Question: What is the difference between Matthew 5:14-16 and Matthew 6:1-4?
Before we conclude that Jesus is contradicting himself in his Sermon on the Mount, but let’s look at these two passages more closely to examine this Bible difficulty in Matthew 5-6.
Brief Background of Matthew
Matthew is the first of the four gospels. Matthew was writing to a Jewish audience. His purpose was to show that Jesus is the promised King of the Jews, Israel’s long awaited Messiah.
Matthew records 5 major discourses given by Jesus.
- Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)
- Commissioning of the apostles (Matthew 10)
- Parables about the kingdom (Matthew 13)
- Discourse about the childlikeness of believers (Matthew 18)
- Discourse on Jesus’ second coming (Matthew 24-25)
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches foundational truths of the gospel and the kingdom He came to proclaim. His message reaffirms the Old Testament. The emphasis of the gospel, however, is very different from the current understanding of the Old Testament. This sermon is a tremendous clarification of the Old Testament.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Jesus uses salt as a metaphor. Salt functions as a preservative and an antiseptic. We live in this world to preserve and keep its wholesome, to act as a moral antiseptic.
Christ is the light, and we reflect his light into the world. As Christ’s disciples, we must function as salt and light of the world. God keeps us in this world to proclaim his excellencies.
“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:15-18)
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
If our lives are no different than the world’s, our testimony is ineffective. We fail to serve God and our life purpose. Ultimately, we want to speak and live in order to incite others to love, serve, and worship God.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
As we follow God’s laws, Jesus warns us not to be hypocritical. Jesus defines hypocrisy as performing righteous deeds solely for the audience of men.
Jesus gives an example of a person giving money to the poor. When his only purpose is to appear pious in front of others, the benefactor shows his hypocrisy. God hates hypocrisy.
“And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Mark 7:6-7)
We obey God’s commands because we want to first honor God. How we appear to others is an afterthought. Jesus condemns those who do things to look good, while their hearts think of something different against God.
As we give to the poor, we don’t need to announce our giving. God knows, and the individual who receives the contribution knows. That is enough.
Final Thoughts and Practical Application
We want to be salt and light. Through our words and actions, we want to proclaim that Jesus is victorious over sin. God offers forgiveness and reconciliation as a free gift by grace through faith alone.
To avoid hypocrisy, we should avoid broadcasting to others how sacrificial we are with our giving. Though we give to extend mercy to others, we ultimately give to worship God alone. I hope this answers your challenging question on Matthew 5 and 6.