Mat 13:24-42 | Wheat and Tares

Text: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-42

Open your Bibles to read in Matthew chapter 13, starting in verse 24.

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.

So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, ‘Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? From whence then hath it tares?’

He said unto them, ‘An enemy hath done this.’

The servants said unto him, ‘Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?’

But he said, ‘Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

And then Jesus interpreted that parable for the disciples and for us in verse 36.

Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, “Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.”

He answered and said unto them, “He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

Back in the February issue of the New York Times book review on the front page they reviewed a book that by its title caught my attention immediately. The title of this book is, ‘Why Did the Heavens Not Darken’ written by Arne Mayer. Now this is not a religious book and it is not written from a religious standpoint. The man who wrote it is not necessarily a professing Christian nor would he profess to be a very religious man. The book deals with the Holocaust, the “Final Solution”.

The opening words of the article are these, “Given the enormity of the crimes perpetrated by Nazi Germany during World War II the title of Arne Mayer’s new book raises the question that many people will have asked themselves as they remember and try to comprehend the Holocaust. Our task would be less difficult and agonizing if the heavens had actually darkened. Since they did not, we must search for the answer elsewhere.”

Now it was interesting to me because this is not a religious book, not necessarily written by a religious man, has no religious purpose to it; and yet, in a sense, God is indicted by the very title. “Why did the heavens not darken?” is the same thing as saying they should have. Which is the same thing as saying, “Why didn’t God do something?”. It is amazing that even people who do not themselves profess to be Christians have built into them some kind of sense of justice that God surely should have done something. Why did the heavens not darken? Why didn’t God at least show his disfavor? I mean the heavens didn’t even grow dark. Maybe it would have been too much to expect God to come down and have ended the whole thing, but at least He could have frowned a little bit by letting the heavens darken. That way at least we would know that God was saying that He didn’t like what was going on. But for all practical purposes, God ignored the whole business.

Therefore, the author is saying the explanation of what happened is not to be found in God and God has nothing to say about it so we have to look elsewhere. Actually the author is asking the same question that the servants in our parable are asking. They said, “Lord, were do all these tares come from?”

It is the ‘Parable of the Wheat and Tares’. I think it is interesting and significant that later on when they ask the Lord to explain this parable to them you will notice they don’t say anything about the wheat. They say, “Lord, what is the parable of the tares?” Now the parable was a parable of the wheat and the tares, the good and the bad. But what stuck in their minds was, “Give us an explanation of the tares.”

The fact of the matter is that there is good and evil in the world, but nobody ever questions the good. Nobody ever says, “Why is there good in the world?” Have you ever noticed that? Instead they always say, “Why is there evil in the world?” The only time we question God is when something bad happens; like insurance companies…all of these hurricanes, tornados, and other “acts of God”. We never seem to question God when anything good is going on.

Several years ago in our home town there was a young man that was killed in an automobile accident. He was not a Christian and none of his family were Christians. But one of the members of our staff was asked to take care of the funeral. So he went by the home of the mother where the family was gathered together to make preparations. As he prepared to leave he said, “Could we have just a word of prayer?”

The mother burst out and said, “No! Absolutely not! No praying in this house. God killed my son so there will be no praying in this house.”

When he told me this story later I said, “You know, I bet it’s the first thought she’s given to God in years. I’ll bet that when that boy was born she didn’t say, ‘Praise God He’s given me a son.’ But when something happens to him, now God comes on the scene.”

The disciples aren’t interested about the wheat. R. C. Sproul says we sing the song Amazing Grace but it’s not Grace that we are amazed at; we think we deserve that. It’s justice that we’re amazed at. Nobody ever says, “Why is there good in the world?” We always say, “Why is there evil in the world?” And it’s a good question. You see it’s a question that Christians ask. I’ve said many times that being a Christian gives you problems that you otherwise would not have. Faith and believing can be a burden.

We talk about all the wrong that’s in the world and how can it be that God can stand by and let the Holocaust happen. How can God stand by and let thousands and thousands of people die and children starve to death? You and I question and try to reconcile this. How can there be a good God?

If I were an atheist it wouldn’t give me a problem at all. I would say, “That’s the way the cookie crumbles; that’s the way life is; welcome to the real world. There is no justice. There is no God anyway. Some people are lucky and some are not.” You could go on and you wouldn’t have a problem at all about it. But the moment you believe in God and put your faith in a good, righteous, holy, and sovereign God; you have a problem. The atheists have a very good argument folks. If there is a God then why is there so much evil in the world?

Where did these tares come from?

“Lord, didn’t you sow good seed in your field?”


“Well then, where did these tares come from?”

Have you ever asked yourself that question?

“Lord, I’ve sowed good seed in my home; so where did these tares come from?”

I was in a meeting not long ago and there was a young man giving his testimony. He talked about how wonderful it was to have a Christian mom and dad; and how wonderful it was that his mother didn’t work at an outside job. His mom and dad were there and he thanked them publicly. He went into long detail about how it was the influences in the home that made him what he was; the fact that he was a Christian in the service of the Lord. It was interesting, yet there was another young man there who was serving the Lord whose home was broken and he had lived under a bridge. How do you explain that? How do you explain that here is a young man who doesn’t have all the things the books say that a child has to have? Yet look at what God does in his life. We’ve all seen parents that have done everything that they know to do. They read their Bible, go to church, pray, and tithe. It’s the most puzzling question of all. “Lord, I’ve done nothing but sow good seed in the lives of my children. Where did these tares come from?”

I want us to look at this mystery today; this story or parable about the wheat and the tares. What I’m doing today is sort of laying a groundwork and a little preparation for what I want to be talking to you about in my sessions with you during these days. I believe that we will be far down the road in understanding the mystery of where these tares come from and why is it that you and I can spend our time sowing good seed and yet tares come up in the same field; if we can understand what Jesus is talking about here.

Now one thing we need to understand is that this parable does not have to do with lost church members. A great many of us as preachers will take this parable about the wheat and tares and we’ll picture it as wheat and tares growing up, the saved and the lost, in the church and therefore we need to get all these lost church members saved. Well, that may be true but it is not at all what Jesus is talking about in this parable. In the first place, the field is not the church; the field is the world. In the second place, Jesus doesn’t say to try and change the tares into wheat; he says to leave them alone and let them burn at the end of the time. So he’s not talking about lost church members. No, what Jesus is doing is actually giving us a pretty good picture of how things are in the world. This is the world as you and I live in it. The field is the world and the tares are the children of the enemy; and the enemy is the devil. This is the way it is in the world and it is going to be this way until the harvest, the end of time.

There are three things that Jesus said and around these three statements we’ll build our message. First, he said “an enemy has done this.” Secondly, he said “let them grow together.” Number three, he said “until the harvest”. We will look at those three expressions.

An Enemy Has Done This

First of all Jesus said, “An enemy has done this.” So the first thing is ‘the enemy’. In trying to understand why our world is arranged as it is and how I can live the Christian life in the midst of it. The first thing Jesus says that you need to realize is that there is an enemy. Now look again at the parable in verse 25 Jesus said, “A man sowed seed in his field and while men slept his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. So that when the tares sprung up the servants were surprised.” (Matthew 13:24b-27) Now why were they surprised? Well, they were surprised at the extent of the tares; the poisonous seeds.

As a matter of fact, it was against the law in the days of the Roman Empire to sow tares in a good field because they would choke out the good seed and also they were poisonous if they were eaten. So what Jesus says here is that a man has his field, which is the world, and he sows good seed but at the same time while men sleep his enemy comes and he sows tares among the wheat and goes his way. Now you can put it down as a constant fixed rule that wherever the Lord sows good seed, the devil will be there to sow bad seed. All throughout your life, put it down, every time you sow good seed the enemy will be there to sow bad seed right along beside.

The language of these words is very interesting. When it says he sowed tares among the wheat, the Greek idea there is ‘he sowed tares on top of and among the wheat.’ In other words, they were thickly sown; he just didn’t drop a few tares here and there; but he took them and he intertwined them. The devil never takes his seed over here in a far country away from everyone else and does all his work over there. It would be nice, wouldn’t it, if we could have zones like this; over here is the good zone and over there is the evil zone. Over here is all the wheat and this is where God works, and over there is all the devil and that is where he works. Sometimes we think that our life and our world are divided like that. But I have news for you. You know where the devil does his greatest work? It’s not over there in some far country out there. He does his greatest work right there in the midst of the wheat; right on top of it; intermingled with it. You can rest assured that every time you sow the good seed of the Word of God, you sow the good seed of influence and godly help in your life, the enemy is going to be there to sow the bad seed. And he does it at night when men sleep and then he goes away.

Now what is it that Jesus is saying? Jesus is saying that the devil wants to do it in such a way that people won’t catch it until it’s too late. The only way you know that it’s happened is when it’s too late because the tares have sprung up. He says, “Now if you try to separate the tares you’ll tear out some of the wheat too.” It’s too late to do anything about it now. The devil works while men sleep and he runs away so that the explanation for what’s happened will be hidden.

You see a great demonstration and illustration of this in our society. How the greatest minds of our society try to find the explanations for what’s wrong with our society. If you want to watch the wisdom of fools, all you have to do is watch and read and listen to the great minds, the great educators, the great philosophers, the great psychologists, and the great politicians of our day as they try to explain why things are as they are. I don’t think I’ve heard a one of them say, “The devil did this.” No, the explanation is hidden. They say, “What we need is better education systems, we need sex education, we need this and we need that. And this way we will keep all the tares out.” No, there is an enemy moving around about us and he is the one that is doing it.

What Jesus is saying is that sin and evil and failure are not an accident. It isn’t something that happens because I’m immature or green at my job of living. It is sown deliberately and purposefully by the devil himself. So Jesus said the first thing you have to understand is that you have an enemy. You just put it down that while you are sowing wheat; he’s coming behind you sowing tares, in the very same place.

Let Them Grow Together

First of all you have the enemy. Secondly you have the enigma. When the servants see this they say, “Master where did these tares come from? You sowed good seed.”

He said, “An enemy has done this.”

They said, “Oh, do you want us to go out there right now and start separating the wheat from the tares and get rid of the tares?”

Now, agriculturally this is what you would do. This is the normal and right thing you would do. This is important for us to understand. You weed your garden, you clean it out, so that wheat will have plenty of room, and moisture, and fertilizer, and soil to grow. Of course, that’s the natural and right thing to do. You do this in your garden; you do it in your home; you do it in your church; you do it in the world. “Lord, do you want us to go right now and get rid of all the evil?” It seems like the right thing to do.

“Do you want us to get rid of the tares?”

And notice what Jesus says, he says, “Let them be. Let them grow together.”

“But Lord, they are so confusing because they look so much alike and it’s wrong for them to be there. And you don’t want the devil to get by with this. Lord, don’t you want us to clean it out and get rid of all the tares?”

He said, “No, let them grow together.”

One of the great mysteries and ambiguities of life is the fact that good and evil are inseparable. In the same field where there is good, there is also evil. In the same person in whom there is great creativity there is also destruction. The same fire that warms can burn. The same water that can quench the thirst can drown. The way our world is organized and the way God is letting it run itself is that good and evil are inseparably bound together. And you cannot separate them.

This is why I believe that the life that you and I live is a tension filled life, a tension filled world. All of your life and my life there are going to be conflicts, there’s going to be that tension that is there, the antagonism that is there. There’s going to be good, but there’s also going to be evil. And so there is tension in my life. Because even as Paul said, “While I want to do good, evil is present with me; evil lies close at hand.” (Romans 7) At the very same time I’m trying to do something good for God, at the same time there is a downward pull in my life.

I know how it is supposed to be. I know that I am holy in Christ and that I am complete in Christ. Yet, at the same time I know that I am weak, and failing, and I sin. How do you balance this? You don’t. There’s tension all the way through your life.

The false gospel that is being preached today is the idea that you can have an experience in which all tension is removed and you sweep away everything wrong in the world and you have instant paradise and instant heaven. That is a false gospel.

All the days of our life we are going to run into it. “God, what a mystery this is. Lord, why don’t you get rid of it?”

“Let it grow together!”

An interesting thing, well not all that interesting I guess, happened in the last month. My wife had a watch. I gave her that watch for our 30th wedding anniversary. It was worth some money so we had it insured, but the great worth was the sentiment there. She came home one day after shopping and she realized that her watch was not on her arm. It had fallen off somewhere. She tried to retrace her steps and called all the stores that she had been in and we ran an ad in the paper. But it’s gone. So I called the insurance man and told him that the watch was lost. But I wondered, “How in the world could you just lose a watch like that without even knowing it.”

Well a couple of weeks ago we were in Las Vegas for the Southern Baptist Convention. I have a gold bracelet that my wife gave me as an anniversary present several years ago. It is worth a little bit of money so it’s insured, but the great worth is the sentiment behind it because my wife gave it to me as an anniversary present. Well I came back to my room from the Monday night session and my bracelet was gone. It had just slipped off. How could that happen? I called my insurance man and I said, “I don’t know really how to say this, but I lost my gold bracelet in Las Vegas.”   Now I tell you that hurt and grieved me. My wife was torn up because she lost the watch and I was torn up because I lost the bracelet.

Well we left Dallas Friday and spent the night in Amarillo and drove in to here on Saturday. Sunday morning we are out at a church preaching. On Kaye’s 40th birthday I gave her a diamond and she wears it on a gold necklace. She wears it 24 hours a day; it’s just a part of her. And she has a habit of just reaching up there once in a while and straightens it. So in the middle of the service Sunday morning she reached up there to straighten it and it was gone. We looked in the car. We went back to the motel and even had them move the furniture. We looked all over. Then I called my insurance man…

The insurance is going to pay for all that, but those things can’t be replaced. And I couldn’t sleep Sunday night. I just couldn’t get it off my mind; I was depressed and sad because those things had meant so much. I said, “How in the world can you have something that you wear for years and is a part of your life and it can be gone and you don’t even know it?” I thought, “My, how fragile are the things that you have. They can be taken in just a moment.”

I couldn’t sleep and at about 3:30 A.M. I went to bed. Kaye was already asleep. I crawled into bed and I took hold of her hand for just a moment; I thought, “Just as easily as I lost my bracelet, and the necklace, and the watch…just that easily I could lose you. This person that means more to me than life itself can just slip away and there’s not a thing that I can do about it.” And then she began to snore. You see, that’s what I mean; good and bad in the same place.

Why is it so, Lord? Why is it so that the things that are so dear to us can slip away so easily? You can trust God and still get hurt.

Jesus says, “Let them grow together.”

“But Lord, I don’t want to let them grow together. No good can come of it.”

“Let them grow together!”

What Jesus is saying is, “Son, there is a judgment beyond your judgment.”

I look at the situation and I think it needs some alterations. My judgment says get rid of the tares. Everybody knows that. It makes sense. That’s good agricultural sense and that’s good moral sense.

God said, “No, there is a judgment that is higher than your judgment and you cannot always judge properly by what you see.”

Because, you see, good and bad run on parallel tracks and they usually arrive about the same time. I think many of us view the Christian life in a way that right now some bad things are happening and there are some weaknesses in my life and I have a lot of interruptions. But, “Oh boy, I’ll be glad one of these days when I get all this stuff behind me and I can settle down and get on with my life. One of these days I’ll have nothing but good coming down the pike. Right now it’s just a lot of bad stuff, one thing after another, but one of these days when somehow I get spiritual enough; when somehow I get mature enough; one of these days it’s just going to be good stuff.”

And that’s the way you are supposed to be. That’s the way the Christian life is, because that’s the way it looks to those people who write all the books.  Let me tell you something. The Lord has given me the privilege of knowing a whole lot of people who are writing those books. And I’ve got news for you; they are not doing any better than you are!

We say, “Well, there comes a time when suddenly there’s nothing but good coming down the pike.”

It doesn’t happen that way. Faith isn’t the power to change things to the way you want them. Faith is the courage to face things as they are.

Someone said to me, “You know what life is?”


“It’s what happens while you’re waiting for life to start.”

And so we say, “As soon as I get through this thing, then I can really get down to living my life. As soon as I get through school; as soon as I get my kids raised; as soon as I get through with this thing, then there will be nothing but good coming down the pike.”

I want to tell you something, it never works that way. Good and bad grow together, they are intertwined inseparably together. Good and bad travel on parallel tracks and they usually arrive at about the same time. And there is a judgment beyond our judgment.

I don’t know of anything that illustrates this any better than what a woman told me in Missouri. One night after a meeting, I had been preaching along this line, and she came up and she said, “Let me tell you what happened. Some years ago our daughter got involved with a young man that we felt had some real character flaws. We encouraged her at first to not have anything to do with him; then we urged her to not have anything to do with him.”

But, like happens so often, the girl just fell in love with the boy and got involved with him and married him. The unfortunate thing is that the parents were right. The boy did have some serious character flaws. A few years and two babies later, he abandoned her. I have never had anything like that happen in my life and I can’t imagine how that would hurt if that happened to one of my children. But I do know that it would hurt terribly, I cannot imagine. And she talked about the pain they went through. They were on the church staff, to make it even worse, because with your own church staff everybody knows you’re supposed to have all your family together and everything is supposed to be right. And so there was the stigma attached to the grief, the guilt as well as the grief. And she talked about the pain of her daughter being abandoned.

When I hear stories like that, I’d give anything if I could be God for a day. Wouldn’t you? You know what I would do? I would go to those parents and I’d say, “Listen, I know you’ve wept and you’ve cried and your hearts have been broken over this. But I tell you what, I am God for a day and I have the power to reverse the whole situation. I can make it as though it never happened. She will never meet or marry that boy. He will never abandon her. You will be saved those years of tears, and heartache, and shame, and disgrace that you feel has come upon you. Would you like for me to do that? I need to say one thing before you give me your answer. If I reverse the whole process and make it so that you never go through that thing, you do understand of course, that you will have to give up those two grandbabies.”

I’ll ask you grandparents here, what would your answer be? The answer would probably be, “I wouldn’t take anything for those grandkids.” Then how in the world can you say that life was out of control and that God was on vacation and that what happened between your daughter and that boy was all evil and all bad? How can you separate it?

Good and bad are so inseparably entwined that you can’t separate the one from the other. How can you say, “Let’s separate the bad from the good?” Jesus said, “No, let them grow together.” It’s a mystery to me as to why God will let it go on that way. But that’s the way that it works. Yet out of that tragedy comes life.

Until the Harvest

One final word: ‘The end.’ Jesus says in verse 30 to, “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:30)

‘The end’: let them grow together UNTIL THE TIME OF HARVEST. Now, just let me mention two or three quick things. Number one: I’ve got news for you, the master is not at all worried about the tares.

“But don’t you think we ought to rip the tares out?”

“No, let them grow together.”

“Well, what if the tares quench the wheat and get in the way? Aren’t you concerned and worried about it?”

No, he may be concerned about it; but he’s not worried about it.

“Let them grow together until the time of harvest.”

The Lord is not worried about the tares. The Lord is not nearly as worried about the evil as you and I are worried about it. He is concerned, but he isn’t worried because he knows that there is coming a harvest. It also tells me that God is still in sovereign control. I think it’s significant that the Bible calls this ‘his field’; God’s field. I mean the devil may be sowing in it, but I want you to know that he is a trespasser. God hasn’t lost control. God hasn’t relinquished one bit of his sovereignty. And this is something you have to keep reminding yourself of because you look out there into your own life, and into the life of a lot of others that we see today, and it looks like somehow God’s lost control.

“Lord, the tares are taking over!”

“I’m not worried about the tares. I’m still in control.”

Don’t worry yourself to death trying to answer every mystery and solve every enigma. Just wait until the harvest and it will all come out.

But you know that there is one other thing that just strikes me about this.

They said, “Master, you want us to tear out the tares.”

He said, “Oh no, don’t do that. For in doing that you are liable to tear up some of the wheat too.”

“Alright now master, if I understand you correctly, the reason you don’t want us to tear out the tares is because in tearing out the tares we might also tear up some of the wheat?”

He said, “Yes, you know that you can’t always tell what tares look like. Some of you may think that is a tare, but it may be wheat; and some of that wheat may be a tare. So I don’t want you to tear out the tares because you are liable to hurt the wheat.”

“In other words, Master, you’re telling us that the reason you don’t tear out the tares now is for the good of the wheat?”


“Lord, are you saying to me that in this world as it is functioning and operating now that I would be better off if the evil is left here? Are you trying to tell me the only reason you do not immediately right now jerk up the tares and do away with the evil is for the good of the wheat?”

“Trust me. You’re better off with the tares than you would be without them.”

Let’s pray together: Father, for all that we have heard and felt this morning we give you thanks. And no matter where we start in this book, from either end, we all seem to come together in the same places. My text this morning could have been the text that my brother preached last night, Romans 8:28. Lord I pray that during these days our hearts would be open and our ears be tuned in to hear what you have to say to us. Thank you for this time together today. In Jesus name, Amen.

© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005

Mat 06:33 | Financial Freedom

Text: Matthew 6:33; II Corinthians 9:8

Last Sunday morning we began talking about God’s plan for His people to be financially free. There are two verses of Scripture that I want to read again just as a platform for what we’re going to say this morning.

The first one is a culmination of all that Jesus has been talking about in this particular chapter about our attitude toward material possessions. And there are several attitudes that God wants us to have.

Number one, He doesn’t want us to worry about them…when He says, “Take no thought…” He doesn’t mean to not make any plans or to not take any thought to what we’re going to eat or drink, but the word there means don’t be anxious…don’t worry about it…because after all, these things are what the Gentiles seek after and for you and for me to be uptight and nervous and anxious and worried about material necessities of life is to live a life of a pagan. And it’s also to serve mammon and not serve God.

The second basic attitude is that He wants us to know that all things come from our heavenly Father. And if the heavenly Father clothes the lilies of the field and if He’ll feed the birds of the air then much more and we need to underline that in our Bibles and more so in our hearts much more will our heavenly Father take care of us. And then the climax comes in that thirty-third verse of Matthew 6…

Matthew 6:33:
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”

The word “added” is instructive. It means that things will be just a natural consequence of my seeking first the kingdom of God. They will be added to us.

Then the other verse is 2 Corinthians 9:8:
“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you that ye always having all sufficiency in all things may abound to every good work.”

Now, I just want to recap one minute of what we said last Sunday morning. Remember I gave to you a definition of prosperity…the Bible’s definition of prosperity…and when we talk about being prosperous in the sight of God…being financially free…we’re not talking about having a million dollars in the bank, which is alright to have there, I guess, if God has so blessed you in that way. It is not tearing down your barns and building greater barns in which to store your possessions, but according to the teachings of the Word of God and especially Matthew 6 and 2 Corinthians 9, that what God has promised every believer is three-fold financial freedom.
1) That all our needs will be adequately supplied. We will not lack or be in need of anything. Whatever we require, we will receive.

2) That we will be able to meet adequately every financial obligation. There won’t be any past-due bills… “please remit” or “we’re going to burn your house down if we don’t hear from you in the next three days” or “disregard this notice if you’ve already sent us in a ten thousand dollar check.” God never intended for His people to be under that financial burden and if we are under it, then somewhere we have missed God’s plan for us…to be adequately able to meet every financial obligation.

3) That we will be able to give generously to every good cause.

Now, if you have those three things in your life, then you have what the Bible calls prosperity. And you have financial freedom.

As I mentioned last week, being prosperous as far as God is concerned, isn’t having forty cruses of oil but it’s having one that never runs dry, because then you don’t have to watch the other thirty-nine. You won’t have to look at the stock market every day and see if they’ve decreased in value. I’d rather just have one that never runs dry than have forty over here that I have to watch to see if inflation gets to. What God has promised to give to every believer is not forty cruses of oil but one that will never run dry.

Now, all of these promises have very definite conditions upon them. There are two kinds of promises in the Bible. One is an unconditional promise. That is God promising to do thus and so regardless of what we do.
The promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit was unconditional.
The promise of Jesus Christ coming again is unconditional.

Then, there are promises in the Bible which are conditional. This is where God says, “If you do thus and so, I’ll do this.” Now, these laws or these promises, rather, regarding financial freedom are conditional promises! And we cannot expect God to bless us in His way if we violate certain spiritual principles. So, what I want to do this morning is share with you what I consider to be four Biblical keys to financial freedom and to Biblical prosperity.

There must be a sincere submission to the God from whom we receive all things.

There must be a submission of our lives to the will of God. Now, this is a condition upon which God promises to do certain things. For instance, in Deuteronomy 28, God said He would bless us…that He would open up the treasures of heaven and bless everything we do and we would be head and not the tail that we would be the top and not the bottom, that we would lend and not borrow. But, all the way through that at the beginning and the end of that passage, He said, “This will I do if you obey all that the Lord thy God has spoken unto you.”

There’s a condition. In Matthew 6:33… “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will added unto you…”

And so, the basic condition first of all is a submission of my life to God. What is submission? Well, submission in reality is my recognizing my total dependence upon God for all things. And the basic sin of man is a declaration of independence from God! That’s what prayerlessness is! That’s what faithlessness is!

The one thing that God tried to instruct man in the Garden of Eden was that man not only came from the hand of God but also man was totally dependent upon God for all his things…whether it was physical, or material, or spiritual, or financial.

And so, this is the first key and it is extremely important because in it you recognize that God is the total source of your income…not your employer…not your part-time job…not your stocks and bonds…not your investments. Those are the things that God chooses to use as a channel. In Deuteronomy 8:18, Moses is giving instruction to the people things that they need to remember once they get into the land… Moses recognized once they got out of the tight they were in and began to enjoy the luxuries of the land that they might have spiritual amnesia and forget some very basic and one of the things they needed to remember is this:
“Thou shalt remember the LORD thy God for it is He that giveth
thee power to get well.”

Proverbs 8:20-21… “I walk in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice, to endow those who love me with wealth, that I may fill their treasuries.”
Proverbs 10:22… “It is the blessing of the LORD that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.”

And another verse that is familiar to us is
Philippians 4:19…
“My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory
by Christ Jesus.”

Now, that makes it very clear that God is to be looked upon as the Source. He does the supplying. I don’t do the supplying. My employer, which happens to be McArthur Boulevard Baptist Church doesn’t do the supplying. They are the channel through which God chooses to supply all my needs. So, if I really believe this…if I really believe now that God is the total Source of all my income and all my blessings that I will ever receive in life…that every good and perfect gift comes from God…then it is incumbent upon me to realize that I also must be submission to His will.

Matthew 5:5 says the meek shall inherit the earth. A meek person is someone who is God-controlled. A submissive person…submissive to the will of God.

So, that’s key number one…a sincere submission to the God from whom we receive all things.

There must be scriptural sowing in order to receive.

In 2 Corinthians 9, I believe beginning with the sixth verse, the Apostle Paul uses a figure of a farmer. And he uses the figure of sowing and reaping. For instance, he says in verse 6, “But, this I say, he that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly and he that soweth bountifully shall also reap bountifully.” Verse 9: “As it is written, he hath dispersed abroad (means he has sown abroad) he hath given to the poor, his righteousness remaineth forever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food and multiply your seed sown and preach the fruits of your righteousness.”

Now, the key phrase there is that He will multiply the seed that you sow. God cannot multiply seed that is never sown. And it may be that we are wanting God to multiply a seed that is still in the package that we’ve never opened and we’ve never sown.

Another way that the Bible speaks of this is not only sowing seed, but also of laying up treasure in heaven. I think that many of our prayers to God to meet our financial needs come back marked “insufficient funds” because we are trying to withdraw from heaven’s treasure when we’ve not made any deposits in heaven’s treasure.

So, Jesus has a great deal to say about laying up treasure for yourself and something that I had not realized until just recently that in Matthew 6, when He turns to that tremendous promise in verse 33 of supplying all our needs and adding to us all these things that that whole passage, if you’ll back up far enough, begins with this, “lay not treasure up for yourselves on earth, but lay up treasures in heaven…” and that whole passage begins with that command so that one of the keys of prosperity, of God adding these things to us, is first of all my laying up treasures in heaven.

In Luke 12, as He comes to the end of that parable about the foolish farmer, He says, “…so is everyone who lays up treasure towards himself and is not rich towards God…” So you have sowing of the seed and laying up treasures or making deposits in heaven’s bank account so you can make withdrawals later on.

Now, the promise that was made in Philippians 4:19 was made to them after they had given to Paul what no one else had given to him. And Paul said, “You once again gave to my necessities…” Now, here were a people who were sowing seed. They were laying up treasure in heaven. And then he comes back and makes that promise, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” And the only people to whom that promise is made are the people who have sown the seed and have laid up riches in heaven.

Now, there are two basic ways you do this.
a) …through tithing…

Somebody said, “I knew he’d get around to that sooner or later.” Well, I didn’t want anybody to be disappointed.

Malachi 3 says that one of the keys of God’s material prosperity is tithing. God says we’re to do two things basically when we honor Him with our tithes. Number one…He will bless us in a positive manner. He will open up the windows of heaven and pour out upon us such blessings that you and I will not be able to receive. Then, number two…He will bless us in a negative manner. He will rebuke the devourer which is among us. Not only will He bless us by opening the windows of heaven and pouring upon us new blessings, but He will take that which we already possess and bless it by rebuking the devourer.

Now, this principle of tithing is very important because when a person understands what it means and what it is, then he understands that unless he tithes he has no right to ask God to meet his material needs. You see, the basis of tithing is this… “The earth is Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” And therefore, it is not man’s. All things were made by Him and for Him. This earth was not made for man’s consumption and man’s glory, it was made for God’s glory. It is the Lord’s!

You know, you and I are tenants. The heavenly Father is our landlord. And to tell the truth, we’re just right now renting from Him…and it’s very interesting to look back in the Old Testament…even in Genesis and see how God always reserves something for Himself, in the financial and physical realm where man obtains his living.

Always! Without exception! God always reserves something for Himself, in the physical realm where man obtains his living!

For instance, in the Garden of Eden, He said, “You can eat of every tree except one. That’s Mine.” Now, where did man obtain his living? Out of that garden! And God reserved something for Himself right in the heart of it. And that tree was a tithe! That was recognition of God’s ownership!

Adam was not to think more highly of himself than he should and think that all of the garden was his and that tree was a constant reminder that the earth was the Lord’s, not Adam’s…and that God was sovereign and that he was in dependence upon God!

God always reserves something in the physical realm where man obtains his living! In the Garden, it was a tree.

In the week, it is a day! God reserves that day! And that Sabbath day is my tithe of my time to God…recognizing His sovereign ownership of time.

When they were in the land of Canaan, God says, “You’ll go through the cities, city after city, you will live off the spoils of that city, except one. There’s one I don’t want you to touch. You can touch every other city and spoil it…take all their goods…but there’s one there, Jericho, and you’re not to touch it.”

Jericho was conquered in a different way from all the other cities. They didn’t lay a hand on it…they just shouted and the walls came tumbling down. You see, God provides for His own. You don’t have to provide for God. And the tithe is the Lord’s. God will provide that if you’ll give it…pay it…you won’t have to worry about that.

God always provides. God planted the tree, not man. God chose the day, not man. God captured the city, not man. Their job was to be obedient in faith. And so, God said, “That city is Mine. Don’t touch it!” because God always reserves something for Himself in the physical realm where man obtains his living.

Well, when they finally got into the land, He said, “You will till the land for six years and you’ll let it rest every seventh year.” That’s the tithe, see? Now, did they obey God? NO! The Bible teaches that for 490 years they tilled the land without giving it any rest. How many years did they owe the Lord? They owed him seventy years! How many years were they in Babylonian captivity? Seventy! Isn’t that a coincidence. And after they were delivered into captivity, the Bible has a little cryptic statement: “Then hath the land her rest.”

You know, God has marvelous ways of collecting. Now, my tithe is my recognition of God’s sovereign ownership of all things. It’s not to finance the work of the church. It’s not to pay the pastor’s salary. The tithe predates the Law. The tithe is basically man’s recognition of God’s ownership.

Alright, now then, on what basis does God have a right to take my material goods and to distribute them to His children? I mean, when I ask God to give me some money, He’s going to have to come over here and get it from somebody else!

I mean, He doesn’t run down to the Denver office over there and makes some new money and deliver it to me by special angel messenger. Now, He takes the money that is already in circulation and distributes it. Tell me, by what right does God have to do that? By right of ownership! He is sovereign owner of all things. It’s not yours! He has a right to take it from you and distribute it in other ways.

Now, if I refuse to tithe, I am denying God’s ownership of all things…therefore, I don’t have a right to pray and ask God to meet my material needs, because I’m asking God to do something in prayer that in fact I am denying He has a right to do. And God will simply say, “You make up your mind….because day after day, week after week you are saying that I have no right to take the things of this earth and distribute them because you’re not tithing!” Alright, the first thing is tithing.

b) …through giving…
Malachi 3:10 speaks of “Will a man rob God? Yes, you rob Me in tithes and offerings.” You see, a tithe is not an offering. That’s not giving. Tithing is paying. And you owe that to God. That’s an obligation that God has put on us and when you tithe you’re not giving to God, you’re paying! So, besides the paying of the tithe is the giving of the offerings.

Now, let me just say a brief word about this. Luke 6:38 says we ought to give…that’s a command. And then there’s a promise… “Give and it shall be given unto you…good measure, pressed down, running over shall men give back into your lap. For of what measure you mete out to others, also will be meted (measured) out to you.”

Now the command is to give. Then, in the 2 Corinthians 9 passage he’s talking about giving. He’s not talking about tithing. There was a need…a benevolent need among God’s people. And Paul was saying if they would give generously and bountifully, then God would give back to them generously and bountifully. And this is the principle of giving. The New English Bible translates this like this, “Give, and you shall receive gifts.” There’s one translation, I can’t remember whether it’s the Living Bible or some other, but it says, “Give and you will get.”

And so, here is the principle of sowing seed or laying up treasure in heaven. The more I give away to the cause of God and the needs of others, the more God will cause others to give back to me. But, you know, we don’t believe that. I was studying this the other day and I said, “Lord, I believe that. I believe that with the same measure that I give You will cause others to give to me.” God said, “You don’t believe that!” I said, “Yes, I do!” He said, “Why are you using such a small measure then?”

What that verse really means is that the same size cup I use to dish out to you God will take that same size cup and dish it out to me. And if I really believed that I’d get me a bigger cup. There’s a principle of giving. The more you give, God says, the more you will get. You say, “Well, you’re talking about a low motive there. We’re just to give and expect God to give back to us?” I’m not talking about a motive or anything, I’m just giving you the facts of the Word of God.

I’m simply saying that God isn’t worried too much about inspiring us to a low motive, is He? God isn’t concerned about that. He simply made a scriptural promise… “If you will give, then you will receive.” And the more you give the more you will receive. And you’ll get good measure, full and running over.

Alright, those are the two ways we lay up treasure in heaven…by tithing and by giving.

And you know, it’s such a joy to preach and teach that people ought to give, not because the church needs money. When I speak on giving and talk about giving, I’m not encouraging you to give because we need money because I don’t whether we do or not. I mean, we’re having all of our needs met. Week by week God is meeting our needs. We don’t have to have “catchup” services here. You know what that is…that’s “catching up.” If we’re way behind in our bills, we just put a little “catchup” on the service. We have a “catchup” Sunday. You know, everybody is to double their tithe…giving a full day’s pay… We don’t have to do that because God is abundantly supplying all of our needs and I see no reason that He will not continue to do so if we’re faithful to Him and trust Him.

And so when I’m encouraging you to give, I’m not saying, “Give because we’re behind.” Paul to the Philippians, and it’s a beautiful thing, as he writes to these Philippians and he says he wants them to give here in this seventeenth verse here…
“Not because I desire your gift, but I desire fruit that may abound
to your account.”

See, Paul is saying, “Folks, I want you to give to my necessities not because I desire a gift…I just want to see you folks blessed.”

The NAS translates this, “I want you to have profit to your account.”

Then, he says, “God will supply all of your needs…” and the more I give to Paul’s necessity my account with God is going to be more profitable. And God is going to supply all of my needs.

But, now, let’s go to the third goal in financial freedom:

There must be sensible spending of what we do receive…

Now, here we are. You know, it would be so great if I could just trust the Lord and have faith and pray and then spend it any way I wanted to. And you know, that’s what some of us do! We spend foolishly, unwisely, violating the scriptural principles about possessions and it doesn’t matter if we get in trouble, we know God will bail us out…

This is where many of us are missing it. You know, we’ve heard one side of this… We’ve heard that if we’ll just trust God and give, then God is going to pour into our laps…well, yes…but, if you do not take the possessions that you have and take that which you receive and honor God with 90% as much as you honor Him with the 10%, then you’re violating the scriptural laws of God and He cannot and will not bless you! You see, I’m not only responsible and accountable to God for the 10%, I’m also accountable to God for the 90% what I do with it.

Luke 16:9…
Jesus said we’re to make friends with the mammon of this world…the mammon of unrighteousness. You know what that literally is saying? He’s saying, “Use your money in the right way. Take that mammon of unrighteousness (money) and use it in a right way and make friends with it.” The right use of our money! And what most of us need is not more money but just a new attitude to the money we have.

And there must be sensible spending. Now, there are three areas that we need to be sensible in and I think I can sum them all up in this…
a) Fixed expenses…
I’m not recommending here that everybody plans a budget in the old-fashioned sense of the word. Most of those don’t work. There ought to be some kind of a budget. But many people really don’t know how much they have to spend each month. There needs to be an itemized list of fixed expenses…house payments, car payments, insurance, taxes, cost of groceries each week…there needs to be some idea of fixed expenses!

b) Future expectations…
What you expect to need in the future…clothes, school supplies, a new car…

c) Fun extras.
Those are the things you don’t really need, but you think you owe them to yourself…an extra color TV for the bedroom, a boat and motor…

Now, let me just say this…God has never led me to give at the neglect of a financial obligation. In other words, let’s suppose I have $100.00 and my light bill is $100.00 and I go ahead and just give that $100.00 away and then I’m unable to pay the light bill, and it gets past due and they’re going to turn my electricity off and I hurt my credit rating and my reputation as a Christian is harmed. God does not ask us to give at the neglect of our financial obligations and our honest debts.

He asks me to give at the expense of my personal desires and wants and pleasures…these fun extras. Jesus sacrificed and gave Himself but He did not give Himself at the expense of the obligation of holiness and obedience. What He gave up was His own personal prerogatives, personal wants, personal desires. He sacrificed those and when the Bible speaks about your giving, not tithing, but the giving of offerings and giving to the necessities of others it’s not saying you’re to rob from Peter to pay Paul.

But it’s those things that you don’t need like cigarettes and cokes and movies and things like this that He is asking you to sacrifice in order that you may give. Now, in those three areas there needs to be sensible spending.

I have four things that I want to share with you about this matter of sensible spending.

a) There needs to be careful spending or careful buying.
You know, so many of us buy things we really don’t need. If you’re rolling in it and God has blessed you, you can go to sleep on this one…you don’t need to buy carefully. But, if He has not blessed you in this way, then you might want to listen.

One of the most important things is to eliminate from our buying those things that are not essential…those things that we don’t really need, and say, folks, we don’t need nearly as much as you and I think we do.

That’s one thing God has shown me. He has said, “Whatever you receive you require, whatever you require you receive.” I’ve learned that I don’t need nearly as much as I thought I did. And really most of us aren’t that careful in our spending. The greatest problem in people like us and I include myself is that we get under financial burden not because we don’t have enough money coming in, but that we’re not being good stewards of what we have and there needs to be a development of sales resistance.

Always sleep on it. You walk into Sanger Harris and you see this suit and you say, “This was just made for me. They had me in mind at the factory when they made this. And I look like a million in it. And it’s the last one.” Go home and sleep on it…not the suit…but sleep on the thought of buying it. It’s amazing how you change the next day. There must be sensible buying.

b) There needs to be creative spending.

Now, I’ll be honest with you, I hate to do this. I hope God just makes me a millionaire someday and I won’t ever have to worry about creative spending. It messes my mind up to creatively spend. But, it’s very important if you’re trying to be financially free. You know what the overall goal is, don’t you? To get out of debt. And if you’re trying to get financially free there needs to be some creative spending and by this, I mean shopping for the best price at the best time.

One of these years I’m going to do this… One of these days I’m going to take advantage of the best time to go Christmas shopping, right after Christmas. January is one of the best months to buy a lot of things. There needs to be some creative spending. For instance, buying groceries…unit pricing…it’s amazing the giant economy size isn’t always the giant economy size. You can look down there and it will have a price per ounce and price per pound and you’ll find sometimes you’re paying twice as much for some items when they break it down to unit pricing.

There needs to be some creative spending…waiting for the best times to buy…and things such as this.

c) There must be consistent spending.

Now, by that I don’t mean spending all the time. I have a feeling somebody said, “Amen. He finally got to what I do best… He got to my spiritual gift. I’m so consistent with my spending. There’s hardly a day that goes by that I don’t spend.”

No, consistent spending means spending that is consistent with what you can afford. One of the greatest deceptions of our day is this…that we have been totally brainwashed into believing that being able to buy it and being able to afford it are the same thing. You see, there was a time when if you could not afford it you just didn’t buy it. And we have built into us that if we can buy it, we can afford it. And there was a time when that was true, but it is not true today! With credit cards and such as this, you can buy a lot of things you cannot afford!

And your spending and your buying must be consistent! Not only can you purchase it…wrap it up…drive it out today…take it home today… That is not the point! When you buy something that you cannot afford then you have violated a basic scriptural principle and you cannot expect God to bail you out of that situation.

A lot of us, it may be, have bought a lot of things that we couldn’t afford, and we knew we couldn’t afford them when we bought them and we’re praying that God will somehow get us out of this thing. What God will probably let you do is just stew and suffer there for awhile and learn a lesson. See, one of God’s greatest methods of punishing us, chastening us is just letting us have our way.

Some people say, “Well, if the Lord let me buy it…” Don’t blame that on the Lord! The Holy Spirit does not have to lead you to do something that He’s already told you to do in this book! If you know it’s in this book, you don’t need a special leading of the Holy Spirit to do it! It’s already here! And to buy something you cannot afford is violating the principle of not getting into debt and to owe no man anything. And to be in debt simply means when your liabilities outweigh your assets. When you have bought more than you can afford to pay.

d) There must be cash spending…

I said a minute ago that the goal of every believer should be to get out of debt. To be in debt means to have obligations, financial and otherwise, that you cannot easily take care of…and you’re having to neglect other things to take care of…past due payments…

Proverbs 22:7 says that the borrower is the slave or servant to the lender. And oh my, isn’t that true? To be in debt is to be in bondage. Every believer ought to have as his goal to get out of debt. Now, I don’t mean to pay off your house, that is a goal, but there are some things we’re just going have to charge like a new home, but what I’m referring to are these charge cards and every time you want something you just go down and charge it and you don’t really need it and can’t afford it.

I believe the greatest cause of indebtedness and financial bondage is buying what we cannot afford. You know, I used to have this idea…I must can afford it or they wouldn’t have let me have it! I mean, they’re financial experts and if they think I can afford it, I must be able to.

Now, I have some reasons you ought to pay cash…
a) It’s scriptural…charging is borrowing money and getting into debt.
b) It’s cheaper…you don’t pay any interest.
c) It prevents past due bills…you can’t have any past due bills if you don’t have any bills and it frees you from the dread of past due bills coming in.
d) It prevents borrowing from the future.
e) It presumes upon the future. It presumes that you will be able to do something that you have no guarantee you will be able to do.
f) It prevents impulse buying…Most of us don’t have a great deal of cash on hand to buy anything…but our credit cards give us almost unlimited buying power.
g) You will learn the value of money. Credit buying’s side effect is failure to learn the value of money.
h) It helps you to be realistic in your buying.
i) It defeats this syndrome that says “I have to have it now.”
j) Credit buying eliminates the joy of anticipation. Those things that I have saved for and laid aside for and gone down and bought with cash are appreciated far more than what I’ve bought with that plastic card.
k) It will give a certain peace of mind that credit buying will not do.
l) It will give God a chance to provide it free. Some of the neatest times that I’ve had in my Christian life is needing something, wanting something, and resisting the impulse to go down and charge it and just waiting to give God a chance to give it to me from unknown sources.
It may be that God really wanted you to have that and wanted to give it to you. Cash spending also allows us to keep us from having some things God didn’t want us to have.

Aren’t there things you have bought and you wished later that God had violated your will and not allowed you to just go and buy? I would have been a lot better off. If we look to God for our expectations and as the Source of all things and say, “I’m not going to buy this and get into debt and I will not spend money I do not have because this is not what God wants me to do.” That’s what credit buying is…spending money you do not have…and that violates as far as I can see scriptural spending.

You know how you can know? You can ask God for a certain something you think you need and if He doesn’t provide it, you don’t need it. Give God a chance.

Now, of course there are time when using credit cards is acceptable…for business purposes…for business records. That way you can figure out your income tax at the end of the year. You’ll have a record of what you spent on business expenses.

We did something in our home that has given us peace of mind. We have gotten rid of our credit cards…

There must be a special savings out of what we receive…

Some people say that’s not living by faith.

2 Corinthians 12:14 says the child is not supposed to save for the parent but the parent is supposed to save for the child. Proverbs 19:14 says the same thing.

This means I think that this gives scriptural grounds for insurance…life insurance. I am to save for my children…I am to provide for my own and I don’t see any scripture that says we’re not to have insurance. Now, if you don’t believe you ought to have it, that’s alright, but you can’t come along and say it’s a sin for a person to have insurance, because the Bible doesn’t say that.

Living by faith is not living by presumption. I know some folks who don’t want to spend their money on insurance, but they want to spend it on an extra TV set for the bedroom. There ought to be a special savings out of what we receive, insurance, savings account, funeral expenses…whatever…some money laid aside.

Well, our time is up…

© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005

Mat 06:05-13 | The Prayer God Always Answers

Text: Matthew 6:5-13

Some time ago a missionary told me of a letter he received from a little girl whose Sunday School class was writing to foreign missionaries as a class project. Evidently their teacher had told them that real live missionaries were very busy and might be unable to answer their letters, for the one he received said simply:

Dear Rev. Smith:
We are praying for you. We are not expecting an answer.
Without realizing it that little girl summed up the prayer life of many Christians: we are praying; we are not expecting an answer. The truth is, most of us aren’t surprised when our prayers aren’t answered – and we’re often amazed when they are. But the opposite ought to be true. God intended that our prayers be answered. While the Bible admits the fact of unanswered prayer, it never assumes it. Answered prayer should be the rule, not the exception. The Bible knows nothing of prayer for “prayer’s sake.” When prayer goes unanswered something is wrong.

There is no substitute for effective praying. To fail here is to fail everywhere. Matthew Henry said, “When God intends to bless His people the first thing He does is set them a-praying.” And John Wesley declared: “God does nothing but by prayer, and everything with it.” This then is our greatest need. The vault of God’s blessings will remain locked against us until we learn to use the key of prayer.

It is no small wonder, then, that the disciples said to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Mark it well: prayer does not come naturally or effortlessly. It must be learned. And it is good news to know that we have the greatest of all Teachers and His desire to teach surpasses by far our desire to learn.

In learning to pray, two problems must be mastered: how to pray and for what to pray. Every problem we encounter in prayer will revolve around these two questions. And both are answered by Jesus in the passage before us. The passage is, of course, part of the Sermon on the Mount. Here He gives His disciples the spiritual conditions and the specific content of the prayer God always answers. From these verses emerge four ingredients essential in answered prayer.

Before examining these four requirements, I think it will help to view the structure of the passage and see it as a whole.

Here is the Master Teacher at work. First, He tells us how NOT to pray, then gives the reason for not praying that way, and finally tells us HOW to pray. The passage falls into two easily identifiable parts.

1. The negative teaching: Don’t pray to be seen of men. (Verse 5a)
2. The reason: You have your reward. (Verse 5b)
3. The positive teaching: Pray in secret to the Father Who is in secret. (Verse 6)

1. The negative teaching: Don’t pray with vain repetition, thinking you will be heard because of much speaking. (Verse 7)
2. The reason: Your Father knows what you need before you ask. (Verse 8)
3. The positive teaching: “After this manner, pray.” (Verses 9-13)
Verse 6 is the cure for the wrong praying of verse 5.
Verses 9-13 are the cure for the wrong praying of verse 8.
Jesus warns us of the two most common dangers in prayer – praying like a hypocrite and praying like a heathen.
The hypocrite prays with the wrong motive. The heathen prays in the wrong manner.
The hypocrite perverts the purpose of prayer. The heather misunderstands the nature of prayer.
The hypocrite prays to impress people. The heathen prays to impress God.
The hypocrite’s mistake is made deliberately. The heathen’s mistake is made ignorantly.

Something of the hypocrite and the heathen is in all of us. There is the temptation to use prayer as a means of impressing others, calling attention to ourselves – that’s the hypocrite in us. There is also the tendency to rush into prayer without thought or preparation, thinking God will be persuaded by long and loud praying – that’s the heathen in us. These two errors choke the life from true prayer and must be avoided. And Jesus tells us how in these verses.

Now let’s turn our attention to the four ingredients of the prayer God always answers.

I. We Must Pray With Sincerity.
“And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full” (Verse 5). The first prerequisite of prayer is complete sincerity. What Jesus condemns here is not praying in public, but praying “to be seen of men.”

Here is a staggering revelation. The highest and holiest act in which men can engage is the act of prayer. Surely, in the inner sanctum of the prayer room a man is safe from sin. But not even there do we escape sin’s penetrating and perverting power. Our holiest moments can become the occasion for the greatest of sins. Sin intrudes into the holiest of all places and wipes its muddy feet arrogantly on the floor of the throne room. I heard Stephen Olford say once that his greatest temptations came to him while he was praying.

Jesus introduced this section of the Sermon on the Mount with a warning. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). Our loftiest acts are often inspired by the lowest of motives. “Vanity,” said Napoleon, “was the cause of the revolution. Liberty was only the pretext.”

Prayer is fragile and must be handled with care. It is the ultimate test of our real spiritual condition. In the place of prayer we discover the truth about ourselves.

When does our praying become that of the hypocrite? Prayer is hypocritical when we make it a spiritual status symbol. Prayer is hypocritical when we use it to impress others with our spirituality. Public praying, especially, is susceptible to this temptation. Not long ago I was speaking at a conference where the chairman was noted for his eloquent public prayers. People constantly carried on about the beauty of his prayers – in the presence of the man himself. Well, it was too much for any mortal to take, When he stood to pray (which was often) he affected an unnatural, sonorous pulpit voice and piled up mountains of ostentatious phrases. Too often prayer had become a stage performance. When we pray in such a way as to draw attention to ourselves, we are in fact praying to men rather than to God, asking for their applause rather than for His blessing.

Even our private prayers can be affected with this malady. Of all our Christian activities none is as vulnerable to vain display as is prayer. I believe most Christians have an inferiority complex where their prayer life is concerned and hold in awesome reverence those who seem to have learned the secret of real payer. It’s an easy temptation, therefore, to bid for respect by calling attention to the long hours we spend in prayer. In other words, it would be mighty hard to spend the whole night in prayer and not tell someone about it.

At no time must we be more completely sincere and totally honest than when we come to God in prayer. God welcomes us at His throne of grace when we come openly and honestly, without pretense or sham – that is, when we come with a pure motive.

Ah, but there is the rub. Nothing is as difficult to subdue as an impure motive. We are our own worst enemy. Christ’s command is so near to impossible we may be discouraged from praying at all. How can we achieve this kind of sincerity in prayer?

The answer lies in the next verse. “But you, when you pray, GO INTO YOUR ROOM, AND WHEN YOU HAVE SHUT YOUR DOOR, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Verse 6). This means that:

II. We Must Pray in Secrecy.
“The secret of religion is religion in secret.” To guard against praying to be seen of men, Jesus tells us to pray where only God can see us – in secret. By this Jesus does not mean that we are never to pray in public; the secrecy of which He spoke is more than physical, although physical secrecy is important and was practiced by our Lord.

As a matter of fact, our public praying should be backed up by our private praying. If we pray only in public, we are hypocrites. When there exists no faithful private payer life our public prayers are nothing but a performance.

The secret praying that Jesus is speaking of can be done in public. This is primarily a mental and spiritual secrecy. The key lies in the phrase “pray to your Father.” Sometimes we are guilty in public prayers of praying to the listeners rather than to God. Have you ever used your family prayers as a means of “preaching to the family” instead of praying to the Father? You know what I mean, something like this: “Dear Lord, please help Johnny to see that I don’t have time to take him to the zoo tomorrow, and help Sally to pick up her dirty clothes and put them in the laundry basket, and help Bill to get the lawn mowed tomorrow because we’re having company over the weekend…” Sound familiar?

Secret praying is “praying to the Father.” This means that we concentrate on His presence. Our attention is focused on Him, His will, His glory. We are more conscious of His presence than we are of the presence of others. Having shut the world out we shut ourselves in with Him. I have heard a few men who when they prayed, even in a crowded room, prayed as if there were no one else in the universe besides them and the Father.

Secret praying also means that we are content with His praise. Nothing will satisfy the hypocrite but the praise of men. They have their reward. But to pray in secret means we covet the reward that only He can give. Nothing but His approval, His praise will satisfy. This kind of man will have no trouble praying sincerely in public or in private.

III. We Must Pray With Simplicity.
In verses 7 and 8, Jesus gives us the second pitfall to be avoided in prayer – praying like the heathen: “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him.”

The hypocrites’ sin was praying with the wrong motive – to impress men. The heathen’s mistake was praying in the wrong manner – to impress God. Notice that it is not repetition that Jesus condemns, but meaningless repetition. The Greek word is difficult to translate into English but it carries the idea of babbling or rambling on and on in a torrent of words. “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans” is the New International Version rendering.

The heathen believed their gods were impressed by the amount of time and words spent in making prayers. To them prayer was a matter of convincing the gods they were worthy of the blessing sought. In short, prayer was talking God into giving them what they wanted.

It is amazing how pagan we often are in our praying. Listen carefully to yourself the next time you pray. You may find that much of your praying is an attempt to talk God into seeing things your way. I am afraid that much of my own praying at times has been nothing more than trying to get God to believe in me or to cooperate with me in some venture. It is as though we had to pry open the hand of a tight-fisted God. When we believe that if we show God our sincerity and devotion by how much and how long we pray He will be kindly disposed toward us and give us what we ask, we are praying like pagans.

Don’t pray like that, Jesus said. Why not? “For your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him.” The heathen’s faulty praying was the result of a false conception of God. Their concept of God was wrong, so their praying was wrong. We don’t have that kind of God, Jesus was saying, so we are not to pray that way.

Living the Christian life is simply responding to the character of God. “But like the Holy One who called you; be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written. ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY FOR I AM HOLY’” (1 Peter 1:15-16)

“We love, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19).

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48).

Augustine prayed, “Grant me, Lord to know and understand which is first, to call on Thee or to praise Thee. And again, to know Thee or to call on Thee. For who can call on Thee, not knowing Thee? For he that knoweth Thee not may call on Thee as other than Thou art.” (Author’s emphasis)

In prayer the chief thing is knowing to what kind of God we are praying. “Your Father” is how Jesus describes Him. We are to pray with the simplicity of a child whose father knows his every need.

Some have taken this statement to imply that we need not ask. If, they reason, God already knows what we need, why bother to ask? If He knows we need it and wants us to have it, we’ll get it. According to one well-known preacher, this business of retreating to a prayer closet and petitioning God for things is nothing but “religious gymnastics.” The only thing wrong with that view is, it’s wrong. And unscriptural.

That Jesus did not mean we should not ask for things is obvious from the fact that in the following verses (the model prayer), He tells us to pray specifically for certain things. And one of the petitions concerns daily bread, which the Father surely knows we need.

Rather than discouraging us from asking, these words are meant to encourage us to pray with confidence. What a difference it makes in my praying when I know I don’t have to convince God I need that for which I am asking. I remember occasions when my children would come to me wanting something, and the first thing they would do was try to convince me they needed it. Talk about meaningless repetition! But you should have seen the relief in their face when I interrupted their pleadings to tell them I already knew they needed it. “Prayer,” said Richard Trench, “is not overcoming God’s reluctance, it is laying hold of God’s willingness.”

Repetition in prayer is not always meaningless. In the two parables of Jesus on payer (Luke 11:5-9; 18:1-8) the emphasis is on persistent repetition. And Jesus Himself repeated His petition when He prayed in Gethsemane. Repetition caused by a burdened heart is not meaningless. There are times when our prayer burden is so intense that we can’t help but cry out repeatedly to our Heavenly Father.

IV. We Should Pray Specifically.
How is this simplicity in prayer accomplished? Jesus tells us in the next verse: “Pray, then, in this way” (Verse 9). Having told us the wrong way to pray, He now tells us the right way. Simple praying is accomplished by specific praying. And those specifics are laid down in the Model Prayer.

The purpose of Jesus was not to give a set prayer to be ritually recited over and over – that would contradict what He just said about meaningless repetition – but to give us an example to follow when we pray. This is a pattern, a blueprint. It covers everything that a man could ask of God. Every conceivable need we will ever encounter is dealt with in this pattern prayer. When we pray, regardless of the length of our prayer, we are simply expanding the principles found here. We are adding flesh to the skeleton. This is the way to pray, said Jesus. Every prayer built according to these specifications will be answered.

Two facts need to be noted. One, prayer is an act, not an attitude. While we are to live in an attitude of prayer, prayer is more than an attitude. It is not merely being aware that we have all things in Christ. “When Jesus ceased praying,” writes Luke (11:1). For Jesus, prayer was an act with a beginning and an ending. “When you pray, SAY” (Luke 11:2 Emphasis added).

Two, prayer is asking. Prayer is petition, not praise. Our private worship should, of course, include praise, and during times of prayer we should praise God, but prayer and praise, strictly speaking, are not the same thing. Prayer is basically petition.

I heard a conference speaker make the statement that as we mature in payer praise will replace petition. He went so far as to suggest that if we were still occupied with making petitions we were carnal. If that be true then Jesus was carnal, for a close study of His prayer life shows that His prayers were almost totally petitions – and petitions for Himself. The prayers of Paul were petitionary. We are admonished by both Jesus and Paul to ask and keep on asking.

The Model Prayer is one hundred percent petition. Even the phrase, “Hallowed be Thy Name,” is petition, not praise. Jesus did not say, “When you pray, Hallow the name of God.” He said, “When you pray, say, “Thy name be hallowed.” That is a petition, asking that God cause His name to be revered.

The prayer is made up of six petitions, put in the form of commands. In each instance we are asking God to do something specific. The prayer is in two parts, with three petitions in each part. Space will permit only a brief examination of these parts.

The first part of the prayer deals with The Glory of The Father.

The prayer God answers always gives priority to the Father’s glory, putting His interests before our own. This implies an emptying of self and an occupation with the things of God. Only after we have thus forgotten our self can we think of our self.

1. We are to pray that the name of God will be revered. “Hallowed be thy name.”
2. We are to pray that the rule of God be established. “Thy kingdom come.”
3. We are to pray that the will of God be done. “Thy will be done.”

The second part of the prayer deals with the good of His children, both physically and spiritually.
1. We are to pray for provision. “Give us this day our daily bread.”
2. We are to pray for pardon. “Forgive us our debts.”
3. We are to pray for protection. “Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

At the beginning of the Model Prayer is a phrase that casts its shadow over the entire prayer, setting the stage for its petitions and forming the foundation of all true prayer – “Our Father.” In a sense these two words sum up the whole prayer.

“Our Father.” Here is the requirement of all prayer. Prayer is a family matter and only those who can truly say, “Our Father” can pray.

“Our Father.” Here is our right to pray. We are not beggars cowering at the back door pleading for a handout; we are children seated at the Father’s table. J.D. Jones, a great English preacher of an earlier generation, tells the story of a Roman Emperor who was entering Rome in triumph after a victorious battle. Suddenly a little child darted through the ranks of the soldiers who lined the road and headed for the gorgeous carriage in which the emperor was seated. One of the soldiers grabbed him, and trying to restrain the boy, said, “That is the Emperor!”

“Your Emperor,” said the child, “but my father!”

What right do we have to expect that a thrice holy God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the Lord of the Universe will hear our prayer and grant our petition?

When you pray, say, “Our Father.”

©Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2002