Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Ash Wednesday ABC


1 “BewareA of practicing your pietyB before othersC in order to be seenD by them; for then you have no rewardE from your Father in heaven.F

Notes on verse 1

A “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.
B “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.
C “others” = anthropos. Probably from aner (man, male, husband) + ops (eye, face). This is human, humankind. Used for all genders.
D “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.”
E “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.
F “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 give alms,G do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocritesH do in the synagoguesI and in the streets, so that they may be praisedJ by others. TrulyK I tell you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret;L and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Notes on verses 2-4

G “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.
H “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.
I “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.
J “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.
K “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.
L “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.”

“And whenever you pray,M do not be like the hypocrites; for they loveN to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seenO by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your roomP and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Notes on verses 5-6

M “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.
N “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.
O “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.
P “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.

16 “And whenever you fast,Q do not lookR dismal,S like the hypocrites, for they disfigureT their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.  17 But when you fast, put oil onU your head and washV your face, 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Notes on verses 16-18

Q “fast” = nesteuo. From a (not, without) + esthio (to eat or figuratively to devour or consume like rust). This is to fast, not eat food, to make a religious fast.
R “look” = ginomai. More literally “become.”
S “dismal” = skuthropos. 2x in NT – here and in the Walk to Emmaus when they looked sad (Lk 24:17). From skuthros (sullen) + ops (eye, face). This is gloomy, mournful looking, angry, sad, or dejected.
T “disfigure” = aphanizo. 5x in NT. Related to “be seen” in v5. From aphanes (invisible, hidden, not apparent); {from a (not, without) + phaino (see note O above)}. Properly, this is making something disappear, to remove, disfigure, or neglect it. It can also mean to destroy, becloud, or corrupt.
U “put oil on” = aleipho. 9x in NT. From a (with) + root of liparos (oil, fatty; figuratively, something rich or luxurious). This is to anoint as an act of homage, for healing, to celebrate a festival, to honor a guest, as anointing the dead.
V “wash” = nipto. 17x in NT – also used when Jesus washes the disciples’ feet in John 13. This is to wash or cleanse, particularly hands, feet, or face. It can be used for a ceremonial washing.

19 “Do not store upW for yourselves treasuresX on earth, where moth and rust consumeY and where thievesZ break inAA and steal;BB 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heartCC will be also.

Notes on verses 19-21

W “store up” = thesaurizo. 8x in NT. From thesauros (treasure, storehouse, deposit; wealth in a literal or figurative sense); from the same as tithemi (to place, lay, set, establish). This is to store up or treasure up – to amass in a literal or figurative sense. This is where the word “thesaurus” comes from.
X “treasures” = thesauros. Related to “store up” in v19. 17x in NT. See note W above.
Y “consume” = aphanizo. Same as “disfigure” in v16.
Z “thieves” = kleptes. 16x in NT. From klepto (to steal secretively). This is a thief that steals using stealth rather than violence. It is a thief in a literal or figurative sense.
AA “break in” = diorusso. 4x in NT. From dia (through, because of, across to the other side) + orusso (to dig, excavate, burrow). This is to dig or dig through as when one digs their way into a house to steal.
BB “steal” = klepto. Related to “thieves” in v19. 13x in NT. See note Z above.
CC “heart” = kardia. Literally the heart, but figuratively mind, character, inner self, will, intention, thoughts, feelings. Also, the center of something. The word heart is only used figuratively in the Old and New Testaments. This is where “cardiac” comes from.

Image Credit: “St. Peter in Prayer” by Matthias Stom, between 1633 and 1640.

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