Matthew 6:1-18 Study Guide

“I never said ‘thank you,’” exclaimed Commissioner Jim Gordon as Batman walks off after having saved Gotham City from the League of Shadows and now goes off to look into a criminal who leaves a Joker card at crime scenes. As he turns, the Dark Knight responds, “And you’ll never have to . . .”

This line, heard in 2005’s Batman Begins, is the kind of thing that sticks with you. Why? Because you realize in this moment that Bruce Wayne doesn’t don the cape and cowl for recognition, respect, or reward—he doesn’t need or want to be thanked or adored by the people of Gotham. He does it to help people; to protect them, to keep them safe. He makes this clear at the end of The Dark Knight when he willingly takes the fall for the crimes committed by Harvey Dent/Two-Face.

What’s the point in telling you this? Well, in the same way Batman doesn’t do what he does for the praise of others or demand that he be adored by the people he protects, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus instructs us to consider why and how we “practice righteousness,” why and how we pray, fast, give, and live. Like Batman, we’re not supposed to do it for the adoration of others, for the praise of man.

Making His point practical for His listeners, Jesus ties this truth to giving, fasting, and praying. In each case, He says that those who do these things loudly and publicly, who make it known they’re giving a gift, praying, or want everyone to know they’re fasting, are hypocrites and frauds. They’re not doing these things out of devotion. It has nothing to do with worshiping the Lord; instead, it has to do with their social standing. It’s like the guy who stacks chairs at youth group so the girls will think he’s such a servant. And thus, the only reward for such “righteousness” is that which they were seeking to begin with: the quick and momentary praise of fickle, “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” people!

The reality behind true generosity, prayer, and fasting is that it’s a response. What does that mean? Well, true right living (righteousness) is a byproduct of the goodness of God through Christ and a response to the person and work of God in and around us. It’s done for the audience of One.

And guess what? The reward He gives is greater than anything anyone else can give us. Not only that, but we can be sure that in every act of generosity, in our fasting, in and in our prayers, not only is He glorified, but He works in and through it to accomplish His perfect purposes.

Reflection Questions

  1. What stood out to you about Matthew 6:1-18?
  2. Why did Jesus tell us to give in secret?
  3. What is prayer and what is it not?
  4. Why did Jesus give us a template for prayer?
  5. How does this passage effect or change your perspective on fasting?
  6. With this understanding of what it means to “practice righteousness,” how can apply these truths today?

This Week

Today, find some way to serve someone. Perhaps give to a person in need, but find a way to do it without them knowing who did it. As you do, go to the Lord in prayer and thank Him for His grace and kindness, and ask Him to move through your generosity, which is a response to His generosity.

Memory Verse

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. ”—Matthew 6:1 (NIV)

Prayer Guide

Heavenly Father, as the old hymn says, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!” What an indescribable privilege it is that we get to pray, that we have this gift of an open line of communication with You, that You, King of the universe who holds everything in Your hands, desires to speak with us and always make time to give us Your ear. Father, may I never take the gift of prayer for granted, may I never abuse it for my own benefit before others, and may I never see it as a task or chore on a list. May my words never be stale repetition, instead may our time together be filled with true, genuine relationship and honest, loving conversation. In Jesus’ name, the name through which I have gained access to Your throne room, I pray. Amen.

If you have questions you aren’t sure of, please reach out to us at CalvaryFTL.org/Questions.

About the Author

Danny Saavedra

Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.