Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 6:11–15

Matthew 6:11–15
“Give us today our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
14 “For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins.”
(NET Bible)
Note: any Bible reference containing only a chapter number and verse number is understood to be in the Gospel of Matthew.

A forgiving nature

For a time, popular wisdom said, “Don’t get mad, get even!” In fact, Google Books reveals a book by that title that explains exactly how to get back at everyone — auto dealers, bureaucrats, contractors, and many others.

But Jesus does not allow his disciples to participate in a culture of retaliation. Instead, he commands a culture of forgiveness. How are you doing with that?

David Turner makes a vital point about discipleship when he says, “Whatever one’s wants, one’s deepest human needs are found in these requests: daily sustenance (6:11), forgiveness (6:12), and avoidance of sin (6:13).”[1] Take some time to reflect on that!

The idea of daily bread (6:11) looks back to the manna God provided to sustain Israel in the wilderness (Exod. 16:10-30), even when the people were grumbling against him and doubting his care. Keener reminds us that Jesus depended only on the Father during his own temptation in the wilderness (4:1–4, 11), and his disciples must do the same.[2]

Since God is not in the lending business, forgive us our debts (6:12a) can only be a figurative way of referring to the debt of sin. This is simply a rhetorical way of asking God to forgive sin. As we will see, this view is explicitly confirmed by 6:14–15. But in making this request to God, the disciple of Jesus claims to have forgiven those who have sinned against them (6:12b). For this reason, Turner says, “A forgiven person is a forgiving person.”[3]

The first half of 6:13 is difficult, so the second half of the verse is best used to help develop an accurate interpretation. Speaking of the two halves of the verse, R.T. France says, “Both are vivid ways of saying that the disciples are aware of the need for God’s help and protection in the face of the devil’s desire to lead astray.”[4] Testing will come to all, as will temptation, but a disciple of Jesus recognizes their need for God’s sustaining power in that time.

Verse 13 ended the model prayer for the disciples, but Jesus also added comments (6:14–15) on one aspect of what he had said. Perhaps it is no accident that Jesus has just spoken of temptation or testing (6:13). When others wrong us, we are tempted not to forgive them. The Greek grammar governing Jesus’ words suggests the matter could go either way!

But Jesus tells his disciples exactly what he expects of them and why: they are to demonstrate their repentance by forgiving those who have wronged them. Those who forgive show themselves to be marked by repentance and by the Father’s forgiveness of their own sins (6:14).

On the other hand, those who do not forgive those who have sinned against them (6:15), show they have not repented and still cling to the worldly ways of retaliation. God has not forgiven them.

While these principles apply generally — see Galatians 6:10 — they particularly apply in the relationships between Jesus’ disciples. The unity of the disciples is crucial. R.T. France reminds us: “The instruction is addressed to the disciples corporately, and the whole prayer will be phrased in the plural. It is the prayer of a community rather than an individual act of devotion.”[5] We rise or fall together!

His ways become our ways

Take a few minutes to see how the teachings of Jesus apply to your own life:

Peter once asked Jesus how many times we must forgive another believer. Jesus replied, “Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy-seven times!” (Matt. 18:22). That means whatever it takes!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] David L. Turner, Matthew, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2008) 188.

[2] Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1999) 222.

[3] Turner, Matthew, 189.

[4] R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007) 251.

[5] France, Matthew, 244.

 

Do you have an opinion or a different interpretation? Let me know!