Fasting (Mt 6:16-6:16)

“When you fast,

Do not look gloomy,

Like the hypocrites!

They disfigure

Their faces

So as to show others

That they are fasting.

Truly,

I say to you!

‘They have received

Their reward.’”

 

Ὅταν δὲ νηστεύητε, μὴ γίνεσθε ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταὶ σκυθρωποί· ἀφανίζουσιν γὰρ τὰ πρόσωπα αὐτῶν ὅπως φανῶσιν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις νηστεύοντες· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν.

 

Once again, this saying of Jesus is unique to Matthew.  The phraseology and content are similar to the earlier comments on almsgiving.  When you fast (Ὅταν δὲ νηστεύητε), you should not be like the hypocrites (ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταὶ).  The Greek word “οἱ ὑποκριταὶ” originally meant actors or someone who sought praise, while acting deceitfully.  According to Matthew, these hypocrites were usually the enemies of Jesus.  In this case they looked sad, dismal or gloomy (σκυθρωποί) since they were deliberately disfiguring their faces (ἀφανίζουσιν γὰρ τὰ πρόσωπα αὐτῶν).  Thus, other people could see that they were fasting (ὅπως φανῶσιν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις νηστεύοντες).  Some pious Jews would fast twice a week.  Jesus also fasted for 40 days, so his followers could fast also.  As usual, Matthew has Jesus give a solemn saying (ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν) concluding that these men who sought human approval have already received their reward here on earth (ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν).

Pray in secret (Mt 6:6-6:6)

“But when you pray,

Go into your room!

Shut the door!

Pray to your Father,

Who is in secret.

Your Father,

Who sees in secret

Will reward you.”

 

σὺ δὲ ὅταν προσεύχῃ, εἴσελθε εἰς τὸ ταμεῖόν σου καὶ κλείσας τὴν θύραν σου πρόσευξαι τῷ Πατρί σου τῷ ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ· καὶ ὁ Πατήρ σου ὁ βλέπων ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ ἀποδώσει σοι.

 

This is another saying of Jesus, only found in Matthew, that carries on with the theme of secrecy, but this time it is about prayer.  When the followers of Jesus were to pray (σὺ δὲ ὅταν προσεύχῃ), they should go into their room (εἴσελθε εἰς τὸ ταμεῖόν σου) and shut the door (καὶ κλείσας τὴν θύραν σου).  They were to pray to their Father (πρόσευξαι τῷ Πατρί σου) in secret (ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ).  Like in the almsgiving, their Father would be able to see them in secret (καὶ ὁ Πατήρ σου ὁ βλέπων ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ).  Thus, he would also reward them (ἀποδώσει σοι), so that their reward would be in heaven, not here.  Why all this secrecy?  Were they afraid of being persecuted for something?

Public prayer (Mt 6:5-6:5)

“When you pray,

Do not be

Like the hypocrites!

They love to stand.

They pray

In the synagogues,

And at the street corners.

Thus,

They may be seen

By other men.

Truly,

I say to you,

They have received

Their reward.”

 

Καὶ ὅταν προσεύχησθε, οὐκ ἔσεσθε ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταί· ὅτι φιλοῦσιν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ ἐν ταῖς γωνίαις τῶν πλατειῶν ἑστῶτες προσεύχεσθαι, ὅπως φανῶσιν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν.

 

This is another saying of Jesus, only found in Matthew, that carries on with the theme of the hypocrites.  However, this time it is about prayer.  When the followers of Jesus went to pray (Καὶ ὅταν προσεύχησθε), they should not be like the hypocrites (οὐκ ἔσεσθε ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταί) who love to stand praying in the synagogues and the street corners (ὅτι φιλοῦσιν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ ἐν ταῖς γωνίαις τῶν πλατειῶν ἑστῶτες προσεύχεσθαι).  Just as they had done with their almsgiving, these hypocrites wanted to be seen by other men (ὅπως φανῶσιν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις).  Certainly, there was the common times for prayer of the faithful Jews.  The Greek word for hypocrites “οἱ ὑποκριταὶ” originally meant actors or someone who sought praise, while acting deceitfully.  According to Matthew, these hypocrites were usually the enemies of Jesus.  Just as about almsgiving, Matthew has Jesus give a solemn saying (ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν) concluding that these men who sought human appeal have already received their reward (ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν).  Is this a repudiation of public prayer?

Secret charity (Mt 6:3-6:4)

“But when you give alms,

Do not let your left hand

Know

What your right hand

Is doing.

Thus,

Your alms

May be done

In secret.

Your Father,

Who sees in secret,

Will reward you.”

 

σοῦ δὲ ποιοῦντος ἐλεημοσύνην μὴ γνώτω ἡ ἀριστερά σου τί ποιεῖ ἡ δεξιά σου,

ὅπως ᾖ σου ἡ ἐλεημοσύνη ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ· καὶ ὁ Πατήρ σου ὁ βλέπων ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ ἀποδώσει σοι.

 

Jesus, via Matthew, continued with the idea of secretly giving alms or charity.  When you performed charitable acts or almsgiving (σοῦ δὲ ποιοῦντος ἐλεημοσύνην), it should be so secret, that your left hand would not know (μὴ γνώτω ἡ ἀριστερά σου) what your right hand was doing (τί ποιεῖ ἡ δεξιά σου).  That seems a little difficult.  Thus, almsgiving in secret (ὅπως ᾖ σου ἡ ἐλεημοσύνη ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ) would be rewarded by your heavenly Father (ὁ Πατήρ σου… ἀποδώσει σοι) who sees what is hidden in secret (ὁ βλέπων ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ).  Charitable giving is a good thing, best done in secret.  Your reward will be in heaven.

Almsgiving (Mt 6:2-6:2)

“Thus,

Whenever you give alms,

Do not sound a trumpet

Before you,

As the hypocrites do

In the synagogues

And in the streets.

Thus,

They may be praised

By other men.

Truly,

I say to you!

‘They have received

Their reward.’”

 

Ὅταν οὖν ποιῇς ἐλεημοσύνην, μὴ σαλπίσῃς ἔμπροσθέν σου, ὥσπερ οἱ ὑποκριταὶ ποιοῦσιν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ ἐν ταῖς ῥύμαις, ὅπως δοξασθῶσιν ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν.

 

This is another saying of Jesus, only found in Matthew, that carries on with the same theme of not showing off your good righteous actions.  The followers of Jesus were not to give charity or alms (Ὅταν οὖν ποιῇς ἐλεημοσύνην) with a trumpet blast leading them (μὴ σαλπίσῃς ἔμπροσθέν σου).  Apparently, the hypocrites were doing this in the streets and in the synagogues (οἱ ὑποκριταὶ ποιοῦσιν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ ἐν ταῖς ῥύμαις).  Actually, there is no indication that any Jewish or Christian person ever did this, but certainly there was a strong emphasis on giving charity in late Second Temple Judaism.  This Greek word for hypocrites “οἱ ὑποκριταὶ” originally meant actors or someone who sought praise, while acting deceitfully.  According to Matthew, these hypocrites were usually the enemies of Jesus.  They wanted glory and praise from other men (ὅπως δοξασθῶσιν ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων·) for their good works.  However, Matthew has Jesus give a solemn saying (ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν) concluding that these men who sought human appeal have already received their reward (ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν).  Charitable giving should be done quietly without any fanfare.

Begging (Sir 40:28-40:30)

“My child!

Do not lead

The life of a beggar!

It is better to die

Than to beg.

When one looks

To the table of another,

One’s way of life

Cannot be considered a life.

One loses self-respect

With another person’s food.

One who is intelligent,

One who is well instructed

Guards against that.

In the mouth of the shameless

Begging is sweet.

But it kindles

a fire inside him.”

Sirach has a very strong condemnation of begging. He clearly says with very strong words that it is better to die than to beg. He did not want anyone to take up the life of a beggar. Yet he was very strong on almsgiving. If you have to continually eat at someone’s table, he does not consider that to be a worthwhile existence. You lose your self-respect, if you have to eat another person’s food. The intelligent and instructed ones guard against begging. Only the shameless think that begging is a sweet thing to do. However, their begging will lead to a kindling fire in their stomachs. Stay away from beggars. Usually the biblical writers talk about compassion for those in need, but not here.

What is better? (Sir 40:21-40:25)

“The flute makes

A sweet melody.

The harp makes

A sweet melody,

But a pleasant voice is

Better than either.

The eye desires grace.

The eye desires beauty.

But the eye desires

Green shoots of grain

More than either.

A friend is always welcome

A companion is always welcome.

But a sensible wife is

Better than either.

Kindred are for a time of trouble.

Helpers are for a time of trouble.

But almsgiving rescues

Better than either.

Gold makes one stand firm.

Silver makes one stand firm.

But good counsel is

Esteemed more than either.”

Sirach continues with his questions about what is better. However, here the answer is not wisdom. While wine and music gladden the heart, the love of friends is actually better for a happy heart. While the flute and the harp make sweet melodies, a pleasant singing voice is sweeter than both. While the eye desires grace and beauty, the eye, especially of a farmer, prefers to see the green sprouts of grain in the fields. Everyone welcomes a friend or companion in their house, but a sensible wife in the house is much better. In troubled times, family members and helpers can be supportive, but actually almsgiving helps you better than both family and friends. While gold and silver can help you stand firm, good counsel is better than both gold and silver.