Matthew 6:1-12

Matthew 6:1-12
Ash Wednesday – A Women’s Lectionary


1 “BewareI of practicingII your pietyIII before othersIV in order to be seenV by them; for then you have no rewardVI from your Father in heaven.VII

Notes on verse 1

I “beware” = prosecho. From pros (at, toward) + echo (have, hold, possess). This is have towards, which is to say to give something your complete attention, beware, be cautious, hold to, turn to.
II “practicing” = poieo. This is to make, do, act, construct, abide, or cause.
III “piety” = dikaiosune. From dikaios (correct, righteous – implies innocent; this is that which conforms to God’s notion of justice, uprightness); from dike (the principle of justice; that which is right in a way that is very clear; a decision or the execution of that decision; originally, this word was for custom or usage; evolved to include the process of law, judicial hearing, execution of sentence, penalty, and even vengeance; more commonly, it refers to what is right); may be from deiknumi (to show, point out, exhibit; figurative for teach, demonstrate, make known). This is judicial or divine approval of character or action. This is righteousness, justice, justness, divine righteousness.
IV “others” = anthropos. Probably from aner (man, male, husband) + ops (eye, face). This is human, humankind. Used for all genders.
V “be seen” = theaomai. From thaomai (to gaze at a spectacle; to look at or contemplate as a spectator; to interpret something in efforts to grasp its significance). This is to behold, look upon, see, contemplate, visit like a spectator. This is the root of the word “theatre.”
VI “reward” = misthos. This is wages, pay, or salary. It can also be reward, recompense, or punishment. It is pay for services rendered in a literal or figurative way, either good or bad.
VII “heaven” = ouranos. May be related to oros (mountain, hill) with the notion of height. This is the air, the sky, the atmosphere, and heaven. It is the sky that is visible and the spiritual heaven where God dwells. Heaven implies happiness, power, and eternity.

“So whenever you giveVIII alms,IX do not sound a trumpetX before you,

Notes on verse 2a

VIII “give” = poieo. Same as “practicing” in v1. See note II above.
IX “alms” = eleemosune. 13x in NT. From eleos (mercy, pity, tender mercy, or compassion; generally understood in action by word or deed). This is mercy, pity, alms, or charity. It is compassion as enacted towards the poor. When we sing or say “kyrie eleison” (Lord, have mercy), it is from this root verb.
X “sound a trumpet” = salpizo. 12x in NT. Perhaps from salpigx (a trumpet, bugle, or the sound that a trumpet makes); perhaps from salos  (tossing like the waves of the sea; agitation, vibration); perhaps from saino (wag the tail, flatter, beguile, move, shake; figuratively, to disturb); related to seio (to shake, vibrate; figuratively to agitate or show fear). This is making a noise with a trumpet, sounding a blast in a literal or figurative sense. Generally used in reference to judgment day.

as the hypocritesXI doXII in the synagoguesXIII and in the streets,XIV so that they may be praisedXV by others. TrulyXVI I tell you, they have receivedXVII their reward. 

Notes on verse 2b

XI “hypocrites” = hupokrites. 18x in NT. From hupokrinomai (to answer, pretend, respond as an actor on stage; figuratively, to lie) {from hupo (by, under, about) + krino (to judge, decide, think good, condemn, determine, pass judgment, stand trial, sue; judging whether in court or in a private setting; properly, mentally separating or distinguishing an issue – to come to a choice or decision, to judge positively or negatively in seeking what is right or wrong, who is innocent or guilty; can imply trying, condemning, punishing, or avenging.)}. This is literally an actor. Figuratively, it is someone playing out a role, which is to say, lying, pretending, or being a hypocrite. This is where the word “hypocrite” comes from.
XII “do” = poieo. Same as “practicing” in v1. See note II above.
XIII “synagogues” = sunagoge. From sun (with, together with, closely associated) + ago (to lead, bring, carry, guide, go, drive). Literally, this is a bringing together, a place of assembly. The term can be used for the people or for the place where they assemble. It is also sometimes used of Christian churches in the New Testament. So, this is synagogue, assembly, congregation, or church. This is where the word “synagogue” comes from.
XIV “streets” = rhume. 4x in NT. Probably related to rheuma (something that flows; a current); from rheo (to flow, to flow like water, overflow) OR from rhoumai (to pull to oneself, rescue from danger, snatch up, set free); from eruo (to draw, drag) This is a street or lane – a street alley as crowded.
XV “be praised” = doxazo. From doxa (glory, opinion, praise, honor, renown; particularly used as a quality of God or manifestation of God – splendor); from dokeo (to have an opinion, seem, appear, suppose; a personal judgment; to think); from dokos (opinion). This is to render or hold something as glorious, to glorify, honor, magnify, or celebrate. This is ascribing weight to something by recognizing its true value or essence.
XVI “truly” = amen. From Hebrew amen (verily, truly, amen, truth, so be it, faithfulness); from aman (to believe, endure, fulfill, confirm, support, be faithful, put one’s trust in, be steadfast. Figuratively, this is to be firm, steadfast, or faithful, trusting, believing, being permanent, morally solid). This word is literally firmness, but figuratively fidelity, faithfulness, honesty, responsibility, trust, truth, steadfastness. Properly, it is to be sure, certain, or firm. This is a word of emphasis indicating that something crucial follows.
XVII “received” = apecho. Related to “beware” in v1 & “have” in v1. 19x in NT. From apo (from, away from) + echo (see note I above). This is to receive, be in a state of, keep, have enough, be at a distance, abstain, or be away.

But when you give alms, do not let your left handXVIII knowXIX what your right handXX is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret;XXI and your Father who seesXXII in secret will rewardXXIII you.

Notes on verses 3-4

XVIII “left hand” = aristeros. 4x in NT. From aristos (best). This is better, used figuratively to refer to the left or left hand side.
XIX “know” = ginosko. This is to know, recognize, realize, perceive, learn. It is knowledge gained through personal experience
XX “right hand” = dexios. Perhaps from dechomai (to warmly receive, be ready for what is offered, take, accept, or welcome; to receive in a literal or figurative sense). This is right, right side, or the right hand.
XXI “secret” = kruptos. 19x in NT. From krupto (to hide by covering, secret, hidden things). This is something concealed, hidden, secret, or private. It can also refer to the inner nature. This is the root of the word “cryptography.”
XXII “sees” = blepo. This is literally to see – it is primarily used in the physical sense. However, figuratively it can be seeing, which includes attention and so to watchfulness, being observant, perceiving, and acting on the visual information. It can also mean beware.
XXIII “reward” = apodidomi. From apo (from, away from) + didomi (give, offer, place, bestow, deliver; give in a literal or figurative sense). This is to give back, return, give away. It is to restore as when one makes payment – to rend what is due, to sell.

“And whenever you pray,XXIV do not be like the hypocrites; for they loveXXV to standXXVI and pray in the synagogues and at the streetXXVII corners, so that they may be seenXXVIII by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 

Notes on verse 5

XXIV “pray” = proseuchomai. From pros (advantageous for, at, toward) + euchomai (to wish, make a request, pray). This is to pray or pray for, to worship or supplicate. It is more literally exchanging one’s own wishes for God’s.
XXV “love” = phileo. From philos (dear, beloved, a friend, an associate; friendship with personal affection, a trusted confidante; love from personal experience with another person). This is friendship love and fondness with personal attachment.
XXVI “stand” = histemi. This is to stand, place, establish, appoint, stand ready, be steadfast.
XXVII “street” = plateia. 9x in NT. From platus (wide, spread flat, broad); perhaps from plasso (to form, mold; to create like a potter shapes clay). This is a street or some kind of broad place like a public square.
XXVIII “be seen” = phaino. This is to bring light, cause to appear, shine, become visible or clear. This is show in a literal or figurative sense.

But whenever you pray, go into your roomXXIX and shutXXX the doorXXXI and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who seesXXXII in secret will reward you.

Notes on verse 6

XXIX “room” = tameion. 4x in NT. Perhaps related to tamieion (treasury) OR from tamias (dispenser, distributor). This is an inner chamber, store room, or secret closet. It would be on the interior of a house and it would be used to store things or for privacy.
XXX “shut” = kleio. 16x in NT. This is to close, shut, or lock in a literal of figurative sense. Figuratively used for shutting out of the kingdom of heaven or the wedding banquet, the heavens shutting as in there is no rain, and also for heartlessness.
XXXI “door” = thura. This is opening or closure so it’s a door, gate, or entrance. Figuratively, this can refer to an opportunity.
XXXII “sees” = blepo. Same as “sees” in v4. See note XXII above.

“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrasesXXXIII as the GentilesXXXIV do; for they thinkXXXV that they will be heardXXXVI because of their many words.XXXVII 

Notes on verse 7

XXXIII “heap up empty phrases” = battalogeo. Related to “tell” in v2. 1x in NT. From battos (stammerer) + logos (word, statement, speech, analogy; here, word as an account or accounting; can also be a word that carries an idea or expresses a thought, a saying; a person with a message or reasoning laid out in words; by implication, a topic, line of reasoning, or a motive; can be used for a divine utterance or as Word – Christ); from lego (to speak, tell, mention)}. This is to stammer, be longwinded, repeat in a nonsense way, speaking empty words. It can also be to stutter or blubber.
XXXIV “Gentiles” = ethnikos. 4x in NT. From ethnos (people who are united by having similar customs or culture; a tribe, race, nation, or Gentiles in general); probably from etho (custom, culture). This is ethnic, national, foreign, or referring to a Gentile. This is the root that the word “ethnicity” comes from.
XXXV “think” = dokeo. Related to “be praised” in v2. See note XV above.
XXXVI “heard” = eisakouo. 5x in NT. From eis (to, into, for, among) + akouo (listen, hear, understand through hearing). This is hearing deeply and intentionally. It can also mean to obey, heed, or comply – understanding prompting action.
XXXVII “many words” = polulogia. Related to “tell” in v2 & “heap up empty phrases” in v7. 1x in NT. From polus (much, many, abundant) + logos (see note XXXIII above). This is many words or a lot of speaking.

Do not be likeXXXVIII them, for your Father knowsXXXIX what you needXL before you askXLI him.

Notes on verse 8

XXXVIII “be like” = homoioo. 15x in NT. From homoios (similar to, resembling, like); from the same as homou (together); from homos (the same). This is to compare, liken, resemble, become similar.
XXXIX “knows” = eido. This is to know, consider perceive, appreciate, behold, or remember. It means seeing with one’s eyes, but also figuratively, it means perceiving – seeing that becomes understanding. So, by implication, this means knowing or being aware.
XL “need” = chreia. From chraomai (to use, make use of, give what is needed, act in a specific way, request); related to chre (what is proper, fitting, or necessary). This is the is task, business, or affair. It can also be need, want, or destitution.
XLI “ask” = aiteo. This is to ask, demand, beg, desire.

“Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed beXLII your name.XLIII

10     Your kingdomXLIV come.
    Your willXLV be done,XLVI
        on earth as it is in heaven.

Notes on verses 9-10

XLII “hallowed be” = hagiazo. From hagios (sacred, holy, set apart, different other; physically pure, morally blameless, or ceremonially set apart); from hagnos (holy, sacred, pure ethically, ritually, or ceremonially; prepared for worship, chaste, unadulterated, pure to the core; undefiled by sin; figurative for innocent, modest, perfect). This is to make holy, consecrate, sanctify, set apart as holy, purify, venerate.
XLIII “name” = onoma. Perhaps related to “know” in v3. Perhaps from ginosko (see note XIX above).This is a name, authority, cause, character, fame, reputation. The name was thought to include something of the essence of the person so it was not thought to be separate from the person.
XLIV “kingdom” = basileia. From basileus (king, emperor, sovereign); probably from basis (step, hence foot; a pace); from baino (to walk, to go). This is kingdom, rule, authority, sovereignty, royalty, a realm.
XLV “will” = thelema. From thelo (to desire, wise, will, intend). This is the act of will, choice, purpose, or decree.
XLVI “be done” = ginomai. This is to come into being, to happen, become, be born; to emerge from one state or condition to another. This is coming into being with the sense of movement or growth.

11     GiveXLVII us this day our dailyXLVIII bread.XLIX

12     And forgiveL us our debts,LI
        as we also have forgiven our debtors.LII

Notes on verses 11-12

XLVII “give” = didomi. Related to “reward” in v4. See note XXIII above.
XLVIII “daily” = epiousios. 2x in NT. From epeimi or epiousa (next, following, next day or night); {from epi (on, upon, against, what is fitting) + heimi (to go)}. This is necessary, sufficient – what is needed for subsistence or suitable for what is happening.
XLIX “bread” = artos. Perhaps from airo (raise, take up, lift, remove). This is bread or a loaf. It is a loaf as raised.
L “forgive” = aphiemi. From apo (from, away from) + hiemi (to send). This is send away, release, permit, forgive, allow to depart, discharge, or send forth.
LI “debts” = opheilema. 2x in NT. From opheilo (to be indebted morally or legally – having an obligation one must meet; perhaps from the legal world, but then adopted in reference to morality; used to refer to humanity’s ethical responsibility); probably from ophelos (advantage, gain, profit); from ophello (heaped together, accumulate, increase). This is a debt or sin – something that is owed, which emphasizes the impact or consequences. It can also signify a moral fault.
LII “debtors” = opheiletes. Related to “debts” in v12. 7x in NT. From opheilo (see note LI above). This is one who owes so it is a debtor or someone under obligation. Figuratively, it is a culprit, delinquent, or a sinner.

Image credit: “Don’t Worry…” by Sarah Nestheide, 2012.

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