Matthew 6:2
Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the 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.
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(2) Alms.—The history of the word is singularly interesting. In the original meaning of the Greek it was the quality of mercy, or rather of “mercifulness,” as something more complete. The practice of the Hellenistic Jews limited the word (eleemosyna) to money-gifts. It passed with this meaning untranslated into the language of Latin Christendom, and from that again into European languages, in various forms, “aumone,” “almose,” and at last the word of six syllables and rich fulness of meaning contracts and collapses into our modern English “alms.”

Do not sound a trumpet before thee.—Two conjectural interpretations have been given of the words:—It has been supposed (1) that the wealthy Pharisees had a trumpet literally blown before them, to give notice to the poor of the neighbourhood that they were distributing their alms; (2) that the words refer to the clang of the money as it fell into the metal trumpet-shaped alms-boxes which were found in the synagogue, a clang which came as sweet music to the ears of the purse-proud giver. But as regards (1), the best scholars have found no trace of any such practice in Jewish literature, and it is hardly credible that such a thing could have been done in the synagogues; and (2) seems hardly adequate to the active meaning of the verb. There is no reason, however, for taking the words so literally. The figure of speech which describes a vain man as being “his own trumpeter,” or making a “flourish of trumpets” about his own acts, has been, or might be. common in every country where trumpets have been used. What is meant is that, whether in the “offertories” of the synagogue or the alms given to beggars in the streets, there was a parade of benevolence which practically summoned men to gaze and admire.

As the hypocrites do.—Here again the word has a history of its own. Derived from a Greek verb which signifies answering, taking part in a dialogue, acting a part in a play, the noun in classical Greek was used simply for an actor, a man who plays a part. In one passage only in the LXX. version of the Old Testament (Job 36:13) it appears in the figurative sense of one who feigns a virtue which he has not. It thus lay ready for the wider use which the Evangelists have given it (it is not used by any writer of the New Testament except St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke), and passed with this new meaning, hardly altered in form, first into Latin and then into most of the languages of modern Europe.

The streets.—More strictly, the lanes or alleys of a city, as distinguished from the wider streets, properly so called, of Matthew 6:5; Matthew 12:19, and elsewhere.

They have their reward.—The Greek is more expressive: They have to the full, and so exhaust. There is nothing more for them to look for. They bargained for that praise of men, and they get it; but they sought not the honour that cometh of God only, and therefore He gives them none.

Matthew 6:2-4. Therefore, &c. — The caution is so important, that our Lord illustrates it in various particulars. When thou doest thine alms — Exercisest thy charity by performing works of mercy; do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do — From this it would appear that, in our Lord’s time, persons who affected the reputation of being extremely charitable, sometimes sounded a trumpet when they distributed their alms, on pretence, no doubt, of calling together the poor to receive them, while their real intention was to proclaim their own good works, and receive glory of men. Wherefore, as his disciples were to do no work of charity from the motive of vanity, he absolutely forbade this custom of the hypocrites. Verily, I say unto you, they have their reward — All they will have; for they shall have none from God. Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth — A proverbial expression for doing a thing secretly. Do it as secretly as is consistent, 1st, with the doing it at all; 2d, with the doing it in the most effectual manner. And never speak of it afterward, unless there be good reasons for making it known. That thine alms may be in secret — May be known to none but God, whose glory thou must have in view in all thy works, whether of piety, justice, or charity, and whose will it must be thy intention to obey in all things. And thy Father, which seeth in secret — Who knows every circumstance of mews most retired and private actions; himself shall reward thee openly — Viz., before men and angels, at the day of final judgment. For, though it be true, as Grotius here observes, that God often visibly rewards the charitable actions of pious persons, performed from true love to him, with temporal blessings in this life; yet will he chiefly do it in the sight of men and angels in the world to come. See Matthew 25:34; Luke 14:14.

6:1-4 Our Lord next warned against hypocrisy and outward show in religious duties. What we do, must be done from an inward principle, that we may be approved of God, not that we may be praised of men. In these verses we are cautioned against hypocrisy in giving alms. Take heed of it. It is a subtle sin; and vain-glory creeps into what we do, before we are aware. But the duty is not the less necessary and excellent for being abused by hypocrites to serve their pride. The doom Christ passes, at first may seem a promise, but it is their reward; not the reward God promises to those who do good, but the reward hypocrites promise themselves, and a poor reward it is; they did it to be seen of men, and they are seen of men. When we take least notice of our good deeds ourselves, God takes most notice of them. He will reward thee; not as a master who gives his servant what he earns, and no more, but as a Father who gives abundantly to his son that serves him.Do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do - The word "hypocrite" is taken from "stage-players," who act the part of others, or speak not their own sentiments, but the sentiments of others. It means here, and in the New Testament generally, those who "dissemble" or hide their real sentiments, and assume or express other feelings than their own - those who, for purposes of ostentation, gain, or applause, put on the appearance of religion. It is probable that such persons, when they were about to bestow alms, caused a trumpet to be sounded, professedly to call the poor together to receive it, but really to call the people to see the proofs of their liberality and piety; or perhaps it may mean that they should not make a great noise about it, like sounding a trumpet.

In the synagogues - The word "synagogue" commonly means the place of assembling for religious worship known by that name. See the notes at Matthew 4:23. It might mean, however, any "collection of people" assembled for any purpose, and it is not improbable that it has that meaning here. It does not appear that they made a noise in bestowing charity in the synagogues, or that charity was commonly bestowed there; but it was probably done on occasion of any great assemblage, in any place of concourse, and at the corners of the streets, where it could be seen by many.

They have their reward - That is, they obtain the applause they seek the reputation of being charitable; and as this applause was all they wished, there is, of course, no further reward to be looked for or obtained.

2. Therefore, when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee—The expression is to be taken figuratively for blazoning it. Hence our expression to "trumpet."

as the hypocrites do—This word—of such frequent occurrence in Scripture, signifying primarily "one who acts a part"—denotes one who either pretends to be what he is not (as here), or dissembles what he really is (as in Lu 12:1, 2).

in the synagogues and in the streets—the places of religious and secular resort.

that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you—In such august expressions, it is the Lawgiver and Judge Himself that we hear speaking to us.

They have their reward—All they wanted was human applause, and they have it—and with it, all they will ever get.

See Poole on "Matthew 6:3".

Wherefore, when thou dost thine alms,.... Christ proceeds to give some directions and cautions about giving of alms, that they might be done aright, and answer some valuable purposes for the glory of God, the good of others, and their own:

do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do, in the synagogues, and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. The persons Christ has reference to were the Scribes and Pharisees, who did all they did to be seen of men; whom he calls "hypocrites"; as he often does, because they put on an appearance of religion and holiness, but inwardly, and otherwise, were very wicked men. It does not appear that any such practice was literally performed, as blowing a trumpet before them, when they gave their alms; though the collectors of alms did, by some means, publicly notify to the people when they were about that service: for one of their rules is (m),

"the collectors of alms do not proclaim on a feast, as they proclaim on a common day; but they collected "privately", and put it into their bosom, and distributed it to everyone by himself.''

Wherefore this must be understood proverbially; and the sense is, that when they did their alms, they chose public places for it, such as the "synagogues", where was a large concourse of people met together for religious worship; or the open "streets" of the city, where people were continually walking to and fro, so that nothing could be done in this way, but what must be seen and observed: and moreover, they took care, either by themselves, or others, to proclaim their good actions, that they might "have glory of men"; not only of the poor, or the collectors for them, but of the spectators. R. Aben Ezra (n) says, that

"a man that gives alms to the poor, must not give it because of the glory of the collector, i.e. that he may have glory of him; nor that the children of men may praise him.''

But his ancestors were of another mind: but what did they get by it?

verily I say unto you, they have their reward; and a poor one it is, the applause of men: however, it is what they seek after, and is all their empty performances deserve, and all they will have.

"He that glories in anything done by himself, , "he takes", or receives "his reward" (o); for as for any reward from God, they will have none;''

in this sense, as the Ethiopic version reads it, "they have lost their reward": and, as a learned critic has thought, is the sense of the Greek word, "they forbid", or "hinder their reward". By seeking the glory of men, they lay impediments in the way of receiving honour from God.

(m) T. Hieros. Demai, fol. 23. 2.((n) In Exodus 20.3.((o) R. Jona apud Capell. Spicileg. in loc.

Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the {b} 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.

(b) Counterfeits, for hypocrites were players that played a part in a play.

Matthew 6:2. Μὴ σαλπίσῃς] do not sound a trumpet, metaphorically: make no noise and display with it (Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus). Comp. Achill. Tat. viii. p. 507; Cic. ad Div. xvi. 21 : “te buccinatorem fore existimationis meae.” Prudent, de Symmach. ii. 68. Here ἔμπρ. refers to the idea of a person sounding a trumpet, which he holds up to his mouth. Others (Calvin, Calovius, Wolf, Paulus, also τινές referred to by Euth. Zigabenus) render: cause not a trumpet to be sounded before thee. They think that, in order to make a display, the Pharisees had actually made the poor assemble together by the blowing of trumpets. But the expression itself is as decidedly incompatible with this extraordinary explanation as it is with the notion that what is meant (Homberg, Schoettgen) is the sound produced by the clinking of the money, dropped into the alleged trumpet-like chests in the temple (see on Mark 12:41), and this notwithstanding that it is added, ἐν τ. συναγ. κ. ἐν τ. ῥύμ. On the injunction generally, comp. Babyl. Chagig. f. v. 1 : “R. Jannai vidit quendam nummum pauperi dantem palam; cui dixit: praestat non dedisse, quam sic dedisse.” In the synagogues it was the practice to collect the alms on the Sabbath; Lightfoot and Wetstein on this passage.

ὑποκριταί] in classical writers means actors; in the New Testament, hypocrites. “Hypocrisis est mixtura malitiae cum specie bonitatis,” Bengel.

ἀπέχουσι … αὐτε͂ν] inasmuch as they have already attained what was the sole object of their liberality, popular applause, and therefore have nothing more to expect. ἀπέχειν, to have obtained, to have fully received. See on Php 4:18.

Matthew 6:2-4. Almsgiving. Matthew 6:2. ἐλεημοσύνην, mercy in general, but specifically alms, as a common mode of showing mercy. Compare our word charity.—σαλπίσῃς: to be understood metaphorically, as there is no evidence of the literal practice. Furrer gives this from Consul Wetstein to illustrate the word. When a man (in Damascus) wants to do a good act which may bring a blessing by way of divine recompense on his own family, e.g., healing to a sick child, he goes to a water-carrier with a good voice, gives him a piece of money, and says “Sebil,” i.e., give the thirsty a fresh drink of water. The water-carrier fills his skin, takes his stand in the market, and sings in varied tones: “O thirsty, come to the drink-offering,” the giver standing by, to whom the carrier says, as the thirsty drink, “God forgive thy sins, O giver of the drink” (Zscht. für M. und R., 1890. Vide also his Wanderungen d. d. H. L., p. 437).—ὑποκριταὶ, stage-players in classics, used in N. T. in a moral and sinister sense, and for the Christian mind heavily burdened with evil connotation—hypocrites! What a deepening of the moral sense is implied in the new meaning! The abhorrence of acting for effect in religion is due to Christ’s teaching. It has not yet quite banished the thing. There are religious actors still, and they draw good houses.—συναγωγαῖς: where alms were collected, and apparently also distributed.—ῥύμαις, streets, in eastern cities narrow lanes, a late meaning; in earlier Greek = impetus—onset. Vide Rutherford’s New Phryn., 488. Cf. πλατειῶν, Matthew 6:5. πλατεῖα, supp. ὁδός = a broad street.—δοξασθῶσιν: in chap. Matthew 5:16 God is conceived as recipient of the glory; here the almsgiver, giving for that purpose.—ἀμὴν: introducing a solemn statement, and a very serious one for the parties concerned.—ἀπέχουσι, they have in full; they will get no more, nothing from God: so in Luke 6:24, Php 4:18 (vide on Mark 14:41). The hypocrite partly does not believe this, partly does not care, so long as he gets the applause of his public.

2. do not sound a trumpet before thee] The chests for alms in the Court of the Women, where the temple-treasury was placed, were called “trumpets” from their shape. Possibly the words of the text contain an allusion to these alms-chests. See Edersheim’s Temple in the time of our Lord, ch. ii. p. 26. But perhaps the expression means simply, “avoid ostentation in almsgiving.”

hypocrites] Lit. actors; those who play a part in life, whose actions are not the true reflection of their thoughts, whose religion is external and unreal. Such men begin by deceiving others, but end in self-deception. It is against these that our Lord’s severest reproofs are delivered.

in the synagogues] To this day alms are given in the Jewish synagogues.

They have] Strictly, have in full. Their reward is now and on earth.

Matthew 6:2. Μὴ σαλπίσης ἔμπροσθέν σου, do not sound a trumpet before thee) This affected and insolent ostentation of actually sounding a trumpet is not inconsistent with the practices of hypocrites among the Jews of that age: cf. Matthew 6:5; Matthew 6:16. The poor would be easily summoned by a trumpet: hypocrisy, therefore, employs it as a means of display.—οἱ ὑποκριταὶ, the hypocrites) Hypocrisy is the combination of actual vice with apparent virtue, by means of which a man deceives either himself or others.—ἀμήν, assuredly) our Lord [by virtue of His essential and proper divinity] knows the secrets of the Divine counsels.—ἀπέχουσι τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν, they have their reward[248]) An example of metonymy of the antecedent for the consequent, i.e. they will not receive any reward hereafter at the hands of their Heavenly Father; see Matthew 6:1.

[248] Which consists in the praise of men.—B. G. V.

Verses 2-4. - Almsgiving. Matthew only. Verse 2. - Therefore. A deduction from the general principle laid down in ver. 1. When thou doest alms (ποιῇς ἐλεημοσύνην). The exact phrase comes here and ver. 3 only. In Luke 11:41 and Luke 12:33 (δότε) alms are con-sidereal rather as a gift; in Acts 9:36; Acts 10:2; Acts 24:17 (ἐλεημοσύνας), rather as to their separate occasions and materials; here quite generally but rather as an action, a work. Do not sound a trumpet (μὴ σαλπίσῃς). Probably a purely metaphorical expression (cf. our "He is his own trumpeter"). Edersheim, 'Temple,' etc., p. 27 (cf. Schottgen) sees rather in it an ironical allusion to the form and name of the treasure-chests in the court of the women. "The Lord, making use of the word 'trumpet,' describes the conduct of those who, in their almsgiving, sought glory from men as 'sounding a trumpet' before them - that is, carrying before them, as it were, in full display one of these trumpet-shaped alms-boxes (literally called in the Talmud, 'trumpets'), and, as it were, sounding it." This interpretation would have been less fanciful if the substantive had been used instead of the verb. Others (e.g. Calvin, Bengel) have taken it of a literal trumpet; but of this practice there is no evidence whatever. "I have not found, although I have sought for it much and seriously, even the least mention of a trumpet in almsgiving" (J. Lightfoot, 'Hor. Hebr.'). Before thee; part of the metaphor, since one holds a trumpet up to one's mouth. As the hypocrites do. The comma after "do" in the ordinary text of the Authorized Version (not in Scrivener) connects "do not sound a trumpet before thee" with "in the synagogues," etc., and more readily suggests the literal interpretation of "trumpet" to the English reader. The hypocrites (οἱ ὑποκριταί). In Attic usage the word means those who play a part upon the stage. Hence, by an easy transition to the moral sphere," hypocrisy" became used in later Greek of "the assumption of a part which masked [men's] genuine feelings, and made them appear otherwise than they were" (cf. Bishop Lightfoot, on Galatians 2:13). Persons who assumed this part would indeed often be identical with ὁ ἀσεβεῖς οἱ παράνομοι, and the term ὑποκριταί may sometimes be used as synonymous with these (an extension of language which would be the more easy as the Hebrew word for "hypocrite" (חנפ) implies not so much hypocrisy as pollution by sin); but there seems no need (contrast Hatch, 'Essays,' p. 91) to see any other connotation in the New Testament than "hypocrite." To wilfully and continuously attempt to produce a false impression - especially in religion - is, after all, a mark of extreme distance from the truth-loving God. In the synagogues and in the streets (ver. 5, note). That they may have glory of men (o%pw δοξασθῶσιν); instead of this glory being given to God (ch. 5:16). The thought, however, of the word is rather of the glory given than of their welcome reception of it (δόξαν λαμβάνειν, John 5:44; contrast Luke 4:15). Verily (ch. 5:18, note). They have; Revised Version, they have received (ἀπέχουσιν). The force of the preposition is "correspondence, i.e. of the contents to the capacity, of the possession to the desire, etc., so that it denotes the full complement" (Bishop Lightfoot, on Philippians 4:18). That which fully corresponds to their desires and their rightful expectation they have to the full. They therefore have (ἔχουσι) no other reward left for them to receive (ver. 1). Schottgen gives several examples of Jewish sayings about men receiving their reward in this life only (cf. Ign., 'Polyc.,' § 5, "If a man boast [of his chastity], he is lost"). Matthew 6:2Sound a trumpet (σαλπίσης)

There seems to be no trace of any such custom on the part of almsgivers, so that the expression must be taken as a figurative one for making a display. It is just possible that the figure may have been suggested by the "trumpets" of the temple treasury - thirteen trumpet-shaped chests to receive the contributions of worshippers. (See Luke 21:2.)

Have their reward (ἀπέχουσιν)

The preposition ἀπὸ indicates receipt in full. Rev. renders they have received, so that there is nothing more to receive. So Wyc., They have received their meed.

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