The Sermon on the Mount
Matthew Chapter 6
Hypothesis: Our piety bridges the requirements of God’s law and human practice.
I. Teaching about Almsgiving (Matt. 6:1-4)
1. What do you think is the principal being described by Jesus in these verses? Or, what warning is Jesus issuing to those who choose to follow him?
2. What is Jesus’ most critical of when describing the actions of many “in name only” believers?
3. Why might Jesus single out “almsgiving” in these verses? In Jesus’ teaching, what is the proper motive for almsgiving? How is this motive at odds with prevailing social motives?
4. Do you think there are differing degrees of hypocrisy in our practice of faith? What might these differences be?
II. Teaching about Prayer (Matt. 6:5-15)
1. What do you think Jesus’ principle criticism about prayer in this section is?
2. Do you think Jesus’ commentary is descriptive or prescriptive? Stated another way, do you think Jesus’ outline has to be doggedly followed and mimicked?
3. How do you think Jesus feels about repetitive prayers? Do you think repetitive prayer is acceptable for a believer in their relationship with God? Why or why not?
4. Do you think the prayer Jesus describes changes God?
5. If “the Lord’s Prayer” is “how we should pray” how might the ritual repetition of this prayer fit with the remainder of Jesus’ teaching about prayer?
6. What is the structure of the Lord’s Prayer?
7. Verse 12 states, “and forgive us our sins as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” What do you think the term “sins (or debts)” implies – is this monetary, obligation, or something else?
8. There are many interpretations of “forgive us… as we have forgiven…” including: 1) our willingness to forgive as a precondition for our forgiveness by God; 2) as a sign of our sincerity when asking for forgiveness; 3) a reminder of our inability to forgive perfectly while God alone forgives perfectly; 4) a test of our acceptance of God’s forgiveness; 5) a reverse consequence of forgiveness (one who is forgiven is able to forgive; or 6) an idea of “how much more” does God forgive in comparison to flawed human forgiveness. Discuss.
9. What do you think the phrase “lead us not into temptation” or “don’t let us yield to temptation” implies? While one can argue God would not lead us into temptation, how might our free will be a kind of God’s leading us into temptation?
III. Teaching about fasting (Matt. 6:16-18)
1. What do you think the function of fasting, especially in relationship to our piety?
2. Why would fasting in private better fulfill the function of fasting?
3. In the Christian church, fasting often is associated with Ash Wednesday. What pitfalls exist in the practice of fasting on Ash Wednesday as a principle time of the practice of fasting?