Matthew 6:1

Having spoken of the duties of everyday social life, our Lord now passes on to deal with specifically religious actions - almsgiving, prayer, fasting. One thing he condemns in regard to all of these actions, viz. ostentation. His great requirement is sincerity, and, with this, simplicity and humility.

I. THE CHARACTER OF OSTENTATIOUS RELIGION. It is a theatrical performance, carried through before the eyes of men and in order to secure their admiration. In so far as it is ostentatious it does not aim at the service of God at all Attention is not given to his will and approval. The lower sphere is all that is thought of.

1. Ostentatious charity. This was largely practised in the days of Christ, so that the very word "righteousness" came to be narrowed down to the meaning of almsgiving. But it is still prevalent. A person gives not to help the needy or to honour God, but to gain a reputation for generosity. His name must figure in the subscription list. If he were to have no public acknowledgment of his charity, he would withdraw his contributions. Why is it that some people will give more when they "subscribe" than when they put an offering in a "collection" for the very same object?

2. Ostentatious payer. We do not observe the Oriental practice of praying out in the streets. But great attention to public services with neglect of private devotion is of the same character. Or if when at church there is the utmost decorum of behaviour with bent knee and bowed head, while the mind is not in the worship but wandering after idle fancies, this is a show and a sham.

3. Ostentatious self-denial. There are numerous opportunities for self-denial in ways invisible to man. It, therefore, a person passes these by and studies his own comfort in private, while he makes a show of fasting in public, he proclaims himself an "actor;" he is but playing a part. His self-denial is self display, for his own glory, and therefore no real self-denial at all.


1. Its inutility. It has its reward in the admiration of beholders. The hypocrite is praised - till he is found out. Nevertheless, he really fails. For if religion means anything, it means the soul's relations with God. But if in all this foolish display the thought of God is lost, the supposed worshipper is not worshipping. Praying so as to be seen of men, he forgets the one Being whom it is his supreme duty to please.

2. Its positive wickedness. The conduct of the ostentatious worshipper is odious in the sight of God.

(1) It is false. Pretending to be what it is not, claiming admiration for a charity, a piety, and a self-denial that do not really exist.

(2) It is selfish. Worship should be the surrender of self to God.:But this show of worship is all for the sake of self.

(3) It is worldly. The admiration of men is cultivated, but there is no thought of a higher Witness. A purely temporal, earthly gain is all that such a religion can contemplate.

(4) It is an insult to God. What can be more awfully impious than to prostitute the soul's great privilege of communion with God so as to make it a mere decoration of personal vanity? This is rank hypocrisy, of all things the most hateful in the sight of God. - W.F.A.

Alms before men.
I. THE DUTY TO WHICH OUR LORD REFERS. THE word in the first verse rendered "alms" is in some ancient copies rendered righteousness; in the second verse it means charitable gifts. Our duty to give of our goods. The gift of alms a deed of justice as well as of mercy; the poor have a just claim on the abundance of the rich.


1. We are to avoid the desire of human applause.

2. We are to avoid giving an ostentatious notoriety to deeds of beneficence. It is the empty vessel that cannot be touched without telling it.


1. Modesty.

2. With a cheerful respect to the Divine precepts.

3. We must aim at the advancement of the honour of God.

4. Act from Christian compassion and fellowship.

5. We must depend on Divine assistance, and ascribe the praise of all to Him who enables us to live to His glory.


1. The futility of ostentatious displays of piety.

2. The promise annexed to their right performance.

3. How jealous should we be of the principle from which we act.

4. Never presume on eternal life from the works of the law.

(J. E. Good.)

When Mrs. Judson read the Lord's " Sermon on the Mount " to the first Burman convert, he was deeply affected. "These words," said he, "take hold on my very heart; they make me tremble. Here God commands us to do everything that is good in secret; not to be seen of men. How unlike our religion is this! When Burmans make offerings they make a great noise with drums and cymbals, that others may see how good they are.

(Anecdotes of the Aborigines.)

Loud, ostentatious, and unprofitable, it was like the brawling, noisy, foaming, frothy torrent, which, with a rock for its bed and barrenness on its banks, makes itself seen and heard. How different genuine, gracious piety! Affluent in blessings but retiring from observation, it has its symbol in the stream that pursues a silent course, and, flashing out in the light of day but here and there, but now and then, is not known but by the good it does — the flowers that bloom on its banks, and the evergreen verdure which it gives to the pastures through which it winds on its quiet path.

(Dr. Guthrie.)

Alms should be like oil, which, though it swim aloft when it is fallen, yet makes no noise in the falling; not like water, that sounds when it lights.


Jesus, Solomon
Actions, Acts, Alms, Attract, Beware, Care, Careful, Charitable, Gaze, Giving, Heaven, Heavens, Heed, Kindness, Noticed, Order, Otherwise, Piety, Practicing, Reward, Righteousness, Sight, Works
1. Giving to the Needy
5. The Lord's Prayer
16. Proper Fasting
19. Store up Treasures in Heaven
25. Do Not Worry
33. but seek God's kingdom.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Matthew 6:1-2

     8774   legalism

Matthew 6:1-4

     5556   stewardship
     8242   ethics, personal
     8436   giving, of possessions

Matthew 6:1-6

     5941   secrecy
     7462   tassel

Matthew 6:1-8

     8332   reputation

Matthew 6:1-18

     5909   motives, importance

Matthew 6:1-21

     1660   Sermon on the Mount

The Distracted Mind
Eversley. 1871. Matthew vi. 34. "Take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." Scholars will tell you that the words "take no thought" do not exactly express our Lord's meaning in this text. That they should rather stand, "Be not anxious about to-morrow." And doubtless they are right on the whole. But the truth is, that we have no word in English which exactly expresses the Greek word which St Matthew
Charles Kingsley—All Saints' Day and Other Sermons

The Lord's Prayer
Windsor Castle, 1867. Chester Cathedral, 1870. Matthew vi. 9, 10. "After this manner, therefore, pray ye, Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Let us think for a while on these great words. Let us remember that some day or other they will certainly be fulfilled. Let us remember that Christ would not have bidden us use them, unless He intended that they should be fulfilled. And let us remember, likewise, that
Charles Kingsley—All Saints' Day and Other Sermons

June 16. "Ye Cannot Serve God and Mammon" (Matt. vi. 24).
"Ye cannot serve God and Mammon" (Matt. vi. 24). He does not say ye cannot very well serve God and mammon, but ye cannot serve two masters at all. Ye shall be sure to end by serving one. The man who thinks he is serving God a little is deceived; he is not serving God. God will not have his service. The devil will monopolize him before he gets through. A divided heart loses both worlds. Saul tried it. Balaam tried it. Judas tried it, and they all made a desperate failure. Mary had but one choice.
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth

August 27. "Take no Thought for Your Life" (Matt. vi. 25).
"Take no thought for your life" (Matt. vi. 25). Still the Lord is using the things that are despised. The very names of Nazarene and Christian were once epithets of contempt. No man can have God's highest thought and be popular with his immediate generation. The most abused men are often most used. There are far greater calamities than to be unpopular and misunderstood. There are far worse things than to be found in the minority. Many of God's greatest blessings are lying behind the devil's scarecrows
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth

November 21. "Consider the Lilies How they Grow" (Matt. vi. 28).
"Consider the lilies how they grow" (Matt. vi. 28). It is said that a little fellow was found one day by his mother, standing by a tall sunflower, with his feet stuck in the ground. When asked by her, "What in the world are you doing there?" he naively answered, "Why, I am trying to grow to be a man." His mother laughed heartily at the idea of his getting planted in the ground in order to grow, like the sunflower, and then, patting him gently on the head, "Why, Harry, that is not the way to grow.
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth

June 10. "Your Heavenly Father Knoweth Ye have Need" (Matt. vi. 32).
"Your heavenly Father knoweth ye have need" (Matt. vi. 32). Christ makes no less of our trust for temporal things than He does for spiritual things. He places a good deal of emphasis upon it. Why? Simply because it is harder to trust God for them. In spiritual matters we can fool ourselves, and think that we are trusting when we are not; but we cannot do so about rent and food, and the needs of our body. They must come or our faith fails. It is easy to say that we trust Him in things that are a long
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth

February 12. "But Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God, and his Righteousness, and all These Things Shall be Added unto You" (Matt. vi. 33).
"But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. vi. 33). For every heart that is seeking anything from the Lord this is a good watchword. That very thing, or the desire for it, may unconsciously separate you from the Lord, or at least from the singleness of your purpose unto Him. The thing we desire may be a right thing, but we may desire it in a distrusting and selfish spirit. Let us commit it to Him, and not cease to believe for
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth

Consider the Lilies of the Field
(Preached on Easter Day, 1867.) MATTHEW vi. 26, 28, 29. Behold the fowls of the air: 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? . . . And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. What has this text to do with Easter-day? Let us think
Charles Kingsley—Discipline and Other Sermons

'Thy Kingdom Come'
'Thy kingdom come.--MATT. vi. 10. 'The Lord reigneth, let the earth be glad'; 'The Lord reigneth, let the people tremble,' was the burden of Jewish psalmist and prophet from the first to the last. They have no doubt of His present dominion. Neither man's forgetfulness and man's rebellion, nor all the dark crosses and woes of the world, can disturb their conviction that He is then and for ever the sole Lord. The kingdom is come, then. Yet John the Baptist broke the slumbers of that degenerate people
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

'Thy Will be Done'
'Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.'--MATT. vi. 10. It makes all the difference whether the thought of the name, or that of the will, of God be the prominent one. If men begin with the will, then their religion will be slavish, a dull, sullen resignation, or a painful, weary round of unwelcome duties and reluctant abstainings. The will of an unknown God will be in their thoughts a dark and tyrannous necessity, a mysterious, inscrutable force, which rules by virtue of being stronger, and
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The Cry for Bread
'Give us this day our daily bread.'--MATT. vi. 11. What a contrast there is between the two consecutive petitions, Thy will be done, and Give us this day! The one is so comprehensive, the other so narrow; the one loses self in the wide prospect of an obedient world, the other is engrossed with personal wants; the one rises to such a lofty, ideal height, the other is dragged down to the lowest animal wants. And yet this apparent bathos is apparent only, and the fact that so narrow and earthly a petition
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

'Forgive us Our Debts'
'Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.'--MATT. vi. 12. The sequence of the petitions in the second half of the Lord's Prayer suggests that every man who needs to pray for daily bread needs also to pray for daily forgiveness. The supplication for the supply of our bodily needs precedes the others, because it deals with a need which is fundamental indeed, but of less importance than those which prompt the subsequent petitions. God made us to need bread, we have made ourselves to need pardon.
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

'Lead us not into Temptation'
'And lead us not into temptation.'--MATT. vi. 13. The petition of the previous clause has to do with the past, this with the future; the one is the confession of sin, the other the supplication which comes from the consciousness of weakness. The best man needs both. Forgiveness does not break the bonds of evil by which we are held. But forgiveness increases our consciousness of weakness, and in the new desire which comes from it to walk in holiness, we are first rightly aware of the strength and
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

'Deliver us from Evil'
'But deliver us from evil.'--MATT. vi. 13. The two halves of this prayer are like a calm sky with stars shining silently in its steadfast blue, and a troubled earth beneath, where storms sweep, and changes come, and tears are ever being shed. The one is so tranquil, the other so full of woe and want. What a dark picture of human conditions lies beneath the petitions of this second half! Hunger and sin and temptation, and wider still, that tragic word which includes them all--evil. Forgiveness and
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

'Thine is the Kingdom'
'Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.' MATT. vi. 13. There is no reason to suppose that this doxology was spoken by Christ. It does not occur in any of the oldest and most authoritative manuscripts of Matthew's Gospel. It does not seem to have been known to the earliest Christian writers. Long association has for us intertwined the words inextricably with our Lord's Prayer, and it is a wound to reverential feeling to strike out what so many generations have used in
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Hearts and Treasures
'For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.'--MATT. vi. 21. 'Your treasure' is probably not the same as your neighbour's. It is yours, whether you possess it or not, because you love it. For what our Lord means here by 'treasure' is not merely money, or material good, but whatever each man thinks best, that which he most eagerly strives to attain, that which he most dreads to lose, that which, if he has, he thinks he will be blessed, that which, if he has it not, he knows he is discontented.
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Solitary Prayer
'Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret,'--MATT. vi. 6. An old heathen who had come to a certain extent under the influence of Christ, called prayer 'the flight of the solitary to the Solitary.' There is a deep truth in that, though not all the truth. Prayer is not only the most intensely individual act that a man can perform, but it is also the highest social act. Christ came not to carry solitary souls by a solitary pathway to heaven, but
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The Structure of the Lord's Prayer
'After this manner therefore pray ye.'--MATT. vi. 9. 'After this manner' may or may not imply that Christ meant this prayer to be a form, but He certainly meant it for a model. And they who drink in its spirit, and pray, seeking God's glory before their own satisfaction, and, while trustfully asking from His hand their daily bread, rise quickly to implore the supply of their spiritual hunger, do pray after this manner,' whether they use these words or no. All begins with the recognition of the Fatherhood
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

'Our Father'
'Our Father which art in heaven.'--Matt. vi. 9. The words of Christ, like the works of God, are inexhaustible. Their depth is concealed beneath an apparent simplicity which the child and the savage can understand. But as we gaze upon them and try to fathom all their meaning, they open as the skies above us do when we look steadily into their blue chambers, or as the sea at our feet does when we bend over to pierce its clear obscure. The poorest and weakest learns from them the lesson of divine love
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

'Hallowed be Thy Name'
'Hallowed be Thy name.'--Matt. vi. 9. Name is character so far as revealed. I. What is meaning of Petition? Hallowed means to make holy; or to show as holy; or to regard as holy. The second of these is God's hallowing of His Name. The third is men's. The prayer asks that God would so act as to show the holiness of His character, and that men, one and all, may see the holiness of His character. i.e. Hallowed by divine self-revelation. Hallowed by human recognition. Hallowed by human adoration and
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Trumpets and Street Corners
'Take heed that ye do nob your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. 2. Therefore, when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues, and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 3. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth; 4. That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret,
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

'Moreover, when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 17. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 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.'--MATT. vi. 16-18. Fasting has gone out of fashion now, but in Christ's time it went along
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Two Kinds of Treasure
'Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.'--MATT. vi. 19-20. The connection with the previous part is twofold. The warning against hypocritical fastings and formalism leads to the warning against worldly-mindedness and avarice. For what worldly-mindedness is greater than that which prostitutes even religious acts to worldly advantage, and is laying up treasure of
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Anxious Care
'Ye cannot serve God and Mammon. 25. Therefore I say unto you. Take no thought for your life.'--Matt. vi. 24-25. Foresight and foreboding are two very different things. It is not that the one is the exaggeration of the other, but the one is opposed to the other. The more a man looks forward in the exercise of foresight, the less he does so in the exercise of foreboding. And the more he is tortured by anxious thoughts about a possible future, the less clear vision has he of a likely future, and the
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

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