Lesson 11: Matthew 6

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“Lesson 11: Matthew 6,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)

“Lesson 11,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 11

Matthew 6


Jesus continued His Sermon on the Mount. He taught that righteous acts of devotion should be done for the right reason and emphasized that they should be done to please our Heavenly Father. He also instructed His disciples to seek first to build the kingdom of God.

Suggestions for Teaching

Matthew 6:1–18

The Savior teaches His disciples to do righteous works

Bring small rewards to class (such as pieces of candy). As students arrive and you see them do something good (such as getting out their scriptures, kindly greeting someone, or helping plan a devotional), give them a reward and announce their good deed to the class. Some students might replicate their peers’ good deeds to receive their own reward. Continue rewarding students until it is time for class to begin.

To begin class, ask students why they did the good deeds you rewarded them for. Explain that as recorded in Matthew 6, the Savior continued His Sermon on the Mount and taught about different motives a person may have for doing righteous acts. As the students study Matthew 6, invite them to look for principles that can help them perform righteous acts for the right reasons.

Invite a student to read Matthew 6:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior said was an improper motive for doing righteous acts. (Point out that alms are acts of religious devotion, such as giving to the poor [see verse 1, footnote b].)

  • According to these verses why do some people perform alms?

  • What did the Savior call these people? (You may want to point out that the Greek word translated as “hypocrites” refers to those who are pretenders [see verse 2, footnote a].)

  • What do you think the phrase “they have their reward” means?

Invite a student to read Matthew 6:3–4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior taught about how His disciples should perform righteous acts.

  • Why do you think the Lord would want His disciples to perform acts of service “in secret”?

  • What does doing righteous acts in secret suggest about a person’s motivation for doing them? (He or she wants to please Heavenly Father and serve others rather than seek attention from others.)

  • What did the Savior promise to those who performed righteous acts for the right reasons?

  • What principle can we learn from the Savior’s teachings about performing acts of devotion? (Help students identify the following principle: If we perform acts of devotion to please Heavenly Father rather than to seek the attention of others, then He will reward us openly. Write this principle on the board.)

  • What does it mean to you that Heavenly Father will reward us openly?

Assign students to work in pairs. Invite one student in each pair to read Matthew 6:5–6 and the other to read Matthew 6:16–18. Invite each student to look for an example the Savior used to illustrate the principle of performing righteous acts to please Heavenly Father. Invite them to share with each other what they found. Then ask the class:

  • In these two passages, which religious practices did Jesus emphasize should be performed in secret?

Ensure that students understand that public prayer is not wrong simply because it is not done in secret. Prayer and other religious practices can be performed publicly if they are performed with sincerity and devotion.

  • According to the verses you studied, why do hypocrites pray and fast?

You may want to explain that the phrases “sad countenance” and “they disfigure their faces” in verse 16 referred to individuals who made outward displays of their fasting to draw attention to themselves.

Refer again to the principle on the board. Invite students to think of a time when they performed acts of devotion—such as praying or fasting—in order to please Heavenly Father. Ask them to ponder ways they felt blessed for their sincere worship. You might ask a few students to share the blessings they received, if they feel comfortable doing so.

Summarize Matthew 6:7–15 by explaining that the Savior provided instruction and a pattern for the proper way to pray. His own example of prayer is known as the Lord’s Prayer. Invite students to briefly review these verses looking for what we can learn about prayer from the Lord’s example. Invite students to report what they find. (As part of this discussion, you may want to explain the Lord’s warning against “vain repetitions” is not necessarily a prohibition against using the same or similar words each time we pray. The Lord is also warning against prayers that are mechanical, shallow, or empty. Our prayers should be humble, heartfelt, and expressed with faith.)

Matthew 6:19–24

Jesus Christ teaches the multitude to lay up treasures in heaven

Gifts of the Wise Men

Display a picture of a treasure chest. Explain that a treasure is anything that we value greatly.

  • What is something you consider to be a treasure?

Invite a student to read Matthew 6:19–21 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior taught about treasures.

  • What type of treasures did the Savior teach His disciples to seek?

  • What did the Savior say the difference was between treasures stored up on earth and treasures stored up in heaven?

Write the following on the board:

Treasures on earth

Treasures in heaven

Invite students to come to the board and list examples of treasures on earth and treasures in heaven.

Invite a student to read Matthew 6:22–24 aloud, and ask the class to look for what the Savior taught that can help us lay up treasures in heaven.

  • What did the Savior teach in verses 22–23 that can help us lay up treasures in heaven? (Point out that the Joseph Smith Translation of verse 22 reads “if therefore thine eye be single to the glory of God” [in Matthew 6:22, footnote b]. You may want to remind students that God’s work and glory is to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” [Moses 1:39].)

  • What can we do to keep our eye single to the glory of God?

  • What truth did the Savior teach at the end of verse 24 that can help us remember to lay up treasures in heaven? (Students should identify the following truth: We cannot serve both God and mammon. Explain that the word mammon refers to riches.)

  • What do you think it means to “serve” mammon? (To set our hearts on worldly things in a way leads us away from God.)

To illustrate the truth students identified in Matthew 6:24, tape two drinking straws together near the top of the straws. Display a cup of water that is about half full, and place the straws so that one straw is in the water and the other is outside of the cup. Invite a student to try to drink the water using the straws. (Ensure the student sucks simultaneously from both straws for the object lesson to work.) Then ask the student:

  • Why were you unable to drink the water efficiently?

Ask the class:

  • If the straws represent us, what might the water represent? (Our efforts to serve God.)

  • Why do you think we can’t serve God and mammon at the same time? (See also James 1:8.)

  • What must we do with the straws in order to drink the water? How does this relate to our efforts to serve God?

Invite students to ponder their responses to the following question. You may want to invite students to record their responses in their class notebooks or scripture study journals.

  • In your life, what is an example of how setting your heart on worldliness could distract you from serving God and laying up treasures in heaven?

Matthew 6:25–34

The Savior instructs His disciples to seek first the kingdom of God

Summarize Matthew 6:25–34 by explaining that the Savior instructed His disciples to not be excessively anxious about providing for their basic needs. The Joseph Smith Translation for Matthew 6:25–27 helps us understand that the Savior was speaking specifically to those who would go forth to preach His gospel.

Invite a student to read Matthew 6:31–34 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior taught His disciples to seek first in their lives. (Point out the wording from the Joseph Smith Translation in verse 33, footnote a.)

  • What did the Savior teach His disciples to seek first in their lives?

  • What did Jesus Christ promise those who are seeking to build up the kingdom of God (or His Church) rather than seeking to attain the things of the world? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: If we seek first to build up the kingdom of God, then He will bless us with what He knows we need.)

To help students understand this principle, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson:

Benson, Ezra Taft

“We must put God in the forefront of everything else in our lives. …

“When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities.

“We should put God ahead of everyone else in our lives” (“The Great Commandment—Love the Lord,” Ensign, May 1988, 4).

  • When have you experienced Heavenly Father’s blessings as you have sought to put Him first in your life?

Consider sharing your testimony of the blessings that come from placing Heavenly Father first in our lives.

Invite students to again briefly consider how they might be tempted to set their hearts on worldliness. Encourage them to set a goal to overcome this temptation by writing in their class notebooks or scripture study journals one way they will seek to place their Heavenly Father first in their lives.

Commentary and Background Information

Matthew 6:22. “If therefore thine eye be single”

Single, as used in this verse, comes from a Greek word meaning ‘sound, healthy, simple, sincere.’ Knowing this definition helps us understand the Savior’s instructions concerning the giving of alms, praying, and fasting. These should all be done with a simple and sincere focus on our Father in Heaven or on the recipient. We might consider such questions as: When I give to the poor, do I hope to bring glory to God or to myself? When I serve the Lord, am I doing so to receive approval from the Lord or from men? When I pray in public, am I addressing God or those in the congregation? (See 2 Nephi 2:30; D&C 88:67–68; Moses 4:2; Joseph Smith—History 1:46)” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 29).