Life-Study of Matthew

Life-Study of Matthewby Witness Lee

ISBN: 0-7363-0332-4
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry

Currently in: Chapter 21 of 72 Section 1 of 4





In this message we come to the fourth section of the King’s decree on the mountain, 6:1-18, concerning the righteous deeds of the kingdom people.


A. The Principle—
Not to Do Your Righteousness before Men

In 5:17-48 we saw the complementing and the changing of the law. In these verses, all the new laws of the kingdom of the heavens dig out and expose our temper, lust, and natural being. Thus, in these verses it is not a matter of dealing with our outward behavior, but with our anger, our lust, and our natural being all hidden deeply within us.

Matthew 6:1 says, “But take heed not to do your righteousness before men to be gazed at by them; otherwise, you surely have no reward with your Father Who is in the heavens.” Righteousness here denotes righteous deeds, such as giving alms, mentioned in verses 2 through 4; praying, in verses 5 through 15; and fasting, in verses 16 through 18. No doubt these verses speak about the righteous deeds of the kingdom people. Actually, however, they expose the self and the flesh. We have something within us that is worse than anger and lust. Everybody knows how ugly lust is, but even many Christians do not know how ugly the self and the flesh are. Of course, the words “self” and “flesh” are not used in these verses. Nevertheless, both the self and the flesh are exposed here. In these eighteen verses the Lord uses three illustrations—the giving of alms, praying, and fasting—to reveal how we are filled with the self and the flesh.

Man’s flesh, seeking to glorify itself, always wants to do good deeds before men to be praised by them. But the kingdom people, who live in an emptied and humbled spirit and walk in a pure and single heart under the heavenly ruling of the kingdom, are not allowed to do anything in the flesh for the praise of men, but must do all things in the spirit for the pleasing of their heavenly Father.

To the kingdom people, God is not only their God, but also their Father. They are not only created by God, but also regenerated by the Father. They have not only the created natural human life, but also the uncreated spiritual divine life. Hence, the new law of the kingdom, decreed by the King on the mountain, is given to them with the intention that they should keep it not by their fallen human life, but by the Father’s eternal divine life, not to gain man’s glory, but to receive the Father’s reward.

Regarding each of the three illustrations, the Lord uses the word “secret” (vv. 4, 6, 18). We must do our righteous deeds in secret, for our Father is in secret. In verse 4 the Lord says that our Father sees in secret. The kingdom people as children of the heavenly Father must live in the presence of the Father and care for the Father’s presence. Whatever they do in secret for the Father’s kingdom, the Father sees in secret. The heavenly Father’s seeing in secret must be an incentive to doing their righteous deeds in secret. In this verse the Lord also said that the Father will repay us. This may transpire in this age (2 Cor. 9:10-11) or in the coming age as a reward (Luke 14:14).

The effect of doing our righteous deeds in secret is that the self and the flesh are killed. If people in society today are not allowed to make a show of their good deeds, they will not do them. As long as people have an opportunity to make a public display of their righteous deeds, they are glad to perform them. This is the deplorable practice of today’s degraded Christianity, especially in the matter of fund raising, which provides an excellent opportunity for the donors to make a display. The greater the public show, the more money people are willing to give. Certainly such making of a show is of the flesh. Giving alms to the poor in order to show how generous you are is not a matter of anger, lust, or the natural being; it is a matter of the self, the flesh. Making a show in such a way is simply boasting for yourself. Thus, for us as kingdom people, a basic principle concerning righteous deeds is never to make a show of ourselves. As much as possible, hide yourself, keep yourself covered, and do things in secret. We should be so hidden that, as the Lord Jesus says, our left hand does not know what our right hand is doing (v. 3). This means that we should not let others know what we are doing. For example, if you fast for three days, do not disfigure your face or show a sad countenance. Rather, give the impression to others that you are not fasting so that your fasting may be in secret. Do not fast in the presence of men, but in the secret presence of your heavenly Father. To do this is to slay the self and the flesh.

We encourage the saints to function in the church meetings. However, there is the danger of functioning in order to make a show of ourselves. There is the danger of doing things in the presence of man. If you consider your own experience, you will realize that perhaps nine times out of ten your functioning has been before men. This is to glorify the self and the flesh. But the constitution of the heavenly kingdom does not yield an inch to our anger, lust, or natural being; neither does it yield any ground to our self and flesh. By the Lord’s mercy and grace, we must do as much as possible in a hidden way. Always try to do those things that are pleasing to God and righteous with man in a secret way. Try not to let others know of them. Simply do your righteous deeds in the presence of God.

Our Father sees in secret. As you are praying alone in your room, no one else can see you, but your heavenly Father sees. Do not pray on the street corner or in the synagogues to be seen by men. Pray in secret to be seen by your Father who sees in secret. Then you will also receive an answer from Him in secret. I am concerned that many of us have experiences only in the open and that we do not have any experiences in secret. Not only does the Father see our experiences; everyone else sees them as well. This indicates that we are not rejecting the self or repudiating the flesh. We must always do things in such a way as to constantly reject the self and repudiate the flesh. If possible, do everything in secret, not giving any opportunity to your self or yielding any ground to your flesh.

Although the Lord speaks about the matter of reward (vv. 1, 5), the important thing here is not the reward, but the growth in life. The saints who grow openly do not grow in a healthy way. We all need some secret growth in life, some secret experiences of Christ. We need to pray to the Lord, worship the Lord, contact the Lord, and fellowship with the Lord in a secret way. Perhaps not even the one closest to us will know or understand what we are doing. We need these secret experiences of the Lord because such experiences kill our self and our flesh. Although anger and lust are ugly, the thing that most frustrates us from growing in life is the self. The self is most visible in the fact that it enjoys doing things in a public way, in the presence of man. The self likes to do righteous deeds before man. We all must admit that, without exception, we have such a self. Those who always want to do things in such a way as to make a public show are full of self, full of the flesh. The self loves to be glorified, and the flesh loves to be gazed upon. Probably you have never heard a message on these verses that dealt with the self and the flesh. Whenever we come to this portion of the Word, we must realize that it exposes our self and our flesh.

To repeat, the crucial matter here is not the reward, but the growth in life. Those saints who know only to make a show of the self and a display of the flesh will not grow in life. The genuine growth in life is to cut off the self. Those whose self has been cut off and whose flesh has been dealt with may sometimes speak concerning their deeds. However, I am quite cautious in saying even this. It is not healthy to expose our righteous deeds. Rather, we should pray much, yet not let others know how much we pray. This is healthy. If you pray every day without telling others or letting them know about it, it means that you are healthy and that you are growing. However, suppose you always tell others how much you pray. If you do this, you will not only lose your reward, but you will not grow in life or be healthy. We all must admit that we have the subtle self, the subtle flesh, within us. We all have such a weak point. When we pray alone in our room, we often wish that others could hear us. Likewise, we do our righteous deeds with the intention that others could see them. Such desires and intentions are not healthy; they indicate that we are not growing in life. Making a public display before men will never help us grow in life. If you want to grow and be healthy in the spiritual life, you must slay the self in the doing of righteous deeds. No matter what kind of righteous deeds we do—giving material things to the saints, praying, fasting, doing something to please God—we must try our best to do them in secret. If your righteous deeds are in secret, you may be assured that you are growing in life and are healthy. But any time you exhibit yourself in your righteous deeds, you are not healthy. Such an exhibition greatly frustrates your growth in life.

The universe indicates that God is hidden, that God is secret. Although He has done a great many things, people are not aware that He has done them. We may have seen the things done by God, but none of us has ever seen Him, for He is always hidden, always secret. God’s life is of such a secret and hidden nature. If we love others by our own life, this life will seek to make a display of itself before men. But if we love others by the love of God, this love will always remain hidden. Our human life loves to make a display, a public show, but God’s life is always hidden. A hypocrite is one who has an outward manifestation without having anything within. Everything he has is merely an outward show; there is no reality inwardly. This is absolutely contrary to God’s nature and to His hidden life. Although God has so much within Him, only a little is manifested. If we live by this divine life, we may pray much, but others will not know how much we have prayed. We may give a great deal to help others, but no one will know how much we give. We may fast often, but this also will not be known by others. We may have a great deal within us, but very little will be manifested. This is the nature of the kingdom people in the doing of their righteous deeds.

This is vastly different from the nature of the worldly people. When the worldly ones donate a hundred dollars, they advertise it, making it appear that they have given a much greater amount. But when we Christians give a hundred dollars, it is better that we only let others know that we have given a dime. We do more than what is visible to others. We can never practice this kind of giving in our natural life. It is possible only in the divine life, the life that does not enjoy making a show. This is the crucial point in this portion of the Word.

If we are serious about being the kingdom people, we must learn to live by the hidden life of our Father. We must not live by our natural life, which is always making a display of itself. If we live by our Father’s hidden life, we shall do many things without making any public show of them. Rather, all that we do will be in secret, hidden from the eyes of others. The biographies of many saints reveal that they did certain things in secret, things that often were not made known until after they had died. This is the right way. I have known a number of dear saints who have done things for the Lord, for the church, and for the saints in secret. They never desired to make a display or to let others know that those things were done by them. These deeds are done according to our Father’s nature and according to His secret and hidden life.

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