What does it mean?
The Lord’s teaching, in Matthew 6, is about right religious practice. Why do we practice religion? Is it to be seen by men or is it to be seen by God. In the previous chapter, Jesus said, to let our light shine, to do good works before men so that our heavenly Father is glorified. (Mt 5:16) Therefore, Jesus is not saying, in this section, do not do good works before men. Why do we do good works before men? Is it to receive glory for ourselves or is it so that our heavenly Father is glorified by men? Jesus speaks about public prayer in this context. It isn’t that we should not pray publicly but why are you praying in public? Again, is it so that we seem pious to men? Jesus then says to keep your prayers short and gives what has been called the Lord’s prayer. (Mt 6:9-13) In it he gives us seven things that we should pray for: God’s name, God’s kingdom, God’s will, our needs, our debts, our debtors, and our deliverance. He goes deeper into this forgiving of others because if we are unforgiving, how can we ask God to forgive us; therefore, when confessing sin, also forgive anyone who has done something that hurt you. Speaking about fasting, Jesus continues the theme of religious practice done to impress men and says to keep your fasting a private matter.
The second half of this chapter is about our physical needs. Jesus wants our focus on the kingdom of God and the righteousness of God. It isn’t that our physical needs and money in this world are not important, but being in the kingdom of God and having the righteousness of God is more important than our physical needs. Jesus speaks about coveting as the reason that people seek wealth. This is what he means by saying, “The eye is the lamp of the body.” (Mt 6:22) The kingdom of God and God’s righteousness must be sought before seeking the things of this world.
What should I do?
My vocation is a public vocation but the majority of people do not see or know what I do. I care for the sick and injured in the intensive care unit. In all likelihood, I am in the last decade of my career at this level. I may be nursing in the decade of my sixties but probably not in the intensive care unit because it is very demanding work. I once was publicly honored for what I do at the bedside. I was very uncomfortable with this and attempted to give God glory while I got this attention. However, I confess that I enjoyed the attention that I received. I should not practice nursing for my glory. I should practice nursing, so that men see my good works, and glorify God who is in heaven. My work brings home income that my wife and I use for our physical needs. I save some, I give some and I spend some. With retirement age fast approaching, I am saving as much as aloud into my retirement account. I remember that my father worked and saved his entire life. He built up a good nest egg to retire on but within a year of his retire he became sick, then he was bedridden and after a few years of suffering he died. Yes, wisdom says, that I should save because I do not know how long I will live beyond my working years. However, I must put the kingdom of God first and his righteousness first before all of these things. Forgiveness is difficult but I have been forgiven much by God; therefore, I should forgive all who hurt me in this life.