March 18, 2007
Observation: Using a translation of the Bible other than the LDS KJV may help you in your study of the scriptures. I cite the New International Version (NIV) in the notes below. If you’ve never reached outside the LDS Standard Works for your scriptural study, you may feel uneasy about doing so. Please know that people like Elders Maxwell, Holland and Hales have all refered to alternate translations in Ensign articles in the past. Elder Hales, specifically, used the NIV. There are great resources to augment your religious study. Don’t be afraid to responsibly and faithfully use them in your study.
This is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount during which Christ refers to 3 groups of people: 1) His disciples, to whom he is speaking; 2) Hypocrites, synonomous with Pharisees and Sadducees; 3) Heathens, or pagans.
What can we deduce from this separation He makes between the groups?
Jesus teaches about 3 acts of discipleship here: 1. Giving, 2. Praying, 3. Fasting.
v. 2: It says, “…when thou doest thine alms…” instead of “if thou doest,” showing that Jesus presupposes the disciples’ giving to the poor. A higher law than simply doing alms is being taught. How can we take our service to the next level? Should we NOT give service opening? Should we seek to hide our service?
What is a hypocrite? The Greek word means “play actor.” Matthew uses the word 13 times (Mark, twice; Luke, three times). What is their reward? Does a compliment from a viewer of our good deeds erase our potential for future blessings? Do we have control of this? Is simply being obedient “play acting?” How can we ensure we’re not a hypocrite?
v. 3: Does this verse refer to others or ourselves? How can our left hand NOT know what our right hand is doing? Is this hyperbole or literal? How could it be literal?
v. 4: How are we rewarded?
v.5: How does this apply to public prayer?
v.6: “room” in Greek here probably means “storeroom” because unlike most of the rooms in the house, it had a door that could be shut. Knowing this, howmuch forethought should go into prayer? Is this a silent or audible prayer? Does it matter? Is the reward the same for secret alms & secret prayer?
v.7: What are vain repetitions? The NIV translates this verse as “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Does this add anything to your interpretation? The pagans of the era used long lists of the names of their gods in their prayers, hoping that by constantly repeating them they would call on the name of the god that could help them.
v.8: If God knows what we need before we ask for it, why pray?
v.9-13 are known as the Lord’s Prayer but could also be called the Disciples’ Prayer since it’s a model for the disciples in how to pray. What do you learn from this model? Why might they need a model? Do we need a model? If so, why? In what way is this a model?
v.9: If God’s name is already holy, why does the prayer begin this way? In what way might we pray that God’s name be holy?
v.10: How is God’s name being holy related to the coming of His kingdom?
v.11: Back in v. 8 we’re told God already knows what we need, so why are we praying for bread here? What kind of bread is this? Why daily?
v.12: What is the relationship here between the debtor and forgiver?
v.13-15: See the JST here. Note that primary sources indicate that the last line “For thine…Amen.” was added by a scribe sometime during the early church. Knowing this, how does the prayer read without this ending added? I love the last line because it makes the prayer so poetic and tradition has come to expect it. However, without it the evil in v. 13 from which we’re to pray to be delivered melts right into vs. 14&15, emphasizing the Atonement as a vehicle for deliverance from sin as we forgive others.
v.16-18: This is a reiteration of previous topics. Why? Weren’t they listening the first time? What is the blessing that comes from Heavenly Father when we fast? It should be apparent if it’s given “openly?” Apparent to whom?
v.19-21: What constitutes a treasure on earth vs. a treasure in heaven? What is the relationship between treasures and heart?
v.22-23: The NIV translates as “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” Does this translation help us understand this verse in a different way? How? What is the relationship between our character and our eyes? What is the relationship between our character and light? See the JST here. What is the “glory of God?”
How do our eyes and light interact? How dos v. 22-23 relate to the previous pericope of treasure seeking? What do we need when we seek treasure? Where is treasure found? Does it come easy or is it difficult to find?
How does treasure hunting and v. 24 relate? How does treasure hunting and v. 25 relate?
v.24: What are the two possible masters? The term “money” is used to translate the word “mammon,” the Aramaic term for wealth or possessions.
v.25-31: Read the JST here. Note the audience. How does the JST enlighten this passage?
v.27: The NIV translation helps here: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Longevity seems like a reasonable worry vs. worrying about your height, so I think this is a better reading.
v.32: Why are the Gentiles cited here? The NIV reads: “For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” What separates the disciples from Gentiles or pagans? Why do we pray if God already knows what we need?
v.33: Does this verse relate to the prayer in v.10? How?
v.34: The NIV reads thus: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Is this passage depressing or liberating for you?
This is the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Notice how everything is re-stated.
v.1-5: This repeats the teachings of 6:14-15, but elaborates with some specifics. Read the JST here. Try to paraphrase these teachings as if you were teaching it to a primary child. The NIV helps to do this. A mote is a speck of sawdust while a beam is a wooden plank. Hypocrite is used here, again. How is someone who corrects another person, when they themselves stand in need of correction, an actor or pretender? How do we stop acting & pretending to gain the ability to “see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye?” Is it even possible?
v.6: This thought flows into v.7. When should we attempt to correct our brother, according to the previous and this verse taken together?
v.7: How does this verse relate to the above pericope? The thought continues through the rest of this chapter. It appears that the whole chapter relates to how we treat our brothers and sisters. Reading the text with this in mind, instead of segmenting it to have several applications, what do you learn?
v. 12: Known as the “Golden Rule.” For the Jews, The Law was the first 5 books of the OT & The Prophets was all the prophetic books of the OT, in otherwords, Christ said that this is THE paramount teaching of the Old Testament. The NT echos this sentiment as Christ, himself, now states it. Substitute the word “covenant” with the word “testament” and what do you learn? This is summing up the entire Sermon on the Mount.
v.13: The word “strait” here can be read like “straight jacket.” This can mean that we’re tightly bound together with God in a rigid, circumspect way.
v.15: How does this relate to v. 6 and the following verses?
v.15: Why do we desire grapes or figs? What is the symbolism with regard to these fruits?
v.17-20: What is the symbolism with trees here? What fruit that is good do you know of in other scriptures? What happens with fire in other scripture?
v.21: Specifically, what is the “will of the Father” which we are to do in order to enter the Kingdom? Does v. 12 shed light on this?
v.22: How does v. 22 relate to v. 21 & 12? What excuses might we have that justify IN OUR MINDS our worthiness to enter the Kingdom? What is the ultimate test according to this chapter?
v.23: What is it that we must do for Jesus to know us? “Iniquity” in Greek here is “lawlessness.” How does that relate back to v.12?
v.24-27: Who “heareth these sayings?” Who is held responsible here? What is the “rock?” If the foundation is the key here, what is a foundation? How is it made? Why is it made? X D&C 90:5 What are oracles of God? The house doesn’t simply wash away, it has a “great fall.” Why?
v.28-29: Read the JST here. Why were the people astonished, instead of tired or happy or whatever? Have you ever been “astonished,” or “amazed?” Why? Is this a good thing, something to desire? What do the people do after being astonished? What do we do? Does this same authority exist today? Where? When? How do we find it or recognize it? How did the people at the Sermon recognize it?
Before you finish your study today, note where the next chapter takes us: Right into Jesus’ serving, loving and healing his brother. Jesus was the master teacher in all ways, modeling his teachings for us. I am encouraged that the “great multitude” followed the Savior. We don’t know how many disciples there were at this time, but it does my heart good to know that there was a “great multitude” following the Savior. Perhaps this wasn’t simply a physical following, but perhaps these people followed the Savior in practicing what he preached, too. How can we and how do we “follow” the Savior?
SUGGESTION: Make a list of your activities and ask yourself if they are congruent with following the Savior. Make another list of ways in which you can follow the Savior. See if you can plug this list of potential discipleship into your list of current activities so that your treasure is where your heart is. X Matt.6:19-21.