Matt 6:16-23 Practical Spiritual Matters CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
In this passage, Jesus gave his Jewish disciples instructions on some practical spiritual matters. He taught them concerning fasting, giving, and looking. Basically, his directions can be boiled down this way. There is spiritual help in what you don’t eat, what you don’t keep and what you don’t see.
Fasting – v.16-18
Fasting (v.16) is not to be done for appearance (like Eph 6:6 says, “not with eyeservice”). Lent is an example of fasting for appearance. Everybody does it at the same time, it begins with black ashes displayed on the forehead and most people announce what they are “giving up for Lent.” The Old Testament example found in Is 58:3-12 shows what happens when people fast for ritual instead of for righteousness and vice versa.
While fasting (v.17) the appearance should be normal. Anointing your head is like what David did in 2 Sam 12:20. In our case, we would bathe and wash our face and hair.
Fasting (v.18) is just between you and the Lord.
Question: Is fasting for this age? Yes.
Jesus said so – Matt 9:15
The local church did – Acts 13:2-3
Paul did – 2 Cor 11:27
People fast usually to help make a big decision, to win a harsh spiritual battle or to put down the flesh.
Giving – v.19-21
The big deal in finance (v.19) is the accumulation of wealth (Lk 12:15). But wealth accumulated in possessions here rusts, gets eaten, decays, or gets stolen – whatever. No matter the disposition of the wealth, “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver,” (Ecc 5:10) and “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither,” (Job 1:21).
So, the only way to keep it (v.20) is to give it. Treasures in heaven are only laid up as treasures in earth are laid down. That is there is a way to send it on ahead, so to speak. Notice what Jesus said to the rich young ruler when he told him to give his wealth to the poor, “Thou shalt have treasure in heaven,” (Matt 19:21). In the parable of the pounds, the Lord showed us that the man who made the ten pounds in service to the Lord got to keep it, “Give to him that hath the ten pounds,” (Lk 19:24).
You can tell a lot about your heart by how you give (v. 21). If your treasure is in the earth, your heart will be worldly (Jas 4:4) and if your treasure is in heaven, your heart will be godly (Phil 3:19-20).
Lesson: George Truett said, “If you’re not right with God in your giving, you’re not right with God in any area of your life.”
Looking – v.22-23
In this section, the Lord’s admonition is to keep the eye single (v.22). Jesus did when he was here. He was blind and deaf to anything ungodly (Is 42:19-20), he did not judge with his eyes and ears (Is 11:3) and he did those things that were pleasing to God (Jn 8:28-29). In like manner, we are to serve the Lord (Col 3:22-24).
The simplest way to keep your eye single is to keep your eyes on Jesus and in his word. We are to look for the blessed hope of the appearing of Jesus (Tit 2:13) and look unto him for our faith (Heb 12:1-2). We are to keep ours eyes in the Bible because the word lights our feet and path (Ps 119:105) and it enlightens our understanding (Ps 119:130).
Evil competes with Jesus and his words to fill men with darkness (v.23). The devil uses darkness to blind the minds of the lost (2 Cor 4:3-4). When men are evil, they love darkness rather than light (Jn 3:18-20). Thus when they die, they are cast into outer darkness (Matt 8:11-12).
Men who trust Jesus Christ, the light that shined in darkness (Jn 1:4-5), enjoy the light of Jesus and his Father for eternity (Rev 21:21-23).