Matthew 6
Vincent's Word Studies
Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
Of your Father (παρὰ)

The A. V. implies the source of the reward; but the preposition means with, by the side of; so that the true sense is, reserved for you and awaiting you by the side of your Father. Rev., rightly, with.

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.
Sound 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.

But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: 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.
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
Closet (ταμιεῖον)

See on Luke 12:3.

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
Use vain repetitions (βατταλογήσητε)

A word formed in imitation of the sound, battalogein: properly, to stammer; then to babble or prate, to repeat the same formula many times, as the worshippers of Baal and of Diana of Ephesus (1 Kings 18:26; Acts 19:34) and the Romanists with their paternosters and aves.

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
Debts (ὀφειλήματα)

So, rightly, A. V., and Rev. (compare Luke 11:4). Sin is pictured as a debt, and the sinner as a debtor (compare Matthew 18:28, Matthew 18:30). Accordingly the word represents sin both as a wrong and as requiring satisfaction. In contrast with the prayer, "Forgive us our debts," Tholuck ("Sermon on the Mount") quotes the prayer of Apollonius of Tyana, "O ye gods, give me the things which are owing to me."

Forgive (ἀφήκαμεν)

Lit., to send away, or dismiss. The Rev. rightly gives the force of the past tense, we have forgiven; since Christ assumes that he who prays for the remission of his own debts has already forgiven those indebted to him.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Temptation (πειρασμόν)

It is a mistake to define this word as only solicitation to evil. It means trial of any kind, without reference to its moral quality. Thus, Genesis 22:1 (Sept.), "God did tempt Abraham;" "This he said to prove him" (John 6:6); Paul and Timothy assayed to go to Bithynia (Acts 16:7); "Examine yourselves" (2 Corinthians 13:5). Here, generally of all situations and circumstances which furnish an occasion for sin. We cannot pray God not to tempt us to sin, "for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man" (James 1:13).

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
Trespasses (παραπτώματα)

The Lord here uses another word for sins, and still another (ἁμαρτιας) appears in Luke's version of the prayer, though he also says, "every one that is indebted to us." There is no difficulty in supposing that Christ, contemplating sins in general, should represent them by different terms expressive of different aspects of wrong-doing (see on Matthew 1:21). This word is derived from παραπίπτω, to fall or throw one's self beside. Thus it has a sense somewhat akin to ἁμαρτία, of going beside a mark, missing. In classical Greek the verb is often used of intentional falling, as of throwing one's self upon an enemy; and this is the prevailing sense in biblical Greek, indicating reckless and wilful sin (see 1 Chronicles 5:25; 1 Chronicles 10:13; 2 Chronicles 26:18; 2 Chronicles 29:6, 2 Chronicles 29:19; Ezekiel 14:13; Ezekiel 18:26). It does not, therefore, imply palliation or excuse. It is a conscious violation of right, involving guilt, and occurs therefore, in connection with the mention of forgiveness (Romans 4:25; Romans 5:16; Colossians 2:13; Ephesians 2:1, Ephesians 2:5). Unlike παράβασις (transgression), which contemplates merely the objective violation of law, it carries the thought of sin as affecting the sinner, and hence is found associated with expressions which indicate the consequences and the remedy of sin (Romans 4:25; Romans 5:15, Romans 5:17; Ephesians 2:1).

But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
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.
Ye fast (νηστεύητε)

Observe the force of the present tense as indicating action in progress: Whenever ye may be fasting.

Of a sad countenance (σκυθρωποί)

An uncommon word in the New Testament, occurring only here and at Luke 24:17. Trench ("Studies in the Gospels") explains it by the older sense of the English dreary, as expressing the downcast look of settled grief, pain, or displeasure. In classical Greek it also signifies sullenness and affected gravity. Luther renders, Look not sour.

Disfigure (ἀφανίζουσιν)

The idea is rather conceal than disfigure. There is a play upon this word and φανῶσιν (they may appear) which is untranslatable into English: they conceal or mask their true visage that they may appear unto men. The allusion is to the outward signs of humiliation which often accompanied fasting, such as being unwashed and unshaven and unanointed. "Avoid," says Christ, "the squalor of the unwashed face and of the unkempt hair and beard, and the rather anoint thy head and wash thy face, so as to appear (αφνῇς) not unto men, but unto God as fasting." Wycliffe's rendering is peculiar: They put their faces out of kindly terms.

But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
Lay not up treasures (μὴ θησαυρίξετε)

Lit., treasure not treasures. So Wyc., Do not treasure to you treasures. The beautiful legend of St. Thomas and Gondoforus is told by Mrs. Jameson ("Sacred and Legendary Art"): "When St. Thomas was at Caesarea, our Lord appeared to him and said, 'The king of the Indies, Gondoforus, hath sent his provost, Abanes, to seek for workmen well versed in the science of architecture, who shall build for him a palace finer than that of the Emperor of Rome. Behold, now I will send thee to him.' And Thomas went, and Gondoforus commanded him to build for him a magnificent palace, and gave him much gold and silver for the purpose. The king went into a distant country and was absent for two years; and St. Thomas, meanwhile instead of building palace, distributed all the treasures among the poor and sick; and when the king returned he was full of wrath, and he commanded that St. Thomas should be seized and cast into prison, and he meditated for him a horrible death. Meantime the brother of the king died, and the king resolved to erect for him a most magnificent tomb; but the dead man, after that he had been dead four days, suddenly arose and sat upright, and said to the king, 'The man whom thou wouldst torture is a servant of God; behold, I have been in Paradise, and the angels showed to me a wondrous palace of gold and silver and precious stones; and they said, 'This is the palace that Thomas, the architect, hath built for thy brother, King Gondoforus.' And when the king heard these words, he ran to the prison, and delivered the apostle; and Thomas said to him, 'Knowest thou not that those who would possess heavenly things have little care for the things of this earth? There are in heaven rich palaces without number, which were prepared from the beginning of the world for those who would purchase the possession through faith and charity. Thy riches, O king, may prepare the way for thee to such a palace, but they cannot follow thee thither.'"

Rust (βρῶσις)

That which eats; from the verb βιβρώσκω, to eat. Compare corrode, from the Latin rodo, to gnaw.

Doth corrupt (ἀφανίξει)

Rev., consume. The same word which is used above of the hypocrites concealing their faces. The rust consumes, and therefore causes to disappear. So Wyc., destroyeth.

Break through (διορύσσουσιν)

Lit., dig through, as a thief might easily penetrate the wall of a common oriental house of mud or clay. The Greek name for a burglar is τοιχωρύχος, wall-digger. Compare Job 24:16, "In the dark they dig through houses." Also Ezekiel 12:5. Wyc., Thieves delve out.

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
Single (ἁπλοῦς)

The picture underlying this adjective is that of a piece of cloth or other material, neatly folded once, and without a variety of complicated folds. Hence the idea of simplicity or singleness (compare simplicity from the Latin simplex; semel, once; plicare, to fold). So, in a moral sense, artless, plain, pure. Here sound, as opposed to evil or diseased. Possibly with reference to the double-mindedness and indecision condemned in Matthew 6:24.

Full of light (φωτεινὸν)

Bengel says, "As if it were all eye."

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!
In thee - darkness

Seneca, in one of his letters, tells of an idiot slave in his house, who had suddenly become blind. "Now, incredible as the story seems, it is really true that she is unconscious of her blindness, and consequently begs her attendant to go elsewhere because the house is dark. But you may be sure that this, at which we laugh in her, happens to us all; no one understands that he is avaricious or covetous. The blind seek for a guide; we wander about without a guide."

"Seeing falsely is worse than blindness. A man who is too dim-sighted to discern the road from the ditch, may feel which is which; but if the ditch appears manifestly to him to be the road, and the road to be the ditch, what shall become of him? False seeing is unseeing, on the negative side of blindness" (Ruskin, "Modern Painters").

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.
The other (ἕτερον)

Implying distinction in quality rather than numerical distinction (ἄλλος). For example, "whoever smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other (τὴν ἄλλην); i.e., the other one of the two (Matthew 5:39). At Pentecost, the disciples began to speak with other (ἑτέραις) tongues; i.e., different from their native tongues. Here the word gives the idea of two masters of distinct or opposite character and interests, like God and Mammon.

Hold to (ἀνθέξεται)

The preposition ἀντί, against, indicates holding to the one master as against the other. He who is for God must be against Mammon.

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?
Take no thought (μὴ μεριμνᾶτε)

The cognate noun is μέριμνα, care, which was formerly derived from μερίς, a part; μερίζω, to divide; and was explained accordingly as a dividing care, distracting the heart from the true object of life, This has been abandoned, however, and the word is placed in a group which carries the common notion of earnest thoughtfulness. It may include the ideas of worry and anxiety, and may emphasize these, but not necessarily. See, for example, "careth for the things of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:32). "That the members should have the same care one for another" (1 Corinthians 12:25). "Who will care for your state?" (Philippians 2:20). In all these the sense of worry would be entirely out of place. In other cases that idea is prominent, as, "the care of this world," which chokes the good seed (Matthew 13:22; compare Luke 8:14). Of Martha; "Thou art careful" (Luke 10:41). Take thought, in this passage, was a truthful rendering when the A. V. was made, since thought was then used as equivalent to anxiety or solicitude. So Shakspeare ("Hamlet"):

"The native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought."

And Bacon (Henry VII.): "Hawis, an alderman of London, was put in trouble, and died with thought and anguish." Somers' "Tracts" (in Queen Elizabeth's reign): "Queen Catherine Parr died rather of thought."

The word has entirely lost this meaning. Bishop Lightfoot ("On a Fresh Revision of the New Testament") says: "I have heard of a political economist alleging this passage as an objection to the moral teaching of the sermon on the mount, on the ground that it encouraged, nay, commanded, a reckless neglect of the future." It is uneasiness and worry about the future which our Lord condemns here, and therefore Rev. rightly translates be not anxious. This phase of the word is forcibly brought out in 1 Peter 5:7, where the A. V. ignores the distinction between the two kinds of care. "Casting all your care (μέριμναν, Rev., anxiety) upon Him, for He careth (αὐτῷ μέλει) for you," with a fatherly, tender, and provident care."

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?
Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent [1886].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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