These small group studies of Matthew contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, teaching points, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Matthew 6:1-15 Inductive Bible Study – Discussion Questions and Teaching Points
How can we “be careful” about this? (Evaluate our own motivations?
Why would people intentionally do good deeds in front of others? What are some examples of things we might do in front of others in order to get recognition? Are there any examples in the Bible of people who did this?
Why would such a person receive no reward from God? Isn’t the action of giving to the needy the most important?
What are some ways people may try to draw attention to their good works akin to “announcing with trumpets?”
Why does Jesus call these people hypocrites?
What is their reward (verse 20?)
What does it mean to not “let your left hand know what your right hand is doing?’ Is it possible to always hide all of the good things we do? Is it necessary? What is the principle we need to learn from this?
Verses on Giving
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 – He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly.
Acts 20:35 – It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Philippians 4:19 – God will supply all of your needs.
Deuteronomy 15:10 – Give generously.
Deuteronomy 16:17 – Give as God has given to you.
1 Chronicles 29:9 – They offered to God with a whole heart.
Proverbs 3:7 – Do not withhold good when it is in your power to do it.
Proverbs 21:26 – The righteous gives and does not hold back.
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son.
Verse 1 – We are not to do good works out of a motivation for other people to see those good works and praise us for what we have done. Our motivation should not be to get the attention of people. Notice also that Jesus calls this “your righteousness.” This is the type of righteousness people can achieve on their own. Without God, if people even do good deeds, generally the motivation for those good deeds is a selfish motivation. Man’s own righteousness (which is not real righteousness) seeks to get something in return and seeks to attract attention to itself and say “Look how good I am.” Here are some of the things which we may do in front of others to get recognition.
- Employees may work harder while the boss is in the office or in the room.
- People serving in church may want “front and center” roles like singing in the choir (not all people doing this want attention, but some do.)
- A cook may try to draw attention to his/her cooking to get compliments from the people he/she cooked for.
- A husband may remind his wife of all the chores he has done and make loud noises while washing dishes or doing laundry so that she will be sure to notice he is helping out.
- We may act differently or more spiritual around our Christian friends than around unbelievers.
- We may make use of Christian and phrases like “praise the Lord” and “I will pray for you” to draw attention to the fact of how spiritual we are.
- We may brag about various spiritual accomplishments we have done like memorizing Scripture, reading Christian books, sharing the gospel, etc.
- When you visit the orphanage or go to visit sick patients in the hospital you don’t have to tell everyone
What is the solution. We cannot and should not make rules about all of these things. Not all of these things mean that a person is seeking the attention of others. It is not wrong to serve in a choir. It is not wrong to tell others about the Christian books we are reading or what we have memorized. Jesus, like in chapter 5, is focusing on the internal heart attitude. We should not learn this passage and start to judge others and say, “you are doing good things to get noticed!” Instead we should evaluate ourselves and our own motivations. Jeremiah said that the “heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.” We should know that our heart is deceitful. Do not mislead yourself about your own motivations. Pray and ask God to reveal your motivations to you and give you sincere motivations. Do not live for popularity or recognition. Do not delight in the praises of people. Instead live to please God.
Verses 2-4 – Here Jesus gives a specific example of one way he saw people in his day bringing attention to their own good deeds. And it was through giving. The practice of letting others now how much we have given is still common today. I remember after the SiChuan earthquake seeing pictures of people in the newspaper with fans of money in their hands showing just how great they were to donate so much money to the needy. As Jesus says, “they have their reward in full.’ I have heard it said that the monument in Lie Shi Lin Yuan also the names of all the people who donated to the statues written down at the bottom of the monument with a record of how much they gave. As Jesus said, they already have their reward. In some churches, there is a listing in the bulletin or on a power point of weekly and monthly donations and the amounts given by members. How can this practice be justified in light of this Scripture? (Hint: It can’t.)
Our motivation should be to help those who need it, not to draw a spotlight to ourselves. Here are some examples of how we can apply this passage:
- When you give at church, do so secretly if possible. If your church uses an offering plate, try to be inconspicuous.
- When possible, give to others anonymously. It is often possible to give to others anonymously. This practice will help us guard our own motivations and make sure we are not doing it for getting credit from others. Recently someone bought my parents and siblings tickets to the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum in Tennessee. They don’t know who did it. Someone knew they were going and just chose to bless them. It was a great blessing. God knows and will bless the person who gave this generous gift.
- Limit talking to others about what/who and how much you give to.
Notice also that Jesus says, “When you give to the poor.” This concept is taught so clearly and repeatedly throughout the Bible, Jesus assumes that His followers will do this. Your money is not your own. You are only a steward of what God has put in your hands. Use what you have to build God’s kingdom and not your own.
God rewards. God knows your heart. If you do good deeds for Him with the right motivation, He will reward you. If you do it to get attention from others, He won’t.
Principles of prayer
Matthew 6:1-15 – The words themselves are not that important. The heart is important. Prayer is largely private. We should pray to the Father. We should be consumed for God’s glory.
Luke 18:10-14 – The parable of the self-righteous prayer and the humble prayer.
Luke 18:1-9 – We must persevere and not lose heart. The parable of the persistent widow.
Luke 11:5-13, The persistent friend and he gracious Father. Contrast and compare the two. Pray persistently.
1 Thess 5:18, Ephesians 5:20 – Pray with a thankful heart.
James 1:6-7- Pray with faith.
Matthew 21:22 – Pray with faith.
James 5:16-18 – Pray expecting results like Elijah. Amazing things can happen.
Micah 3:4, John 9:31 – Sin can impede our prayers so we need to confess first.
Acts 12:1-17 – Negative example where people were praying, but seemed not to expect great results from their prayer. They couldn’t believe that Peter was out and free.
Examples of people praying-
Moses – Exodus 33:11
Abraham – Genesis 18
David – Psalms 51
Jesus – Luke 5:16
Nehemiah – Nehemiah 1:5-11
Asa – 2 Chronicles 14-16
Verses 5-6 – The principle here is the same one as the principle about giving, but in this case it applies to praying. Note that in the Bible there are many cases of public prayer and Jesus Himself sometimes prays in public like when He gives thanks for the bread/fish and when He prays before raising Lazarus from the dead. But His most intimate times of prayer are alone between Himself and the Father. It is not wrong to pray together with believers. But if you only pray in front of other believers and don’t pray on your own then that is a sign you don’t have a personal relationship with God. The core of one’s prayer time should be alone. This is where the most intimate and deep prayers should take place. Do you often pray alone? We can see many good examples of people who had a rich, deep personal prayer time with God in the Bible. For example? David and Daniel. Do you have this same rich, deep time of prayer with God? If not, how can you start to build toward that?
What application can we make from these verses?
- There is no need to make formal and elegant sounding prayers. Pray from your heart. God knows what you are really thinking anyway.
- There is no need to have a special tone of voice. Prayer is like talking to a friend.
Prayer is talking to a friend. We make appointments to talk with our friends so we can and should make appointments to talk with God in prayer and then we should keep them.
- It is rude to lose focus and become distracted when communicating with other people. How much more rude if we lose focus talking with God!
Verses 7-8 –
Don’t beat around the bush. Be direct and specific.
- Genesis 18:22-33. One thing that strikes me when I read the prayers of Moses, Abraham, David etc. is how direct they were. They were incredibly bold and direct when talking to God. They weren’t vague in their prayers. If they were annoyed they expressed it. If they were surprised by something God was doing they said so. After all, God knows everything they were thinking anyway, so why not say it? In this event Abraham bargains with God. He is zealously defending God’s character and in the process says “Far be it from You!” several times. Should we pray like that? I believe it is OK to pray like if we are 100% convinced in the rightness of our request. How can we be that convinced? We can be if it is something that God has already promised in Scripture. Too often we beat around the bush and even pray “weak” prayers. In some cases I know I pray prayers that are clouded with so many conditions it could barely be called a prayer at all. For example we say “if it is your will and the time is right and the people are ready and etc. etc.” Of course we should pray in God’s will, but Abraham knew God’s character so he knew God’s will. In Scripture we know God’s will in many areas. My thinking is that if something is clearly in His will, we don’t need to see, “if it’s your will”. What do you think?
- Matthew 6:7-8. God will not listen to us because of the eloquence of our words. It doesn’t matter how nice or spiritual our prayers sound. God already knows what we need. The quantity of words is not important. We should be direct without beating around the bush. In many cases I like hearing a new believer pray because they are very direct and honest with the Lord. Sometimes for those of us who have believed for a long time our prayers get filled with a lot of spiritual jargon. That’s not necessary. You don’t have to be skilled at prayer. It’s not even a skill that can be mastered or something you need to be mature to do or something that you need to practice to “get good at”. Be direct and specific. Being specific can also be a help because then you will be able to see much more clearly when God answers your prayer. If you are so general that everything is a positive answer it will be harder to see God’s answer clearly.
From the model prayer (This is a model prayer from which we can see much of the content, attitude, and focus of our prayers.):
“The story is told of a king who was in his throne room, holding a council with his advisers, noblemen, and high ministers of state. Suddenly there was a bang and a clatter at the door of the throne room. All eyes turned as the door burst open and a young boy ran into the room.
One of the king’s royal guardsmen tried to stop the boy. “Hold there, lad!” he shouted. “Don’t you know you’re disturbing the council of the king?”
“He’s your king,” laughed the boy, “but he’s my Daddy!” And the boy bounced into the open arms of his father, the king.”
- Our Father –
- We should have a relationship with God if we are going to pray. Then we should understand what that relationship is.
- He is the authority.
- But it also a personal relationship.
- We often talk to our Father.
- It means we have direct access to the King.
- We turn to our Father for guidance and wisdom.
- In heaven –
- He is in heaven. We are on earth.
- He has a better vantage point. He has a better perspective. On many issues we are subjective and can’t see them clearly. God sees everything and always knows what is best for us.
- He is on His throne. He is our Lord. We are not the boss.
- Your kingdom come –
- We should pray for the will of God in our lives and in this world.
- The focus of prayer should not be on our own kingdom and our own interests, our health, our jobs, our life. Instead the focus of prayer should be on expanding God’s kingdom in this world. We should be heavenly minded not earthly minded.
- Your will be done – Again, we are to focus on God’s will not our own. We are not to come to God and make demands. When Jesus taught the disciples how to pray he taught them to praise God’s name and to pray for God’s kingdom here on earth. Far too often when we pray we are consumed with our own troubles and problems. This is why people so often only pray when they are in trouble. Our prayers are often, “blessed be my life, my happiness come, my goals be met now as well as in the future.” The great men of faith who are famous for their prayers were consumed with the glory of God (think of the great prayers of Abraham and Moses). So the question is who are you thinking about when you are praying? Are you thinking about your own kingdom or are you thinking about God’s kingdom? If we are focused on our own kingdom our life will be fruitless and empty and our prayers will come back without the results we want. James 4:3-5. On the other hand, if you are consumed with God’s glory you will get the desires of your heart. Psalms 37:4. God’s name will be glorified and His will WILL be done so you will live a joyful and fruitful life and your prayers will be answered. So we must have a passion for the glory of God.
- On earth as it is in heaven – We should consider the gap around us. What is the gap between how God’s kingdom should be (how it is in heaven where there is no sin) and the world around us? What would this world look like if God’s kingdom reigned here? That’s what you should pray for. What would your church look like if God’s kingdom ruled there? That’s what you should pray for. What would your home look like if God reigned as king there? That’s what you should pray for.
- Give us today our daily bread – We can and should pray for our needs. These prayers should be within the context of the other principles we have discussed. And we should focus on our needs and not our wants. Look to God for provision not the world around you. Be content with a simple life where your needs are met. At the same time we should be thankful for what we have and realize it is from the Lord. Share some examples of depending on the Lord for our daily needs from the life of Brother Andrew.
- Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors – Confession of sin is a key aspect of prayer. Are you regularly confessing your sin directly to God? And are you forgiving others around you?
- And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one – We turn to God for deliverance from sin and temptation. When we face temptation and struggles with sin we should depend on the Lord for help. Don’t try to fight it in your own strength. He is the way of escape mentioned in 1 Corinthians 10:13. Our first response whenever we face temptation should be to pray and ask for help.
James 2:15, Matthew 5:7
If you forgive others then your Father will forgive you and if you do not forgive others then He will not forgive you. –
Matthew 7:17 – The good tree bears good fruit. Having the good fruit does not save you. Rather having good fruit shows that you are a good tree.
Matthew 7:21 – Not everyone who says to Me Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven. – Ascribing Lordship does Jesus does not save us. We show His lordship by doing the will of His father. That is the evidence of salvation. Not the cause of it.
Matthew 7:24 – Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man.
Matthew 18 – This parable is an illustration of the principle in Matthew 6:15.
What Jesus says in Matthew 5:7 is the same that Jesus is saying everyone else. For a very helpful interview on this question visit http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/if-i-fail-to-forgive-others-will-god-not-forgive-me John Piper, “If the forgiveness that we received from Jesus’ precious blood on the cross is so ineffective that we continue to hold bitterness and grudges in our hearts, then we are not a good tree.” We should embrace and cherish God’s forgiveness. We should realize that He has forgiven us far more than anyone has offended us. God’s forgiveness should motivate us to forgive others as it did for Stephen in Acts 7:60. A person who lacks forgiveness does not treasure God’s forgiveness. Kindness therefore does not earn salvation. Rather it is a good fruit. It is the fruit of the Spirit which God gives all those who genuinely trust in Him as their Savior. Piper also says, “Struggling to forgive is not what destroys us. As long as we are in the flesh we will do good deeds imperfectly. What destroys us is the settled intention we are NOT going to forgive and have NO intention of forgiving.” It is the enjoyment of holding grudges in our hearts and refusing to let it go. We must make war with this wrong attitude. Romans 12:19 Revenge is mine says the Lord. I will repay
More to come soon
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