3 Nephi Chapter 13
3 Nephi 13:33 (Matthew 6:33) Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.
1 Verily, verily, I say that I would that ye should do alms unto the poor; but take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father who is in heaven.
2 Therefore, when ye shall do your alms do not sound a trumpet before you, as will hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.
3 But when thou doest alms let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth;
verse 3 Here is a command to avoid ulterior motivation. Please see the commentary for verses 16-18 of this chapter.
4 That thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly.
verses 1-4 Giving to the poor has always been an obligation placed upon the Lord's covenant people, and apparently there is a certain magic when one does so in secret. The new covenant requires more than just doing the right thing. It requires doing the right things for the right reasons. Righteous deeds need not necessarily be performed anonymously, but they should always be done without pretense-and perhaps even more-for a secret, sacred reason. Giving without seeking or accepting any praise or recognition is certainly the highest form of giving.
When I was a younger man, just out of high school, I recall reading the book Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas. Its central theme was that anonymous and selfless serving of others leads inevitably to personal spiritual growth. I was deeply moved by the book, and I became fascinated with the idea and yearned to discuss it with the author. I wondered where he had come up with this concept and whether or not he truly believed in the validity of the concept. Obviously the idea of giving in secret is an eternal gospel principle.
5 And when thou prayest thou shalt not do as the hypocrites, for they love to pray, standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.
verse 5 In a gospel sense, hypocrisy is the pretense of religious conviction in the absence of true conviction. It is the claim to religious commitment without the practice of religious principles. A hypocrite feigns belief, while the heart is really serving personal pride and vain ambition. The Greek word translated as "hypocrite" in the New Testament is the word for an actor in a play, one who portrays someone different from the person he or she really is. Hypocrisy is a manifestation of the carnal or "natural man" and not of the truly converted "saint."
In this verse and the following verse, the use of the singular pronoun "thou" may indicate that the Lord here is teaching the people how to pray individually in private. Latter-day prophets and apostles have made it clear that prayer is more than directing "mere words" or thoughts to deity. Prayer is rather "the pulsation of a yearning, loving heart in tune with the Infinite." It is "a message of the soul sent directly to a loving Father." It is "spirit vibration." Prayer is having "a consciousness that there is something within us which is divine, which is part of the Infinite, which is the offspring of God, and until we can feel that harmony with that Infinite, we have not sensed the power of prayer" (David O. McKay, Treasures of Life. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1962, 308, 302).
Prayer is attuning ourselves with the spirit or light that "proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space" (D&C 88:11-12). To "live without prayer is to live a mere animal existence. It is to leave the best part of our natures in a starving condition; for without prayer the spirit is starved, and men dwindle in their feelings and die in their faith" (George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth. 2 volumes. Ed. Jerreld L. Newquist. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1974, 2:170).
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret; and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen, for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
verse 7 Now the Lord shifts his focus to the plural pronoun "ye" suggesting that the Lord is now going to offer instruction in group prayer.
"use not vain repetitions" Vain means futile or without real significance.
The problem is in the vainness, not in repetition. In how many different ways can we bless our food? How many original prayers-original in the sense of novel or unusual language-can we offer? God is not offended by repetition, so long as the words are spoken from the heart and are sincere. The heavens withdraw themselves, however, in the face of vanity. Something is vain when it is empty, meaningless, or hollow. Whenever our prayers are meaningless and thus become trite or ritualistic religious jargon, having no feeling or emanating from a duplicitous heart, they accomplish little (McConkie, Millet, and Top, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Volume 4-Third Nephi through Moroni, 81).
verses 1-7 "Alms" may be better understood as good deeds. The emphasis here is on sincerity and upon having the proper motives. Your good deeds, your prayers, and your fasting should be all done with sincerity and with pure intent, not for the recognition of others. While engaged in fasting it is proper to go about one's normal and usual activities without advertising the fact of your fasting.
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them, for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him.
verse 8 An important part of real prayer is to listen to the promptings of the Spirit who will teach us those things for which we should pray. Our natural selfish tendency is to pray for our wants and not our true needs. Paul wrote that the Spirit "helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:26-27). A modern revelation also instructs us that "he that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh" (D&C 46:30). This process of real listening during prayer, of attuning our minds and hearts to the light of Christ, allows us to begin to gain the mind of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 2:16), and is the process by which we come to obtain answers to our prayers.
verses 9-13 In these verses, we find the Lord's prayer. In offering this prayer, Jesus perhaps simply intended to provide a model or pattern for group prayers. It is unlikely he was providing a recommendation for a fixed prayer that he intended be recited verbatim. An alternate view holds that it is a sacred ritual prayer which was part of a covenant-making ceremony in which the Nephites here assembled were being instructed.
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
verse 9 The original text of the Book of Mormon contains Hebrew-like constructions that have been removed from the text of the Book of Mormon because of their non-English character. For example in this verse the "who" is appropriate because the referent is human. The original Book of Mormon text and the King James Bible both render this phrase "our Father which art in heaven" which is more typical Hebrew construction (see Matthew 6:9, italics mine).
10 Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
verse 10 Note that the phrase "Thy kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10) is missing from this Nephite version of the Lord's prayer. At the time of the Sermon at the Temple, unlike the Sermon on the Mount, God's kingdom had already come, both in heaven through Christ's victory over death, and on earth through his activities that day with the Nephites.
It is noteworthy that the phrase "Give us this day our daily bread," found in the Matthew version, is missing. In the Galilee this counsel was directed specifically to the Twelve, those who would travel without purse or scrip. Their daily prayer needed to be for food and drink in order to sustain life. In Bountiful the phrase is omitted, as this portion of the sermon is directed to the entire multitude, a people whose daily work would sustain them (see 3 Nephi 12:1).
11 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
verse 11 The spirit of this verse is also found in verses 14 and 15. See the commentary for those verses.
12 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
verse 12 In other words, "Suffer us not to be led into temptation" (JST, Matthew 6:14).
13 For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
verse 13 A doxology is hymn or phrase which praises God. This verse contains a doxology, and many Bible scholars have felt that it was added later by the Christian church because it contains what they have concluded to be language used much later than the days of Jesus. However, an early Christian document called the Didache or the "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles," which is dated first century AD, contains the Lord's prayer, including this doxology. The Book of Mormon, of course, serves as another witness of the fact that this phrase was contained in the original Lord's prayer.
14 For, if ye forgive men their trespasses your heavenly Father will also forgive you;
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
verses 14-15 The Lord's prayer having ended, the Lord continues counseling the Nephites.
A modern-day revelation summarizes well these two verses: "My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened. Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. And ye ought to say in your hearts-let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds" (D&C 64:8-11).
Perhaps this is the ultimate challenge as we seek to emulate Christ. We have commented previously that, though Christ was called upon to atone for the sins of all mankind, each of our lives is, in a way, a mini-atonement as we suffer the vicissitudes and challenges of life. Each of us must suffer as a necessary process in the attaining of a God-like character. Perhaps there is no suffering quite so keen as "bearing" the sins and misdeeds of others-indeed, forgiving others.
Accomplishing the true process of forgiveness is often a somewhat anti-intuitive exercise. Please see a discussion of forgiveness in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 3, chapter 6, Forgiveness.
16 Moreover, when ye fast be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance, for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.
17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face;
verse 17 True fasting requires a secret (see the following verse) inward righteousness. Fasting is something to be participated in privately, not something to be observed by others.
18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father, who is in secret; and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
verses 16-18 When a disciple seeks the Lord in true fasting and prayer the Lord promises that he will see and reward the supplicant openly in heaven. This principle is mentioned also in verses 4 and 6 of this chapter.
Perhaps we may generalize from this counsel of the Lord. All Christ-like virtues to which we may attain should be worn privately and inwardly, as an inward purity, and not outwardly as easily observable virtues. Even we ourselves should be unaware of them. This is the spirit of not letting our left hand know what our right hand is doing. If our left hand knows what our right hand is doing, if we become aware of our own hidden virtues, then we may create our own reward and fail to qualify for that which God intends to give us in his own good time. We should only be aware of the fact that we are striving to emulate the Savior's example. Ironically, it is in this way that our own "light" may truly shine before others.
This is not to say that we should stop striving in the practical matters of work and service in the kingdom if we suspect that our motives are not completely pure. We must continue to consciously and deliberately "experiment upon the words" of Christ (Alma 32:27-29) even if we suspect that we are doing the right thing for the wrong reason. We should continue to home teach, for example, even if our central motivation is fear that our priesthood leader will call and find that we have not "completed our home teaching for the month." We are never justified in doing the wrong thing or not doing anything at all because we suspect we are not properly motivated. We cannot wait until we are sanctified before we start doing the work of the kingdom. Otherwise, we'll never become sanctified! The proper motivation will come, as do other gifts of the Spirit, as we strive to serve him.
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal;
verse 19 Earthly treasures are material possessions, honors, social affiliations, and political positions. All of these disappear when mortal life ends. The reader should enjoy the following parable of Jesus:
And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, [and] be merry. But God said unto him, [Thou] fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So [is] he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God (Luke 12:13-21).
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.
verse 20 The only things we "take with us" are (1) the gifts of the Spirit-our spiritual growth or progress, (2) our meaningful relationships, and (3) our wholesome memories.
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
22 The light of the body is the eye; if, therefore, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
verses 19-22 One may view these verses as an elaboration of the law of consecration, the command to consecrate all that one has and is to the Lord. A "single eye" refers to singlemindedness and dedication, especially in the sense of being ready for sacrifice and unbegrudging generosity toward the kingdom of God.
On another level, if our every thought, our desires, our aspirations, our hopes, and our dreams are all centered in righteousness-if our reason for being is to build up the kingdom of God-then we have an eye single to the glory of God. "And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things. Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will" (D&C 88:67-68).
23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
verses 22-23 In the Old Testament, there is abundant evidence that the "spiritual eye" or the "good eye" is a synonym for generosity (see Deuteronomy 15:9; Proverbs 22:9; Proverbs 23:22; Proverbs 28:22). Therefore, a possible interpretation of these two verses is that when a man is generous his eye is "healthy" or "single." When he is not generous, his "eye is evil." This interpretation is plausible and fits the context since the previous three verses warn against giving too much emphasis to laying up earthly treasures.
Again, on another level, sin and wickedness closes off receptivity to the light of Christ and leads to an inevitably fatal spiral (spiritually speaking) downward into more and more darkness.
24 No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.
verse 24 "Mammon" is an Aramaic word for riches or money.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
There neither are nor can be any neutrals in this war. Every member of the Church is on one side or the other. . . . In this war all who do not stand forth courageously and valiantly are by that fact alone aiding the cause of the enemy. "They who are not for me are against me, saith our God." (2 Nephi 10:16.) We are either for the Church or we are against it. We take its part or we take the consequences. We cannot survive spiritually with one foot in the Church and the other in the world. We must make the choice. It is either the Church or the world. There is no middle ground (CR, October 1974, 44).
Robert L. Millet taught:
Holding back or giving less than is required always produces divided loyalties. We need not have our membership records in the great and abominable church in order to be disloyal to the kingdom of God; the issue is not where our records are but rather where our hearts are. . . . Our hearts cannot be wedded to another endeavor. Our might or strength cannot be spent in secondary causes. Our minds cannot be committed to another enterprise. In the words of the early brethren of this dispensation, it must be the kingdom of God or nothing! (An Eye Single to the Glory of God, 7, 9).
25 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he looked upon the twelve whom he had chosen, and said unto them: Remember the words which I have spoken. For behold, ye are they whom I have chosen to minister unto this people. Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
verse 25 This verse marks an important transition. From 3 Nephi 12:1, we know that all the sermon to this point had been addressed to the multitude at large. Now, with this verse Jesus shifts his focus to the Twelve and counsels them regarding their coming ministry.
"take no thought for your life" This phrase may be better understood as "Don't be overly concerned about . . .." It is important to note that this instruction to take no thought about food or drink or clothing is often quoted out of context to apply to everyone. It is actually counsel directed only to those involved in full-time ministry. Jesus promised his Twelve that their needs would be met if they would build his kingdom as their first priority. For the rest of us, whose ministry is only part-time, we must indeed take thought for our physical upkeep and not expect that God or others will take care of all our needs.
26 Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
verse 27 There is no need to worry, since worrying is usually unproductive. Which one of you, for example, by worrying can add one cubit to his height?" Although the standard length of a cubit seems to have varied somewhat through time and among cultures, it was roughly equivalent to the distance from the elbow to the tip of the fingers, or about 18 inches.
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin;
29 And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, even so will he clothe you, if ye are not of little faith.
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
verse 31 The word "wherewithal" refers to the means, supplies, materials, or even money necessary to accomplish a purpose.
32 For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.
verse 33 The "kingdom of God" refers to the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth. Jesus is here instructing his missionaries to concern themselves with the building up of the kingdom of God on the earth.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof.
verse 34 There's enough to worry about today without giving excessive care to tomorrow.
"Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof." There's enough evil to contend with today without worrying about what's coming tomorrow.
verses 25-34 These verses were intended for the Lord's apostles. They are called upon to forsake their temporal pursuits and carry the message of salvation to the world. There is not now and never has been a call to the saints generally to "sell that ye have" and take no thought for the temporal needs of the present or future. Rather, as part of their mortal probation, the true followers of the Savior are expected to provide for themselves and their families (D&C 75).