Questions to Consider
1. Briefly review the “middle parts” (ex: merciful, poor in spirit) of the Beatitudes, the “salt and light” passage, and the “heart of the law” passage in Matthew 5:1-12, 13-16, 14-20. Now read 6:1-18 in light of those passages.
What is the main theme of 1-4, 5-15, and 16-18? Explain how verse 1 serves as the theme verse for all three sections. Consider what might motivate someone to show off her deeds of righteousness. Would this be someone who genuinely considers herself to be “holier than thou”? Or would it be someone who just wants to fool everyone into thinking she’s holier than they are? Maybe both?
2. In the Beatitudes, Jesus lists the traits that define Christian character. In much of the rest of the Sermon on the Mount He fleshes out what many of these character traits look like when walked out in “real life”. Which of the traits (the “middle parts” – there could be several) listed in the Beatitudes is Jesus expanding on in 1-18?
How does being a prideful show off, especially showing off your righteousness / holiness, bland your saltiness? (5:13-16) How can forsaking self-righteousness and walking in humility make you saltier and brighter?
3. Review from our previous lessons (links above) the idea that the Sermon on the Mount is to the New Testament / new covenant what the Ten Commandments were to the Old Testament / old covenant.
Though pride, self-righteousness, and showing off are not specifically mentioned in the Ten Commandments, which of the Ten Commandments could be connected to showing off your deeds of righteousness? For example: What are you coveting if you’re showing off your righteous deeds to others? How could the praise of man become an idol?
Notice that, for the remainder of the Sermon on the Mount (through the end of chapter 7), Jesus drops the “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” framing of His teaching. Why do you think that is?
Despite dropping this framing, in 1-18 is Jesus still shifting the people’s focus from outward obedience to the letter of the law to zeroing in on the attitude of their hearts and the spirit of the law? Explain how humility and poverty of spirit should be the heart of our obedience to God’s laws.
4. Jesus could have admonished people not to show off their intellect, their wealth, their athleticism, or any number of other things in this passage. Instead, He chooses three practices of holiness: charity, prayer, and fasting. Why? Why is it especially important to God that His people not show off their righteous actions? Read the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. Explain how this story connects to 1-18 and demonstrates the value God places on humility / poverty of spirit.
What does Jesus call show offs throughout this passage? Which words and phrases in this passage describe the earthly reward someone showing off her righteousness is working for? Why should God give someone a heavenly reward if she is working for an earthly reward? If you are working for a heavenly reward, will you get an earthly reward?
5. What is the difference between not showing off in 6:1-18 and letting your light shine before others in 5:14-16? Think about what you post on social media, as well as your conversations with others in light of these passages. How do these passages apply to humblebrags and virtue signaling? “Humblebrag” and “virtue signaling” are worldly terms. What would be the biblical terminology for these unbiblical behaviors?
6. Some people think verses 5-6 mean that no one should ever pray in public or anywhere your prayers might be observed by others. For example: no one should lead a congregational prayer in church, you should not pray before a meal at a restaurant, no prayers before ball games, etc. Are these verses prohibiting that? Why or why not? Was Daniel violating verses five through six when he prayed with his windows open? Could verses 7-8 apply to praying in “tongues” as it is commonly practiced today? What about repetitive formulaic prayers like the Catholic rosary?
7. Do 14-15 mean you will lose your salvation if you refuse to forgive? How do these verses show us how important forgiveness is to God?
- Did Jesus intend for The Lord’s Prayer to be recited or to be an example of how we should pray? Is there a difference between reciting the Lords prayer and praying the Lord‘s Prayer? Could reciting the Lords prayer repetitively turn into “heaping up empty phrases“? Write out the Lord’s Prayer using your own words, and check out my article After this Manner, Therefore Pray.
- Want to learn more about fasting? I found this article – Is Fasting a Command? – very helpful and thorough. Grace to You has several good articles and sermons on fasting. Just go to GTY.org and put “fasting” in the search bar.