Wherefore, when thou dost thine alms
Christ proceeds to give some directions and cautions about giving of alms, that they might be done aright, and answer some valuable purposes for the glory of God, the good of others, and their own:
do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do, in the
synagogues, and in the streets, that they may have glory of men.
The persons Christ has reference to were the Scribes and Pharisees, who did all they did to be seen of men; whom he calls "hypocrites"; as he often does, because they put on an appearance of religion and holiness, but inwardly, and otherwise, were very wicked men. It does not appear that any such practice was literally performed, as blowing a trumpet before them, when they gave their alms; though the collectors of alms did, by some means, publicly notify to the people when they were about that service: for one of their rules is F13,
``the collectors of alms do not proclaim on a feast, as they proclaim on a common day; but they collected (henyub) , "privately", and put it into their bosom, and distributed it to everyone by himself.''Wherefore this must be understood proverbially; and the sense is, that when they did their alms, they chose public places for it, such as the "synagogues", where was a large concourse of people met together for religious worship; or the open "streets" of the city, where people were continually walking to and fro, so that nothing could be done in this way, but what must be seen and observed: and moreover, they took care, either by themselves, or others, to proclaim their good actions, that they might "have glory of men"; not only of the poor, or the collectors for them, but of the spectators. R. Aben Ezra F14 says, that
``a man that gives alms to the poor, must not give it because of the glory of the collector, i.e. that he may have glory of him; nor that the children of men may praise him.''But his ancestors were of another mind: but what did they get by it?
verily I say unto you, they have their reward;
and a poor one it is, the applause of men: however, it is what they seek after, and is all their empty performances deserve, and all they will have.
``He that glories in anything done by himself, (wrkv ta ljwn) (awh) , "he takes", or receives "his reward" F15; for as for any reward from God, they will have none;''in this sense, as the Ethiopic version reads it, "they have lost their reward": and, as a learned critic has thought, is the sense of the Greek word, "they forbid", or "hinder their reward". By seeking the glory of men, they lay impediments in the way of receiving honour from God.
F13 T. Hieros. Demai, fol. 23. 2.
F14 In Exod. xx. 3.
F15 R. Jona apud Capell. Spicileg. in loc.