Matthew: Jesus’ Teachings: The Worship Of Believers

Memory Verse: Matthew 6:1

6:1-4 Alms: Hypocrisy Or Worship?

  • 6:1 Jesus just finished teaching that the standard to enter the kingdom of God was perfection—just like God in heaven. We discovered that the Scribes and Pharisees didn’t meet the standard because they were only outwardly obedient to the law, disregarding the inward obedience to the law. Now Jesus continues to teach on this dichotomy of righteousness and hypocrisy. He warns us to be on guard about practicing our righteous works (specifically: alms, prayer, fasting) before other people with the intent to be seen by them. The consequence for this is that we will have no reward from our Father in heaven. He causes us to ask the question: “What is the reason I do what I do? To have others worship us or to worship God?” True humility has an audience of One—God.
    Matthew 5:20b, 48b; Jeremiah 17:10; Hebrews 4:13
  • 6:2 The hypocrisy of alms—refers to giving to the needy: Jesus says that when we give to those in need we aren’t to give in the same manner as the hypocrites—people who are like actors in a play, they perform a certain part for the applause of the audience. The hypocrites give to be seen by other people and to be worshipped or glorified by them. In Jesus’ day, they would sound a trumpet in the synagogues or the streets to draw attention to themselves. They were playing the part of a righteous person by giving to the needy, but they weren’t genuinely doing it as an act of worship towards God but for worship from other people. The praise of men is their only reward.
    Leviticus 25:35; Deuteronomy 15:7; Psalm 41:1; 112:9; Proverbs 14:31
  • 6:3-4 The worship of alms: As believers, if we see someone in need and we have the ability to help them (whoso hath this world’s good) then we should have compassion on them, expressing the love of God. But when we give to those in need, we need to make sure that we are doing it as an act of worship towards God and not to gain the attention of others. Jesus uses a metaphor of not letting the left hand know what the right hand does—meaning that we are to give in secret—with the right motivation—knowing that God the Father sees it and He will reward it openly and appropriately.
    1 John 3:17

6:5-15 Prayer: Hypocrisy Or Worship?

  • 6:5 The hypocrisy of prayer—refers to talking to God: Jesus says that when we pray we aren’t to pray in the same manner as the hypocrites. The hypocrites pray to be seen by other people and to be worshipped or glorified by them. In Jesus’ day, they would love to stand in the synagogues or on the street corners to draw attention to themselves. They were playing the part of a righteous person by praying, but they weren’t genuinely doing it as an act of worship towards God but for worship of other people. The praise of men is their only reward.
  • 6:6 The worship of prayer: As believers, we are to pray without ceasing—meaning that prayer is to become a habitual part of our lives. But when we pray, we need to make sure that we are doing it as an act of worship towards God and not to gain the attention of others. Jesus uses an example of entering into a closet with the door shut to pray—meaning that we are to pray in secret—with the right motivation—knowing that God the Father sees it and He will reward it openly and appropriately.
    1 Thessalonians 5:17
  • 6:7-8 The misconception of prayer: Jesus continues to teach on prayer and tells us not to pray in the same manner as the heathen—unbelieving Gentiles who worship false gods and idols. In Jesus’ day, they would use vain repetitions when they prayed, thinking that God would hear them because of their much speaking or many words. Today, several religions around the world still pray in this manner. They teach words to a certain prayer and tell you to repeat those words and God will hear you. This is not true. This is meaningless repetition. It causes one to thoughtlessly say words and treat prayer like it is a magic formula that works based on devotion to repetition. Jesus tells us to not pray like this because we are not trying to get the attention of God—we already have His attention. We are His children. He is our Father. He already knows everything that we need before we even ask Him. He cares for us. He loves us.
  • 6:9-13 The manner of prayer: Jesus gave his disciples an example prayer so that they would know how to pray. His prayer was personal, short, simple, powerful and on-the-spot—this all would have been new to them compared to the way they saw others pray. Jesus addressed God and asked Him to do many things. His prayer included: (1) His desire to see God glorified and God’s will to be done; (2) His requests for God to provide for that day’s needs, for God’s grace and help to live right. He tells them to pray after this manner, but doesn’t expect them to memorize and meaninglessly repeat these words. (We will study this prayer more in depth in the next sermon.)
  • 6:14-15 The hinderance of prayer: When we sin our fellowship with God is hindered. So we ask for forgiveness. That same type of forgiveness should be applied to all our relationships otherwise it will hinder our prayers asking God to restore our fellowship. Are we being hypocrites by wanting to be forgiven by God but unwilling to forgive others?
    Luke 18:9-14; 1 John 1:9

6:16-18 Fasting: Hypocrisy Or Worship?

  • 6:16 The hypocrisy of fasting—refers to abstaining from food to focus on God: Jesus says that when we fast we aren’t to fast in the same manner as the hypocrites. The hypocrites fast to be seen by other people and to be worshipped or glorified by them. In Jesus’ day, they would disfigure their faces to appear of a sad countenance to draw attention to themselves. They were playing the part of a righteous person by fasting, but they weren’t genuinely doing it as an act of worship towards God but for worship of other people. The praise of men is their only reward.
  • 6:17-18 The worship of fasting: As believers, we aren’t commanded to fast but we see it as a normal part of a believer’s life—self-denial—to help focus on seeking God’s will, prayer and serving others. But when we fast, we need to make sure that we are doing it as an act of worship towards God and not to gain the attention of others. Jesus tells us to wash our faces and anoint our heads—meaning that we are to fast in a way that appears we aren’t fasting or in secret—with the right motivation—knowing that God the Father sees it and He will reward it openly and appropriately.
    Isaiah 58:1-8; Acts 13:2, 3; 14:23

Review Questions

  • What is the hypocrisy of alms? What is the worship of alms?
  • What is the hypocrisy of prayer? What is the worship of prayer?
  • What is the misconception, manner and hinderance of prayer?
  • What is the hypocrisy of fasting? What is the worship of fasting?
  • Are you are worshiper or a hypocrite?

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