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Test: Jim’s Lesson 9

Posted by Robert C. on February 26, 2007

Lesson 9: Matthew 6-7

As is usually the case, there is a lot of material to cover in this lesson, but the material in these chapters is so important that it would be a shame to focus on only part of it. So I will focus on the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:5-15), but I will also make notes for the rest of both chapters. Of course, Robert C and Cheryl have already provided excellent materials on these chapters.

Chapter 6

Jesus continues to teach about true righteousness, a righteousness that goes beyond mere obedience. He first discusses three basic acts of piety in first-century Judaism: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting (verses 1-18). Then he teaches where we will find our treasure (verses 19-23), and he teaches us that we ought to serve God without taking thought for ourselves (verses 24-34).

Verses 1-4: In verse 1, the Greek word translated “to be seen” is a word related to the theater. We might loosely translate it “to be a spectacle.” In verse 2, the word translated “hypocrites” could also be translated “actor” in other circumstances. (See Robert C’s post on “hypocrite” and the comments that follow for more discussion.) What is Matthew emphasizing by using these words to tell us Jesus’s teaching? What does he mean when he says that those who give in public “have their reward”? It is easy to condemn those whom Jesus describes in verses 1 and 2, but how difficult is it to live the teachings of verses 3 and 4? In other words, how tempting is it, when we do good, to tell someone, to get our reward from other people’s recognition of our good deed? What does that difficulty tell us about us? Some may see a conflict between the doctrine taught in these verses and that taught in Matthew 5:13-16. How would you reconcile that seeming conflict?

Verses 5-15: In the Greek it is clear that the Savior is making a strong contrast here: They pray that way, but you should pray this way. To learn more about the Savior’s teaching here, compare the Lord’s Prayer in the Book of Mormon and in Matthew. Joseph Smith said, “I have a key by which I understand the scriptures. I enquire, what was the question which drew out the answer, or caused Jesus to utter the parable? [. . .] To ascertain its meaning, we must dig up the root and ascertain what it was that drew the saying out of Jesus” (History of the Church 5, 261-262). In Matthew to whom is the Lord speaking and why? What’s the occasion? Ask the same questions about the Nephi version of the Sermon. Do the different answers to those questions for the Book of Mormon and the New Testament give the two versions different meanings? What might some of those differences in meaning be? What advantages are there for us to have two almost identical versions of scriptural passages?

             3 Nephi 13:5-15                               Matthew 6:5-15

     5 And when thou prayest thou shalt not      5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not
     do as the hypocrites, for they love to      be as the hypocrites are: for they love
     pray, standing in the synagogues and        to pray standing in the synagogues and
     in the corners of the streets, that         in the corners of the streets, that they
     they may be seen of men. Verily I           may be seen of men. Verily I say unto
     say unto you, they have their reward.       you, They have their reward.

                                                 hypocrites: The Greek word originally 
                                                     meant "actor." It came to mean, "one
                                                     who dissembles." 

                                                 reward: "pay" or "wage."

What kind of prayer is the Savior condemning here? How is it a matter of acting or dissembling? Does that condemnation apply to our public prayers, such as those in church? If not, why not? How is pay a good description of what the hypocrites receive? The previous verses were about almsgiving. How does this discussion of prayer follow from the previous verses? To the Nephites, the Savior says “thou shalt not do as the hypocrites.” Matthew’s version says, “thou shalt not be.” What does each teach? How is public prayer a reward?

     6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter        6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter
     into thy closet, and when thou hast         into thy closet, and when thou hast 
     shut thy door, pray to thy Father who       shut thy door, pray to thy Father 
     is in secret; and thy Father, who           which is in secret; and thy Father 
     seeth in secret, shall reward thee          which seeth in secret shall reward 
     openly.                                     thee openly.
	
                                                 closet: an inner chamber, a store-
                                                     room

                                                 secret: hidden, concealed

                                                 reward: literally, "give forth";
                                                     a strong way to say "give." 

                                                 openly: "clearly" or "publicly."

Why does the Lord end with a promise of reward? What question is he addressing? What kind of reward might this refer to? This verse is parallel in structure to verse 4: the teaching about prayer is like the teaching about almsgiving. Verse 4 tells us that the Father sees in secret. What does that mean? This says the Father is in secret (using the same Greek word). What does that mean?

     
     7 But when ye pray, use not vain            7 But when ye pray, use not vain
     repetitions, as the heathen, for they       repetitions, as the heathen do: for 
     think that they shall be heard for          they think that they shall be heard for 
     their much speaking.                        their much speaking.

                                                 vain repetitions: the Greek word
                                                 means "stammering, babbling." 
                         
                                                 heathen: a foreigner. 

                                                 heard: have their requests granted

Who were the heathen? They were not the same as those Jesus called hypocrites. Against what is Jesus warning? Why warn against not only the prayers of the hypocrites, but also those of the heathen? Could the parallel suggest that those who pray using vain repetitions are like those who do not recognize the God of Israel?

     8 Be not ye therefore like unto them,       8 Be not ye therefore like unto them:
     for your Father knoweth what things         for your Father knoweth what things 
     ye have need of before ye ask him.          ye have need of, before ye ask him.

Compare verses 24-35 and D&C 84:80-84. How are the two parts of this verse related? In other words, what does “for” mean here? Verse 8 may give us hints for understanding verse 7 better. The word “therefore” suggests that it is an explanation of verse 7. How does the fact that our Father already knows our needs explain why we should avoid vain repetitions?

     9 After this manner therefore pray ye:      9 After this manner therefore pray ye:
     Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed      Our Father which art in heaven,
     be thy name.                                Hallowed be thy Name

                                                 After this manner: translates a
                                                     Greek phrase that literally means
                                                     only "this." 

                                                 Hallowed: holy

What does it mean to pray that the Father’s name be holy?

     10 Thy will be done on earth as it is in    10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done 
     heaven                                      in heaven.

The Greek of verses 9 and 10 emphasizes the word “thy.” Why? What does it mean to pray that the Father’s kingdom come? Why does the Lord omit “Thy kingdom come” when he gives the Lord’s prayer in the New World? What is the kingdom of the Father? What does it mean to pray that the Father’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven? Do perhaps the first three petitions of this prayer mean essentially the same thing? If so, why are they repeated? How do we pray for these things in our personal and public prayers?

                                                 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 
                                                 daily bread: the meaning of 
                                                 the Greek word here is uncertain, but it is 
                                                 taken to mean the bread that is sufficient 
                                                 for a day. Compare the story of manna (cf. 
                                                 Exodus 16 and John 6:48-50).

Why does the Lord omit “Give us this day our daily bread” in the New World? To what does this part of the prayer correspond in our own prayers? What might its omission in the 3 Nephi version suggest? Some have suggested that “daily bread” really refers to the bread that will be shared at the Messianic banquet. (See Matthew 8:11.) To what else might it refer? Is this petition at odds with the teaching we will see in verses 25-34?

     11 And forgive us our debts, as we          12 And forgive us our debts, as we
     forgive our debtors.                        forgive our debtors.
   
                                                 forgive: the Greek word means
                                                     "send way" or "abandon."

                                                 debts: this is a literal trans-
                                                     lation, "something owed." 

                                                 debtor: another literal trans-
                                                   lation. "one who owes."

How are our sins debts? What does this verse tell us about how our relation with others affects our salvation?

     12 And lead us not into temptation,         13 And lead us not into temptation,
     but deliver us from evil. 13 For thine      but deliver us from evil: For thine is 
     is the kingdom, and the power, and          the kingdom, and the power, and 
     the glory, forever. Amen.                   the glory, for ever. Amen.

                                                 lead: to bring into" "to lead" 

                                                 temptation: the Greek word, from a
                                                      word meaning "to pierce," means
                                                     "going beyond the limits." Therefore,
                                                     it means, "sin."

                                                  deliver: a middle-voiced verb (similar
                                                     to our passive) meaning "to flow" in
                                                     the active voice. Thus it means "draw
                                                     us away from." 

                                                 evil: the Greek word means "that
                                                     which causes pain"; "that which is
                                                     lacking"; it could mean "evil" or "the
                                                     evil one." 

                                                  power: this could also be translated 
                                                     "virtue."

Why does the Lord speak of the Father leading us into temptation in both versions? What are we to make of that metaphor? Paraphrased, the final clause says: “because the kingdom and the power and the glory belong to thee forever.” Why does this begin with because? In other words, what does that clause explain?

     14 For, if ye forgive men their             14 For if ye forgive men their 
     trespasses your heavenly Father will        trespasses, your heavenly Father will 
     also forgive you; 15 But if ye forgive      also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive 
     not men their trespasses neither will       not men their trespasses, neither will 
     your Father forgive your trespasses.        your Father forgive your trespasses. 

                                                 forgive: "cancel." 
  
                                                 trespass: literally, "falling aside"; 
                                                     therefore, "false step" or "sin."

These two verses aren’t part of the prayer itself, they are a comment on it. Why do you think that the only part of the prayer commented on is the part about asking for forgiveness?

Verses 16-18: In the early books of the Old Testament, fasting is a sign of mourning or repentance, accompanied by wearing sackcloth and ashes. These verses parallel the form used in discussing almsgiving and for the beginning of the discussion of prayer. As in each of the previous cases, the emphasis is on going beyond what was then considered to be the standard of righteousness. Do we have community or cultural standards of righteousness? Are we expected to go beyond those? How? Does this mean, for example, that rather than paying a 10% tithe, we should pay 12 or 15%? Or that we should fast all three meals on the first Sunday of the month rather than the two required by the Church? How do we distinguish between good forms of going beyond the requirements of the law and bad forms?

Verses 19-23: Only righteousness—about which Jesus is giving a new teaching—results in anything of lasting value, and what we treasure tells us what we value.

Verses 24-34: Verse 24 provides a transition to a new theme: we cannot serve both God and possessions (mammon). Verses 25-31 give various examples of what that means: we need not take thought for ourselves and our provisions because God will provide. “Take no thought” might be better translated “don’t be anxious” or “don’t worry.” How does that change your understanding of these verses and what Jesus commands? President John Taylor once taught that these verses do not apply to people generally, but to those who serve in the church through the priesthood (Smith and Sjodahl, Doctrine & Covenants Commentary 462-463). How do they apply to them? If that is right, does it follow that the rest of us ought to worry? In what ways? Are there healthy ways of worrying about the things we possess? How does verse 33 explain verses 24-32? What does “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” mean? It isn’t a quotation from scripture, but seems to be a proverb of the time.

Chapter 7

The Sermon concludes with a series of sayings that are not necessarily related to one another. These may not have originally been part of the Sermon on the Mount itself. Matthew may have known about these teachings from other times and added them as a collection to the end of the Sermon.

Verses 1-5: The Greek word translated “judge” is a very strong word. It means “condemn or cut off.” When are we guilty of the kind of judgement of which Jesus speaks here? Notice the insertion that Joseph Smith makes in these verses. (See page 802 in your Bible.)

Verse 6: What is Jesus teaching here? Who is he thinking of? The terms “dogs” and “swine” were among the most derogatory terms of the time. Some have thought that he is prohibiting the disciples from preaching to the Gentiles. What do you think of that explanation? When would we be giving holy things to the dogs or casting our pearls before swine? How do we avoid doing so?

Verses 7-11: The Lord’s prayer in Matthew keeps petition to only one line and the version that the Savior gave to the Nephites omits it altogether. Here, however, we see that we are commanded to petition for our needs. Is there a contradiction between the Lord’s Prayer and these verses? Explain what you think. In these verses, is Jesus emphasizing what the Father gives or what we ask? What difference does your answer to that question make? If the Father already knows our needs (Matthew 6:8, 32), why should we petition at all? In verse 11, Jesus calls those to whom he speaks evil. Is he being hyperbolic? Why does he use that term?

Verse 12: This is one version of the Golden Rule. How is it related to Leviticus 19:18? Can a person who is not pure in heart use the Golden Rule as an accurate standard of his conduct? What problem might he encounter using it?

Verses 13-14: Remember that the word “strait” means “narrow”: the gate leading to destruction is wide and the road to destruction is spacious, but the gate leading to life—eternal life—is narrow. What does it mean to say that few find the strait gate?

Verses 15-20: We can recognize prophets by their fruits. Notice that verse 19 is a word-for-word repetition of John’s teaching (Matthew 3:10). Why was this teaching particularly important at Jesus’s time? How is it important to us today? Where do we encounter false prophets?

Verses 21-23: To whom is Jesus referring when he speaks of those who say “Lord, Lord” to him? Of those who prophesy in his name? Of those who do miracles in his name? Why would some who did these things be excluded from his presence? How can prophesying in Jesus’ name and working miracles be iniquitous? Do any of the teachings that have come before this in the Sermon answer that question?

Verses 24-27: What does it mean to hear the sayings of Jesus and to do them? What does it mean to hear them and not do them? How do these verses relate to Deuteronomy 6:4-9? How do they relate to verses 21-23?

Verses 28-29: There have been debates about when Jesus was talking to the crowd and when he was talking to his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount. Verse 28 suggests that whatever the answer to that question, the people gathered at the bottom of the hill were listening, for his teachings amazed them. The Greek word translated “authority” means “authority by commission,” so they heard his teachings as the teachings of God rather than as merely the scriptural interpretations of the scribes. Compare this to Alma 17:3.

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One Response to “Test: Jim’s Lesson 9”

  1. Gollfv said

    Hi! nice site!

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