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Acts of Piety
Read Matthew 6:1-18.
The acts of piety Jesus teaches in the beginning of Matthew 6 are emphasized in other places also. Almsgiving, prayer, and fasting are mentioned by Raphael (Tob 12:8), and these three along with the Muslim recitation of the creed and pilgrimage to Mecca constitute the five pillars of Islam.[1]
What is a common characteristic amongst Jesus’ teaching of giving to the poor, prayer, and fasting in Matthew 6:1-18?
How does Jesus teaching here on giving to the poor compare with what he says elsewhere in Matthew? Matt 5:42; 19:21; 25:35; 26:9. What do other biblical teachings on responsibility toward the poor emphasize? Deut 15:7-11; Ps 112:9; Lev 19:9-10; Deut 14:28-29; 24:19-21; 26:12-13; also see Tob 1:3; 4:7-11; 12:8-10.
John Calvin reflected on the Lord’s prayer in several writings. Calvin has an extended section of prayer in his Institutes, include line by line reflection in III.xx.34-50. While the whole is worth reading, I find particularly good his comments in III.xx.43.
Reflect on other New Testament references to fasting Acts 13:2-3; 14:23. Fasting is often combined together with prayer and repentance, of individual 2 Sam 12:16-23; 1 Kgs 21:27; Neh 1:4; Ps 35:13; Dan 9:3; by the nation as a whole Judg 20:26; 2 Chron 20:3; Ezra 8:21-23; Neh 9:1; Jonah 3:5-9. The only regular fast in Pentateuch is on Day of Atonement Lev 16:29-31; 23:27-32; yet later there were several exilic fast days to remember events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem Zech 7:3-5; 8:19.
Jesus inferred that Christians need to be involved with charitable giving, prayer, and fasting. How would you explain to someone how Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:1-18 can improve the way they practice these acts of piety?

[1] See R. T. France, Matthew, NICNT, 232.

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