Summary: Lesson 19
As we move into the sixth chapter of Matthew, Jesus begins to deal with some practical areas of Christian living. The focus still seems to be having a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20). Having corrected some of the more prevalent teaching errors of the religious leaders, Jesus not proceeds to point out their erroneous actions and attitudes in regards to giving, praying, and fasting. While Jesus specifically mentions these three aspects of Christian living, His words and warnings extend to all areas of the Christian life.
I. SOME COMMENDABLE ACTIONS
A. The Expectation
a. It is made plain that Jesus expects those who belong to Him to be involved in almsgiving or giving in order to meet the needs of others. This is evident from His words "when thou doest thine alms."
b. Jesus expected the Christians of His day to be involved in reaching beyond themselves and helping those who needed their help, and we have no reason to believe that He expects any less from those of us today who claim to be His children.
c. The Word of God has always spoken of the importance of doing good to those in need. Consider Deuteronomy 15:11; Psalm 37:21; Proverbs 14:31, 19:17; 31:20; Ephesians 4:28; Hebrews 13:16; Titus 3:8; James 2:15-16; 1 John 3:17-18.
d. While our giving is to be characterized by compassion, it is also to be conducted with caution (Psalm 112:5). We must not let our sentiment overrule our sense. We must exhibit good judgment in our giving. Because some people have no conscience, God’s people must be aware of professional con men and scam artists.
e. The Bible is clear in its teaching of our responsibility to give to those in need, and to fail to do so puts us in direct disobedience to the commands of our heavenly Father.
a. Once again it is made unmistakably clear that Jesus expected His followers to be involved in the practice of prayer as He said, "And when thou prayest..." To no lesser degree does He expect modern day believers to be involved in this all-important spiritual exercise.
b. The Scriptures abound with references which command and commend the practice of prayer. Consider Psalm 55:16-17, 86;3; Proverbs 15:8; Daniel 6:10; Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; 1 Timothy 2:8.
c. Prayer is the most wonderful opportunity we have to fellowship with God and the most powerful weapon we have at our disposal in our fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Neglecting prayer displeases God, diminishes our effectiveness, and decreases our ability to defend ourselves spiritually.
a. Biblical fasting is undoubtedly one of the most, if not the most, neglected practices in all of modern day Christianity.
b. As was the case with giving and praying, Jesus indicates by His use of the word "when" (Matthew 6:16) that He fully expected His followers to be involved in fasting.
c. Men and women in both Testaments are said to have fasted for various reasons and periods of time. Among those spoken of are Hannah (1 Samuel 1:6-7), David (2 Samuel 1:12), Ahab (1 Kings 21:27), Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:3), Ezra (Ezra 8:21-23), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:4), Esther (Esther 4:16), Daniel (Daniel 9:3), Anna (Luke 2:37), the workers at Antioch (Acts 13:2), and Paul (2 Corinthian 11:27). This is not to mention that Jesus Himself fasted for forty days and forty nights (Matthew 4:2).
d. Nowhere in the Scriptures is fasting, when done properly, discouraged, but it must also be noted that it is nowhere commanded, though it is commended. From both the Old and New Testaments it is clearly seen that there are occasions when fasting is both needful and helpful.
e. Fasting is a personal matter much like the taking of the Nazarite vow was a personal matter. Except for a few unusual cases (Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist), no one was ever commanded to take the vow of the Nazarite, it was a free will vow made by individuals who desired to go beyond the required duties of the law. Fasting is the same. It is something that one must be led by God to do, and in such cases, the benefits many.
B. The Compensation
1. Jesus was very clear to teach that when done properly, giving, praying, and fasting would be duly compensated by our heavenly Father.
3. We are rewarded in this present life on nearly a daily basis as we become the recipients of God’s favor and if not in this life, then surely in the life to come as we stand before Him in glory.
II. A DESPICABLE ATTITUDE
In this portion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus not only celebrates the proper practice of giving, praying, and fasting, but He also castigates the perversion of the same. It is quite obvious from the Lord’s teaching in these verses that it is possible to misuse and abuse those practices that are meant to be a means of honoring God and helping men.