We continue to look at the Sermon on the Mount in chapters six and seven of Matthew. We will analyze the Lord’s Prayer, judging others, and the Golden Rule.
In chapter six, verse 5-6, Jesus instructs his disciples to pray in a way that does not bring attention to themselves. Prayer is a private matter between you and God, not an activity meant to show how spiritual you are. Craig Blomberg writes, in vol. 22, Matthew, The New American Commentary,
As with almsgiving, Jesus does not rule out all public behavior but stresses the private side of piety. Public prayer is very appropriate when practiced with right motives. But public orations should represent the overflow of a vibrant personal prayer life. What is more, prayer ought not to be used to gain plaudits, summarize a sermon, or communicate information to an audience but should reflect genuine conversation with God.
In verses 7-8 Jesus warns his disciples to not pray like pagans. Pagans would typically recite long, formulaic prayers that would invoke numerous names of the deity they were praying to. The purpose was to use the right phrases and names of the deity to make the prayer efficacious. A mistake in the words chosen would mean that the deity would not respond to the prayer. Instead, we should think of God as our father who knows exactly what we need before we even ask. Jesus then offers an example prayer for his disciples in verses 9-13. This has come to be known as the “model prayer,” “Our Father,” or “Lord’s prayer.”
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
The first step is to give proper respect to the name of God in your prayer. Recall that a name includes one’s nature, character, and authority. We are to reverence God.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
God’s will is already done in heaven where He has not allowed His creatures’ sins to pollute. But our prayer is that one day God’s reign and authority will reach to our world as well. We are praying that God will someday bring His sinless perfection to the earth.
“Give us this day our daily bread”
We are to rely on God every day to provide us sustenance. There are no guarantees of a long life, but each day we pray for God to provide the essentials.
“and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
We should ask God every day to forgive us our sins, but He will not do so if we refuse to forgive the sins others have committed against us.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Blomberg explains what this verse meant to Jesus’s listeners:
’Lead us not into temptation’ does not imply ‘don’t bring us to the place of temptation’ or ‘don’t allow us to be tempted.’ God’s Spirit has already done both of these with Jesus (4:1). Nor does the clause imply ‘don’t tempt us’ because God has promised never to do that anyway (Jas 1:13). Rather, in light of the probable Aramaic underlying Jesus’ prayer, these words seem best taken as ‘don’t let us succumb to temptation’ (cf. Mark 14:38) or ‘don’t abandon us to temptation.’ We do of course periodically succumb to temptation but never because we have no alternative (1 Cor 10:13). So when we give in, we have only ourselves to blame. The second clause of v. 13 phrases the same plea positively, ‘Deliver us from evil’ (or ‘from the evil one’ [NIV marg.], from whom all evil ultimately comes). This parallelism renders less likely the alternate translation of the first clause as ‘do not bring us to the test’ (‘test’ is an equally common rendering of peirasmos) either as times of trial in this life or as final judgment. If we are praying for rescue from the devil, he is more likely tempting than testing us (cf. under 4:1). God tests us in order to prove us and bring us to maturity (Jas 1:2–4; 1 Pet 1:6–9). Such tests should not be feared, nor should we pray for God to withhold them.
Verses 14-15 reiterate the thoughts in verse 12. If you are an unforgiving person, then God will likewise not forgive you.
As we move to chapter seven, Jesus tells his disciples how they should judge. Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus is not commanding his followers to never judge, but he is instructing us how to judge. Blomberg elaborates on verses 1-2:
’Judge’ (krinō) can imply to analyze or evaluate as well as to condemn or avenge. The former senses are clearly commanded of believers (e.g., 1 Cor 5:5; 1 John 4:1), but the latter are reserved for God. Even on those occasions when we render a negative evaluation of others, our purposes should be constructive and not retributive. So Jesus is here commanding his followers not to be characterized by judgmental attitudes . . . . The immediate practical rationale for his command is that others, including God, may treat us in the same manner we treat them.
Verses 3-5 illustrate the kind of hypocritical judgment that Jesus condemns. A person who is sinning badly has no right to judge another person for the same sin. We must first deal with our own sins before we judge the sins in others.
Dogs and pigs were scavenging animals in ancient Palestine. They often lived in squalor and ran around the streets of many towns looking for food. They were known to turn on humans and attack them. To Jews, calling someone a “dog” or “pig” was a grave insult. So when Jesus says, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you,” he is advising his followers not to waste giving truth to those who are hostile to what you are saying. When you give them truth, they will simply turn on you and attack you.
Verse 12 embodies what has come to be known as the Golden Rule. Jesus instructs his disciples to do to others what we wish they would do to us. He adds that this maxim sums up much of the Hebrew scriptures. Notice how this maxim is similar to “love your neighbor as yourself.” They essentially are saying the same thing.