Matthew 6:1 Take care that you do not give charity publicly

KJV Verse: 

Mat 6:1 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.

 

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

Pay attention [however] to the virtuousness of yours. You don't want to perform in front of people in order to view yourselves through them. If so, really no compensation. You are not close by the Father of yours, the one in the heavens.

Hidden Meaning: 

This statement is a lot more sophisticated in the original Greek. It is not as much about how others see you but about how you see yourself through them. There are also a number of issues here that are hidden in translation arising from the different forms of negatives in Greek. 

The first word means primarily "hold to" and "turn to" but, in this context, has more of a sense of  "to be on one's guard against," and "to take heed." The verb's form could be a command or a simple statement, however, since it is at the beginning of the sentence, it is more likely a command.

A Greek word that means "however," does not appear in all sources here but does appear in some here.

The Greek word translated as "that ye do" (KJV) and "practice" (NIV) primarily means "to make", "to perform", or "to produce." Though it is a very broad verb in Greek, covering many activities, it is not as broad as the English "do" which covers any activity. The form is not an active verb, but an infinitive: "to make", "to perform" or something similar.

The negative "not" used here is the Greek negative of a subjective opinion. The sense is that "you don't want" to do something, not that it isn't done or don't think something that might be true. In the Greek, it appears before the verb, so the sense is that "you don't want to perform" or "don't perform".

The Greek word translated as "alms" (KJV) and in the NIV as "righteousness" means virtue in the sense of fulfilling social or legal obligations. This would cover all activities required by the Jewish traditions of the time.

A Greek word translated as "before" (KJV) and "in front of" (NIV) primarily means "in front of".

The word translated as "men" is the Greek word for "men" but it is introduced by an article, "the", which gives it the sense of "the men", which has a meaning more like we use the term "people".

An untranslated Greek word appears here that means "towards", "by reason of (for)," and "against." The sense here is "for the purpose of".

The Greek word translated as "to be seen" is not one of the common words Christ uses for seeing and being seen. It is a fancier word that has more of a sense of viewing something as a spectator. It is not in the passive, "to be seen", but in a form where the subject acts on or for themselves. So the sense of "to view yourself", but the form makes it a noun describing the action, "the displaying of yourself". 

The "of them"  is the adjective meaning "the same" that Christ usually uses instead of the third person pronoun, and it is an indicated object, "to them". 

The word "Otherwise" is constructed from a series of Greek words that mean "if however not indeed." The word "not indeed" refers an exaggerated form of the subjective negative uses above. The actual Greek says, "if so, really no"

The Greek word translated as "reward" means compensation that has been earned not a gift. "Compensation" is the closest English term.

The word translated as "of" primarily means "beside" or "from the side of." It is not the normal word used simply to say "from" a source.

The "heaven" here is a little different because it is plural, "heavens." For more about the meaning of the Greek word "heaven" see this article.

Again, Christ tells us that we are "paid" for doing good works. Christ is not teaching unselfishness but an enlightened form of self-interest.Here, he is pointing out that we don't want to get short-changed in this deal by trading temporary "social" rewards for permanent, real ones.

The Spoken Version: 

“Does the Divine repay us for our generosity?” An older woman asked.
The speaker nodded enthusiastically but offered a caveat.
“Pay attention, however, ” the speaker warned, “to this virtue of yours. You don’t want to perform in front of people in order to see yourselves through them. Unless, however, you really don’t want compensation!”He said, nodding toward the sky.
“So, if I get recognition from others for having praiseworthy values?” She asked.
“You are not going to get it from that Father of yours, the one in the skies,” he answered.

Vocabulary: 

Προσέχετε (2nd pl pres imperat act or verb 2nd pl pres ind act ) "Take heed" is the Greek prosecho, which means "hold to", "to offer", "turn to or toward," "to turn your mind toward," "to be on one's guard against", "to take heed", "to pay attention", "to devote oneself to", "to attach oneself", "to continue", "to hold fast to [a thing]," "to have in addition," or "pay court to."

[δὲ] (partic) Untranslated is de which means "but" and "on the other hand." It is the particle that joins sentences in an adversarial way but can also be a weak connective ("and") and explanation of cause ("so") and a condition ("if").

τὴν δικαιοσύνην (noun sg fem acc) "Alms" is dikaiosyne, which means "righteousness", "justice", "fulfillment of the law," and "the business of a judge." It carries the sense of virtue but specifically that of fulfilling legal or social requirements.

ὑμῶν (pron 2nd pl gen) "Your" is from humon, which is a plural form of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

μὴ (partic) "Not" is from me, which is the negative used in prohibitions and expressions of doubt meaning "not" and "no." As οὐ (ou) negates fact and statement; μή rejects, οὐ denies; μή is relative, οὐ absolute; μή subjective, οὐ objective.

ποιεῖν (pres inf act) "That ye do" is from poieo, which means "to make", "to produce", "to create", "to bring into existence", "to bring about", "to cause", "to render", "to consider", "to prepare", "to make ready," and "to do."

ἔμπροσθεν (adv) "Before" is from emprosthen, which as an adverb means [of place]"in front of", "before", "forwards," [of time] "before", "of old," and as a preposition, "facing", "opposite", "in front," [of time] beforehand," and [of degree] "preferred before." It also denotes a ranking.

τῶν ἀνθρώπων (noun pl masc gen ) "Men" is from anthropos, which is "man," and, in plural, "mankind." It also means "humanity" and that which is human and opposed to that which is animal or inanimate.

πρὸς (prep) Untranslated is pros, which means "on the side of", "in the direction of", "from (place)", "towards" "before", "in the presence of", "in the eyes of", "in the name of", "by reason of", "before (supplication)", "proceeding from (for effects)", "dependent on", "derivable from", "agreeable,""becoming", "like", "at the point of", "in addition to", "against," and "before."

τὸ θεαθῆναι (aor inf mp) "To be seen" is theaomai, which means "to behold", "to gaze with a sense of wonder", "view as a spectator", "to see clearly," and "to contemplate."

αὐτοῖς: (adj pl masc dat) "Of them" is from autos, which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself", "yourself", "himself", "herself", "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him", "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of one's own accord."

εἰ (conj) "Otherwise" is from ei, (with de and mege below) which is the particle used to express conditions "if" (implying nothing about its fulfillment) or indirect questions, "whether." It also means "if ever", "in case," and "whenever." It is combined with various conjunctions to create derivative conditions. O

δὲ "Otherwise" is from de (with ei above and mege below) which means "but" and "on the other hand." It is the particle that joins sentences in an adversarial way but can also be a weak connective ("and") and explanation of cause ("so") and a condition ("if").

μήγε, "Otherwise" is from mege, (with ei and de above) which is a contraction of me ge. The me is the negative used in prohibitions and expressions of doubt meaning "not" and "no." The ge is an emphatic particle meaning "at least" and "indeed." It emphasizes the word to which it is associated.

μισθὸν (noun sg masc acc) "Reward" is from misthos, which means "wages" in the sense of compensation for work done, "pay", "hire", "fee", "recompense," and "reward."

οὐκ "Not" is from ou which is the negative adverb for facts and statements, negating both single words and sentences. The other negative adverb, μή applies to will and thought; οὐ denies, μή rejects; οὐ is absolute, μή relative; οὐ objective, μή subjective.

ἔχετε (2nd pl pres ind act) "Ye have" is from echo, which means "to have", "to hold", "to possess", "to keep", "to have charge of", "to maintain", "to hold fast", "to bear", "to keep close", "to keep safe," and "to have means to do."

παρὰ (prep) "Of" is from para, which means "beside", "from the side of", "from beside,", "from", "issuing from", "near", "by", "with", "along", "past", "beyond", "parallel (geometry)", "like (metaphor)", "a parody of (metaphor)", "precisely at the moment of (time)," and "throughout (time)."

τῷ πατρὶ (noun sg masc dat) "The Father" is from pater, which means "father", "grandfather", "author", "parent," and "forefathers."

ὑμῶν (pron 2nd pl gen) "Your" is from humon, which is a plural form of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

τ ( article sg masc dat ) "Which" is the Greek article, "the," which usually proceeds a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one".

ἐν (prep) "Is in" is from en, which means "in", "on", "at", "by", "among", "within", "surrounded by", "in one's hands", "in one's power," and "with".

τοῖς οὐρανοῖς. (noun pl masc dat) "Heaven" is from ouranos, which means "heaven as in the vault of the sky", "heaven as the seat of the gods", "the sky", "the universe," and "the climate." See this article for more perspective on the word and how Christ uses it.

Feb 18 2017

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