New Testament Lesson 09 (Matthew 6–7)
EXPANDING ON BASIC PRINCIPLES
Having delivered the basic principles of Gospel living in the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus then expounded on those principles with examples and exhortations. Those further instructions are the subject of this week’s lesson.
Seeking the Lord’s Righteousness
1. Proper Service and Sacrifice
— True disciples do not do “alms” (usually translated “good deeds” or “virtues”) for the praise of men, but in secret (Matthew 6:1–4).
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Almsgiving is the contribution of free gifts to relieve the poor; the spirit that attends such a course is of God and finds its highest manifestation in the organized charitable enterprises of his earthly kingdom. . . In modern times the major portion of the almsgiving of the Saints is administered through the great Church Welfare Plan.”1
— Elder William R. Bradford of the Seventy once spoke with the bishop of a ward whose youth had worked to earn money for an activity. The bishop asked Elder Bradford if he would help the youth get some recognition for what they had done. To the bishop’s surprise, Elder Bradford said he would not. He said that he was glad that the young people had worked hard, but that it was not important that they receive public recognition for that work.
When the youth decided to donate their money to the Church’s general missionary fund instead of using it for the activity, they wanted to have their picture taken with Elder Bradford as they made the donation, and they wanted to have the picture and an article put into the newspaper. Again Elder Bradford surprised them by saying “no.” He told the bishop: “You might consider helping your young people learn a higher law of recognition. Recognition from on high is silent. It is carefully and quietly recorded there. Let them feel the joy and gain the treasure in their heart and soul that come from silent, selfless service.”2
2. Proper Prayer and Fasting
— The Lord’s Prayer—an example of proper prayer (Matthew 6:7–15). We should pray for:
— The ability to forgive
— Power to overcome temptation and evil
— The Kingdom (the Church and Christ’s Kingdom to come)
— For the Lord’s will to be done in all things
— Elder Dallin H. Oaks commented on the kind of language we should use when we pray, “The special language of prayer follows different forms in different languages, but the principle is always the same. We should address prayers to our Heavenly Father in words which speakers of that language associate with love and respect and reverence and closeness. . . . Men and women who wish to show respect will take the time to learn the special language of prayer.”3
— We should take our concerns to God, realizing that He already knows our needs and wants to bless us (Matthew 7:7–11).
— H. Burke Peterson said:
“Go where you can be alone, go where you can think, go where you can kneel, go where you can speak out loud to him. The bedroom, the bathroom, or the closet will do.
“Now, picture him in your mind’s eye. Think to whom you are speaking, control your thoughts—don’t let them wander, address him as your Father and your friend.
“Now tell him things you really feel to tell him—not trite phrases that have little meaning, but have a sincere, heartfelt conversation with him. Confide in him, ask him for forgiveness, plead with him, enjoy him, thank him, express your love to him, and then listen for his answers.
“Listening is an essential part of praying. Answers from the Lord come quietly—ever so quietly. In fact, few hear his answers audibly with their ears. We must be listening so carefully or we will never recognize them. Most answers from the Lord are felt in our heart as a warm comfortable expression, or they may come as thoughts to our mind. They come to those who are prepared and who are patient.”4
3. Proper Priorities and Values
— We should not set our hearts upon worldly things, but seek for “treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19–23). Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Treasures in heaven are the character, perfections, and attributes which men acquire by obedience to law. Thus, those who gain such attributes of godliness as knowledge, faith, justice, judgment, mercy, and truth, will find these same attributes restored to them . . . in immortality (Alma 41:13–15).”5
— “Mammon” is the Aramaic word for riches (Matthew 6:24–32). Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Ye cannot serve God and riches, or worldliness, which always results from the love of money.”6
— Elder Marvin J. Ashton said, “Many today are caught up in their love for worldly goods that they think will bring them fame, fortune, and popularity. They, too, reap the rewards of loving incorrectly, for that which they serve they will learn to love. . . . First they love the effects of those evil things, then they sacrifice all—life, health, and liberty—for that which they think are treasures. Love of the sensual, of drugs, and of lies grows as we serve in these areas made so appealing by Satan. Bonds of love become strong and intense in proportion to ow- continuing service. A man who learns to love a lie serves dishonesty all his life. In fact, a drug addict can usually be cured more quickly than can a liar. One of the greatest accomplishments of Satan is these last days is his success in turning men’s affection toward the destructive, the fleeting, the worldly.”7
— President James E. Faust said, “The Lord has blessed us as a people with temporal blessings unequaled in the history of the Church. These resources have been given us to do good and to permit our work on earth to accelerate. But I fear that through prosperity many of us have been preoccupied with what Daniel called “gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know” (Dan. 5:23). These, of course, are idols. . . . During most of the world’s history, mankind has labored much in idolatry, either worshiping false gods or becoming preoccupied with acquiring the material opulence of this world. . . . The requirement that we should love the Lord above fish, bank accounts, automobiles, fine clothing, stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, or any other possession is total; it is absolute.”
— “Seek first the Kingdom” and “take no thought for the morrow” (Matthew 6:33–34). Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “This portion of the Sermon on the Mount was delivered to the Apostles and such of the disciples as were called to forsake their temporal pursuits and carry the message of salvation to the world. . . . For the time and season of their missionary service they are to have no concern about business enterprises or temporal pursuits. They are to be free of the encumbering obligations that always attend those who manage temporal affairs. Their whole attention and all of their strength and talents are to be centered on the work of the ministry, and they have the Father’s promise that he will look after their daily needs.”8
— “Take no thought for” is a bland translation of the Greek word merinmesete, which means to be very anxious about something. He used the word six times in this passage. In effect he invited us to [avoid] anxiety over the many elements of our lives that are beyond our control.. He pointed out that if we make the single aim of our lives the will of God and the promotion of the cause of Zion, those uncontrollable elements of life will, one day at a time, take care of themselves. . . .”9
Proper Dealings with Our Fellow Men
1. Judging Righteously
— We should not judge others unrighteously—considering our own sins before criticizing others (Matthew 7:1–5).
— “Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgments” (assisted by the light of Christ and Holy Ghost) (JST Matthew 7:2).
— Moroni added that we should lay “hold upon every good thing and condemn it not” (Moroni 7:19), suggesting that we ought to see the good in things whenever possible.
— The following story told by Jesse W. Crosby illustrates this principle.
“I went one day to the Prophet with a sister. She had a charge to make against one of the brethren for scandal. When her complaint had been heard the Prophet asked her if she was quite sure that what the brother had said of her was utterly untrue. She was quite sure that it was. He then told her to think no more about it, for it could not harm her. If untrue it could not live, but the truth will survive. Still she felt that she should have some redress.
“Then he offered her his method of dealing with such cases for himself. When an enemy had told a scandalous story about him, which had often been done, before he rendered judgment he paused and let his mind run back to the time and place and setting of the story to see if he had not by some unguarded word or act laid the block on which the story was built. If he found that he had done so, he said that in his heart he then forgave his enemy, and felt thankful that he had received warning of a weakness that he had not known he possessed.
“Then he said to the sister that he would have her to do the same: search her memory thoroughly and see if she had not herself unconsciously laid the foundation for the scandal that annoyed her. The sister thought deeply for a few moments and then confessed that she believed that she had. Then the Prophet told her that in her heart she could forgive that brother who had risked his own good name and her friendship to give her this clearer view of herself. The sister thanked her advisor and went away in peace.”10
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Our problem is to learn how to do more than just learn about God and religion. It is to have God into our souls, to have the love of Christ in our hearts. It is to have the mind of Christ—to think what he thinks, say what he says, believe what he believes, and ultimately to do what he does. We must live the kind of life that Christ lives. We must become like him and his Father and thereby have everlasting glory in the eternal realms.”11
— We should not offer sacred things to the unappreciative or unworthy (Matthew 7:6).
2. The Golden Rule
— Treating others as we would wish to be treated (Matthew 7:12).
— Elder Marvin J. Ashton said: described a meeting in which a group of Church members considered the question “How can you tell if someone is converted to Jesus Christ?”:
“For forty-five minutes those in attendance made numerous suggestions in response to this question, and the leader carefully wrote down each answer on a large chalkboard. All of the comments were thoughtful and appropriate. But after a time, this great teacher erased everything he had written. Then, acknowledging that all of the comments had been worthwhile and appreciated, he taught a vital principle: ‘The best and most clear indicator that we are progressing spiritually and coming unto Christ is the way we treat other people’ . . . The way we treat the members of our families, our friends, those with whom we work each day is as important as are some of the more noticeable gospel principles we sometimes emphasize.”12
True and Proper Conversion
— “Enter Ye in at the Strait Gate” (Matthew 7:13–14).
— Knowing that Jesus is the Christ does not saves us (James 2:19–20). Acting upon that knowledge with faith is necessary to salvation.
— “And then will I say, Ye never knew me; depart from me ye that work iniquity” (JST Matt. 7:23). It is through making righteous judgments, which enable us to help ourselves and those in need, that we come to know the Lord and become a child of Christ.
● At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told the parable of the wise man and the foolish man—emphasizing the need to be “doers” of the word and not “hearers” only (Matthew 7:24–27; Helaman 5:12).
● The people were astonished at Jesus’ wisdom and his teaching methods (Matthew 7:28–29).
1. Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 30–31.
2. In Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 90–91; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 75.
3. In Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 17, 20; or Ensign, May 1993, 16, 18.
4. “Adversity and Prayer,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 19.
5. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 1:239–240.
6. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:240.
7. Ye Are My Friends, 10–11.
8. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:243.
9. Studies in Scripture, Volume 5: The Gospels, ed. Kent Jackson and Robert L. Millet, 245.
10. Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet , 144).
11. “How to Worship, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year, 20 July 1971, 7.
12. In Conference Report, Apr. 1992, 25; or Ensign, May 1992, 20.