Do Not Fear the Future

Matthew 628–29 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 6:25–34 (ESV)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Parallel Text: Luke 12:22-32

Understanding and Applying the Word

God will take care of you. Do you believe that? If so, how does it change how you live? Do you spend a great deal of your time and efforts worrying about the future and figuring our how you will get by? Or, is serving the Lord right now with your entire life your top priority? If we are overly concerned about managing our future, we will not have time to serve the Lord.

We can trust that God will take care of us. Look at how he takes care of the rest of his creation, like the birds and the lilies. He gives them what they need. If God cares so much for them, how much more will he care for his people? We do not have to worry. Instead, we can concentrate our time and energy into serving Christ today and glorifying God in our lives.

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Where’s Your Heart?

Matthew 620–21 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 6:19–24 (ESV)

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Billy Graham is quoted as saying, “Give me five minutes with a person’s checkbook and I will tell you where their heart is.” Where we spend our money and invest our resources (including time), reveals what is truly important to us. In our reading for today, Jesus tells us that we need to invest for the future. We need to value what matters for eternity over what is simply temporary and unfulfilling.

Jesus’ statement regarding the eye as the lamp of the body simply means that how we see the world, our worldview, impacts how we live in it. We need to see the world as God sees it so we can properly live. Ultimately, we must live in such a way that God is our most prized possession, over money and possessions.

I love the old hymn Give Me Jesus that Fernando Ortega recently made popular. It is a reminder of what is truly important in life:

In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
Just give me Jesus
When I am alone
When I am alone
Oh, when I am alone
Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
Just give me Jesus
When I come to die
When I come to die
Oh, when I come to die
Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
Just give me Jesus
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Starving for Attention

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Reading the Word

Matthew 6:16–18 (ESV)

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Fasting is the putting aside of food so a person can spend more time in pursuit of God. In Scripture, it was done in times of distress and great need. It was used as a way to say “God, I need you more than anything to intercede in my circumstances right now. I need you more than even food.” Over time, fasting became a way the religious gauged how spiritual they were. The more one fasted, the more spiritual they were. So, people would fast and let everyone else know about it so they would be recognized as spiritual.

Jesus points this out as hypocrisy. Those who behave in this way are not fasting to appeal to God, they simply want to be seen by others. Jesus says that they have already received their reward (i.e. the recognition of others). Instead of trying to impress others, Jesus says our fasting should be done in such a way that no one even knows that it is happening. Only God should know. In this way, we are not seeking the approval of others, but truly seeking God.

Unfortunately, many are still caught up in performing religious acts for show. Just about everything we do can be done for the wrong reasons. We go to church, we pray, we fast, we ask questions and say all of the right things in our Bible studies. But are we doing them to be noticed by others or are we doing them out of the sincerity of our heart? Are our religious acts for show or are we truly seeking God? Ask yourself today, “Who are you trying to please?”

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The Lord’s Prayer

Lord's Prayer

Reading the Word

Matthew 6:7–15 (ESV)

7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Parallel Text: Luke 11:1-4

Understanding and Applying the Word

Here is one of the most well-known passages in all of Scripture. It is a passage that many have memorized and many recite regularly. It is often referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer”, though that might be a little confusing because it is not actually a prayer by Jesus, but a prayer template that Jesus taught to his disciples. We are told in Luke’s Gospel, that Jesus taught this to his followers after one of his disciples approached him and asked Jesus to “teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).

In response to being asked how to pray, Jesus instructs his followers to “Pray then like this.” I do not believe he meant for his followers to simply repeat the exact words, but to use this as a template or outline for prayer. If we follow this understanding, we learn to address God as Father, revere him, seek his will in every area of life, depend on him for our every need, ask him for forgiveness, offer forgiveness to others, and rely on God to protect us from temptation and evil.

Prayer is not just a time when we ask God for things. It is a time to reorient our lives around God and his purposes. When we pray as Jesus instructed, we remind ourselves of who God is and how we fit into his plans and purposes. When we do this, we are ready to live in the world, not for ourselves, but for the glory and honor of our Father, who is worthy of reverence and who is trustworthy in every circumstance. Take time to pray to him right now in thanksgiving.

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Do Not Pray Like Hypocrites

Matthew 66 [widescreen]

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. On Sundays, I do not publish supplemental material, but do include a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are currently working chronologically through the life of Christ from the four Gospels. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Matthew 6:5–6 (ESV)

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Do You Need To Be Noticed?

man wearing blue suit jacket beside woman with gray suit jacket

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Reading the Word

Matthew 6:1–4 (ESV)

1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Why do we do the things we do? Motivations are important. They are important to God. Jesus tells us that we must be careful not to do good things so that others will see us. If our motivation is to be recognized by others and receive a nice pat on the back or lofty praise, we have it all wrong. This does not please the Father and we should expect no reward from him. The only reward we will receive is the pat on the back or praise we have received from others.

Instead, we should practice doing right, but without expectation or need to have others notice. Our only motivation is that we want to please the Father, the one who created us and the one who sent his Son into the world for our salvation. In the end, he will reward us even if no one else ever notices the things we have done. And in the end, that is all that will truly matter.

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Love Your Enemies

Matthew 544–45 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 5:43–48 (ESV)

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Again, Jesus begins his teaching with the statement “You have heard that it was said.” Jesus intends to show that the religious leaders, who were the teachers of God’s word, had misunderstood the Scriptures. The Pharisees had understood Leviticus 19:18, which states that God’s people should love their neighbor, as referring only to fellow Israelites. The Pharisees did not feel that there was a need to also show love to other people groups.

In our verses for today, Jesus sheds light on the true intention of the command to love our neighbors. He tells us that it applies to all people, both friend and foe. In Luke 10:29 Jesus is asked to clarify how “neighbor” should be understood. In response, he tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan, which teaches that our neighbors include all people, including those of different ethnicity and faith.

It is easy to love those who are like us. It is much harder to love those we disagree with or who are different than us. Jesus calls us to imitate the Father who shows his love every day for both the righteous and the unrighteous. As Christians, we should be known for our great love for others. May that be our reputation as we live in this world as representatives of our Lord.

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An Eye for an Eye?

people face child eye

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Reading the Word

Matthew 5:38–42 (ESV)

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Most of us have probably heard the phrase “an eye for an eye” before. Many of us may not have been aware that the phrase comes from the Bible. It is found in multiple places in the Old Testament (cf. Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21). This may seem odd since we would not expect the Bible to promote revenge. So we need to ask, “Why is it in the Bible?”

An eye for an eye is not a statement that promotes revenge. It is a statement about equal justice. It was a statement that sought to make sure some people did not get away with crimes while others were too severely punished. “An eye for an eye” is simply a way of saying that a punishment must fit the crime. We do not sentence a person to life in prison for going five miles per hour over the speed limit. We do not fine someone fifty dollars for homicide. The just thing to do is to make the punishment equal to the crime as best as that is possible.

In Jesus’ day, the people had perverted the original intent of this instruction and had used it to justify revenge. In our passage for today, Jesus makes a statement that is a bit surprising to those who would seek such revenge on an enemy. Jesus tells us that instead of revenge, we should not retaliate. It is important to note that Jesus is addressing individual retaliation, not the role of government and authorities who are given authority by God to enact justice in a society. Nor is Jesus denying a right to self-defense to those who face severe harm. At issue is revenge and retaliation by an individual against another individual that only serves to escalate the situation to something worse. Resisting or fleeing is often necessary to prevent more serious abuse. And love for others sometimes necessitates that we have to take further action to prevent someone from harming others. May we always seek to show love to others.

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Keep Your Word

Friends in Pinky Swear Gesture

Reading the Word

Matthew 5:33–37 (ESV)

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In this passage Jesus brought up the issue of oaths. In the Old Testament, a person was permitted to take a vow as long as it was done in truthfulness and not falsely. The purpose of vows then were much the same as they are now: to guarantee that a person would follow through with an obligation. This is at the heart of the commandment to not take the Lord’s name in vain found in Exodus 20:7.

In Jesus’ time on earth, it was common for people to take vows with no intention of keeping them. This was pointed out by Jesus in a confrontation with the Pharisees in Matthew 23:16-22. So, in our passage today Jesus stresses that truthfulness is the thing God desires. We should keep our word and vows should not be necessary.

In our world today, we live daily with our guard up against scams and those who would like to take advantage of us. In many of the schemes, the other person makes promises that they have no intention of actually fulfilling, even though they have made promises to do so. We also see those who enter into contracts with others and then try to break those contract through loopholes and technicalities.

As Christians, we should be known for our honesty and truthfulness. When we say we will do something, we should do it. When we obligate ourselves in some way, we should fulfill our obligations. Our “yes” should mean “yes” and our “no” should mean “no.” Let us always look to do what is right in the eyes of our Lord.

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A Matter of the Heart

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Reading the Word

Matthew 5:27–32 (ESV)

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus pointed back to the Ten Commandments in yesterday’s reading, he does again when he speaks of adultery. He quotes from Exodus 20:14. However, he does not simply repeat what the people had been told through their traditions and other teachers. He tells them that not only is the actual act of adultery a violation of the law, but so is lust. Sin originates in our hearts. It is not only something we do outside of ourselves. Jesus goes on to say that we should treat sin very seriously. He uses the extreme examples of removing our eyes and cutting off our hands to keep from sinning. While Jesus was using hyperbole to make his case, it is clear how Jesus thought of sin.

In verses 31-32, we read about the issue of divorce. In these verses, Jesus addresses the “easy divorce” culture of the time. It was common for men to divorce their wives for any reason they wanted, even if it was trivial. Jesus swings the pendulum the other way and tells them that marriage is supposed to be lasting. It was designed to be life-long. Divorce should be rare and only in extreme circumstances.

In these verses, Jesus teaches us that sin is ultimately a matter of the heart. We do not please God simply by going through all of the external motions of religion. That is what the Pharisees did and Jesus told his disciples, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” God desires true righteousness and holiness from his people. He desires pure hearts.

If we are honest, we know that we do not measure up to the standard that Christ lays out in his sermon. However, he told us that he came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17). He fulfilled it on our behalf. When we admit our need of a Savior and turn to Jesus, we receive his righteousness and he takes our sin upon himself. That is why he went to the cross. He went to pay for the sins of the world.

Praise the Lord for our righteous Savior whose righteousness belongs to those who trust in him. Now, as we walk in the forgiveness of Christ, let us set our hearts on holiness and righteousness as we show our love for him.

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