Select your language
Nuer (Sudan/South-Sudan)
Tshiluba (DR Congo)

"The Sermon on the Mount" - Part 4

Arend Remmers

"The Sermon on the Mount"

'The Sermon on the Mount' (23)

Two Kinds of Treasures

Matthew 6:19-21

Verses 19 to 34 form a new section of the Sermon on the Mount in which the Lord Jesus speaks about the situation of His disciples in this world. He first of all warns them against striving after earthly treasures (verses 19-24). His disciples must not have set their interests and affections in directions contrary to their confession and commission. They cannot lay up two kinds of treasures, they cannot have two ranges of sights and cannot serve two masters either.

On the other hand the Lord Jesus wants to take off the disciples the pressure of worries for the necessities of daily life (verses 25-34). He points them out to the loving care of their Father in heaven and to their value in His eyes. At the same time He appeals to their hearts with urgent words: 'But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.'

Earthly Treasures

'Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also' (Matt. 6:19-21).

Everybody knows what treasures are: accumulations of costly things or worthy possessions with a great personal value. In former times such treasures mostly consisted of cloths, materials and precious metals. One heaped up such a padding to be able to look quietly and assuredly into an uncertain future, but also to show one's wealth (see 2 Kings 20:13; Luke 12:16-21).

With the Jews the thought might easily have crept in that great wealth was in any case a proof of God's blessing and that striving after wealth was well pleasing in God's sight. God had promised to Israel wealth and prosperity; if He had even given them earthly promises most of all (Deut. 28:1-14). In this paragraph heaven, from whence comes the rain which is necessary for growth and life, is typically enough called 'His good treasure' (verse 12). And in this connection Moses plainly says that the promised prosperity would only be given to Israel by God if they were to keep His commandments.

'Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth.' The warning of the Lord Jesus however-which was first of all directed to His disciples-does not refer to the wished-for blessing of God. It is referring to something totally different, that is to the greedy striving for wealth and earthly security. About this we read already in Proverbs 23:4-5: 'Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.'

Apparent Security

Earthly wealth and earthly treasures are transient and therefore very insecure. This the Lord Jesus presents to His disciples here. The moth, a little, insignificant creature, can ruin the most costly materials within a very short time. Rust1 can destroy the apparently most durable and worthiest things (cf. James 5:2-3) and thieves can steal all at once. How many people-also children of God-have had to experience through war, escape and inflation in the first half of this century that their apparent earthly securities vanished as vapour. The Apostle Paul also warns them that are rich amongst the believers not to trust in the uncertainty of riches (1 Tim. 6:17).

But not only may material possessions be considered as desirable treasures, but also progress, honour and reputation in the world, yes, even all that captures our heart and all which might distract us from a faithful imitation of our Lord. If striving for such things occupies our minds the true condition of our heart will be manifested. 'Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever' (1 John 2:15-17).

All these apparent 'treasures' are fugitive and vain. Who reaches out for them is deceiving himself. But even sadder than this is that the heart will be distracted and diverted from the true treasures.

Lasting Treasures

'But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.' These lasting and true treasures are not to be found on earth, that is in this world, but in heaven. It is there the Lord Jesus is now directing the eyes of the disciples.

Indeed there are heavenly treasures the possession of which we are only brought in to by divine grace. He has made the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shine in the face of Jesus Christ into our hearts and this 'treasure' every child of God possesses already now (2 Cor. 4:6-7). God has also 'begotten us again unto a lively hope to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away,' which is reserved in heaven for us (1 Peter 1:3-4). These heavenly treasures of Christian blessings were not yet known while the Lord Jesus lived down here. The Lord Jesus therefore must speak about something else when saying 'but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven'. He is speaking about treasures which every disciple now and then is able to lay up for himself.

But how is it possible to lay up such treasures in heaven? In Matthew 19:21 the Lord Jesus says to the rich young man: 'If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.' Similarly Paul is writing to Timothy: 'Charge them that are rich in this world, ... that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life'
(1 Tim. 6:17-19). These scriptures contain a simple, unmistakable teaching. Everyone who wants to follow the Lord and does not consider his earthly possessions as 'treasure' but uses them according to God's will and to His honour in doing good with them is in this way gaining other and better treasures. He therefore does not become poorer but richer in the eyes of God!

Every believer who is ready to give to the needy and for the Lord's work acquires a treasure in heaven: the good pleasure of God, for 'God loveth a cheerful giver' (Heb. 13:16;  2 Cor. 9:7). But this pleasure of God's (well-pleasing) is not only for the one doing good, but also for everyone who loves Him, who does His will and walks worthy of the Lord (cf. John 14:23; Col. 1:10).

The Greatest Treasure

Nevertheless the largest treasures we can lay up are found in Christ, our Lord Himself. The more we are engaged with Him, the more we see His love in all the circumstances of our lives and therefore come to know Him better, the more He will become our true treasure in heaven. Paul possessed many inherited and gained advantages which where of great value to him before his conversion. But from the hour of his conversion when the Lord Jesus appeared to him, all these 'treasures' were but loss and dung compared to the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus His Lord (cf. Phil. 3:7-8). From now on Paul compared everything to Him and measured all by His beloved Saviour and Lord. It was Him alone he wanted to know always more and always better! This is why he so much wanted the Colossians to attain the full assurance of understanding and the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:2-3). This mystery of God is no one else but the glorified Christ, the head of His assembly.

'For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.' It is obvious that treasures have an irresistible attraction to the human heart. Our own thoughts indicate where we are looking for our treasures. If our thoughts are too much involved with earthly things or if they are even centred around worldly things it shows us where our treasures are. But if as risen with Christ we do not pursue what is on earth, but are seeking those things which are above, where He sitteth at the right hand of God, then we truly lay up treasures in heaven.

The Sermon on the Mount (24)

The Single and the Evil Eye

Matthew 6:22-23

The Eye as Mirror of the Human Heart

'The light of the body is the eye.' In the two previous verses 19 to 21 the Lord Jesus spoke of two kinds of treasures the human heart may hang on to. Now he is talking about two kinds of 'heart-conditions'. He therefore uses the picture of the eye and this again he compares to a lamp.

Lamps are used to give light. Now we cannot say of the eye that it gives light but rather that it takes in the light. The parallel drawn by the Lord Jesus between the lamp and the eye is that the functioning of a shining lamp and that of a good eye lead up to similar results: both of them help men to recognise their surroundings. The better the lamp the brighter the lamp shines and the better the eye the better one can see. Of course the opposite is just a true: as a bad lamp gives poor light so a man with bad eyesight or even blind eyes is not able to see much or even nothing at all. This will be very detrimental to his whole body. Such is the first meaning of the introductory words of the Lord: 'The light of the body is the eye.'

But the Lord Jesus does not teach his disciples about the human eye but rather about the heart which he did already mention in verse 21: 'For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.' In Scripture the eye is very often used to depict the inner condition of men. The Word of God speaks of 'haughty eyes' (JND) and of 'high looks' (Psalms 18:27; 101:5), of 'blinded eyes' (1 John 2:11), of 'eyes with no fear of God' (Psalm 36:1), of 'evil eyes' (Matt. 20:15; Mark 7:22) and of 'eyes that are not satisfied with riches' (Eccles. 4:8), but also of 'enlightened eyes' (Psalm 19:8) and of a 'bountiful eye' (Pro. 22:9).

The eye therefore doss not only take in impressions from the outside but it also reflects-and often clearly visible-the condition of the human heart. The following references will make clear the link between the heart and the eye: 'Him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.' (Psa. 101:5)-'Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty.' (Psa. 131:1) 'An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing (JND: lamp, tillage, prosperity) of the wicked, is sin.' (Pro. 21:4). So here the eye is seen as mirror and expression of the human heart.

The Single Heart

'If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.' The word 'single' must be understood as 'plain, pure'. In the whole New Testament it only appears here and in the parallel-reference in Luke 11:34-36. The corresponding noun 'singleness' (JND: simplicity) appears more often. Ephesians 6:5 and Colossians 3:22 speak of the singleness of the heart and in 2 Corinthians 1:12 and 11:3 of the simplicity before God and the Christ. These references show clearly what the words 'single' and 'simplicity' mean. It is the simplicity and singleness of the heart marked by love and confidence which will not suffer any sin (and be it doubting or wicked ulterior motives) to mar our relation with our Lord and our God and Father. If the look of our eyes is unclouded the whole body will be profiting of it and if the heart is single towards Christ the spiritual life will be full of light. This very light has it's source in God. It helps the youngest believer to understand the Word of God and to put it into practice in his life. It gives clarity and strength to follow a path step by step. It helps us in the difficulties of life (which will not be spared to any disciple of the Lord) to recognise his leading and his hand in them. He will bestow this divine light upon every disciple of his who has the sincere desire to follow him in faithfulness and whose heart is filled with 'the simplicity as to the Christ' (JND).

Surely the apostle Paul thought of the simplicity of heart when he prayed that God may enlighten the eyes of the Ephesians' heart (JND) so that they would know more and more what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of his inheritance and the greatness of his power (Eph. 1:18).

In 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 Paul encourages his readers to do good works we find a special kind of simplicity of heart. Three times 'liberality' (JND only) is mentioned in this connection where it should literally read 'simplicity'. Does this not shade special light on our paragraph where the disciples are warned against striving after treasures and riches upon earth and where they are encouraged to put their trust in their Father which is in heaven?

The Evil Body

'But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!' These words remind us of the verse we already mentioned in Proverbs 21:4 which says that a high look and a proud heart are the 'lamp of the wicked, that is the sinner. What a terrible fate if a man is able to see his surroundings only in this 'light'!

The Lord Jesus mentions the expression 'an evil eye' in other connections also (see Matt. 20:15; Mark 7:22). There the evil eye is the visible proof for an envious, jealous heart. If our heart is filled with envy, pride or other evil things then our entire life is, so to speak, 'clouded' with darkness. We do not only deprive ourselves of every true joy in the Lord but we also loose the discernment as to ourselves and our surroundings. This is the significance of the figurative words of the Lord: 'But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.'

'If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!' Each born again disciple of the Lord has received the light of life by God. This light enlightens his own life and it shines as a testimony for God. In order for it to shine the heart needs to be single. But if the heart of the believer is filled with evil thoughts darkness does indeed prevail instead of light. The light which is in the believer has so to speak become darkness.

Of the unbelievers the Word of God says that they are in the darkness and are themselves darkness. But a man who (and has by grace received the light of God and is in this wonderful light) stands in opposition to it will be even more condemned because he knows better or should know better. Experience however shows: If the light that is in a child of God has become darkness he will be able to do things which even a morally upright unbeliever would be ashamed of.

Are we honestly able to say while looking at the glory and at Christ: 'This one thing I do'? What does your eye look upon? Which way do you go? God only has the one way which is Christ.

A. Remmers

1 As the Greek word brw/sij (translated: 'rust') first of all describes the action of eating (for men or animals) some translators would translate it as an devouring insect (in connection with the moth mentioned in the previous verse).

The Sermon on the Mount (25)

No man can serve two masters

Matthew 6:24

In Matthew 6:19-24 the Lord Jesus warns His disciples against striving for earthly treasures but also against undivided affections. He sums it all up in the last verse: 'No man can serve two masters...' This utterance and many other words of the Bible have become proverbial sayings. Every reasonable man in this world knows that one cannot at the same time put his interests and his energy into two opposite goals.

The Disciple as a Servant of God

The Lord Jesus here speaks of masters and of serving. We read in the parallel passage in Luke 16:13 'No servant can serve two masters.' With this illustration the Lord Jesus expresses that man is not his own master but he is a servant. By nature every man is a servant of sin (Rom. 6:17) and unable to serve God. But now every believer on the Lord Jesus has become his purchased property and has therefore also become his and God's 'slave'. And yet the disciple's relation to his master is not that of a servant. No, as a matter of fact, it is as the Lord Jesus said to His disciples already before His death on the cross: 'Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you' (John 15:15). After His redemption-work the Lord even called the disciples His brethren because henceforth all who receive Him in faith become children of God and sons of His Father. Are these not unique and high spiritual privileges? And for this reason a true disciple's aim for his life is 'to serve the living and true God' (1 Thess. 1:9).

The Attitude of our Heart

The words 'No one can serve two masters' are a general principle which the Lord Jesus then explains. In the last part of the verse He addresses His disciples personally and says plainly: 'Ye cannot serve God and mammon.' As already mentioned in verse 21 the heart is spoken of much more than the outward appearance. This is why the Lord Jesus speaks of hating and loving and then of holding and despising. Thus we see that hatred and love point out the attitude of heart which is revealed in despising or holding. There is no middle path.

Elijah the prophet had to call out to the Israelites who professed Jehovah as God but at the same time wanted to serve Baal: 'How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him' (1 Kings 18:21). In the New Testament the Apostle Paul underlines his warning not to be in an unequal yoke with the words: 'For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?' (2 Cor. 6:14-16). James writes: 'Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God' (James 4:4).

We recognise that our verse speaks of the attitude of the heart because the Lord Jesus speaks of hatred and love. Love to Him as the characteristic of the new life will be seen in obedience and readiness to serve him. There will be no room for another 'master' then. As the adversary makes enticing offers to the flesh he will be hated. Yet this hating is not a reaction of the old nature but of the new. The new nature is revealed by deeply despising all evil (see Rom. 7:15; Jude 23). On the other hand a man living in darkness and far from God cannot love Him but only hate Him, just as he hates God's light (John 3:20; 15:24).

God or Mammon

The last words of the paragraph are: 'Ye cannot serve God and mammon.' As disciples of the Lord Jesus we are called to follow him and to serve God. Together with this high calling it cannot be suffered to serve another master, 'mammon'. This is simply impossible. So there is no middle road in this connection! And yet the human heart is inclined to look for such a way repeatedly. But the Word of God warns us against it and our own experience will confirm it if we are honest.

The exact origin of the word 'mammon' is uncertain. Generally it is said to be an Aramaic word meaning fortune, property. Others see it derives from another Semitic tongue (Phoenician-punian or Syrian). In any case it does not stand for an idol's name but stands for a word which the ancient Jews already understood as the essence of money and property. The writers of the New Testament left this word untranslated as they did with many other expressions. (At the time of the Lord Jesus Aramaic was the used and spoken language in Palestine. The New Testament however is written in Greek). So by means of the Bible 'mammon' has become a derogatory expression for money. In the New Testament the word only appears here and in Luke 16:9; 11; 13.

The Lord Jesus had already forcefully warned his disciples against laying up earthly treasures in the verses 19 to 21. With the words 'Ye cannot serve God and mammon' he most clearly stresses that laying up money and property is a sign of an evil attitude of heart and therefore idolatry (see Col. 3:5). But the disciple whose heart is filled with unbelieving worry about tomorrow is serving-although perhaps unknowingly-mammon. This the Lord Jesus will go into in the following verses.                 

The Sermon on the Mount (26)

Take No Thought for Your Life

Matthew 6:25-34

The Lord Jesus has just warned His disciples against laying up earthly treasures and concluded with the words: 'Ye cannot serve God and mammon.' The now following teaching is in direct connection with the preceding: 'Therefore I say unto you; Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?' (v. 25)

Provision or Worry?

Worry and even fear as to the future burden many people more than ever. Worries seem to be a natural thing to our hearts but how much more so when economic and political stability seem to stagger! The Lord Jesus tells His disciples that these worries are the characteristic of the Gentiles (v. 32). This is why he encourages them in this heart-touching paragraph not to worry (see vv. 25;27;28;31;34). The one who worries about earthly necessities or the future in fact does not think differently to the one who wants to become rich! Such a conclusion may appear exaggerated but it clearly comes out of the context. 'Therefore', because God does not want us to serve mammon, we shall not take thought of eating, drinking and raiment (that are the necessities of earthly life). For life does not consist of daily nourishment only and the body is not meant to be raid only. As disciples of the Lord we shall and ought to be to His disposition and service with body and soul.

This does not infer that we should not work diligently and so earn our living. But we must not confound responsible providence for ourselves and others with fearful, tormenting worries in regard to job, living and the future! Some time later the Paul writes to the Ephesians: 'Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth' (Eph. 4:28). Paul himself was a living example of it to the saints (2 Thess. 3:7-12).

Two Examples

'Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?' (v. 26). The Lord Jesus points His disciples to the fowls of the air as example of God's care in feeding His creatures. The fowls do not sow, neither reap, nor gather into barns. But this does not imply that we (that is men) are not in need of doing it. Already in Proverbs 6:6 the sluggard is presented the ant as a picture of diligence. The fowls also have to look for their food. But they do not know any sorrow. And yet, God who feedeth them (Psa. 147:9), is not called 'their' but 'your heavenly Father'. He is here not called the Father of all men not to mention of all animals, but he is called the heavenly Father of His children (see Matt. 5:16;45;48).

'Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?' (v. 27). No-one can change anything by his own strength or worry in regard to his stature as in Luke 19:3 or his age as in John 9:21 and Heb. 11:11 (where the same expression is used in the original). And it would not be of any profit either.

The second example is of nature too, but this time the Lord speaks of flora. 'And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?' (vv. 28-30)

The fowls at least have to do something for finding their food; but the lilies do not toil for their 'raiment'! They grow and develop so to speak 'by themselves'. It is solely and only the glorious grandeur of our creator which is displayed in the manifold colours, the beauty and tenderness of flora-and this is so to our joy as well. Not even king Solomon's glory as described in 1 Chronicles 9 can compare with the beauty of blossoming nature. And yet this splendour only lasts for a short time, and especially so in the hot climate of the Orient. Stalks and leaves of faded flowers used to be gathered in these countries to fuel an oven. God the creator of all fauna and flora has fitted them in such admirable manner and sustains them. He will also provide for His children, who are much better than they, in fatherly manner with food and clothing. Yet how often do we also show little faith in this respect!

'But Seek Ye first the Kingdom of God...'

This is why the Lord Jesus summarises His teaching in the conclusion: 'Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek: for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.' (vv. 31-32)

What counts in this world are the things we can see and 'this side of life'. We are meant to get on and to take care for wealth and good standing. So it was in Bible times and so it is still today. In contrary to the heathen nations the Jews had God's promises for material and spiritual blessings, especially those of the future Kingdom of God. But how was it in everyday-life? The striving for earthly things and the worries linked with them are a disease that every nation encounters.

And we Christians also have to confess, that there is often hardly any difference between us and the people around us. And yet we have received much greater blessings than Israel. Furthermore we have a loving Father in heaven who knows our needs and wants to give us all that is good for us with his beloved son, who is the greatest of all gifts (Rom. 8:32; 1 Peter 5:7).

This is why the Lord Jesus draws his disciples' attention to the essential thing in the centre verse of this paragraph: 'But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.' (verse 33)-With this positive invitation he shows the goal at which the disciple should aim first of all. It is the kingdom of God and his righteousness. The Lord Jesus does not say: 'Seek ye only the kingdom of God..., but: Seek ye first the kingdom of God...', for he does not want us to forsake our other duties. Nevertheless he clearly points His disciples to what ought to be first in their lives.

Generally the Lord Jesus uses the expression 'kingdom of heaven' in Matthew's gospel (in contrast to the other gospels). The expression 'kingdom of God' only appears five times (Matt. 12:28; 19:24; 21:31 & 43). The reason for it is as follows: Matthew's gospel especially answers the Jewish expectations and presents the Lord Jesus as king of Israel. With the expression 'kingdom of heaven' the heavenly character of this last dispensation (era of God's salvation) is stressed. With the promised kingdom of God the Jews had hoped for liberation from the Roman yoke and also for earthly blessing. In comparison the expression 'kingdom of God' in this gospel stresses the general character of God's government in power through the Lord Jesus Himself or through the Holy Spirit during the Lord's absence (compare Rom. 14:17).


What is the practical meaning for us in the words 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God'? They invite us to give the Lord Jesus the first place in our earthly relationships, tasks and interests. Be it our time, our energy or our money, the Lord Jesus would like to be in the first place in everything:

How much time do we daily use for prayer, for reading the Word of God, for fellowship with brethren? Do we take the opportunity and gather with the brethren when they gather to His name? Do we use the means he has entrusted us for ourselves or for him and his work on earth also?

And yet the most important question is: Do we make our decisions, be they small or great, in dependence upon him, that is praying and waiting upon him, and do we so really let him rule our lives? This is the only way to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness. The righteousness of God here, different to the one in Romans, is the practical deportment which answers to the authority and rule of God through the person of the Lord Jesus in our lives (see ch. 5:20; 6:1 especially footnote N.Tr.).

But will this not lead to neglecting our earthly duties and therefore to self-inflicted misery and even greater worries? Let us read the promise of the Lord Jesus again: '... and all these things shall be added unto you.' To him who has recognised the most important thing and seeks after it, the Lord will even add all else! The only thing is to set the priorities right.

The Lord concludes this paragraph with nearly the same words with which he began in verse 25: 'Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.' (verse 34) -How often our self-made inward needs and worries have proved totally without reason the next day already! How often have we been put to shame by it and had to confess our little faith to the Lord. This is why the Lord reminds us as His disciples finally once again not to worry for the morrow.

                YESTERDAY is gone

                TOMORROW has not yet come

                the Lord helps us TODAY.


The Sermon on the Mount (27)

A Judgmental spirit

Matthew 7:1-5

The subject of Matthew 7:1-6 is the disciple's relation to his neighbour. First of all the Lord Jesus speaks of judging falsely (verses 1 to 5) and then of being able to discern (verse 6).

Necessary Judgment

'Judge not, that ye be not judged.' (verse 1) This is a well-known verse! It has - as many others too - nearly become a saying. But it is sad to say that often even true believers do misunderstand and misuse it.

For the Lord Jesus does not at all forbid his disciples to have a healthy, spiritual judgment. On the contrary the Lord presupposes in his following words (verse 6) that they are able to discern what to do and what not to do. The apostle Paul also encouraged his readers to judge what he wrote to them (1 Cor. 10:15).

One could argue that discern and judge cannot possibly be the same. And yet the Greek word (krinein) has not only this meaning but others also. The spectrum reaches from 'discerning' over 'judging' to 'sentencing, condemning'.

As disciples of the Lord we ought not only to judge ourselves in God's light and if necessary condemn things (Rom. 14:13; 1 Cor. 11:31) but we ought to judge arising spiritual matters as well (1 Cor. 12:10; 1 John 4:1). On top of this the assembly of God bears the responsibility to condemn evil with determination and to judge those who persevere in an obviously wicked conviction or wicked state: 'Do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person' (1 Cor. 5:12-13).

These kinds of judgment are absolutely necessary in the life and fellowship of believers. They are necessary for the honour and holiness of God but also for our own spiritual well-being and growth. They are therefore indispensable and helpful supports of the life of faith. Where this biblical judging lacks indifference and worldliness are 'invited to come in'.

False Spirit of Judgment

And yet this so unpleasant being occupied with the evil has to happen in the spirit of love, grace and humbleness, for the first aim is to reach and win the heart and conscience. When brethren have to speak with someone who has sinned, will not do it in such a spirit but in a judging spirit, they cannot possibly a help but will make the situation even worse. The end of it will often be bitterness and hardening.

In Galatians 6:1 we read of how to react in such a case: 'Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.' (Compare also with Matt. 18:15-18)

'Judge not...' does therefore not mean judging sin in the right spirit and attitude. The Lord Jesus here judges something totally different, that is the spirit of judgment, the 'Pharisaic' inclination to constantly elevate ourselves above others and to judge not only their deeds but also their motives in a negative light and loveless manner.

This spirit of judgment reveals:

  • Rashness, because one judges before knowing all the circumstances;
  • Injustice, not knowing the motives of the other before having spoken to him in brotherly love;
  • Arrogance, because the judging one elevates himself above the brother;
  • Hypocrisy, because one takes love and zeal for the Lord as cloak for one's own reputation
  • Merciless, because open weaknesses are all too easily interpreted as 'evil'.

It is of such dangers the Lord Jesus is warning us here with all forcefulness/urgency. The apostle Paul also warns the Corinthians of hastily judging (1 Cor. 4:5) and the Romans of narrow-mindedly judging (Romans 14:3;10;13). At the same time he encourages the Romans to judge themselves.

With what Measure do we mete?

The Lord Jesus then adds: '... that ye be not judged'. These words may be understood as follows: One who judges others without authorisation does not need to wonder when his fellowmen and brethren do the same to him. But the following shows that this judgment goes farther and that in the end God is the judge here.

Everyone who does not want to accept the Son of God as his Saviour does only await a fearful judgment and eternal condemnation. But everyone who believes on him knows that he will not see judgment. And yet he knows that God chastens his children in their lives upon earth as a Father and without respect of persons (Heb. 12:4-11; 1 Peter 1:17; 1 Cor. 11:32). Likewise all believers will one day be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ and receive reward or suffer loss (1. Cor. 3:15; 2 Cor. 5:10).

These serious/earnest thoughts ought to preserve all disciples of the Lord of a haughty spirit of judgment, 'for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again' (verse 2). Of course this explanation does not mean that God will deal with someone who judges unrighteously in an unrighteous manner as well, but every man will be judged by him according to his perfect righteousness. With this goes the assurance that the disciple who judges in love and grace will also receive a loving 'treatment?' of his heavenly judge. This is why we ought to mete in reverse with the measure with which we are measured by God and with the judgment with which we are judged by him. In this the sonship of God will be practically manifest: 'Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy... Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect' (Matt. 5:7 & 48). 'And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.' (Eph. 4:32)

Mote and Beam in the Eye

'And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?' (verses 3-4)

The Lord Jesus now shows his disciples with a most distinct picture how foolish the one is, who thinks to judge his brother/neighbour looking down on him. The mote in the brother's eye is the false (thing) which one thinks to recognise with him. But the beam in the eye is the evil in the own heart which one oversees deliberately and which is yet clearly to recognise. An experienced brother once said: 'I do not know as much evil of anyone as of my own self. This makes me careful in judging others.'

The picture of the eye points to the state of the heart as is does in ch. 6:22-23. The Lord seems to especially think of the spiritual ability to judge. How could someone whose ability to judge is badly hindered by own, unjudged sin, be helpful to another who may have been overtaken in a fault by spiritual unwatchfulness? This is just impossible.

The Lord has already used the expression 'hypocrite' three times in the Sermon on the Mount (ch. 6:2;5;16). In contrary to his disciples he is always speaking of the religious hypocrites amongst the Jews. As he uses this expression again is shows that even the disciples are not safeguarded against the danger of hypocrisy. 'Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.' (verse 5)

We will only be able to judge others if we have recognised and confessed our own sins in the light of God. Only by living conscious of the grace by which God has forgiven us all sins (and as Father is forgiving us again and again) we shall be of real spiritual help to our errant brethren.

The Sermon on the Mount (28)

Casting Pearls before Swine

Matthew 7:6 

'Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.' This verse is the counterpart to the first five verses of the chapter. There the Lord Jesus warns his disciples against a wrong judgement and about a judgmental spirit. Here He warns about a lack of spiritual discernment in certain situations, into which they might come as they follow their master.

Divine Blessings

The Lord Jesus first of all mentions the 'holy' and the 'pearls'. Holiness is primarily an attribute of God, a hallmark of His pure, glorious, eternal being (Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8). Therefore all that comes from him is holy. This is why Jude calls the Christian faith 'your most holy faith' (Jude 20).

Pearls in the Scriptures are a picture of preciousness and beauty. We are reminded of the 'one pearl of great price' in the fifth parable of the kingdom of the heavens in Matthew 13:45-46. There we see the assembly of the living God from the point of view of her value to the Lord Jesus. In Revelation 21:21 the twelve gates of the new Jerusalem, the holy city (which is previously called 'the bride, the Lamb's wife') consist of twelve pearls.

The expressions 'holy' and 'pearls' are therefore used to describe divine, precious truths and blessings in connection with the kingdom of God. Note that when the Lord Jesus spoke these words the time had not yet come for the revelation of the special spiritual blessings of Christendom. And yet He points to many things in His 'talks' before the cross. Think for example of what He says about the name of the Father in the Sermon on the Mount and the one pearl of great price in Matthew 13. This is why the unique blessings and privileges of believers in the present time of grace are included in the expressions 'holy' and 'pearls'.

Christ has offered Himself on the cross for the salvation of lost men and the glory of God. And in Christ the Father has bestowed upon the redeemed all spiritual and heavenly blessings as well as the greatest and precious promises (Eph. 1:3; 2 Pet. 1:4 JND).

- He has given us new and eternal life and by it made us his own precious children and has translated us into the elevated position of sons in Christ.

- He has also given us his holy Spirit as guide, earnest and seal. And by this seal he will accomplish all his promises.

- And by the holy Spirit all believers have been joined together in the assembly of God, and are now forming the body of Christ, the temple of God and the bride of the lamb.

These are a few of the wonderful spiritual blessings the Father has given us in Christ. All these riches, and the privileges connected with them, are holy and precious treasures. We ought to keep them faithfully in order that we might not lose them and the enjoyment of them.

What do the expressions 'Dogs' and 'Swine' signify?

According to the law of mount Sinai dogs and swine are unclean animals. The Jews were explicitly forbidden to eat swine (pork) and the price of a dog was not to be brought into the house of the Lord (Lev. 11:7; Deut. 23:18). The Greeks, who did not know the holy standards of God, considered both animals as symbols of uncleanness and greediness. Dogs and swine in antiquity were not tamed pets or fully domesticated animals we know today, but they were generally free living, half-wild animals.

The dog especially in the word of God is a picture of unclean, evil and detestable people (see Psalm 22:16; Phil. 3:2; Rev. 22:15). Peter, writing to those who have a knowledge of Christianity but have turned away from it, quotes the proverb: 'The dog (is) turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire' (2 Pet. 2:22). Dog and swine here represent natural men, who will not change, even after having known to a certain outward degree the grace of God. How different indeed are the sheep who are tame, quiet and dependant on the shepherd's care. That is why Scripture so often uses them as a picture of believers in the Lord Jesus, (see Psalm 23; John 10).

But Who is Meant?

The Jews not only considered those of the Gentiles but also Jewish publicans, who served the Roman occupying power, as unclean and far away from God (see Matt. 11:19; Acts 10:28). They therefore avoided any contact with them. We might think that the Lord Jesus took the same view when a Canaanite, that is, gentile woman, asked Him to have pity on her daughter, He said to his disciples: 'I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel' and to the woman: 'It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.' But when He saw the poor woman's great faith He graciously answered her wish (Matt. 15:21-28). He also entered the publican Zacchaeus' house to dine with him when many of the Jews murmured about this (Luke 19:7).

No the Lord Jesus did not take this view, although as the promised King of Israel He at first sent his twelve disciples to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and commanded them not to go to the Gentiles or Samaritans (Matt. 10:5-6). He said: 'And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet,' (vs. 13-14). Later on when He sent out seventy other disciples He said: 'Behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves' (Luke 10:3; 8-11)!

So it is clear that the Lord Jesus did not refer to national or social groups of people when He spoke about 'dogs' and 'swine' even if the Jews and maybe at first, His disciples thought so. The gospel of the kingdom goes out to all men without regard to their origin. So it was then and so it will be in the coming day (Matt. 24:14). The same applies for the gospel of grace in our day. Among the believers in Corinth there were people who had been fornicators, adulterers and drunkards, and yet Paul was able to write to them: 'And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God' (1 Cor. 6:11). It is not the origin or the past of a man, but God takes into account his response of heart when he knows the truth.

Does the Gospel not go forth to Everyone?

Everyone who accepts the judgement of God upon sin and who genuinely believes His message will be accepted by him, whoever he may be. The messengers of Christ are not to constrain those who shut themselves up and drag God's message in the mire. The things that are holy are not intended for such persons. This does not mean at all that the gospel should not be preached to everyone. Indeed the commission after His resurrection still stands: 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature' (Mark 16:15).

But the apostles realised later what the Lord foresaw when he sent out the twelve and seventy disciples. The Jews in Antioch blasphemed, such that Paul and his companions left the city, and the same happened again in Corinth (Acts 13:45-51; 18:6). They shook off the dust of their feet and their garments against them. This indicated that no communion of the Spirit was possible at all. Had they continued to preach the precious gospel of salvation in the face of this fierce refusal they would have given the holy unto the dogs and cast their pearls before the swine.

The pearls are trampled upon where the gospel is laughed at and blasphemed. The persecutions the apostles suffered and many servants of the Lord still suffer today show the meaning of the Lord's words: '... lest they trample them under their feet and turn again and rend you.' Does this imply that we cannot or ought not to be a witness for our Lord where there is mockery? Not at all! But in these very situations we need spiritual discernment to know what is the right thing to do. In such events we can call upon our Lord and implore him for wisdom and help. It might then be that he will tell us to reply the mockers with an earnest appeal: 'Be not deceived; God is not mocked.' Or we might have to suffer the mockery quietly. Lastly it might even be that we have to turn our back with sadness because the Lord reminds us of his words: 'Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.'

An Application to Christendom

It is surely not without reason that Peter applies the behaviour of dogs and swine to people who have come to know the way of salvation and then have turned their back on it. For down the ages the holy things in Christendom have been given to unredeemed people, things which are destined only for the children of God. These people profess faith outwardly only, for many of them are baptised without being born again and many of them partake of the Lord's supper without being a member of his body! Consider for an example what has been made out of the truth of the priesthood of believers in Christendom!

In this respect also holy things have been given to the dogs and pearls have been cast before swine. This has led to misuse of the truth of God and to despising the Lord. Especially in Europe where the gospel has been preached for over 1000 years and where God has given so much blessing through the Reformation nearly 500 years ago) Theologians trample the precious pearls of the truth as they spread false teachings and mock those who wish to keep the truth in singleness of faith. This means our Lord's warning remains valid today.

The Sermon on the Mount (29)

Prayer Once More

Matthew 7:7-12

In this section of the Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus speaks again -seemingly abruptly-about prayer, that is asking from God. He had already given His disciples teaching on prayer in chapter 6:5-13 which contains the so-called 'Lord's prayer'. Whilst warning them against outward appearance in that chapter, He also showed them the kind of confidence they ought to have in God as the source of strength and provider of help for the path of

Fervent Prayer

'Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you' (verse 7). Although the Lord Jesus does not mention the word 'pray', but speaks of asking, seeking and knocking, the following verses make clear that he is encouraging the disciples-who He speaks to first-to pray fervently. Luke, who records the events of the Lord's life and His words in their inner moral sense, lets the passage follow as His answer to the disciple's plea: 'Lord, teach us to pray' (Luke 11:1-13).

An increasing intensity is recognisable in the three verbs 'ask, seek, knock'

  • 'Ask' will be found in various references in the Word of God as a special form of prayer (for example John 11:22; 14:13; Col. 1:9; Jas. 1:5)
  • 'Seek' is the upright, earnest endeavour to find something (see Psa. 34:4; Is. 55:6)
  • 'Knock' indicates that outward hindrances and shyness can be overcome as well.

Asking reveals the desire of the one praying. Seeking and knocking however indicate that prayers will not always be answered immediately. We are all in danger of becoming tired and weary in our prayers.

But the Lord gives a definite promise to all: 'it shall be given you ... ye shall find, ... it shall be opened unto you'. What an illustration these three phrases give of the divine answer to ceaseless and fervent prayer (Acts 12:5; Jas. 5:16). And they hold true for every follower of the Lord today as well as the disciples of the Lord at the time He spoke to them.

He shows us this in the following verse: 'For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened' (verse 8). These words appear to be a repetition of the previous verse but in reality they extend their application to all believers, for the Lord only speaks to believers in the Sermon on the Mount.

A Comparison

Verses 9-10: 'Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?' The Lord Jesus uses an illustration which everybody can understand. He speaks of the normal relation between a son and his father which is marked by love and confidence. The son is in trouble and asks his father for bread or a fish, that is things necessary for daily living. He does not demand as the son in Luke 15:12 did. Neither does he ask amiss, that is to fulfil his fleshly lusts (about which James 4:3 warns us). No, he asks his father trustingly and without doubting, for what he is really in need. The Lord teaches in such a way that the father's answer to the son's request is 'yes'. He will not disappoint his son's confidence by giving him a stone instead of a bread, neither will he endanger him by giving a serpent instead of a fish.

Verse 11: 'If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?' This is the application of the illustration in regard to the relation between the disciples and God.

To start with, the Lord Jesus reminds them of the fact that every man is evil by nature, a fact which has been so since the fall. God had said already at the time of Noah that the thought of man's heart is evil from his youth (Gen. 8:21). David reveals a deep understanding of God's assessment of men as he says in Psalm 51:5: 'Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.' But when men judged the only sinless one on the cross of Calvary as a criminal the total depravity of human nature was revealed in its entirety. The nature of the 'old man', that is of the flesh, is incorrigible, and this is why God gives new and everlasting life and a new nature to every one who believes.

As long as we live here we shall carry the old, evil nature with us and to repeatedly call to mind the sad judgment 'that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing' and the admonishment to 'walk in newness of life' (Rom. 7:18; 6:4).

None of the disciples could know these things until their Lord and master had accomplished His work of redemption. The Lord mentions the evil of the human heart to stress the difference between the love of the kindest of human fathers and the perfect love of God. If even imperfect and naturally evil men like to fulfil requests of their children, how much more will God, the great giver, do so! Every good gift and every perfect gift comes from him, who gives liberally to all men and does not upbraid (James 1).

This is the very God the Lord Jesus presents to his disciples as their 'father, which is in heaven'. He has done so on more than one occasion in the sermon on the mount (ch. 5:16; 48, etc.). And yet the full wealth of the relationship could only be revealed after the Lord Jesus had accomplished his redemptive work (John 20:17; Rom 8:14-17). However the disciples could start to rejoice in the fact already.

A 'Golden Rule'

'Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets' (verse 12). This verse which has been called the 'golden rule' of love does not only conclude the first paragraph of chapter 7 but also concludes the whole of the teaching which began in ch. 5:17 with the words of the Lord: 'Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.'

The law and the prophets here stand for the whole of the Old Testament and its teachings (compare other references: Luke 16:16; Acts 13:15). In contrast to what most of the scribes and Pharisees made out of it the Lord Jesus had come to display it in its fullness. In the next part of the sermon He had repeatedly pointed to the fact that the outward, apparent righteousness of the scribes was reprehensible. Most of what he said concerned his disciples' relationship to their fellowmen, and these teachings he summarises with the words: 'Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.'

What a contrast to the well-known saying: 'Don't do to others what you don't want them to do to you.' Even the Rabbis and the Greeks had a similar saying! It contains no more than the negative warning not to do evil to our fellowman. In contrast the Lord Jesus summarises his teaching by the positive command to do for one's fellowman all that we would like to receive ourselves. We can only do this in the strength of God's love. Paul later writes to the Romans: 'Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law' (Romans 13:10). This is also an encouragement for us to exercise godly love in order to be real disciples of our Lord.

« Previous chapterNext chapter »