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Lesson #8 The Sermon on the Mount, Part 3

(Matthew 6: 1–34)

In Lesson #7 we studied the Sermon on the Mount’s “Six Propositions that Exceed the Law,” and we learned that each Proposition explores the inner dynamic of a mitzvah or commandment, fulfilling and transforming it.

We also saw that the Six Propositions are framed by a structural and theological inclusio, calling us to live our present lives in a manner consistent with God’s end goal for humanity: our eternity with him in the kingdom of heaven.

Lesson #8 moves to Part 3 of the Sermon on the Mount: “Six Concrete Actions to Implement the Law.” Having explored the inner dynamics of the Law in the previous section, Jesus now addresses the concrete actions demanded by them. As in Part 3, Jesus probes the inner dynamics of each action, examining both motive and means.

1. 2. 3. 4.

A clever and memorable introduction (5: 2-16) Six propositions that exceed the law (5: 17-48) Six concrete actions to implement the Law (6: 1 – 7: 6) A dramatic “call to action” (7: 7-29).

Six Concrete Actions to Implement the Law
(Matthew 6: 1-34)
Prologue (6: 1) Action #1: Almsgiving (6: 2-4) Action #2: Prayer (6: 5--15) Action #3: Fasting (6: 16-18) Action #4: Serving God (6: 19-24) Action #5: Not Worrying (6: 25-34) Action #6: Not Judging (7: 1-6)

The Prologue (Matthew 6: 1)

I am SO GOOD!

“Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father” (Matthew 6: 1).

1.
2.

3.

4.

More narrowly, the “Law” refers to the Pentateuch, or the five books of Moses, Genesis through Deuteronomy. More narrowly yet, the “Law” refers to the Ten Commandments listed in Exodus 20: 1-17 and repeated in Deuteronomy 5: 6-21. In the 3rd century A.D. the Jewish sage, Rabbi Simlai, mentioned in a sermon (Talmud Makkot 23b) that torah enumerates 613 specific mitzvot, or commandments. The great medieval Spanish sage, Maimonides (A.D. 11251204), codified the 613 commandments in Sefer Hamitzvot (“Book of Commandments”).

Six Concrete Actions to Implement the Law
(Matthew 6: 1-34)
Prologue (6: 1) Action #1: Almsgiving (6: 2-4) Action #2: Prayer (6: 5--15) Action #3: Fasting (6: 16-18) Action #4: Serving God (6: 19-24) Action #5: Not Worrying (6: 25-34) Action #6: Not Judging (7: 1-6)

Six Concrete Actions to Implement the Law
(Matthew 6: 1-34)
Prologue (6: 1) Action #1: Almsgiving (6: 2-4) Action #2: Prayer (6: 5--15) Action #3: Fasting (6: 16-18) Action #4: Serving God (6: 19-24) Action #5: Not Worrying (6: 25-34) Action #6: Not Judging (7: 1-6)

Eric Enstrom, Grace (black & white photograph, colorized by hand by Enstrom’s daughter, Rhoda Nyberg), 1918. The original is in the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office; it is the official photograph of the State of Minnesota.

The Lord’s Prayer
(Matthew 6: 9-13)

Part 1
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

The Lord’s Prayer
(Matthew 6: 9-13)

Part 2
Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil.

The Lord’s Prayer
(Matthew 6: 9-13)

Optional Part 3—Doxology
For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Six Concrete Actions to Implement the Law
(Matthew 6: 1-34)
Prologue (6: 1) Action #1: Almsgiving (6: 2-4) Action #2: Prayer (6: 5--15) Action #3: Fasting (6: 16-18) Action #4: Serving God (6: 19-24) Action #5: Not Worrying (6: 25-34) Action #6: Not Judging (7: 1-6)

Fasting in Judaism
Fasting means completely abstaining from food and drink, including water.
Scripture only requires fasting for Jews on one day each year: Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement” (Leviticus 16). It is the most important day of the Jewish year, and fasting is both an expression and means of repentance. Today, traditional observant Jews observe a 2nd fast day, Tisha B’Av, which remembers: 1) the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.; 2) the destruction of the 2nd Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70; 3) the Jews banishment from Jerusalem after the Bar Kokhba revolt in A.D. 136; and 4) the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, including the Holocaust.

Fasting in Christianity
In the post-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church in the United States, only two days of fasting are obligatory: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence: no meat on Fridays during Lent! As in Judaism, almsgiving, prayer and fasting are devotional pillars in Roman Catholic life: all three express conversion in relation to others (almsgiving), God (prayer) and one’s self (fasting). Fasting may be part of one’s private devotion at any time during the year.

Six Concrete Actions to Implement the Law
(Matthew 6: 1-34)
Prologue (6: 1) Action #1: Almsgiving (6: 2-4) Action #2: Prayer (6: 5--15) Action #3: Fasting (6: 16-18) Action #4: Serving God (6: 19-24) Action #5: Not Worrying (6: 25-34) Action #6: Not Judging (7: 1-6)

Six Concrete Actions to Implement the Law
(Matthew 6: 1-34)
Prologue (6: 1) Action #1: Almsgiving (6: 2-4) Action #2: Prayer (6: 5--15) Action #3: Fasting (6: 16-18) Action #4: Serving God (6: 19-24) Action #5: Not Worrying (6: 25-34) Action #6: Not Judging (7: 1-6)

“Learn from the way the wild flowers grow” (Matthew 6: 28)

Six Concrete Actions to Implement the Law
(Matthew 6: 1-34)
Prologue (6: 1) Action #1: Almsgiving (6: 2-4) Action #2: Prayer (6: 5--15) Action #3: Fasting (6: 16-18) Action #4: Serving God (6: 19-24) Action #5: Not Worrying (6: 25-34) Action #6: Not Judging (7: 1-6)

1. How do almsgiving, prayer and fasting— devotional pillars in both Judaism and Christianity—serve to deepen one’s relationship with God and with one another? 2. How would you describe Jesus’ attitude toward prayer? 3. When Jesus says “do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth . . .; but store up treasures in heaven,” is he condemning the responsible management of one’s financial resources? 4. Likewise, when Jesus urges us not to worry about food or drink or clothing, is he not encouraging irresponsibility and laziness? 5. Is it ever appropriate to judge others?

Copyright © 2014 by William C. Creasy
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