These small group studies of Matthew contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, verse by verse commentary, 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 6:16-23 Inductive Bible Study – Discussion Questions and Verse by Verse Commentary
How is this principle similar to what we learned at the beginning of the chapter?
What is is the proper reason for fasting? Who is the fast for?
What is the goal of fasting? Should we fast?
In what kind of situations would it be appropriate to fast?
In what kind of situations might it be better not to fast?
Beyond diamonds or gold coins, what other kinds of treasures might people store up on earth?
What warning is given about storing up treasures here on earth? What would it look like if you did store up treasures on earth? What would it look like if you stored up treasures in heaven? How can a person store up treasures in heaven?
What does verse 21 mean? How can you tell where you treasure is? How can you tell where you heart is?
What doe verses 22-23 mean? What does light represent? Darkness? The eye? The body?
Verses on Fasting:
Isaiah 58:3-7 – Reasons why God may not “see” our fasting.
Daniel 10:3 – Daniel fasts for 3 weeks.
Acts 14:23 – Fasting when appointing leaders.
Matthew 4:4 – Man lives by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.
Verses on Treasure:
Matthew 13:44 – The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.
Matthew 19:21 – Sell what you possess and give it the poor.
Proverbs 2:4-5 – Seek for wisdom like silver or gold.
Verse by Verse Commentary
I. On forgiving others – Matthew 6:14-15
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
- Fasting –
- Whenever you fast – The implication is that you will fast. Believers should sometimes fast.
- The purpose of fasting – Fasting is a time to focus on the Lord and develop a deeper relationship with Him but putting aside distractions. Sometimes it could be to ask for wisdom in making a decision, taking an important petition before our king, or just to tune out the busy world around us and focus on God’s greatness.
- The wrong purpose of fasting – For the Pharisees, they fasted as a spiritual ritual because it was a rule. They approached it legalistically as a way to make themselves good to curry favor with God and man. Even done in this way fasting was a sacrifice. So they wanted to make sure others knew they did it in order to get credit and let others know how spiritual they were. Fasting was a time when they were supposed to focus on God. But by intentionally drawing attention to their fasting time, they were focusing on the opinions of people. Therefore it was hypocritical. It is also the same problem discussed at the beginning of this chapter about praying or giving to get the attention of people. Therefore in chapter 5, Jesus said that a person’s righteousness must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees in order to enter heaven.
- Do not turn fasting (or other spiritual practices) into rules – Someone could just as easily turn what Jesus said in verse 17 into rules. The rule would be you must anoint your head and wash your face every time you fast. In this case a person could also draw attention to themselves in this way. In the church restroom they could keep washing their face and pouring oil on their heads. Then they could turn to the people next to them and say very loudly, “I can’t tell you why I am washing my face so many times. I am just following Jesus’ command in Matthew 6:17.” The point is that this is not about rules. Sometimes it may be necessary to tell someone that you are fasting. Like when? Perhaps a husband should tell his wife so that she doesn’t prepare a delicious meal. If he refuses to eat it, but doesn’t say why, she may be likely to get upset.
- The attitude/focus of fasting – This brings us to the attitude and focus of fasting. The point Jesus is making is that our focus should be on God, not on people. We should do it to please God, not man.
- The benefits of fasting – What are the benefits of fasting? Why do it?
- Discipline our bodies.
- Practice saying “no” to the flesh.
- Intentionally focus on the Lord.
- Tune out the busy world. As we do so it is easier to receive clear direction and wisdom for the Lord when making decisions.
- Use our time wisely by spending extra time in the prayer and the Word.
- The reward of fasting – Our Father sees what is done in secret and will reward us. God knows if you have the right motivation. How does He reward? Here are some possibilities:
- Our fast would then allow us to draw closer to Him. He Himself is the reward. James 4:8.
- By praying with the right motivation, He will answer us.
- Do not store up treasures on earth, but instead in heaven –
- Do not store up – It is not a prohibition on making money or using money. Storing up denotes a greedy attitude. It is focused on getting more and more of this thing. It is like the single minded dedication to a task like Scratch in the movie Ice Age. His sole focus is to get the acorn no matter what the cost. Our focus on the other hand should not be on getting more things on this earth.
- Treasures on earth – Basically this includes material things like money and possessions: houses, electronics, cars. They are things that people prize and seek after.
- Treasures on earth are temporary – They are insecure and provide a very weak and faulty foundation. Fortunes are lost. People are fired. Homes burn down. Cars break. Electronics grow outdated. Banks fail. But beyond that, even if you make it through life with your money intact and not eaten away by inflation, you can’t take it with you. It is temporary.
- Store up treasures in heaven – This should be our single minded focus.
- Treasures in heaven – The passage does not discuss exactly what they are. Will you have a pile of gold coins in heaven? Highly doubtful. See Matthew 13:44. The best and greatest treasure is Jesus Himself. Like we learned in the Lord’s model prayer, we should seek after God’s kingdom. We should focus on being the best heavenly citizen we can. So how would one go about storing up treasure in heaven? How do we focus on the heavenly instead of the earthly? How would that look like?
- A test for evaluating if you are focused on earthly things or heavenly things – Ask yourself the following questions:
- What do you think about? When you are by yourself or laying in bed late at night, what are you thinking about?
- What do you talk about? What topics do you discuss with your friends and your family?
- What do you do with your free time? If you have a completely free hour with no distractions and no pressing needs from anyone, what will you be more likely to do with it? Watch a tv show? Read investing tips? Grab a Christian book?
- What do you spend your money on? What brings you great joy to use your money on?
- What you think about, talk about, do in your free time, and purchase will give you a pretty good hint about where your heart is, which is also where your treasure is.
- The eye of the lamp – This passage is directly between two other passages about money. So probably this passage is related as well. The eye is person’s perspective, which is defined by their values. If a person values the the things of heaven (God) the most, then this perspective allows him see the true beauty of serving God rather than this world. This person will be enlightened even more and the goodness of the Lord will fill him. But if a person instead values money, everything he does is filtered through the lens of money. He cannot enjoy the love and light of Christ.
Here is what John Piper had to say about this, “You have a good eye if you look on heaven and love to maximize the reward of God’s fellowship there. You have a good eye if you look at Master-money and Master-God and see Master-God as infinitely more valuable. In other words, a “good eye” is a valuing eye, a discerning eye, a treasuring eye. It doesn’t just see facts about money and God. It doesn’t just perceive what is true and false. It sees beauty and ugliness, it senses value and worthlessness, it discerns what is really desirable and what is undesirable. The seeing of the good eye is not neutral. When it sees God, it sees God-as-beautiful. It sees God-as-desirable.
That is why the good eye leads to the way of light: laying up treasures in heaven, and serving God not money. The good eye is a single eye. It has one Treasure. God. When that happens in your life, you are full of light.”
More to come soon
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