Matthew 6:1

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Matthew 6:1 is the first verse of the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament and is part of the Sermon on the Mount. This verse begins the discussion of how even good deeds can be done for the wrong reasons.

In the King James Version of the Bible the text reads:

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.

The World English Bible translates the passage as:

"Be careful that you don't do your charitable
giving before men, to be seen by them, or else
you have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

For a collection of other versions see BibRef Matthew 6:1

There is some debate over the term translated as "charitable giving" in the WEB. In the ancient manuscripts there are two different versions of this verse. One has dikaisune. This term can be translated as charitable giving, but it can also be much more broadly translated as referring to any act of piety. By this translation this verse can be read as a condemnation of all overt religiosity. The second version has eleemosune, which explicitly refers to alms giving. This restricts what this verse is condemning to the more specific practice of overt generosity. Lewis feels dikaisune was the original wording as eleemosune appears in Matthew 6:2, and that that verse would be redundant if the two words are the same.[1] Filson also notes that it is likely that the word eleemosune being inserted into this verse was a copying error.[2]

How this verse relates to Matthew 5:13-16 has long been of some discussion. Those verses exhort Jesus' disciples to be public symbols of proper piety, while this recommends giving in secret. France believes the two passages complement one another. This verse states that proper piety is not done to impress others, while the previous section states that the pious will automatically impress others without need for overt displays.[3] Fowler notes that this verse also builds upon the preceding antitheses. In those verses Jesus consistently argued that ill motives are just as bad as evil acts, in this and subsequent verses he argues that it is impossible for good deeds to be the product of ill thoughts. This argument is likely linked to the condemnation of the Pharisees, which is an important theme in Matthew. The Pharisees were well known for their overt and sanctimonious piety.[4]

The term "reward" in this verse is a translation of a Greek commercial term. Literally it refers to cancelled bills. Lewis notes that the expression is almost identical to the English phrase "paid in full," and this verse is stating that those who are overly boastful will not be "paid in full" by God.[5] Hendriksen states that if one is expecting praise and adulation from one's fellows for being pious, then this is the only reward you will receive. You will miss out on God's much more important reward. Barclay notes that this verse is another mention of the reward motive in Matthew.[6] While many theologians disagree, Barclay feels that this verse is overtly stating that while goodness for secular rewards is wrong, goodness in pursuit of heavenly rewards is perfectly acceptable.[7]

These ideas were not original to Jesus, the notion that anonymous giving was the most pious form of charity was widely held at the time. Augsburger notes that at the time there was a Chamber of the Silent, created to allow the pious to donate anonymously.[8]


  1. ^ Lewis, Jack P. The Gospel According to Matthew. Austin, Texas: R.B. Sweet, 1976.
  2. ^ Filson, Floyd V. A Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew. London : A. & C. Black, 1960.
  3. ^ France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985.
  4. ^ Fowler, Harold. The Gospel of Matthew: Volume One. Joplin: College Press, 1968
  5. ^ Lewis, Jack P. The Gospel According to Matthew. Austin, Texas: R.B. Sweet, 1976.
  6. ^ Hendriksen, William. The Gospel of Matthew. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1976
  7. ^ Barclay, William. The Gospel of Matthew: Volume 1 Chapters 1-10. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1975.
  8. ^ Augsburger, Myron. Matthew. Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1982.

Preceded by
Matthew 5:48
Gospel of Matthew
Chapter 6
Succeeded by
Matthew 6:2