For if ye love them which love you
That is, if ye only love such that love you; for that such who love should be loved again, is both natural and just: our Lord's meaning is not, that ye ought not to love them that love you, but that these should not be the only objects of your love; for should this be the case,
what reward have ye?
or "shall ye have?" Do you deserve any thanks for your love now? none at all, it is what you are obliged to by your friend's love to you. Do you expect any hereafter with God? if you do, you will be mistaken; you have your reward with men, who have loved you as much as you have done them, and therefore none can be due to you, either from God or men: besides,
do not even the publicans the same?
men of the worst characters, and who were most hateful to the Jews, upon many accounts; partly because of their business, which was to collect the Roman tax, and carry it to the proper officers appointed to receive it, and of whom they sometimes farmed it. Now the Roman yoke was very grievous to the Jews, who boasted of their being a free people; nor did they willingly pay their tribute money; and some of them would refuse to do it, under a pretence of religion; wherefore those publicans, or tax gatherers, which were oftentimes men of their own nation, as appears from the instances of Levi and Zacchaeus, were very odious to them; because they looked upon them as joining with the Romans, in oppressing them, and abridging them in their liberty: and partly because of their character and conduct, being men of great improbity, rapine, and covetousness: hence, as in the New Testament, they are frequently joined with "sinners", as being notorious ones themselves; so in the Talmudic writings, with thieves F1, and are reckoned as thieves, with murderers, and robbers F2; they were not allowed as witnesses F3 in any of their courts of judicature; nor were they to be kept company F4 with in private houses. Now our Lord instances in these men who were the most profligate part of the nation, and had in greatest contempt by the rest; and yet these, by the very dictates of nature, loved such as loved them: wherefore it must be shameful and scandalous in the Pharisees, and others, who pretended to great sanctity and religion, to do no more than these persons did.
F1 Maimon. Hilch. Gezela, c. 5. sect. 9. 11.
F2 Misn. Nedarim, c. 3. sect. 4.
F3 T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 25. 2. Maimon. Hilch. Eduth, c. 10. sect. 4. Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora pr. neg. 214.
F4 Maimon. Hilch. Mishcab, c. 10. sect. 8.