1 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.
1 CHAPTER VI.
NOTES ON CHAP. VI.
Verse 1. That ye do not your alms] δικαιοσυνηνυμωνμη
ποιειν, perform not your acts of righteousness-such as
alms-giving, fasting, and prayer, mentioned immediately after.
Instead of δικαιοσυνην, righteousness, or acts of righteousness,
the reading in the text, that which has been commonly received is
ελεημοσυνην, alms. But the first reading has been inserted in
several editions, and is supported by the Codd. Vatican. and
Bezae, some others, and several versions, all the Itala except
one, and the Vulgate. The Latin fathers have justitiam, a word of
the same meaning. Mr. Gregory has amply proved, tsidekeh,
righteousness, was a common word for alms among the Jews. Works,
4to. p. 58, 1671. R. D. Kimchi says that tsidekeh,
means alms-giving; and the phrase natan tsidekah, is
used by the Jews to signify the giving of alms. The following
passages from Dr. Lightfoot show that it was thus commonly used
among the Jewish writers:-
"It is questioned," says he, "whether Matthew writ ελεημοσυνην,
alms, or δικαιοσυνην, righteousness. I answer:-
"I. That, our Saviour certainly said tsidekah,
righteousness, (or, in Syriac zidkatha,) I make no doubt at
all; but, that that word could not be otherwise understood by the
common people than of alms, there is as little doubt to be made.
For although the word tsidekah, according to the idiom of the
Old Testament, signifies nothing else than righteousness; yet now,
when our Saviour spoke these words, it signified nothing so much
"II. Christ used also the same word zidkatha,
righteousness, in time three verses next following, and Matthew
used the word ελεημοσυνην, alms; but by what right, I beseech you,
should he call it δικαιοσυνην, righteousness, in the first verse,
and ελεημοσυνην, alms, in the following; when Christ every where
used one and the same word? Matthew might not change in Greek,
where our Saviour had not changed in Syriac: therefore we must say
that the Lord Jesus used the word tsidekeh or
zidkatha, in these four first verses; but that, speaking in the
dialect of common people, he was understood by the common people
to speak of alms. Now they called alms by the name of
righteousness, for the fathers of the traditions taught, and the
common people believed, that alms contributed very much to
justification. Hear the Jewish chair in this matter-For one
farthing given to a poor man in alms, a man is made partaker of
the beatific vision: where it renders these words, Ps 17:15,
I shall behold thy face in righteousness, after this manner, I
shall behold thy face, BECAUSE of ALMS. Bava. Bathra.
"This money goeth for alms, that my sons may live, and that I
may obtain the world to come. Bab. Rosh. Hashshanah.
"A man's table now expiates by alms, as heretofore the altar did
by sacrifice. Beracoth.
"If you afford alms out of your purse, God will keep you from
all damage and harm. Hieros. Peah.
"MONOBAZES the king bestowed his goods liberally upon the poor,
and had these words spoken to him by his kinsmen and friends-'Your
ancestors increased both their own riches, and those that were
left them by their fathers; but you waste both your own and those
of your ancestors.' To whom he answered-'My fathers laid up their
wealth on earth: I lay up mine in heaven. As it is written, Truth
shall flourish out of the earth, but Righteousness shall look down
from heaven. My fathers laid up treasures that bear no fruit; but
I lay up such as bear fruit. As it is said, It shall be well with
the just, for they shall eat the fruit of their own works. My
fathers treasured up, when power was in their hands; but I where
it is not. As it is said, Justice and judgment is the habitation
of his throne. My fathers heaped up for others; I for myself. As
it is said, And this shall be to thee for righteousness. They
scraped together for this world. I for the world to come. As it
is said, Righteousness shall deliver from death.' Ibid. These
things are also recited in the Babylonian Talmud.
"You see plainly in what sense he understands righteousness,
namely, in the sense of alms: and that sense not so much framed in
his own imagination, as in that of the whole nation, and which the
royal catachumen had imbibed from the Pharisees his teachers.
"Behold the justifying and saving virtue of alms, from the very
work done according to the doctrine of the Pharisaical chair! And
hence, the opinion of this efficacy of alms so far prevailed with
the deceived people, that they pointed out alms by no other name
(confined within one single word) than tsidekah,
righteousness. Perhaps those words of our Saviour are spoken in
derision of this doctrine. Yea, give those things which ye have
in alms, and behold all things shall be clean to you, Lu 11:41.
With good reason indeed exhorting them to give alms; but yet
withal striking at the covetousness of the Pharisees, and
confuting their vain opinion of being clean by the washing of
their hands, from their own opinion of the efficacy of alms. As if
he had said, "Ye assert that alms justifies and saves, and
therefore ye call it by the name of righteousness; why therefore
do ye affect cleanliness by the washing of hands; and not rather
by the performance of charity?" LIGHTFOOT's Works, vol. ii.
Before men] Our Lord does not forbid public alms-giving,
fasting, and prayer, but simply censures those vain and
hypocritical persons who do these things publicly that they may be
seen of men, and receive from them the reputation of saints, &c.