
11. Give us this day our daily
bread—The compound word here rendered "daily" occurs nowhere
else, either in classical or sacred Greek, and so must be
interpreted by the analogy of its component parts. But on this critics
are divided. To those who would understand it to mean, "Give us this
day the bread of to-morrow"—as if the sense thus slid into that
of Luke "Give us day by day" (Lu 11:2, (as Bengel, Meyer,
&c.) it may be answered that the sense thus brought out is scarcely
intelligible, if not something less; that the expression "bread of
to-morrow" is not at all the same as bread "from day to day," and that,
so understood, it would seem to contradict Mt 6:34. The great majority of the best critics
(taking the word to be compounded of ousia, "substance,"
or "being") understand by it the "staff of life," the bread of
subsistence, and so the sense will be, "Give us this day the
bread which this day's necessities require." In this case, the
rendering of our authorized version (after the Vulgate, Luther and some of the best modern
critics)—"our daily bread"—is, in sense, accurate enough.
30:8). Among commentators,
there was early shown an inclination to understand this as a prayer for
the heavenly bread, or spiritual nourishment; and in this they have
been followed by many superior expositors, even down to our own times.
But as this is quite unnatural, so it deprives the Christian of one of
the sweetest of his privileges—to cast his bodily wants in this
short prayer, by one simple petition, upon his heavenly Father. No
doubt the spiritual mind will, from "the meat that perisheth,"
naturally rise in thought to "that meat which endureth to everlasting
life." But let it be enough that the petition about bodily wants
irresistibly suggests a higher petition; and let us not rob
ourselves—out of a morbid spirituality—of our one petition
in this prayer for that bodily provision which the immediate sequel of
this discourse shows that our heavenly Father has so much at heart. In
limiting our petitions, however, to provision for the day, what
a spirit of childlike dependence does the Lord both demand and
12. And forgive us our debts—A vitally
important view of sin, this—as an offense against God demanding
reparation to His dishonored claims upon our absolute subjection. As
the debtor in the creditor's hand, so is the sinner in the hands of
God. This idea of sin had indeed come up before in this
discourse—in the warning to agree with our adversary quickly, in
case of sentence being passed upon us, adjudging us to payment of the
last farthing, and to imprisonment till then (Mt 5:25, 26). And it comes up once and again
in our Lord's subsequent teaching—as in the parable of the
creditor and his two debtors (Lu 7:41, 42, &c.), and in the parable of the
unmerciful debtor (Mt 18:23, &c.). But by embodying it in this
brief model of acceptable prayer, and as the first of three petitions
more or less bearing upon sin, our Lord teaches us, in the most
emphatic manner conceivable, to regard this view of sin as the primary
and fundamental one. Answering to this is the "forgiveness" which it
directs us to seek—not the removal from our own hearts of the
stain of sin, nor yet the removal of our just dread of God's anger, or
of unworthy suspicions of His love, which is all that some tell us we
have to care about—but the removal from God's own mind of His
displeasure against us on account of sin, or, to retain the figure, the
wiping or crossing out from His "book of remembrance" of all entries
against us on this account.
as we forgive our debtors—the same
view of sin as before; only now transferred to the region of offenses
given and received between man and man. After what has been said on
Mt 5:7, it will not be thought that our
Lord here teaches that our exercise of forgiveness towards our
offending fellow men absolutely precedes and is the proper ground of
God's forgiveness of us. His whole teaching, indeed—as of all
Scripture—is the reverse of this. But as no one can reasonably
imagine himself to be the object of divine forgiveness who is
deliberately and habitually unforgiving towards his fellow men, so it
is a beautiful provision to make our right to ask and expect daily
forgiveness of our daily shortcomings and our final absolution and
acquittal at the great day of admission into the kingdom, dependent
upon our consciousness of a forgiving disposition towards our fellows,
and our preparedness to protest before the Searcher of hearts that we
do actually forgive them. (See Mr 11:25, 26). God sees His own image reflected in
His forgiving children; but to ask God for what we ourselves refuse to
men, is to insult Him. So much stress does our Lord put upon this, that
immediately after the close of this prayer, it is the one point in it
which He comes back upon (Mt 6:14, 15), for the purpose of solemnly assuring
us that the divine procedure in this matter of forgiveness will be
exactly what our own is.
13. And lead us not into temptation—He
who honestly seeks and has the assurance of, forgiveness for past sin,
will strive to avoid committing it for the future. But conscious that
"when we would do good evil is present with us," we are taught to offer
this sixth petition, which comes naturally close upon the preceding,
and flows, indeed, instinctively from it in the hearts of all earnest
Christians. There is some difficulty in the form of the petition, as it
is certain that God does bring His people—as He did Abraham, and
Christ Himself—into circumstances both fitted and designed to try
them, or test the strength of their faith. Some meet this by regarding
the petition as simply an humble expression of self-distrust and
instinctive shrinking from danger; but this seems too weak. Others take
it as a prayer against yielding to temptation, and so equivalent to a
prayer for support and deliverance when we are tempted; but this seems
to go beyond the precise thing intended. We incline to take it as a
prayer against being drawn or sucked, of our own will,
into temptation, to which the word here used seems to lend some
countenance—"Introduce us not." This view, while it does not put
into our mouths a prayer against being tempted—which is more than
the divine procedure would seem to warrant—does not, on the other
hand, change the sense of the petition into one for support
under temptation, which the words will hardly bear; but it gives
us a subject for prayer, in regard to temptation, most definite,
and of all others most needful. It was precisely this which
Peter needed to ask, but did not ask, when—of his own accord, and
in spite of difficulties—he pressed for entrance into the palace
hall of the high priest, and where, once sucked into the scene and
atmosphere of temptation, he fell so foully. And if so, does it not
seem pretty clear that this was exactly what our Lord meant His
disciples to pray against when He said in the garden—"Watch and
pray, that ye enter not into temptation"? (Mt 26:41).
But deliver us from evil—We can see no
good reason for regarding this as but the second half of the sixth
petition. With far better ground might the second and third petitions
be regarded as one. The "but" connecting the two petitions is an
insufficient reason for regarding them as one, though enough to show
that the one thought naturally follows close upon the other. As the
expression "from evil" may be equally well rendered "from the evil
one," a number or superior critics think the devil is intended,
especially from its following close upon the subject of "temptation."
But the comprehensive character of these brief petitions, and the place
which this one occupies, as that on which all our desires die away,
seems to us against so contracted a view of it. Nor can there be a
reasonable doubt that the apostle, in some of the last sentences which
he penned before he was brought forth to suffer for his Lord, alludes
to this very petition in the language of calm assurance—"And the
Lord shall deliver me from every evil work (compare the Greek of
the two passages), and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom"
4:18). The final petition,
then, is only rightly grasped when regarded as a prayer for deliverance
from all evil of whatever kind—not only from sin, but from all
its consequences—fully and finally. Fitly, then, are our prayers
ended with this. For what can we desire which this does not carry with
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the
glory, for ever. Amen—If any reliance is to be placed on
external evidence, this doxology, we think, can hardly be considered
part of the original text. It is wanting in all the most ancient
manuscripts; it is wanting in the Old Latin version and in the
Vulgate: the former mounting up to about the middle of the
second century, and the latter being a revision of it in the fourth
century by Jerome, a most reverential
and conservative as well as able and impartial critic. As might be
expected from this, it is passed by in silence by the earliest Latin
fathers; but even the Greek commentators, when expounding this prayer,
pass by the doxology. On the other hand, it is found in a majority of
manuscripts, though not the oldest; it is found in all the
Syriac versions, even the Peschito—dating probably
as early as the second century—although this version lacks the
"Amen," which the doxology, if genuine, could hardly have wanted; it is
found in the Sahidic or Thebaic version made for the
Christians of Upper Egypt, possibly as early as the Old Latin;
and it is found in perhaps most of the later versions. On a review of
the evidence, the strong probability, we think, is that it was no part
of the original text.
14. For if ye forgive men, &c.—See
on Mt 6:12.
15. But if ye forgive not, &c.—See
on Mt 6:12.
Fasting (Mt 6:16-18). Having concluded His supplementary
directions on the subject of prayer with this Divine Pattern, our Lord
now returns to the subject of Unostentatiousness in our deeds of
righteousness, in order to give one more illustration of it, in the
matter of fasting.
16. Moreover, when ye fast—referring,
probably, to private and voluntary fasting, which was to be regulated
by each individual for himself; though in spirit it would apply to any
be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance:
for they disfigure their faces—literally, "make unseen"; very
well rendered "disfigure." They went about with a slovenly appearance,
and ashes sprinkled on their head.
that they may appear unto men to
fast—It was not the deed, but reputation for
the deed which they sought; and with this view those hypocrites
multiplied their fasts. And are the exhausting fasts of the Church of
Rome, and of Romanizing Protestants, free from this taint?
Verily I say unto you, They have their
17. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine
head, and wash thy face—as the Jews did, except when mourning
10:3); so that the meaning
is, "Appear as usual"—appear so as to attract no notice.
18. That thou appear not unto men to fast, but
unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in
secret, shall reward thee openly—The "openly" seems
evidently a later addition to the text of this verse from Mt 6:4, 7, though of course the idea is
Mt 6:19-34. Concluding
Illustrations of the Righteousness of the Kingdom—Heavenly-Mindedness
and Filial Confidence.
19. Lay not up for ourselves treasures upon
where moth—a "clothes-moth." Eastern
treasures, consisting partly in costly dresses stored up (Job 27:16), were liable to be consumed by moths
(Job 13:28; Isa 50:9; 51:8). In Jas 5:2 there is an evident reference to our
Lord's words here.
and rust—any "eating into" or
"consuming"; here, probably, "wear and tear."
doth corrupt—cause to disappear. By
this reference to moth and rust our Lord would teach how
perishable are such earthly treasures.
and where thieves break through and
steal—Treasures these, how precarious!
20. But lay up for yourselves treasures in
heaven—The language in Luke (Lu 12:33) is very bold—"Sell that ye have,
and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in
the heavens that faileth not," &c.
where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and
where thieves do not break through nor steal—Treasures these,
imperishable and unassailable! (Compare Col 3:2).
21. For where your treasure is—that
which ye value most.
there will your heart be also—"Thy
treasure—thy heart" is probably the true reading here: "your," in
12:34, from which it seems to
have come in here. Obvious though this maxim be, by what multitudes who
profess to bow to the teaching of Christ is it practically disregarded!
"What a man loves," says Luther, quoted
by Tholuck, "that is his God. For he
carries it in his heart, he goes about with it night and day, he sleeps
and wakes with it; be it what it may—wealth or pelf, pleasure or
renown." But because "laying up" is not in itself sinful, nay, in some
cases enjoined (2Co 12:14),
and honest industry and sagacious enterprise are usually rewarded with
prosperity, many flatter themselves that all is right between them and
God, while their closest attention, anxiety, zeal, and time are
exhausted upon these earthly pursuits. To put this right, our Lord adds
what follows, in which there is profound practical wisdom.
22. The light—rather, "the lamp."
of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye
be single—simple, clear. As applied to the outward eye, this
means general soundness; particularly, not looking two ways. Here, as
also in classical Greek, it is used figuratively to denote the
simplicity of the mind's eye, singleness of purpose, looking right at
its object, as opposed to having two ends in view. (See Pr 4:25-27).
thy whole body shall be full of
light—illuminated. As with the bodily vision, the man who
looks with a good, sound eye, walks in light, seeing every object
clear; so a simple and persistent purpose to serve and please God in
everything will make the whole character consistent and bright.
23. But if thine eye be
evil—distempered, or, as we should say, If we have got a
thy whole body shall be full of
darkness—darkened. As a vitiated eye, or an eye that looks
not straight and full at its object, sees nothing as it is, so a mind
and heart divided between heaven and earth is all dark.
If therefore the light that is in thee be
darkness, how great is that darkness!—As the conscience is
the regulative faculty, and a man's inward purpose, scope, aim in life,
determines his character—if these be not simple and heavenward,
but distorted and double, what must all the other faculties and
principles of our nature be which take their direction and character
from these, and what must the whole man and the whole life be but a
mass of darkness? In Luke (Lu 11:36)
the converse of this statement very strikingly expresses what pure,
beautiful, broad perceptions the clarity of the inward eye
imparts: "If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part
dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a
candle doth give thee light." But now for the application of this.
24. No man can serve—The word means to
"belong wholly and be entirely under command to."
two masters: for either he will hate the one,
and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the
other—Even if the two masters be of one character and have
but one object, the servant must take law from one or the other:
though he may do what is agreeable to both, he cannot, in the nature of
the thing, be servant to more than one. Much less if, as in the
present case, their interests are quite different, and even
conflicting. In this case, if our affections be in the service of the
one—if we "love the one"—we must of necessity "hate the
other"; if we determine resolutely to "hold to the one," we must at the
same time disregard, and (if he insist on his claims upon us) even
"despise the other."
Ye cannot serve God and mammon—The
word "mamon"—better written with one m—is a
foreign one, whose precise derivation cannot certainly be determined,
though the most probable one gives it the sense of "what one trusts
in." Here, there can be no doubt it is used for riches,
considered as an idol master, or god of the heart. The service of this
god and the true God together is here, with a kind of indignant
curtness, pronounced impossible. But since the teaching of the
preceding verses might seem to endanger our falling short of what is
requisite for the present life, and so being left destitute, our Lord
now comes to speak to that point.
25. Therefore I say unto you, Take no
thought—"Be not solicitous." The English word "thought," when
our version was made, expressed this idea of "solicitude," "anxious
concern"—as may be seen in any old English classic; and in the
same sense it is used in 1Sa 9:5,
&c. But this sense of the word has now nearly gone out, and so the
mere English reader is apt to be perplexed. Thought or
forethought, for temporal things—in the sense of reflection,
consideration—is required alike by Scripture and common sense. It
is that anxious solicitude, that oppressive care, which springs from
unbelieving doubts and misgivings, which alone is here condemned. (See
for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye
shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on—In
12:29) our Lord adds,
"neither be ye unsettled"—not "of doubtful mind," as in our
version. When "careful (or 'full of care') about nothing," but
committing all in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving unto God,
the apostle assures us that "the peace of God, which passeth all
understanding, shall keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Php 4:6, 7); that is, shall guard both our
feelings and our thoughts from undue agitation, and keep them in a holy
calm. But when we commit our whole temporal condition to the wit of our
own minds, we get into that "unsettled" state against which our Lord
exhorts His disciples.
Is not the life more than
and the body than raiment?—If God,
then, gives and keeps up the greater—the life, the
body—will He withhold the less, food to sustain life and raiment
to clothe the body?
26. Behold the fowls of the air—in Mt 6:28, "observe well," and in Lu 12:24, "consider"—so as to learn
wisdom from them.
for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor
gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not
much better than they?—nobler in yourselves and dearer to
God. The argument here is from the greater to the less; but how rich in
detail! The brute creation—void of reason—are incapable of
sowing, reaping, and storing: yet your heavenly Father suffers them not
helplessly to perish, but sustains them without any of those processes.
Will He see, then, His own children using all the means which reason
dictates for procuring the things needful for the body—looking up
to Himself at every step—and yet leave them to starve?
27. Which of you, by taking
can add one cubit unto his
stature?—"Stature" can hardly be the thing intended here:
first, because the subject is the prolongation of life, by the
supply of its necessaries of food and clothing: and next, because no
one would dream of adding a cubit—or a foot and a half—to
his stature, while in the corresponding passage in Luke (Lu 12:25, 26) the thing intended is represented
as "that thing which is least." But if we take the word in its
primary sense of "age" (for "stature" is but a secondary sense)
the idea will be this, "Which of you, however anxiously you vex
yourselves about it, can add so much as a step to the length of your
life's journey?" To compare the length of life to measures of this
nature is not foreign to the language of Scripture (compare Ps 39:5;
2Ti 4:7, &c.). So
understood, the meaning is clear and the connection natural. In this
the best critics now agree.
28. And why take ye thought for raiment?
the lilies of the field, how they grow: they
toil not—as men, planting and preparing the flax.
neither do they spin—as women.
29. And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in
all his glory was not arrayed like one of these—What
incomparable teaching!—best left in its own transparent clearness
and rich simplicity.
30. Wherefore, if God so clothe the
of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is
cast into the oven—wild flowers cut with the grass, withering
by the heat, and used for fuel. (See Jas 1:11).
shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of
little faith?—The argument here is something fresh. Gorgeous
as is the array of the flowers that deck the fields, surpassing all
artificial human grandeur, it is for but a brief moment; you are
ravished with it to-day, and to-morrow it is gone; your own hands have
seized and cast it into the oven: Shall, then, God's children, so dear
to Him, and instinct with a life that cannot die, be left naked? He
does not say, Shall they not be more beauteously arrayed? but, Shall He
not much more clothe them? that being all He will have them
regard as secured to them (compare Heb 13:5). The expression, "Little-faithed ones,"
which our Lord applies once and again to His disciples (Mt 8:26;
14:31; 16:8), can hardly be
regarded as rebuking any actual manifestations of unbelief at that
early period, and before such an audience. It is His way of gently
chiding the spirit of unbelief, so natural even to the best, who
are surrounded by a world of sense, and of kindling a generous desire
to shake it off.
31. Therefore take no
saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we
drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32. (For after all these things do the Gentiles
seek)—rather, "pursue." Knowing nothing definitely beyond the
present life to kindle their aspirations and engage their supreme
attention, the heathen naturally pursue present objects as their chief,
their only good. To what an elevation above these does Jesus here lift
for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have
need of all these things—How precious this word! Food and
raiment are pronounced needful to God's children; and He who
could say, "No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whomsoever
the Son will reveal Him" (Mt 11:27),
says with an authority which none but Himself could claim, "Your
heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things."
Will not that suffice you, O ye needy ones of the household of
33. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his
righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto
you—This is the great summing up. Strictly speaking, it has
to do only with the subject of the present section—the right
state of the heart with reference to heavenly and earthly things; but
being couched in the form of a brief general directory, it is so
comprehensive in its grasp as to embrace the whole subject of this
discourse. And, as if to make this the more evident, the two keynotes
of this great sermon seem purposely struck in it—"the KINGDOM" and "the RIGHTEOUSNESS" of the kingdom—as the grand
objects, in the supreme pursuit of which all things needful for the
present life will be added to us. The precise sense of every word in
this golden verse should be carefully weighed. "The kingdom of
God" is the primary subject of the Sermon on the Mount—that
kingdom which the God of heaven is erecting in this fallen world,
within which are all the spiritually recovered and inwardly subject
portion of the family of Adam, under Messiah as its Divine Head and
King. "The righteousness thereof" is the character of all such,
so amply described and variously illustrated in the foregoing portions
of this discourse. The "seeking" of these is the making them the
object of supreme choice and pursuit; and the seeking of them
"first" is the seeking of them before and above all else. The
"all these things" which shall in that case be added to us are
just the "all these things" which the last words of Mt 6:32 assured us "our heavenly Father knoweth
that we have need of"; that is, all we require for the present life.
And when our Lord says they shall be "added," it is implied, as
a matter of course, that the seekers of the kingdom and its
righteousness shall have these as their proper and primary portion: the
rest being their gracious reward for not seeking them. (See an
illustration of the principle of this in 2Ch 1:11, 12). What follows is but a reduction of
this great general direction into a practical and ready form for daily
34. Take therefore no thought—anxious
for the morrow: for the morrow shall take
thought for the things of itself—(or, according to other
authorities, "for itself")—shall have its own causes of
Sufficient unto the day is the evil
thereof—An admirable practical maxim, and better rendered in
our version than in almost any other, not excepting the preceding
English ones. Every day brings its own cares; and to anticipate is only
to double them.