The True Practice of Religion[a]
Giving Alms in Secret. 1 “Beware of performing righteous deeds before others in order to impress them. If you do so, you will receive no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, whenever you give alms, do not trumpet your generosity, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets in order to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have already received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4 Your almsgiving must be done in secret. And your Father who sees everything that is done in secret will reward you.
Praying in Secret. 5 “Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may observe them doing so. Amen, I say to you, they have already received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees everything that is done in secret will reward you.
The Lord’s Prayer.[b] 7 “When you pray do not go on babbling endlessly as the pagans do, for they believe that they are more likely to be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not imitate them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 “This is how you should pray:
‘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 forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation,[c]
but deliver us from the evil one.’
14 If you forgive others for the wrongs they have done, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
16 Fasting in Secret.[d]“Whenever you fast, do not assume a gloomy expression like the hypocrites who contort their faces so that others may realize that they are fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that the fact that you are fasting will not be obvious to others but only to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees everything that is done in secret will reward you.
19 Treasures in Heaven.[e]“Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where they will be destroyed by moth and rust and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Rather, store up treasure for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves cannot break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart also be.
22 The Lamp of the Body.[f]“The eyes are the lamp of the body. If your eyes are sound, your whole body will be filled with light. 23 However, if your eyes are diseased, your whole body will be in darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great will that darkness be!
24 God and Money.“No one can serve two masters. For you will either hate the one and love the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.[g]
25 Seek First the Kingdom of God.[h]“Therefore, heed my words. Do not be concerned about your life and what you will have to eat or drink, or about your body and what you will wear. Surely life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.
26 “Gaze upon the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or store in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of far greater value than they? 27 Can any of you through worrying add a single moment to your span of life?
28 “And why are you concerned about what you are to wear? Consider the lilies of the field and how they grow. They neither labor nor spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his royal splendor was clothed like one of these. 30 If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will he not all the more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 “Therefore, stop being anxious about such things. Do not say: ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 These are things that are of concern to the Gentiles. Your heavenly Father is fully aware of all your needs. 33 Rather, seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own.
- Matthew 6:1 Almsgiving (vv. 2-4), prayer (vv. 5-15), and fasting (vv. 16-18) are characteristics of the Jewish religion, or of the “righteous.” Jesus does not teach other practices but is concerned with the spirit of our religious acts so that they may lead to God’s presence and bring the joy of being children of God. Believers do not vaunt themselves or make a show of their religion; they listen to God. True religion is authentic spiritual life rather than spectacle and confusion or human respect.
- Matthew 6:7 In response to a request from his disciples to teach them to pray (see Lk 11:1), Jesus entrusts them with the fundamental Christian prayer, the Our Father. It is also called the Lord’s Prayer because it comes to us from the Lord Jesus, the master and model of prayer. The Lord’s Prayer constitutes the summary of the whole Gospel, lies at the center of the Scriptures, and is the most perfect of prayers. The object of the first three petitions is the glory of the Father: the sanctification of his name, the coming of the kingdom, and the fulfillment of his will. The four others present our wants to him: they ask that our lives be nourished, healed of sin, and made victorious in the struggle of good over evil.
- Matthew 6:13 Temptation: in the New Testament, temptation is a test in which Satan tries to destroy the believer. Consequently, it cannot be attributed to God. God, however, can give the strength and means of overcoming it: this is the meaning of the petition. The Semitic expression “do not lead us into” is therefore to be understood as meaning “do not allow us to enter into or succumb to temptation” (see Mt 26:41; 1 Tim 6:9).
- Matthew 6:16 Fasting is an action that evinces a desire to live more closely in the disinterested service of God; this produces profound joy. The sole fast prescribed by the Mosaic Law was that of the Day of Atonement (see Lev 16:31), but in later Judaism fasting became a regular practice (see Didache 9:1).
- Matthew 6:19 In this and the two following texts Jesus is responding to the faulty side of our way of thinking and acting. In order to affirm the primacy of God so simply and surely, we must live unceasingly in the presence of the Father. Those who guard their inner freedom, the desire for light, understand Jesus. But it is impossible to be open to God when desire for possessions has become the motivating force of one’s life.
- Matthew 6:22 Those with good vision can readily direct their bodily movements. Similarly, those who utilize the prophetic vision of Christ can direct their way to God.
- Matthew 6:24 Money: literally, “Mammon” (an Aramaic word), a personification of wealth.
- Matthew 6:25 Jesus warns us against making real human needs the object of overly anxious cares and thus becoming enslaved by them. The remedy for such an attitude is to seek first God’s kingdom and to show confidence in God’s providence.