This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)
The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 6
“1. In Matthew 6, Christ is still teaching the Sermon on the Mount that began in chapter 5. Specifically, He is speaking to His apostles and servants in the church. His teachings—His ministry—are a part of His primary purpose and are the set up to His eventual Atonement. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings in this chapter fit into the work of the Atonement, the Plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. In this chapter, we have examples of how not to do and how to do certain things. What are these things? What does Christ teach about them? Can you think of times when Christ models the way to do what He is teaching? How does His example help you to better understand Christ and your relationship with Him? How does understanding the way He serves, fasts, and prays help you to gain insight on the act of the Atonement?
3. Think of the last major section of this chapter (“Take no thought for your own life…” in verse 25). How did Christ exemplify this? How does the Atonement help us “not to take thought of our own lives”? Is there anything we can do to work out our salvation on our own? What do we rely on in order to receive salvation? How can you apply His example in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew
So – in Matthew 6, Christ continues with the Sermon on the Mount. As I studied this chapter, I found that there are six main categories of advice that He gives (both a do and a do not). He teaches us how to give alms, pray, forgive, fast, manage our finances/materialism, remain loyal to God.
This blog post will focus on giving alms.
- Do them in secret – Your left hand won’t know what your right hand does.
- Don’t sound a trumpet when you do them.
- Don’t do them before men – to be seen of them.
This advice, not to do our alms to be seen of men is the first thing mentioned in this chapter. Why does it matter? Isn’t doing good doing good – even if others see?
And, even as I write this, I realize my mistake. Jesus teaches not to do alms before men to be seen of men. This explanation helps us understand what Christ means. Of course, there are times when we will do our alms, and it will be obvious – because it is the nature of that kind of service.
I think of a few years ago, when the tornado hit Joplin. Within days, members of the church were set up, cleaning and serving the people. They were wearing yellow helping hands tee-shirts. They were seen while serving.
The key question is, who is magnified. Yes, they were wearing yellow vests – but not to elevate any single person. Instead, when and if we ever do our alms before men, it isn’t to make ourselves look better – it is to magnify the Lord and build His kingdom. Our actions should be directing people to Christ, not to ourselves. We can learn more about this by studying the Savior’s example.
Doing Alms, Christ, and the Atonement
Christ’s motive for performing the Atonement wasn’t for fame, money, position, or power. It was for us. Christ performed the Atonement so we could overcome the effects of the fall and receive salvation.
In fact, had Christ been looking for the glory of men, I don’t think that He would have been crucified by the Pharisees. If He was looking for acceptance and power, He probably would have united with them.
The performance of the Atonement in the garden of Gethsemane was done completely alone. Christ suffered with only the support of an angel. He didn’t do this in front of anyone. He didn’t suffer the sins of all in the town square, with a trumpet, and demanding attention be placed on Him. Christ suffered, alone, in a garden, while his friends slept.
Though Christ gave the greatest of all alms all alone, He was rewarded openly. He was resurrected and glorified. And thanks to this selfless act, we can all be rewarded with such a reward.
What have you learned about giving alms? What does Christ’s example – especially when He performed the Atonement – teach you about service?