gifts of mercy: The Greek word e·le·e·mo·syʹne, traditionally rendered “alms,” is related to the Greek words for “mercy” and “to show mercy.” It refers to money or food freely given to relieve the poor.
blow a trumpet: This would attract attention. Evidently, the trumpeting mentioned here is figurative, the sense being that a person should not publicize his own acts of generosity.
hypocrites: The Greek word hy·po·kri·tesʹ originally referred to Greek (and later Roman) stage actors who wore large masks designed to amplify the voice. The term came to be used in a metaphoric sense to apply to anyone hiding his real intentions or personality by playing false or putting on a pretense. Jesus here calls the Jewish religious leaders “hypocrites.”
Truly: Greek, a·menʹ, a transliteration of the Hebrew ʼa·menʹ, meaning “so be it,” or “surely.” Jesus frequently uses this expression to preface a statement, a promise, or a prophecy, thereby emphasizing its absolute truthfulness and reliability. Jesus’ use of “truly,” or amen, in this way is said to be unique in sacred literature. When repeated in succession (a·menʹ a·menʹ), as is the case throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus’ expression is translated “most truly.”
they have their reward in full: The Greek term a·peʹkho, meaning “to have in full,” often appeared on business receipts, with the sense of “paid in full.” The hypocrites gave in order to be seen by men, and they were seen and glorified by men for their charitable giving; thus, they have already received all the reward that they are going to get. They should not expect anything from God.
do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing: A figure of speech denoting the utmost discretion or secrecy. Jesus’ followers are not to advertise their charitable works even to those who are as close to them as the left hand is to the right, that is, even to intimate friends.
do not say the same things over and over again: Or “do not babble words; do not utter empty repetitions.” Jesus was warning his followers not to pray without thinking. He does not mean that it is wrong to repeat requests. (Mt 26:36-45) It would be wrong, however, to mimic the repetitious prayers of people of the nations (that is, Gentiles, or non-Jews) who are in the habit of mindlessly repeating memorized phrases “over and over again.”
your Father: A few ancient manuscripts have the reading “God your Father,” but the shorter reading, “your Father,” has better manuscript support.
You: This form of address distinguishes Jesus’ listeners from the hypocrites whom he mentioned earlier.
this way: That is, in contrast with the practice of those who were accustomed to saying “the same things over and over again.”
Our Father: By using the plural pronoun “our,” the one praying acknowledges that others too have a close relationship with God and are part of His family of worshippers.
name: The personal name of God, represented by the four Hebrew letters יהוה (YHWH) and commonly rendered “Jehovah” in English. In the New World Translation, the name occurs 6,979 times in the Hebrew Scriptures and 237 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. (For information on the use of the divine name in the Christian Greek Scriptures, see App. A5 and App. C.) In the Bible, the term “name” at times also stands for the person himself, his reputation, and all that he declares himself to be.
be sanctified: Or “be held sacred; be treated as holy.” This is a petition that all creation, including both humans and angels, hold God’s name holy. The petition also includes the thought that God take action to sanctify himself by clearing his name of the reproach that has been heaped on it ever since the rebellion of the first human pair in the garden of Eden.
our bread for this day: In many contexts, the Hebrew and Greek words for “bread” mean “food.” (Ge 3:19, ftn.) Jesus thus indicates that those who serve God can confidently ask him to supply them, not with an excessive amount of provisions, but with adequate food for each day. This request is a reminder that God commanded the Israelites to gather the miraculously provided manna, each one “his amount day by day.”
debts: Referring to sins. When sinning against someone, a person incurs a debt to that one, or has an obligation to him, and must therefore seek his forgiveness. Receiving God’s forgiveness depends on whether the person has forgiven his personal debtors, that is, those who have sinned against him.
do not bring us into temptation: Or “do not allow us to give in to temptation.” The Bible sometimes speaks of God as causing things that he merely allows to take place. (Ru 1:20, 21) Therefore, Jesus is not saying here that God tempts people to sin. (Jas 1:13) Rather, he encourages his followers to pray for God’s help to avoid or endure temptation.
trespasses: The Greek term for “trespass” may be rendered “a false step” (Ga 6:1) or a blunder, in contrast with walking uprightly in harmony with God’s righteous requirements.
fast: That is, abstain from food for a limited time. (See Glossary.) Jesus never commanded his disciples to fast, nor did he direct them to avoid the practice altogether. Under the Mosaic Law, rightly motivated Jews humbled themselves before Jehovah and showed repentance for sin by means of fasts.
they disfigure their faces: Or “they make their faces unattractive (unrecognizable).” People could have done this by not washing or grooming and by sprinkling or smearing ashes on their heads.
put oil on your head and wash your face: Typically, normal personal grooming was not done while fasting, so Jesus is telling his disciples to avoid making a show of self-denial.
lamp of the body is the eye: A literal eye that functions properly is to the body like a lighted lamp in a dark place. It enlightens the entire person. Here “eye” is used in a figurative sense.
focused: Or “clear; healthy.” The basic meaning of the Greek word ha·plousʹ is “single; simple.” It can convey the idea of singleness of mind or devotion to one purpose. For a literal eye to function properly, it must be able to focus on one thing. A person whose figurative eye is “focused” on the one right thing (Mt 6:33) will experience a positive effect on his whole personality.
envious: Lit., “bad; wicked.” A literal eye that is bad or in an unhealthy condition does not see clearly. Similarly, an envious eye cannot focus on what is truly important. (Mt 6:33) Such an eye is dissatisfied and greedy, distracted and shifty. It causes its owner to estimate things incorrectly and pursue a selfish course of life.
slave: The Greek verb refers to working as a slave, that is, someone owned by only one master. Jesus was here stating that a Christian cannot give God the exclusive devotion that He deserves and at the same time be devoted to gathering material possessions.
Riches: The Greek word ma·mo·nasʹ (of Semitic origin), traditionally translated “Mammon,” can also be rendered “Money.” “Riches” is here personified as a master, or a kind of false god, though there is no conclusive proof that the word was ever used as the name of a specific deity.
Stop being anxious: Or “Stop worrying.” The tense of the Greek verb in this prohibition indicates to stop doing an action already in progress. The Greek term for “anxious” can refer to worry that divides a person’s mind and distracts him, robbing him of joy. The same word occurs at Mt 6:27, 28, 31, 34.
lives . . . life: The Greek word psy·kheʹ, traditionally rendered “soul,” here refers to life. The combination life (soul) and body represents the entire person.
his life span: Jesus is evidently depicting life as a journey. His point is that by worrying, a person cannot add even a little to the length of his life.
Take a lesson: The Greek verb form could also be rendered “Learn well, or thoroughly.”
the lilies of the field: Some identify this flower with the anemone, but it may have included a variety of lilylike flowers, such as tulips, hyacinths, irises, and gladiolus. Some suggest that Jesus referred simply to the many wildflowers growing in the area and therefore translate it “flowers of the field.” This may be inferred, since this phrase is parallel with “vegetation of the field.”
vegetation . . . oven: During the hot summer months, vegetation in Israel withers in as little as two days. Dried flower stalks and grass were collected from the fields as fuel for the baking ovens.
you with little faith: Jesus applied this expression to his disciples, indicating that their belief or trust was not strong. (Mt 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; Lu 12:28) It implies not an absence of faith but, rather, a deficiency of faith.
Keep on . . . seeking: The Greek verb form indicates continuous action and could be rendered “Seek continually.” Jesus’ true followers would not seek the Kingdom for a time and then go on to other things. Rather, they must always make it their first concern in life.
the Kingdom: Some ancient Greek manuscripts read “God’s Kingdom.”
his: Refers to God, the “heavenly Father” mentioned at Mt 6:32.
righteousness: Those who seek God’s righteousness readily do his will and conform to his standards of right and wrong. This teaching stood in stark contrast with that of the Pharisees, who sought to establish their own righteousness.
This reconstruction, which incorporates some features of the first-century synagogue found at Gamla, located about 10 km (6 mi) northeast of the Sea of Galilee, gives an idea of what an ancient synagogue may have looked like.