Sermon on the Mount: A model prayer and some perplexing advice
Matthew 6:33 “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Matthew 6, a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount, contains the Lord’s Prayer, perhaps the most famous prayer of all time. This model prayer by Jesus captures well the message of the kingdom: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Jesus seeks to bring the two worlds together, and the Sermon on the Mount explains how.
At first glance, some of Jesus’ advice may seem downright foolish: Give to everyone who asks, love your enemies, turn the other cheek, grant interest-free loans, don’t worry about clothes or food. Can such idealism ever work in the “real,” or visible, world? That is precisely Jesus’ point: Break your obsession with safety, security, thriftiness, self-righteousness. Depend instead on the Father, letting God take care of the personal injustices that come your way, trusting God to look after your daily needs. In a nutshell, the message of the kingdom is this: Live for God rather than for yourself.
The message applies to rewards as well. Most of us look to friends and colleagues for our rewards: a slap on the back, a raise, applause, a generous compliment. According to Jesus, far more important rewards will come in God’s heavenly kingdom. Therefore, the most significant acts may be carried out in secret, seen and rewarded by no one but God.
Future Savings Account
As Jesus explains it, we are accumulating a kind of savings account, storing up treasures in heaven rather than on Earth—treasures great enough to pay back any amount of suffering in this life (see Matthew 6:19). The Old Testament has dropped a few scant hints about an afterlife, but Jesus speaks plainly about a place where “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43).
In their quest for a kingdom, the Jews of Jesus’ day have been looking for signs of God’s approval in this life, primarily through prosperity and political power. Beginning with this speech, Jesus changes the focus to the life to come. He discounts success in this visible world. Invest in the future life, he cautions; for rust, a burglar or even an insect can destroy all the accumulated things of this present one.
Among the people you know, who best puts these principles into practice?