For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? do not even the publicans the same?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The publicans.—An account of the “publicans” of our Lord’s time will find a more fitting place in the Notes on Matthew 9:9. Here, it may be remarked that our Lord puts Himself, as it were, on the level of those to whom He speaks. They despised the publicans as below them, almost as a Pariah caste, and He speaks, as if He were using their own familiar language, yet with a widely different application. Were they after all above the publicans, if they confined their love to a reciprocity of good offices?
The publicans - The publicans were tax-gatherers. Judea was a province of the Roman empire. The Jews bore this foreign yoke with great impatience, and paid their taxes with great reluctance. It happened, therefore, that those who were appointed to collect taxes were objects of great detestation. They were, besides, people who would be supposed to execute their office at all hazards; men who were willing to engage in an odious and hated employment; people often of abandoned character, oppressive in their exactions, and dissolute in their lives. By the Jews they were associated in character with thieves and adulterers; with the profane and the dissolute. Christ says that even these wretched people would love their benefactors.See Poole on "Matthew 5:47".
what reward have ye? or "shall ye have?" Do you deserve any thanks for your love now? none at all, it is what you are obliged to by your friend's love to you. Do you expect any hereafter with God? if you do, you will be mistaken; you have your reward with men, who have loved you as much as you have done them, and therefore none can be due to you, either from God or men: besides,
do not even the publicans the same? men of the worst characters, and who were most hateful to the Jews, upon many accounts; partly because of their business, which was to collect the Roman tax, and carry it to the proper officers appointed to receive it, and of whom they sometimes farmed it. Now the Roman yoke was very grievous to the Jews, who boasted of their being a free people; nor did they willingly pay their tribute money; and some of them would refuse to do it, under a pretence of religion; wherefore those publicans, or tax gatherers, which were oftentimes men of their own nation, as appears from the instances of Levi and Zacchaeus, were very odious to them; because they looked upon them as joining with the Romans, in oppressing them, and abridging them in their liberty: and partly because of their character and conduct, being men of great improbity, rapine, and covetousness: hence, as in the New Testament, they are frequently joined with "sinners", as being notorious ones themselves; so in the Talmudic writings, with thieves (a), and are reckoned as thieves, with murderers, and robbers (b); they were not allowed as witnesses (c) in any of their courts of judicature; nor were they to be kept company (d) with in private houses. Now our Lord instances in these men who were the most profligate part of the nation, and had in greatest contempt by the rest; and yet these, by the very dictates of nature, loved such as loved them: wherefore it must be shameful and scandalous in the Pharisees, and others, who pretended to great sanctity and religion, to do no more than these persons did.
(a) Maimon. Hilch. Gezela, c. 5. sect. 9. 11. (b) Misn. Nedarim, c. 3. sect. 4. (c) T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 25. 2. Maimon. Hilch. Eduth, c. 10. sect. 4. Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora pr. neg. 214. (d) Maimon. Hilch. Mishcab, c. 10. sect. 8.For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 5:46. Argumentum e contrario in favour of the command to love one’s enemy; for the mere love of one’s friend belongs to no higher stage of moral life than that of the publicans and heathens.
In what follows neither is a μόνον to be supplied after τοὺς ἀγαπ. ὑμᾶς, nor is ἔχετε to be taken for ἕξετε (both in answer to Kuinoel and others). Jesus opposes the doctrine, “Love them who love you,” and views the reward, as in Matthew 5:12; Matthew 6:1, as a possession, preserved in heaven with God, to be realized in the kingdom of the future.
οἱ τελῶναι] the tax-gatherers (partly natives, partly Romans), who were employed in the service of the Roman knights, who farmed the revenues. They were generally greatly hated amongst the Jews on account of their severity and avarice, especially, however, for being the servants of the Roman power. Wetstein on the passage; Keim, II. p. 217 f.Matthew 5:46. μισθὸν: here, and three times in next chapter; one of several words used in this connection of thought—περισσὸν (Matthew 5:47), τέλειοι (Matthew 5:48)—having a legal sound, and capable of being misunderstood. The scribes and Rabbis had much to say about merit and reward—vide Weber, Die Lehren des Talmud, c. xix. § 59, on the idea of Sechûth (merit). Totally opposed to Rabbinism, Jesus did not lose His balance, or allow Himself to be driven into extremes, after the usual manner of controversialists (Protestants and Catholics, e.g.). He speaks of μισθὸς without scruple (cf. on Luke 6:32).—τελῶναι (τέλος, tax, ὠνέομαι), first mention of a class often referred to in the Gospels, unpopular beyond their deserts; therefore, like women unjustly treated by husbands, befriended by Jesus; the humble agents of the great farmers of taxes, disliked as representing a foreign yoke, and on account of too frequent acts of injustice, yet human and kindly within their own class, loving those that loved them. Jesus took advantage of this characteristic to win their love by friendly acts.46. publicans] taxgatherers; not collectors of a regular tax fixed by government as with us, but men who farmed or contracted for the publicum (state revenue), hence called Publicani. At Rome the equestrian order enjoyed almost exclusively the lucrative privilege of farming the state revenues.
The publicans of the N. T. however are a lower class of taxgatherers, to whom the contractors sublet the collection of taxes. These men repaid themselves by cruel and oppressive exactions. Only the least patriotic and most degraded of the population undertook these functions which naturally rendered them odious to their fellow-citizens.
It is this system pursued in the Turkish Empire that produces much frightful misery and illegal oppression.Matthew 5:46. Τίνα μισθὸν, what reward) God seeks in us an occasion for giving us a reward.—τελῶναι, publicans) who refer all things to gain; but have none in Heaven.Verse 46. - Vers. 46, 47; parallel passage: Luke 6:32, 33. For if, etc. The principle of the Law, reciprocity - love your neighbour and him only - is in reality no better than the principle adopted by those who are renegades to true religion (οἱ τελῶναι), or by those who have no knowledge of it (οἱ ἐθνικοί). Such a principle brings with it no other corresponding effect (μισθός, ver. 12, note) than such as even these receive. You aim at more, the privileges belonging to the sons of God; therefore do more. What reward have ye? i.e. already entered in God's book of account (Winer, § 40:2, a). The publicans; Revised Version margin, "That is, collectors or renters of Roman taxes: and so elsewhere." To this short description little need be added. The Roman system of taxation was to put up the country, or certain productions of the country, at auction, and to "sell" them to any who would undertake to pay the greatest amount of revenue from them (cf. also Josephus's account of the Egyptian method, B.C. 250, 'Ant.,' 12:04. 4; and Sayce's article in the Jewish Quarterly, July, 1890, on a Jewish taxgatherer at Thebes, B.C. 140). This contract was in turn divided and subdivided, those who actually drew the money from the people being generally natives. It thus being the interest of every contractor and sub-contractor to squeeze as much as possible from those under him, the whole system was demoralizing to all engaged in it. In the case of Judaea it was especially so, as there was a strong feeling among religious Jews against the lawfulness of paying taxes to a Gentile ruler (cf. Matthew 22:17, note). It is no wonder, therefore, that we find the native collectors (even of districts where the money raised went to Antipas's treasury, Matthew 9:9, note) classed with "harlots" (Matthew 21:31), "sinners" (Matthew 9:11), the heathen (ver. 4:7; Matthew 18:17). Yet out of these one was chosen to be among the twelve, and to write that Gospel which specially describes the relation of Jesus of Nazareth to the religious expectations of the nation.
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