Sermon on the Mount Lesson Sixteen

Do Not Judge – Matthew 7:1-6

In this lesson we’ll tackle the issue of being judgmental towards others.

“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.  For with the judgment you use,  you will be judged, and with the measure you use,  it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs,  or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces. (HCSB)

The first thing to note about verses 1-5 is that they are one of the most misunderstood and misquoted passages in the entire Bible. Jesus is not making a blanket prohibition against any form of judgment or discernment against another believer. Jesus is saying that these should never be done in a spirit of self-centered pride and without first examining yourself for sinful behavior.

Verses 1-2

“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.  For with the judgment you use,  you will be judged, and with the measure you use,  it will be measured to you. 

Jesus doesn’t state precisely what is being judged. However, we should interpret this in light of a general application of judging someone else. The Greek verb for judge, krino, has several different understandings depending on the context within which it is used.

  • Ordinary discernment of evaluation. Luke 7:43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one he forgave more.”
  • Judicial litigation. Matthew 5:40 As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well.
  • Bestow a reward. Matthew 19:28 Jesus said to them, “I assure you: In the Messianic Age, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel.
  • Pronouncement of guilt. John 7:51 Our law doesn’t judge a man before it hears from him and knows what he’s doing, does it?
  • Absolute determination of one’s fate. Matthew 5:22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire.

Jesus is warning His followers of practicing the last two on the list. We are not to set ourselves over others and make a determination of their guilt before God.

This warning is also the opposite of the blessing Jesus mentioned in Matthew 5:7 The merciful are blessed, for they will be shown mercy. It is also the fifth petition in the Disciple’s Prayer. Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

True followers of Christ will not exhibit a pattern of judging others, and displaying a pattern of judgment against others is an indicator that the person not a true member of the Kingdom of Heaven. When disciples develop a condemning and critical attitude as a pattern in their lives, it shows they have forced love out of their relationships with others.

Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked about failures that make us apathetic in our Christian service. Those failures are the love of money and worrying. Both of these will make our witness ineffective as our focus is not on God or serving Him. However, a certain kind of zeal can also ruin our witness. That is a zeal for judging others, and it will turn the practitioner into a sharp and unjust critic of their Christian brothers and sisters.

Verses 3-5

Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Here Jesus is engaging in hyperbole to communicate His point. Let’s make a couple of observations before we discuss these verses further.

  • Jesus is addressing His followers when He uses the term “brother.” Although this shouldn’t stop us from addressing issues with unbelievers, we must remember that they have a completely different set of values as non-Christians.
  • Jesus is not forbidding us from addressing issues in the lives of others. However, Jesus is saying that there is a process to ensure we do it correctly.
  • This is a jab at the self-righteousness exhibited by the Pharisees.

As I wrote in the introduction, Jesus is not telling us we can’t correct our brothers and sisters when they stray from the path. But it has to be done in the proper spirit, the spirit of love and correction, so it doesn’t happen again, not in a spirit of condemnation. Jesus did this with the woman caught in adultery in John 8:11b “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” There are two important points to remember in this short statement.

  • Jesus is not condoning her behavior. Too often, believers focus on the first part, not being condemned. It’s wonderful that as a follower of Christ, we are forgiven when we fall and confess our sins.
  • The more important part of the verse is at the end in the form of a command, “do not sin anymore.”

When we confront a brother or sister who is sinning, the goal should always be restoration and not condemnation. Let’s consider some passages that illustrate the wrong and right ways to address sinful behavior.

  • Romans 14:10 But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God. The word “criticize” here is a condemning judgment.
  • Romans 2:1 Therefore, any one of you who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things. Here the word “judge” is a condemning judgment reserved for God and carried out by a hypocritical person.
  • 1 Corinthians 4:3 Therefore don’t judge anything prematurely, before the Lord comes, who will both bring to light what is hidden in darkness and reveal the intentions of the hearts. And then praise will come to each one from God. The word “judge” is used here in a judicial sense, as in a court of law. Another point is that we will likely never know the full details of the situation. To judge without full knowledge is foolish judgment. Only God can search our hearts and know the full truth.
  • Matthew 18:15 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. 17 If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you. When a brother or sister is found in sin, there is a process to follow. Although rarely addressed in the modern church, there is a process for church discipline that Jesus laid out for us.
  • Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted. Restoration is to be done in the spirit of love.

There are three principles we should remember as to why we should never judge another person.

  • We won’t know all of the facts or the entire person; we can’t search their hearts.
  • It is impossible for fallen and sinful people, even the most devoted follower of Christ, to be completely impartial in our judgment.
  • None of us is good enough to judge another person. There is only one judge. James 4:12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

A succinct summary of verses 1-5 is, “Do not judge others until you are prepared to be judged by the same standard. And then, when you exercise judgment towards, do it with humility.”

Verse 6

Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.

At first glance, this verse seems misplaced. However, there is a connection between this verse and the preceding verses. In the first five verses, Jesus is warning against hypocritical judgment of others. In verse 6, Jesus is warning against naïve acceptance. Matthew 10:16 Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves.

As Christians, we need to strike a difficult balance between the characteristics of a serpent and a dove. We will continuously need to make evaluations in our lives, and a balance must be struck. The serpent was the picture of wisdom, shrewdness, mental keenness, and the dove represented simple innocence.

  • Genesis 3:1a Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made.
  • Psalms 58:5 That does not listen to the sound of the charmers who skillfully weave spells.
  • Hosea 7:11a So Ephraim has become like a silly, senseless dove;

Without innocence, the keenness of the snake is crafty, a devious menace; without keenness, the innocence of the dove is naive, helpless gullibility.

We need to interpret this verse in two ways.

  • The early church was attacked from the outside (persecution) as well as the inside (heresy). Persecution is easy to understand. However, the potential for heresy came about because Christianity was in its infancy, and there were those who tried to fuse pagan beliefs into Christianity. The modern church is facing these same issues today.
    • Persecution against the church and individual Christians is on the rise.
    • There are false theological positions being promoted openly.
      • Those who believe Genesis chapters 1-11 are fictional. This opens up pandora’s box. If you don’t believe in the first 11 chapters, how can you honestly believe in the rest?
      • The overemphasis on grace and the underemphasis on obedience, judgment, and hell.
      • Biblical fact that God created two sexes, man and woman, to be joined as one in marriage. The Bible speaks explicitly against homosexual behavior. The only conclusion is that same sex-marriage is a false teaching and a perversion of Scripture.
  • It was used by the Jews to undermine the simplicity of the Gospel. They believed that God’s gifts and grace were solely for the Jews. They argued that anyone converting to Christianity needed to be circumcised and submit to Old Testament Law.

The thing that is holy and the pearls in this verse are the Gospel message. The dogs and pigs are likely unbelievers and active enemies of the Gospel. Jesus is not telling His followers not to share the Gospel, but He is saying that after prolonged rejection, reproach, and harassment, it is best to move on and share with others. This is precisely the methodology that Paul applied on his mission trips.

  • Acts 13:46 Then Paul and Barnabas boldly said: “It was necessary that God’s message be spoken to you first. But since you reject it and consider yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles!
  • Acts 18:6 But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook his robe and told them, “Your blood is on your own heads!  I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
  • Acts 19:9 But when some became hardened and would not believe, slandering the Way in front of the crowd, he withdrew from them and met separately with the disciples, conducting discussions every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.

How do we apply this passage?

  • When you judge others, because it will happen, examine the spirit in which you do it. Do you take a loving, humble, and restorative approach, or are you condescending, vindictive, and condemning?
  • Do you make sure your life is in order, and you are not hypocritical? If you’re not willing to walk the walk, you shouldn’t talk the talk.
  • Don’t shy away from the opportunities to correct and restore a fallen brother or sister. Just because we need to be careful in how we do doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.
  • Don’t be naïve in dealing with a lost world. It’s a delicate balancing act, and there is wiggle room in how each of us would interpret and react to any given situation. At the same time, there is biblical support for withdrawing from those who are either unresponsive to the Gospel or are openly hostile to it.

Sermon on the Mount Lesson Fifteen

Do Not Worry – Matthew 6: 25-34

In this lesson we’ll address the issue of worry.

25 “This is why I tell you:  Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?  26 Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? 27 Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! 30 If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith?  31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,  and all these things will be provided for you.  34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (HCSB)

The central theme here is “worry,” occurring six times in this passage. The entire passage focuses on God’s provision of food and clothing and our worrying over these basic needs. These two areas were key concerns for the first century. However, we shouldn’t focus on just these two items as they are two examples to teach us a broader principle regarding God’s provision. We could place any basic need that makes us worry here, such as shelter, community, job, etc.

There’s an old saying that is applicable here. If you’re worrying, you’re not trusting; and if you’re trusting, you’re not worrying.

Verse 25

Some translation start verse 25 with “Therefore,” defining the relationship between a kingdom servant and the king. In the previous passage, Matthew 6:19-24, Jesus called for total devotion from His followers. Now Jesus is saying that when we enter into this type of relationship with Him, He will take care of our needs (not wants). It is a mutual commitment established by the covenant relationship between Jesus and His followers. Those who are totally committed to the King do not need to worry.

If God gave us life, surely we can trust Him to provide for our basic needs; food and clothing.

Verse 26

Birds don’t worry. They don’t store up food for the future, and yet their lives go on. They aren’t concerned with hoarding material wealth. They are content with their daily provision. At the same time, this is not a promotion of being lazy.

  • Colossians 3:23-24  Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:10  In fact, when we were with you, this is what we commanded you: “If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat.”

We need to be careful here to differentiate between those unwilling to work and those not capable because of a handicap or injury. Under those circumstances, the Christian community should help the brother or sister who is unable to provide for themselves.

Verse 27

The original Greek phrase reads, “add one forearm length (pechys) to his age/stature (helikia).” The word helikia usually denotes a measure of age or maturity as in Hebrews 11:11, but occasionally it is used for physical stature as in Luke 2:52. In the context of this passage, it must refer to a measure of time. Jesus’ followers are not to worry as that won’t age any time to their lives. Most likely, the opposite would happen. Worry and anxiety would shorten their life.

Verses 28-32

In verses 28-30, Jesus talks about the flowers and how beautiful they are. If God gives beauty to something as short-lived as a flower, won’t He care for us in a much greater manner? If God bestows beauty and love on a flower, won’t He give even greater care and love to people who are created in His image?

Jesus’ use of “you of little faith” in verse 30 is not meant in a derogatory manner. It only occurs in the New Testament here and in Matthew 8:26, 14:31, 16:8, 17:20, and Luke 12:28. The term can be confrontational but can also be used in an endearing context. Jesus’ tone is not scolding but coaxing with an arm around our shoulder. Jesus is not belittling the disciples; He was encouraging them.

Another reason Jesus’ followers are not to worry is that worry marked the habits of the pagans (idolators) in verse 32. Worry marks those who don’t truly know and understand God. Worry is, in its most basic understanding, distrust of God and sinful behavior.

Verse 33

This verse is the climax of the passage. The word “seek” does not mean to search for something that is not present. Jesus has already announced the arrival of His Kingdom. In the context of this passage, it means that Jesus’ followers are to make the heavenly kingdom a continual and central priority in their daily lives. Jesus’ followers have already entered the heavenly kingdom and are to live with that understanding as they follow God’s design for their lives. By doing this, they “seek…His righteousness.”

To build on this understanding, we need to go back to the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount in verse three, where Jesus points out our spiritual bankruptcy and complete lack of righteousness apart from God. Righteousness comes as a free and merciful gift, grace through faith.

Ephesians 2:4-10  But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.

The first reference to righteousness appears in Genesis 15:6 Abraham believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness.

Paul confirmed this in Romans 4:2-25.

The New Testament is clear that the righteousness of God comes to us through faith in Jesus Christ. Romans 3:22-24  22 —that is, God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, since there is no distinction. 23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 24 They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Jesus speaks to this in John 3:3 Jesus replied, “I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

However, it is logical to ask the question of why so many Christians throughout history, even to our present day, suffered deprivation and even starvation. There are several possible solutions.

  • The promise is for the period after Christ’s return. However, the hole in this argument is why Jesus would tell His followers not to worry in the present age.
  • The proper understanding is that Jesus’ followers have not correctly applied Scripture throughout the ages.
    • Luke 12:33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.
    • Mark 10:30a who will not receive 100 times more, now at this time
    • Acts 2:44-45 Now all believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had need.
    • Jesus’ teaching implies the sharing of goods within the Christian community. When Jesus’ followers corporately seek first His priorities, they will take care of the needy within their local fellowship communities.

Verse 34

Jesus concludes this passage by encouraging daily dependence on God but also stating that it will never be completed in this age because of daily worry (evil) that exists. This is also a trust issue. If we truly trust God, we won’t worry about tomorrow. We are to live in the present and trust God for the future.


  • Does worry control you or even affect your daily living? That’s an indicator of a lack of trust in God and the truth of His Word. Repent of that sin and trust in the promises of God. Remember that pagans are controlled by worry and try to appease their “gods.” As Christians, we have a loving and merciful God who we don’t need to appease.
  • Are there people around you who are controlled by worry? Pray for them and talk to them about the promises of God. If they aren’t believers, it is a perfect opportunity to share your testimony about how God has changed your life and how you now live worry-free.
  • Remember that righteousness comes from an understanding of being spiritually bankrupt apart from faith in Jesus.
  • Be generous with what God has blessed you with and help those less fortunate in the body of Christ.

Sermon on the Mount Lesson Fourteen

God and Possessions – Matthew 6:19-24

Part fourteen in my series on the Sermon on the Mount looks at Jesus instructing the disciples on where to place their trust and priority regarding the use of their resources, whether financial or other resources.

Matthew 6:19-24  19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and consuming insect destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor consuming insect destroy 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. Therefore if your eye is sincere, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be dark. Therefore if the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one is able to 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 are not able to serve God and money. (HCSB)

This passage is connected with Matthew 6:1-18. In the earlier passage, there is a contrast between the temporal rewards and attention of men and the permanence of heavenly rewards. Here, Jesus is drawing the same distinction but using earthly wealth and heavenly wealth, one temporal and one permanent.

History, including Scripture, contains numerous examples of people who allowed the love of money to ruin their spirituality and negate their witness.

  • Solomon allowed the love of money and women to ruin his spiritual life.
  • Ananias and Sapphira lied about the sale price and were struck dead.

The Bible does not teach that money is evil. Money and possessions don’t create evil; it’s the people who misuse them that creates the evil.

Jesus is not speaking against possessions; He was teaching against an unhealthy preoccupation with them.

Verses 19-21  19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and consuming insect destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor consuming insect destroy and where thieves do not break in or steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

In the ancient world, wealth didn’t appear in the same form as we understand it today. Often it consisted of precious metals or cloth. Moths would eat away at the fabric, and rust could destroy precious metals. Theft is a timeless danger in a fallen world. All three indicate a form of wealth destruction regarding temporal treasure.

This passage does not imply that Christians can’t be wealthy. It does mean that riches bring serious dangers ranging from theft to destruction over time. Christians must be characterized by being generous givers and careful stewardship in using their resources for Kingdom work.

One of the greatest, if not the greatest, danger in the modern Western church is the lure of materialism with our affluent culture. This is especially true for those that have been seduced by the prosperity gospel lie. Often those who “minister” push this false teaching are driving six-figure cars, wearing designer clothes, and living in lavish houses. The amount of money that was misused for those luxuries could be used to impact communities either in-country or for those living in 2nd and 3rd world countries. 

Here Jesus is warning against three kinds of pleasures/possessions.

  • Those that will wear out like old clothes.
  • Those that can be eroded.
  • Those that can be stolen.

Jesus is painting a contrast between earthly treasures and heavenly treasures. This is an important distinction as it is an indicator of the heart and values of a person. The heart represents the core of a person’s being, the true inner self. What a person values and demonstrates with their life is shaped and driven by their heart.

Verse 22-23  22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. Therefore if your eye is sincere, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be dark. Therefore if the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

The reference to the eyes is a metaphor here. In Jewish literature, there is a close connection between the heart and the eye. Eyes enable the whole person to see. Good and bad eyes are a reference to a good and bad heart and where our treasure is stored. It is also a metaphor regarding our perspective on wealth. A person who has a healthy and generous attitude towards their wealth is full of light. A person who has a selfish or covetous attitude is filled with darkness.

Verse 24  No one is able to 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 are not able to serve God and money.

A proper understanding of the terms “master” and “serve” is required to properly understand this verse. Master is referring to someone or something that requires total allegiance. The Greek word for serve, douleuo, indicates work done by a slave and not an employee. The master requires exclusive service from their slaves. It is a choice between two competing loyalties that are not compatible. We can’t serve two masters in the same way that we can work multiple jobs or even support multiple sports teams.

“Love” and “hate” in Semitic thinking are equivalent to “choose” and “not choose.” When we choose not to hate money, we are, by the cultural standards of Jesus’ time, choosing to love money. When we neglect God, we are, in Jesus’ understanding, choosing to hate God.

Jesus is saying that it is not possible to serve God and money at the same time. The term “money” is from the Aramaic word mamon, which means wealth or property. It is anything that a person places their confidence in and controls the person’s actions. If a person puts their trust in money, that will control their actions making it impossible to serve God in a selfless manner. However, placing their trust in God will allow them to serve generously regardless of how much money or resources they have. They will use the money and resources for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.


  1. Examine how you treat money and possessions in your life. Do they control you, or are you in control of them? Are you generous, or are you selfish? Pray for the Holy Spirit to convict and guide you in this area of your life.
  2. Are you always looking for your next “toy” to purchase? Often, we are blinded by our wants when we should be concentrating on our needs. It is not wrong to treat ourselves occasionally. However, big purchases or continuously treating yourself is a sign that mamon is in control of you.
  3. Are your eyes a portal to light or darkness? This requires an honest, and often uncomfortable, self-examination. Pray for conviction and revelation in this area, knowing that confessing and repenting lead to forgiveness.
  4. Do you understand that not choosing to follow God in any area of biblical guidance is the same as choosing to hate God? These are not my words; they are the words of Jesus.

Sermon on the Mount Lesson Thirteen

Biblical Fasting – Matthew 6:16-18

In this lesson we’ll look at Jesus’ instructions to His disciples on how to fast.

16 “Whenever you fast, don’t be sad-faced like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so their fasting is obvious to people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head, and wash your face, 18 so that you don’t show your fasting to people but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (HCSB)

Before diving into this short passage, the one key term, fasting, must be defined to properly understand what Jesus is telling His disciples.

Fasting differed in purpose and practice between the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, there were three general types of fast:

  • Normal – no food was eaten for a predetermined period of time, but liquids may be permitted.
  • Partial – eating food was limited but not completely forbidden.
  • Absolute – no food or liquids of any form were consumed during the fast.

And Old Testament fasts were done calm God’s wrath and move Him away from executing judgment. Fasting was always associated with a mournful attitude.

  • During times of emergencies, the people fasted to prevent disaster:
    • Judges 20:26 – The whole Israelite army went to Bethel where they wept and sat before the Lord.  They fasted that day until evening and offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the Lord.
    • 1 Samuel 7:6 – When they gathered at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out in the Lord’s presence.  They fasted that day,  and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.”  And Samuel judged the Israelites at Mizpah.
    • 1 Kings 21:9 – In the letters, she wrote: Proclaim a fast and seat Naboth at the head of the people.
    • 2 Chronicles 20:3 – Jehoshaphat was afraid, and he resolved  to seek the Lord. Then he proclaimed a fast  for all Judah.
    • Jeremiah 36:6 – so you must go and read from the scroll—which you wrote at my dictation —the words of the Lord in the hearing of the people at the temple of the Lord on a day of fasting. You must also read them in the hearing of all the Judeans who are coming from their cities.
  • Liberation from trouble. 
    • 2 Samuel 12:16-20 – 16 David pleaded with God for the boy. He fasted, went home, and spent the night lying on the ground.  17 The elders of his house stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he was unwilling and would not eat anything with them. 18 On the seventh day the baby died. But David’s servants were afraid to tell him the baby was dead. They said, “Look, while the baby was alive, we spoke to him, and he wouldn’t listen to us. So how can we tell him the baby is dead? He may do something desperate.” 19 When David saw that his servants were whispering to each other, he guessed that the baby was dead. So he asked his servants, “Is the baby dead?” “He is dead,” they replied. 20 Then David got up from the ground. He washed, anointed himself, changed his clothes, went to the Lord’s house, and worshiped. Then he went home and requested something to eat. So they served him food, and he ate.
    • 1 Kings 21:27 – When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put sackcloth over his body, and fasted. He lay down in sackcloth  and walked around subdued.
    • Psalm 35:13 – Yet when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled myself with fasting, and my prayer was genuine.
    • Psalm 69:10 – I mourned and fasted, but it brought me insults.
  • Commitment to prayer.
    • Ezra 8:21 – I proclaimed a fast  by the Ahava River,  so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask Him for a safe journey for us, our children, and all our possessions.
    • Nehemiah 1:4 – When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned for a number of days, fasting and praying  before the God of heaven.
  • On the Day of Atonement to mourn their sins and reconcile with God.

However, fasting became abused and turned into a public spectacle instead of a humble submission, and Yahweh rejected such fasts:

  • Jeremiah 14:12 – “If they fast, I will not hear their cry of despair. If they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. Rather, I will finish them off by sword, famine, and plague.”
  • Isaiah 58:1-10

By the time of Jesus, fasting had developed into a rabbinic tradition to demonstration piety that was largely ritualistic. However, Jesus’ understanding of fasting is significant in that it represents a shift in the role of fasting. His initial attitude undoubtedly reflected the fact that he grew up participating in the regular fasts and therefore shared the prevailing teachings of his day. Yet, his mature teaching about fasting breaks with the rabbinic tradition.

  • Jesus’ first concept of fasting is from the viewpoint of dependence on God during the temptation in the wilderness.
    • Matthew 4:2 – After He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights,  He was hungry.
    • Luke 4:2 – for 40 days  to be tempted by the Devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over,  He was hungry.
  • Jesus ushers in the beginning of eschatological times, breaking the power of the evil age. Old Testament fasting is no longer consistent with the spirit of thanksgiving and joy that Jesus brings. However, the Kingdom is not fully here, and fasting still has its place.
    • Fasting must be done in the context of joyful thanksgiving of our new life in Christ.
    • New Covenant fasting should be done in the context of our prayer life: quietness before God, from a sense of gratitude, expressing thanksgiving, grounded in faith, leading to spiritual growth.

Now that fasting has been defined, let’s look at what Jesus is telling His disciples about fasting.

Verse 16  “Whenever you fast, don’t be sad-faced like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so their fasting is obvious to people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward!

Notice the first word of the passage, “whenever.” This implies that Jesus’ followers are to fast. This isn’t descriptive; it’s prescriptive. At the same time, it is essential to fast with the proper attitude.

  • Privately before God.
  • Not in public.
  • Jesus is telling His disciples how not to fast in verse 16.
  • Those who make fasting a public display have already received their reward from others; no further reward will come from God.

Verse 17-18   17 But when you fast, put oil on your head, and wash your face, 18 so that you don’t show your fasting to people but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Verse 17 This is basically a call to appear “normal” and not as one who is fasting. For someone to wash their face and put oil on their head was to act in a manner that would not indicate to others that they were fasting.

Verse 18  Only God should know that a follower of Christ is fasting. Of course, there are exceptions to this:

  • A church-wide fast.
  • A fast by members of a small group.
  • A family fasting together.
  • This list is not exhaustive but should give you an understanding of principles.

Fasting done with the proper attitude and in private is honored and rewarded by God.

Let’s a quick look at five reasons fasting is a positive thing to do.

  • Good for your health. Let’s be honest; the modern western world is overfed and under-exercised. Enjoying food is not a sin, within reason, but do you live to eat or eat to live?
  • Good for self-discipline. This is the counter to the self-indulgent world in which we live where self-denial is frowned upon.
  • Prevents us from becoming slaves to a habit. We can fast from more than food. The modern habit that is enslaving the world is our connection to cellphones and social media.
  • Preserved the ability to do without things. What things or items in your life are really essential? The smaller the number, the more independence you will have.
  • Makes us appreciate what we do have all the more. Are we so used to being “satisfied” that we’ve become dull to what we consider normal while people in other parts of the world live day-by-day?

How do we apply this short passage to our lives?

  • Do you fast? Jesus makes it clear that fasting is not optional. Fasting doesn’t have to be from food. It can be from anything you have placed a dependence on: cellphone, television, computer, social media, or anything else that fits the criteria.
  • When we fast, do we do it with the proper attitude? Do we do it to draw closer to God, help with our prayer life, or to bring a petition of an area of our life before God?
  • This section on the Sermon on the Mount is addressing an inside-out change. Examine yourself. Are you more concerned with external appearance or inner transformation? One leads to spiritual growth and relationship with God, and the other leads to spiritual decay and death.

Sermon on the Mount Lesson Twelve

The Disciples’ Prayer – Matthew 6:5-15

Today we’ll look at a passage that is well known and often called, incorrectly, the Lord’s Prayer. One only has to look at verse 12 asking for forgiveness of debts (sins) to understand this is a prayer Jesus would not need to pray. It is important not to get into a semantics discussion, but the prayer is focused on how Jesus’ disciples should pray.

“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward!  But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters,  since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words.  Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him. “Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.14 “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing,  your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.  15 But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.

Verses 5-8 set up the general guidelines for prayer.

  • Public prayer is not condemned, but public prayer to draw attention to yourself is.
    • Those who pray to draw attention to themselves are hypocritical in their pious behavior; there is a direct correlation between hypocritical prayer and hypocritical giving in the previous section. Both represent a heart problem.
    • They will receive their “reward” from other people but forfeit any reward from God.
  • Repetitious or babbling prayer is condemned.
    • Rote repetition without thinking is useless.
    • This is how the pagans prayed to their gods.
    • Using this method to manipulate God is foolish.
  • Long prayers are not condemned – Luke 6:12 During those days He went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God.

Verses 9-13 represent the format on how to pray, not a formula or rote memorization without thinking about what Jesus’ followers are to pray.

  • Jesus is not commanding His followers to pray, but He is inviting them to pray.
  • Jesus is giving a model for how to pray, not verbatim repetition.
  • The order in the prayer falls in line with Old and New Testament practices of placing God first and then personal need in the context of community.
  • It ranges from honoring God’s name, kingdom, and will to the daily themes of food, sins, and temptations.

It begins with the term “Father,” which in the Greek is “Abba,” a term used by children for their earthly fathers and indicates a sense of warmth and intimacy in the security of their father’s presence. There is another connection here. The expression “our Father” indicates a relationship with have not only with God but with other believers. We are part of the spiritual family of God.

Following the initial address to God in verse nine, there are six appeals. The first three pertain to God, the vertical relationship. The last three concern human needs, the horizontal relationships. We are always to place God first and then our needs and the needs of our neighbors. This is the same order that the Ten Commandments take.

  • That God’s name is honored as holy.
  • The final Kingdom of Jesus would come.
  • God’s will would be done.
    • John 4:34  “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work,” Jesus told them.
    • Matthew 26:39  Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”
    • Romans 8:18-25
  • Asking for daily sustenance Philippians 4:6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
  • Confession of our sins (debts) – this area should decrease as we mature.
  • Preparation for spiritual battle – this area should increase as we mature.

Note that the word “and” appears between the last three. This emphasizes that these are the constant needs of God’s people. Also, note that there is no “and” between deliverance from temptation and deliverance from evil. They belong together as one request as the evil one is the one who tempts. God may test us but never tempt us.

Another fascinating thing to note about the last part is the unity and the three periods of time that all humans experience in bringing things before God.

  • Asking for bread brings the needs of the present.
  • Asking for forgiveness brings the past.
  • Asking for help in temptation commits the future into God’s hands.

We are to lay the past, present, and future before God and trust in His grace, mercy, and provision.

Verses 14-15  Jesus reemphasizes the fifth appeal of forgiving others. Our salvation does not depend on our merits or what we do. It is solely on the mercy and grace of God. Once we have received God’s forgiveness and salvation, we are to extend that same forgiveness to others,

Matthew 18:21-35. Receiving God’s forgiveness should motivate us to forgive others.


  • Examine your prayer life in multiple areas.
    • Do you have a prayer life? Is it vibrant? Is it more than 5 or 10 minutes a day? Do you do it for show? Is it mechanical?
    • Some people view prayer as either a mystical activity or a formula activity. Yes, there is an element of mystery, but I would encourage you to approach prayer as if you’re talking to your father because you are!
    • Spill out your heart but don’t worry about sounding eloquent. God is not worried about form over substance in our prayer lives.
  •  Look at the format of the Disciples’ Prayer as a skeleton that you fill in the rest with your words.
    • Honoring God.
    • Praying for Jesus’ return.
    • Praying for God’s will to be accomplished.
    • Praying for our needs and the needs of others.
    • Confessing our sins.
    • Preparation for spiritual warfare.
  • Two acronyms to structure your prayer life
    • ACTS
      • Adoration
      • Confession
      • Thanksgiving
      • Supplication
    • TACS
      • Thanksgiving
      • Adoration
      • Confession
      • Supplication
  • Forgiving others
    • Do you forgive, or do you become resentful and try to “get even?”
    • Just as we are forgiven, we are to forgive others.
    • This is challenging as our “human” tendency is to retaliate in some way. Followers of Jesus are expected to refrain from that. Instead, extending mercy and grace to those who harm us in some way.