Just when you thought you could catch your breath after the very densely packed chapter 5, chapter 6 comes and takes your breath away. Again, so much to go over, but not enough space. What a great exercise to remind ourselves of what our Savior expects of us and really wants of us so that we can live our lives in the freedom He has set out for us.
Jesus begins by giving us directives on prayer. It is not about others being able to see that we are able to pray well or that we have a certain type of faith. In fact, Jesus tells us to go into our own rooms and pray there to the Father so that we are not in any way tempted to try to pray in a way that would only reflect that others are watching us.
As an example of how to pray our Savior gives us the Lord’s Prayer. I remember a time in my life when some people who were important to me advised me that any prayer which was written and not spontaneous for some reason didn’t really count. It wasn’t really speaking with our Father, they told me. The Lord’s prayer is a direct contradiction to that stream of thought, in fact it completely debunks that notion. When we are in the quiet of our room and don’t know how to pray, the Lord’s Prayer can serve as a great bridge to begin our conversation with our Savior. If Jesus recommended it, I would guess it is probably a safe bet that it is a prayer that is worthwhile and is safe to use.
But there is a problem embedded in the Lord’s prayer and Jesus addresses it in vs.14-15. Okay, it’s not really a problem, it is more like a problem for me and I would guess for you as well. Read vs. 14-15 again and what do you hear? “If you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Or from the Lord’s Prayer “Forgive us our debts (sins), as we also have forgiven our debtors (those who have sinned against us)”. Do you see the problem. The Greek word for debts is really sins so what I put in parenthesis is really a more literal interpretation than either debts or trespasses, and one that more accurately reflects what Jesus was saying. How can Jesus’ forgiveness of our sins be impingent upon whether we forgive others or not? Does that not doom us to a life of unforgiven sin for who can truly forgive others besides Christ himself?
I’m not going to give an answer to those questions, because they are real and they remain in some ways unanswered. What we do know is that Jesus really, really, really requires us to forgive others whether they are forgiveable or not. Jesus really, really, really, requires us to forgive others whether they are asking for that forgiveness or not. Jesus really, really, really, requires us to forgive others whether they are sorry for what they did or not. For when we do not forgive others we are the only ones who truly suffer. Sometimes we think that when we don’t forgive others then we are punishing them and they are the ones who are at a loss. That simply is not true. On whomever we choose to hold back our forgiveness, they have then in some way weaseled their way into our minds. They then hold the upper hand. Once you forgive then you can move on and live the kind of life that God wants us to live. In the words of Frozen, Let it go!
This chapter also contains the imperative to store up treasures in heaven and not on earth as well as reminding us that we cannot serve two masters, wealth and Jesus. What an interesting juxtaposition. I would never think of putting wealth up against Jesus, but we do all the time. There is a post on Facebook that is going around now, I’m not sure if it is legitimate or not, I didn’t Scopes it yet (that is verb now isn’t it?). In that post you find the last days of Steve Jobs and his commentary on wealth and the meaning of life. He actually mentions God, if it really is Steve Jobs. But Jesus here (Did I just put Steve Jobs and Jesus in the same sentence and almost use them equally? That’s scary) in Matthew speaks at length about wealth especially from the perspective of worry. What amount of our time do we worry about having our needs met? Okay, from our perspective maybe it is less our needs met than our desires and our wants met. If we only had to meet our needs then we would all probably be fine.
But that is the point of His words here isn’t it? The biggest compliment on my lifestyle that I ever received was from an Amish worker who came to repair our roof and as he looked around the house he said: why do you and your wife choose to live so simply? I would have paid him double. An Amish man telling me that I live simply. I love it! But so much of simple living eliminates the worry that we build up. Jesus’ last verse is classic here in Matthew 6: “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” I’ll leave you on that note. Feel free to say Amen out loud in the quiet of your room.