Matthew 5 Sermon on the Mount part 4             Part 5

Our passage this week was Matthew 6: 16 - 34

The section starts off with the issue of fasting and we saw by looking at Luke 18:12, how important fasting was to the Pharisees, as part of their religious identity. Now, apart from the fact that the Pharisees made a show of the fact that they were fasting in order to get people's approval, we also noticed the interesting way in which the King James version contains the phrase "appear to be fasting" in verse 16. Given the fact that it is clear from the passage that they were obviously interested only in the outward appearance, we saw that it would be a short step indeed to simply making it appear that they were fasting! Logically speaking, all they were interested in was for men to get the IMPRESSION that they were fasting. The lesson for us here is that if we are only interested in people's approval, and leaving them with a certain impression, it will not take long for our minds to figure out that all we need to do is give the impression that we are doing something, we do not actually have to do it! Man, this is hollow indeed... We then discussed how especially in the Western world, it is only the packaging that is important and not the substance. Marie shared an interesting comment that she had heard once - "Perception is Reality" This certainly is a mark of the world...We also looked at what God Himself calls "true fasting" in Isaiah 58 : 1 - 9.

We then moved on to verse 19 - 24. Here the original Greek text was invaluable for us to get the real message of this section. First of all the phrase translated as "Do not store up..." is one  Greek word "Thesaurizo" which means "to treasure". The following section: "...for yourselves treasures on earth..." contains the same word again, but this time as a Noun - "Thesauros" which means "treasure"- in the sense of valuable stuff.  So, the literal translation of the whole verse then, is: "Do not treasure the treasure on earth but treasure the treasure in heaven..." Beautiful, is it not? But it became even more interesting in the following section...

Verse 22 is once again better translated in the King James version, and closer to the original Greek. "...If your eye is single..." (The NIV has "if your eyes are bad...") However this is the true meaning here - "if your eye is focussed on a single thing, has a single focus..."

Taking it even further, we have in verse 23 the phrase "...But if your eyes are bad..." The root of the word translated "bad" is actually "troubled, having much desire, greedy"

So, the literal translation of this section then is "If your eye has a single focus (God), your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is greedy, unsatisfied, your whole body will be full of darkness. This forms the basis for Jesus' next words about no one being able to serve two masters in verse 24...

We then discussed the issue that is clearly illustrated for us here: What we are focussed on, determines our whole lives and whether there is light or darkness. It links up with the example of a person in Christchurch boarding a bus that clearly says "Bound for Dunedin" on it, and then being very surprised when they end up in Dunedin! Well, that bus was always heading to Dunedin...whether or not you told yourself you are on your way to Auckland...So, we must take great care where our affections, our desires are focussed. It has to be on God Himself.

The above set the scene once again for Jesus' teaching on worry in verses 25 - 34. The worrying brings to mind that Greek word earlier for "bad" eye. Remember it also had the meaning "troubled" and so the lesson here is that if our focus is on earthly things, there is much reason for worry. This reminded me of where Jesus says to Martha in Luke 10:41 - "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her"

Isn't this a beautiful reference for our passage... and suitably, the passage ends with an exhortation which sums it all up "Seek ye first (only) the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you"

We also looked 1 Timothy 6: 3-10 and 10 - 17 as well as Colossians 3: 1 - 4.

Pete also contributed a beautiful reference in Philippians 4: 4 - 7. "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

© 2011 Werner Schreiber

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