For an introduction to this series, click here.
Once again we continue with the Sermon on the Mount, the centerpiece of Matthew's gospel. As we stated yesterday, the theme of this great sermon is that our weak attempts at righteousness cannot please God. He demands perfection, and the only way to attain perfection is to put your faith in God. Jesus is demonstrating what Paul meant in Galatians when he said that Moses' law is our schoolmaster (I like the King James translation at 3:23 better than the ESV, which renders it guardian). No one can keep the law, and therefore we would be doomed without the work of Christ to save us.
Chapter 6 begins with Jesus telling us that good works done to impress others are wasted, as far as God is concerned. Jesus' statement that the hypocrites sound a trumpet when they give alms is probably an example of overstatement, but it could be the origin of our phrase "tooting your own horn."
Jesus then talks about prayer. He says not to be like the hypocrites, who make long public prayers. Then He gives what is commonly called the Lord's Prayer. The point of this prayer is not that we should memorize it and say it every day. The point is that our prayers should be simple and should just be a reflection of our needs that day. Next Jesus mentions fasting and says that this also should be done in secret, and not for a show. The whole point of this section is that we should do our good works in private, and not to make a show for people.
Jesus says a lot about rewards in this chapter. This chapter includes the famous passage about laying up treasures in heaven where they cannot be lost. Never once does Jesus say not to seek rewards in heaven. On the contrary, He often encourages us to seek rewards, in this passage and elsewhere. Sometimes we think that if we do good with a selfish motive of any kind, that's sinful. But that's not what Jesus says. If we do things with a motive of temporal reward, that's sinful. But if we do things with a motive of heavenly reward, that is an honorable motive.
The last section of the chapter tells us not to be anxious. This is a very common sin, more common than any of us will realize, yet as far as I can remember, I have only heard two sermons on the subject. Worry is a sure sign of a lack of faith. God has promised to take care of us. When we worry about things, it tells God that we don't expect Him to work things out for our good. I know this is a major problem in my life, and I would suspect that it is for you as well. We all need help in this area.