on the Mount
Matthew chapter 5-7
By Blessed Theophilact
Matthew, chapter 5
The Beatitudes. Salt and Light. The Fulfillment of the Law. Murder. Adultery. Divorce.
Oaths. An Eye for an Eye. Love for Enemies.
Matthew, chapter 6
On almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. On disdaining the things of this world. Giving to the needy. Prayer. The Lordís Prayer. Fasting. Treasures in Heaven. Do not Worry.
Matthew, chapter 7.
On not judging anyone. On asking and seeking. Concerning false prophets. Judging Others.
Ask, Seek, Knock. The Narrow and Wide Gates. A Tree and Its Fruit. Wise and Foolish Builders.
Matthew, chapter 5
1. And seeing the multitudes, He went up onto the mountain. He teaches us not to do anything ostentatiously. For when He is about to teach, He goes up onto the mountain, thus instructing us also when we would teach, to depart from the bustle in the city. And when He had sat down, His disciples came to Him. The multitude comes for the miracles, but the disciples come for the teachings. So when He has finished the miracles and healed their bodies, then He heals their souls as well, that we may learn that He is the Creator of both souls and bodies.
2. And He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying. He taught not only His disciples, but the multitude as well. He begins with the beatitudes, "Blessed are they," just as David began the Psalms with the beatitude, "Blessed is the man."
3. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. First He lays down humility as a foundation. Since Adam fell through pride, Christ raises us up by humility; for Adam had aspired to become God. The "poor in spirit" are those whose pride is crushed and who are contrite in soul.
4. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. "Blessed are they that mourn" for their sins, not for things of this life. Christ said, "They that mourn," that is, they that are mourning incessantly and not just one time; and not only for our own sins, but for those of our neighbor. "They shall be comforted" both in this life, for he who mourns for his sin rejoices spiritually, and even more so in the next life.
5. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Some say that the "earth" is the spiritual earth, that is, heaven. But understand it to mean this earth as well. Since the meek are thought to be those who are despised and deprived of wealth, Christ says that it is the meek, rather, who possess everything. The meek are not those who never get angry at all, for such people are unfeeling and apathetic. Rather, the meek are those who possess the capacity for anger but control it, and become angry only when it is necessary.
6. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. Since He is about to speak about almsgiving, He first shows that one must pursue righteousness, and not give alms from what has been acquired by theft and extortion. And one must avidly practice righteousness, for this is what it means to "hunger and thirst." Since it is the greedy who are thought to be well off and satisfied, Jesus says that it is rather the righteous who shall be filled, even here in this life, for what is theirs they possess with surety.
7. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Not only with money does one show mercy in almsgiving, but also with words. And should you have nothing at all to give, show mercy with tears of compassion. "They shall obtain mercy" even here in this life from men; for if he who showed mercy yesterday should be in want today, he will obtain mercy from all. And in the next life, how much more mercy shall he obtain from God?
8. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. There are many who are not rapacious and greedy, but are generous in almsgiving, yet they fornicate and commit other uncleanliness. Christ commands, therefore, that along with the other virtues we should also be pure, that is, chaste and temperate, not only in the body, but in the heart as well. Without holiness no one will see the Lord. Just as a mirror will reflect images only if it is clean, so also only a pure soul admits the vision of God and the understanding of the Scriptures.
9. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. "The peacemakers" are not only those who are themselves peaceable with all, but also those who reconcile others who are at odds. "The peacemakers" are also those who by their teaching convert the enemies of God. Just as the Only-begotten Son reconciled us to God when we were His enemies, so too are the "peacemakers" "sons of God."
10. Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. It. is not only the martyrs who are persecuted; many others are persecuted as well, for helping those who have been wronged, and simply for every virtue which they possess. For "righteousness" means every virtue. Thieves and murderers are also persecuted, but they are not blessed.
11. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you and persecute you. He addresses the apostles directly, showing that it is especially the mark of a teacher to be reviled. And shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. lt. is not simply he that is reviled who is blessed, but when he is reviled for Christ's sake, and falsely. If these two conditions are lacking, he is a wretch, as he has been a cause of temptation to many.
12. Rejoice and he exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven. Of the others whom He has said are blessed, He does not speak of a great reward. But here He does, to show that to patiently endure reviling is a great and most difficult thing; so difficult that there have been many who have even hanged themselves to escape this trial. Even Job, who patiently endured his other trials, was troubled when his friends reviled him by saying that he was suffering for his sins. For so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. So that the apostles would not think that they would be persecuted for teaching something contrary to God, He exhorts them by saying, "Even the prophets before you were persecuted for the sake of virtue, and so you have the example of their sufferings to give you courage."
Salt and Light
13. Ye are the salt of the earth. The prophets were sent to one race only, but you are the salt of the whole earth. By your teachings and reproofs you act as an astringent upon the slack and the indolent, so that they will not breed the worms that never die. So do not desist from your astringent reproofs, even if you are reviled or persecuted. Therefore He says: But if the salt has lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to he trodden under foot by men. For if the teacher has become insipid, that is, if he does not give astringent reproofs, but has become soft and lax, "wherewith shall it be salted?" that is, how can this be corrected? So from then on he is cast out from the rank of teacher and is trodden under foot, that is, despised.
14. Ye are the light of the world. First He calls them salt and then light. He who reproves what is done in secret is light, "for whatsoever doth make manifest is light." The apostles did not enlighten one nation only, but the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot he hid. He teaches them to struggle and to be strict in living a virtuous life, for they will be in view of all. Do not imagine, He says, that you will be hidden away in some corner, for you will be most visible. See to it, then, that you live blamelessly, lest you become a stumbling block for others.
15. Neither do men light a lamp, and put it under a bushel, but on a lamp stand; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Christ says, "It is I Who have kindled the light in you, but it is for you to labor zealously so that you do not extinguish that grace; in this way, the brightness of your life will shine upon others." He says, therefore:
16. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father Who is in heaven. He did not say, "You must display your virtue," for that is not good; but rather He said only, "Let it shine," so that even your enemies will marvel and glorify not you, but your Father. If we practice virtue, we must practice it for the glory of God, and not for our own glory.
The Fulfillment of the Law
17. Think not that I am come to abolish the law, or the prophets: I am not come to abolish, but to fulfill. He was about to introduce new laws, yet He did not want them to think that He was opposed to God. Therefore He says, anticipating the suspicion that many would have, "I have not come to abolish the law, but rather to fulfill it. " How did He fulfill it? First, He did everything which the prophets had foretold concerning Him, which is why the evangelist often says, "So that what was spoken by the prophet might be fulfilled." He also fulfilled every commandment of the law. "For He did no sin, neither was any guile found in His mouth." And He fulfilled and completed the law in yet another way: whatever the law had sketched in outline, Christ fully painted in. The law said, "Do not murder," but Christ said, "Neither be angry without a cause." So too the painter does not destroy the sketch, but rather completes it.
18. For amen, I say unto you. The "amen" is an assurance, meaning, "Yes, truly I say unto you." Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be accomplished. He indicates here that the world passes away and undergoes a change in form. He is saying, therefore, that while the universe subsists, not the least letter of the law will pass away. Some say that the "jot" [i.e. the Greek letter iota] and the "tittle" [i.e. accent mark] signify the ten commandments of the law; others say that they indicate the Cross, for the iota is the upright beam of the Cross, and the accent, the transverse beam. Christ is saying, therefore, that everything that was spoken concerning the Cross will be fulfilled.
19. Whosoever therefore shall disregard one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. The "least commandments" are those which He Himself is about to give, not those of the law of Moses. He calls them "least" out of humility, to instruct you, O reader, to have moderate thoughts of yourself as you give your teachings. He who "shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven" means he who will be last in the resurrection and who will be cast into gehenna. For such a one shall not enter the kingdom of heaven, far from it! By "kingdom" understand the resurrection. But whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. First Christ says, "whosoever shall do," and then, "and shall teach," for how can I guide another along a road that I have not myself traveled? By the same token, if I practice the commandments, but do not teach them, my reward is not so great. There can even be condemnation, if I do not teach because of spite or sloth.
20. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. "Righteousness" means all the virtues, as in "Job was a righteous man, holy and blameless." Tremble then, O man, when you have understood how much is required of us. Then He teaches us how we can exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, and He enumerates the virtues.
21. Ye have heard that it was said to men of old, Thou shalt not murder; and whosoever shall murder shall be liable to judgement. Christ does not mention by whom this was said. For if He had said, "My Father said to the men of old, but I say to you," it would have appeared that He was giving laws in opposition to the Father. Again, if He had said, "I said to the men of old," this would have been hard to accept. Therefore He speaks indefinitely, "It was said to the men of old."' He shows that the law has become antiquated by saying, "It was said to the men of old." Therefore, since the law has become old and antiquated and near the point of obliteration, it is necessary to leave it and to run to the new commandments.
22. But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with His brother without good cause shall be liable to judgement. The prophets, about to prophesy, would say, "Thus saith the Lord," but Christ says, "I say," showing the authority of His divinity. For the prophets were servants; but He is the Son and possesses all that the Father has. He who "is angry with his brother without good cause" is condemned; but if anyone should get angry for good reason, either by way of chastisement or out of spiritual zeal, he is not condemned. For even Paul spoke words of anger to Elymas the Magician and to the high priest, not "without good cause," but out of zeal. But when we get angry over money or opinions, then it is "without good cause." And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be liable to the council. "The council" means the court of the Hebrews. "Raca" means something like "Hey, you!" as when we say to someone whom we scorn, "Hey you, get out of here!"
The Lord exhorts us in these matters because He desires to teach us to be strict even in small things and to give honor to one another. Some say that "Raca" is a Syriac word for "despicable" or "scum." Therefore, whoever insults his brother as "despicable" will be liable to the council of the holy apostles when they sit to judge the twelve tribes. But whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be liable to the gehenna of fire. There are many who say and believe that this is too grievous and severe a judgement. But it is not. For is he who would deny the existence of his brother's faculties of reason and thought, those characteristics by which we differ from the beasts, is such a man not deserving of gehenna? For he who reviles and insults, dissolves love; and when love is dissolved, all the virtues are destroyed along with it, just as when love is present it unites to itself all the virtues. Therefore, he who hurls insults, destroys all the virtues by tearing love to shreds, and rightly does he deserve the fire of hell.
23-24. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother have aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. God disregards His own honor solely that we might love one another. He said, "If thy brother have aught against thee," and added nothing more. Whether rightly or wrongly your brother has anything against you, he reconciled. And Jesus did not say, "If thou hast aught against him" but, "If he hath aught against thee" hasten to make him your friend. He commands you to leave the gift so that you will be compelled to he reconciled. For when you intend to make an offering, you must first be reconciled. At the same time the Lord shows that love is the true sacrifice.
25-26. Agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art on the way with him, lest thy adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing. Some believe the "adversary" to mean the devil, and "the way" to mean our life. The Lord is thus exhorting us: while you are still in this life, give back to the devil what belongs to him and be done with him, so that later he will not he able to accuse you of some sin, as if you had something that belonged to him. For then you will be handed over for punishment so that you make an accounting for even the smallest transgressions. For a farthing equals two mites. You, O reader, understand that this passage also refers to human adversaries and that the Lord is exhorting us not to become entangled in lawsuits, lest we be distracted from doing the works of God. Even if you have been wronged, He says, do not enter the court but settle the dispute while still on the way, lest you suffer something worse on account of your adversary's power.
27-28. Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. That is, if one stands gazing and examining, kindling desire by looking, and looking again to desire even more, he has already brought the evil to readiness in his heart. If he did not add to it the deed itself, what of it? He was not able. If he had been able, he would immediately have perpetrated the evil. But nevertheless understand that if we have lusted, and then were prevented from committing the deed, clearly we were protected by grace. And if a woman has adorned herself in order to attract others, yet does not succeed in attracting, she is guilty of having mixed the poison into the cup, though no one drank.
29-30. And if thy right eye causeth thee to sin, pluck it out and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should he cast into gehenna. And if thy right hand causeth thee to sin, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into gehenna. When you hear "eye" and "hand" do not imagine that the Lord is speaking of parts of the body, for He would not in that case have specified "right eye" and "right hand." He is speaking instead of those who appear to be friends, but who are in fact harming us. Take, for example, a young man who has friends living in debauchery, and who is harmed by their bad influence. Cut these off from you, the Lord says, and perhaps you will also save them, when they come to their senses. And if you cannot save them, you will at least save yourself. But if you continue in your affection for them, both you and they will be destroyed.
31. It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement. Moses commanded that if a man hated his wife, he should be separated from her lest anything worse occur." For if he hated her, he might kill her. Moses also commanded that the husband give the divorced woman a writing of divorcement. By this writing she could no longer return to him, thus preventing the confusion that would result if she did so and he was now living with another woman.
32. But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. Christ does not abolish the Mosaic decrees but corrects them by making the husband fearful of hating his wife without cause. If he divorces her with good cause, that is, if she has committed adultery, he is not condemned. But if there has been no fornication, he is condemned, for by divorcing her he compels her to commit adultery. And he that takes her is also an adulterer, for if he had not taken her she would have returned and submitted to her husband. For a Christian must be a peacemaker, both towards others and even more so towards his own wife.
33. Again, ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt not swear falsely, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths. "That is, when you take an oath, speak the truth.
34-35. But I say unto, Swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet; neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king. Since, the Jews had heard God say, "Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool," they would swear by such things. In prohibiting them from swearing by these things, the Lord does not say, "Do not swear by them because heaven is good and great, and earth is useful." Instead He says, "Do not swear by them because the one is the throne of God and the other is His footstool," so that idolatry would not occur. For they might make gods out of those elements by which they swore, which indeed had happened before.
36. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. God alone swears by Himself as He is not subject to anyone or anything. Since we do not have authority over ourselves, how can we swear by our own head? It is the property of another. But if you think your head is your own, then change one hair of it if you can.
37. But let your speech be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay. Lest you ask, "How then will people believe what I say?" He says, "They will believe you if you always tell the truth and never swear at all." For no one is disbelieved more than he who is eager to swear that he speaks the truth. What is more than this, is of the evil one. The Lord says that swearing, which is more than "Yea" and "Nay," is of the devil. But, you will ask, is the law of Moses, which bids us to swear, also, evil? Learn, then, that at that time it was not evil to, swear. But after Christ, it is evil. And so it is with circumcision and, in short, with all the Judaic practices. So also, to nurse at the breast is proper for infants, but shameful for adults.
An Eye for an Eye
38. Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. Condescending to human perversity, the law permitted retaliation so that men would not harm each other, out of fear of suffering the same themselves.
39. But I say unto you, that ye resist not the evil one: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. "The evil one" here means the devil, who works through man. We ought not, then, to resist the devil? Yes, we should, but not by striking back at our neighbor, but through patient endurance. For fire is not extinguished by fire but by water. Do not think that the Lord is speaking only of a blow on the cheek, but of any and every other kind, of affliction.
40. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy tunic, let him have thy cloak also. If he drags you into court and harasses you, give him your cloak as well, and not only what he asks for. The "tunic" is what we would call the, inner garment, and the "cloak" is the outer garment. But the names are sometimes used one for the other.
41. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him two. "Why should I speak of cloaks and tunics?" the Lord is saying. Give even your body to him who wrongfully compels you, and do more than he wants you to do.
42. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away. Give to him whether he be friend, enemy, or infidel, and whether he asks for money or any other kind of help. The loan here means one without interest, the simple giving of the use of the money. For even under the law they would lend without charging interest.
Love for Enemies
43-44. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies. Here the Lord has reached the very pinnacle of the virtues. For what is greater than to love one's enemies? But it is not impossible to accomplish. For Moses and Paul loved the Jews who were raging against them more than they loved themselves, and all the saints have loved their enemies. Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. We bless them because we must consider them our benefactors. For anyone who persecutes us and puts us to the test, lightens the punishment that we will suffer for our own sins. We will also bless them when God gives us the great crown of the contest. For hear what He says:
45. That ye may be the sons of your Father Who is in heaven. For He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the righteous and on the unrighteousness. Do you see how good a gift is given to you by him who hates and abuses you, if only you will endure it with patience? By rain and sun, understand knowledge and teaching, for God enlightens and teaches all.
46. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans do the same? Let us tremble with fear since we are not the equal of the publicans, but hate even those who love us.
47-48. And if ye salute your friends only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father Who is in heaven is perfect. To love some men, that is, one's own friends, and to hate others, is imperfection. Perfection is to love every one.
Matthew, chapter 6
On almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.
On disdaining the things of this world
Giving to the needy
1. Take heed that ye give not your alms before men, to be seen by them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father Who is in heaven. Having led them up to the greatest of the virtues, which is love, now He drives away vainglory, which follows after the achievement of the virtues. See what He says, "Take heed," as if speaking of some terrible wild beast. Take heed that it not tear you limb from limb. If you give alms "before men" but your motive is not "to be seen by them," you are not condemned. But if your motive is vainglory, then even if you give alms from within your inner chamber, you are condemned. For it is the intent that God either punishes or crowns.
2. Therefore when thou givest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. The hypocrites did not actually have trumpets; the Lord is here deriding their thoughts, for they wanted their almsgiving to be trumpeted. "Hypocrites" are those who differ in appearance from what they really are. These men, therefore, appear to be merciful and generous, but are in fact the opposite. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. Having been praised by men, that is the only reward they will receive.
3. But when thou givest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth. Using hyperbole of language, the Lord said, "If it is possible, do not even be aware yourself that you are giving alms." Or, in another sense as well, the left hand represents vainglory and the right hand, almsgiving. Let not your vainglory be aware of your almsgiving.
4. That thine alms may be in secret, and thy Father Who seeth in secret Himself shall reward thee openly. When will He reward you? When all things are revealed clearly and openly, and then you will be not merely rewarded, but glorified.
5. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. He also calls those men hypocrites who pretend they are looking to God when in fact they are looking to men; and from men they have received the only reward they will receive.
6. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father Who is in secret; and thy Father Who seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. Should I not then pray in church? Indeed I should, but with a right mind and not for show. For it is not the place which harms prayer, but the manner and the intent with which we pray. For many who pray, in secret do so to impress men.
7. But when ye pray, do not babble as the Gentiles do. "Babbling" means praying foolishly, as when someone asks for such worldly things as fame, wealth, or victory. "Babbling" is also inarticulate, childish speech. Therefore you, O reader, must not pray foolish1y. For they think that they shall be heard for their many words. It is not necessary to make long prayers, but rather short and frequent prayers, uttering few words, but persevering in prayer.
8. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him. It is not to inform God of anything that we make our petitions, but instead, that we may detach ourselves from the cares of life and receive benefit by conversing with God.
The Lordís Prayer
9. In this manner, therefore, pray ye: Our Father Who art in the heavens. A vow is different from a prayer. A vow is a promise made to God, as, for example, when one vows to abstain from wine, etc. But prayer is a petitioning for good things. By saying "Father," the Lord shows you of what good things you have been deemed worthy, having become a son of God. By saying "in the heavens" He has revealed to you your fatherland and your paternal home. For if you desire to have God as your Father, then look toward heaven and not toward earth. And you must not say, "My Father," but "Our Father," regarding all men as brothers of one and the same Father. Hallowed be Thy Name. This means, Make us holy, so that Thou mightest be glorified through us. For just as God is blasphemed through me, so also is He hallowed through me, that is, He is glorified as the Holy One.
10. Thy kingdom come. This refers to the second coming. He whose clean conscience renders him bold prays that the resurrection and the judgement will come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Just as the angels do Thy will, the Lord says, so also grant us to do the same.
11. Give us this day our dally bread. By the word "daily" He means what is sufficient for our existence, our essence, and our sustenance. Thus He teaches us not to worry about tomorrow. "Bread for our essence" is also the Body of Christ, of Which we pray that we may partake without condemnation.
12. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Because we sin even after our baptism, we beseech Him to forgive us. But forgive us as we forgive others: if we remember wrongs, God will not forgive us. God takes me as the pattern He will follow: what I do to another, He does to me.
13. And lead us not into temptation. We humans are weak and therefore we should not throw ourselves into temptations. But when we have fallen into temptation, we should pray that we not be swallowed up by it. For he who has been led into the very depth of temptation is the one who has been swallowed up and defeated by temptation. But it is different for him who merely fell into temptation, and then conquered it. But deliver us from, the evil one. He did not say, from evil men, for it is not they who do us harm, but the devil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory unto the ages. Amen. Here He emboldens us, for if our Father is King, powerful and glorious, then certainly we too will defeat the evil one and we will then be made glorious.
14. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Again He teaches us not to remember wrongs. He reminds us of the Father so that we might revere Him, since we are the children of such a Father, and not act as fierce beasts, refusing to forgive.
15. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. God, Who is meek, hates nothing more than cruelty.
16. Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. "Disfigurement of the face" is an artificial discoloration of the face, painting it pale, so that one does not appear as he really is, but feigns mournfulness.
17-18. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father Who is in secret: and thy Father Who seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. Men of old would anoint themselves with oil after bathing as a mark of their joy and well-being. So you also, O reader, should appear joyful when you fast. The oil used to anoint we also understand to mean almsgiving. Our Head is Christ, Which we should anoint with deeds of mercy; and our face, that is our senses, we should wash with tears of repentance.
Treasures in Heaven
19-21. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and corruption doth destroy, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor corruption doth destroy, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Having first cast out the sickness of vainglory by what He said before, now He speaks about non-possessiveness. For men possess more than they need because of vainglory. He shows how unprofitable earthly treasure is: moth and corruption consume food and clothing, and thieves steal gold and silver. And then, so that no one should say to Him that not all treasure is stolen, Jesus says, even if nothing is lost in this manner, are you not wretched for being nailed down by your worries over wealth? This is why He says, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
22-23. The eye is the lamp of the body: if therefore thine eye be sound, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy, whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness. This means, if you fill your mind with worries over money, you have extinguished the lamp and darkened your soul. For just as the eye that is "sound" or "healthy" brings light to the body, and the eye that is "evil" or "diseased" brings darkness, so also does the state of the mind affect the soul. If the mind is blinded by these worries, it is cast into darkness; then the soul becomes dark, and how much more so the body as well?
24. No man can serve two lords. What He means is this: no man can serve two lords who command things that are opposed to each other. Such lords are God and mammon. We make the devil our lord when we make the belly our god. But by nature and in truth God is the Lord, and mammon is unrighteousness. For either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Do you see that it is not possible for a rich man and unrighteous man to serve God? His love of money drives him away from God.
Do not Worry
25. For this reason I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. "For this reason"ófor what reason? Because concern over money drives a man away from God. The soul does not eat, for it is bodiless, but Jesus said this according to the common use of the word. For it is obvious that the soul does not consent to remain in a body if the flesh is not fed. Jesus does not forbid us to work, but rather He forbids us to give ourselves over entirely to our cares and to neglect God. Hence we must work for our livelihood while not neglecting the soul. Is not life more than food, and the body more than raiment? This means, will not He Who gave what is greater, life itself, and fashioned the body, will He not also give food and clothing?
26. Behold the birds of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet: your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much more than they? Although He could have given the example of Elijah and John the Baptist, instead He mentions the birds in order to shame us, for we are even more witless than these creatures. God feeds them by having given them the instinctive knowledge for finding food.
27. Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? This means, even if you take the utmost care, you can do nothing if God does not will it. Why then do you drive yourself to exhaustion with futile worries?
28-29. And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. He shames us not only by the birds, which lack reason, but also by the lilies that wither. For if God adorned the lilies in such a manner, without any necessity to do so, how much more will He fulfill our own need for clothing? He shows that though you go to great lengths, you are not able to be adorned as beautifully as the lilies. Even Solomon the most wise and splendid, with all his kingdom at his disposal, could not array himself in such a manner.
30. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe You, O ye of little faith? We learn from this that we ought not to be concerned with beautifying ourselves, for our adornments wither like the fading flowers. Therefore one who beautifies himself is like grass. But you, He says, are creatures endowed with reason, whom God fashioned with both soul and body. Those "of little faith" are all those who concern themselves with such thoughts. For if they had perfect faith in God, they would not give such anxious thoughts to these things.
31-32. Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek. He does not forbid us to eat, but to say, "What shall we eat?" The rich say in the evening, "What shall we eat tomorrow?" See that it is luxury and excess that He forbids.
32-33. For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. The kingdom of God is the enjoyment of all that is good. This comes through righteousness. To him who seeks after spiritual things God in His generosity adds that which is needed for physical life.
34. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. "The evil of the day" means the crushing burden and pressure. It is sufficient for you that you are afflicted by today's burden. If you also take thought for tomorrow, and continually burden yourself for the sake of bodily things, when will you have time for God?
Matthew, chapter 7.
On not judging anyone.
On asking and seeking.
Concerning false prophets
1. Judge not, that ye be not judged. He forbids condemning others, but not reproving others. A reproof is for another's benefit, but condemnation expresses only derision and scorn. You may also understand that the Lord is speaking of one who, despite his own great sins, condemns others who have lesser sins of which God will be the judge.
2-5. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the speck that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the speck out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the speck out of thy brother's eye. He who would rebuke others ought to be blameless himself. If he himself has a plank in his eye, that is, some great sin, and he finds fault with another who has only a speck, he causes that man to be even more shameless in his sin. The Lord shows that he who has sinned greatly is not even able to see clearly the sin of his brother. For how could one who has a plank in his eye even see another man who is only slightly injured.
6. Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. The dogs are the unbelievers and the swine are believers who lead a filthy and shameful way of life. One ought not therefore to speak of the mysteries to the unbelievers, nor speak brilliant and lustrous words of theology to those who are unclean. For the swine trample them underfoot, that is, despise what is said, while the dogs turn on us and tear us limb from limb. This is what those so-called philosophers do; when they hear that God was crucified, they stab us with their syllogisms, reasoning with their sophistry that this is impossible.
Ask, Seek, Knock
7-8. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. In what has preceded the Lord has commanded us to do great and difficult things. Here He shows us how these things can be accomplished: through unceasing prayer. For He said, "Ask," that is, "keep asking," meaning, "ask continuously. For He did not say, "Ask one time." Then He affirms what He has said by an example from everyday life.
9-10. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? Here He teaches us that we must not only ask in a fervent manner, but we must also ask for things that are profitable for us. For, He says, when your children ask for things that are good for them, such as bread and fish, you give them what they are seeking. So too must you seek from God what is profitable for you, that is, spiritual things and not things of the flesh.
11. If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father Who is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him? He calls men evil by comparison with God, for our nature is good, being God's creation. But we become evil by our own choice.
12. Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. In a few words He shows us the way to virtue. We humans know just by common sense what we ought to do. If you wish others to do good to you, do good to them. If you wish to be loved by your enemies, you must love your enemies. For both the law of God and the prophets speak of those things which even natural law bids us to do.
The Narrow and Wide Gates
13. Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in by it. The narrow gate means both trials that are voluntarily undertaken, such as fasting and the like, and trials that are involuntarily experienced, such as imprisonment and persecution. Just as a man who is fat, or who is carrying a great load, cannot go in through a narrow gate, neither can a gourmandize or a rich man. These go in through the wide gate. To show that narrowness is temporary and that width is likewise transitory, He calls them a "gate" and a "way." For the gate is hardship, and he who undergoes hardship passes through his hardship as quickly as he would pass through a gate. And the pleasure of the gourmandizer's feast are as transitory as any moment in a journey along a road. Since both are temporary, we ought to choose the better of the two.
14. How narrow is the gate and how hard the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it! The word "how" expresses the Lord's wonderment, as if He were saying, "Alas, how narrow it is!" But how is it that the Lord says on another occasion, "My yoke is light"? It is light when compared to the burden of passions.
A Tree and Its Fruit
15-16. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. The heretics are cunning and deceitful, which is why He says, "Beware." They produce sweet words and feign a decent life, but within lies the hook. "Sheep's clothing" is meekness, which some pretend to employ, in order to flatter and to deceive. But they are recognized by their "fruit," that is, by their deeds and by their life. For though they can dissemble for a time, they are unmasked by those who are heedful.
16-17. Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. The hypocrites are called thorns and thistles: they are like thorns in that they prick unexpectedly; they are like thistles in their cunning and deviousness. The corrupt tree is anyone who has been corrupted by a pleasure-loving and dissolute life.
18. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit as long as it is diseased. But if it has changed its condition, it can bring forth good fruit. See that He did not say, "it will not be able," but only that as long as it is corrupt it does not bear good fruit.
19-20. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. He addresses the Jews, speaking the same words as did John. Jesus likens man to a tree. For by the introduction of a graft, a fruitless tree can bear fruit; so, too, a sinful and fruitless man when engrafted with Christ can bear fruits of virtue.
21. Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father Who is in heaven. Here Jesus shows that He is Lord by saying, "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord." Jesus in fact is saying that He is God. He teaches us that we derive no benefit from our faith if it is without works. "He that doeth the will of My Father." He did not mean, did the will of My Father on one occasion" but "that doeth the will of My Father continually until his death." And He did not say, "that doeth My will," lest He scandalize His listeners, but instead, "that doeth the will of My Father." For the will of a father and his son are one and the same, unless the son rebels.
22-23. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? And in Thy name cast out devils? And in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity. At the beginning of the preaching many who were unworthy cast out demons that fled at the name of Jesus. For the grace was at work even in the unworthy, just as we may be sanctified by unworthy priests. Judas also worked signs, as did the sons of Sceva. Jesus says, "I never knew you," meaning, "at that time when you were working miracles I did not know you," that is, "I did not love you." Here "know" means "love."
Wise and Foolish Builders
24-25. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the rivers came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. No virtue can be accomplished without God, which is why Jesus said, "I will liken him unto a wise man." The rock is Christ and the house is the soul. Therefore nothing will shake the man who builds his soul upon the doing of Christ's commandments. Neither the rain, which is the devil who fell from heaven, nor the rivers, which are mean and harmful men filled to overflowing by such a rain, nor the winds, which are evil spirits, nor, in short, can any temptations cast down such a man.
26-27. And every one that heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the rivers came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. Speaking of the man who believes but does not act, Jesus did not say, "I will liken him to a foolish man." Instead Jesus says, "He shall he likened" on his own account to a foolish man. Such a man builds the house of his soul upon sand, that is, with no deeds to provide a stable foundation. This is why it collapses under the blows of temptations. For when temptation beats upon it, it falls with a crash. Unbelievers do not fall, for they are always lying on the ground. It is the believer who falls. Therefore "great was the fall," because it was a Christian who fell.
28-29. And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at His teaching: for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. It was not the rulers who were astonished: how could that be when they viewed Him with spite? Rather it was the guileless multitude that was astonished. They did not marvel at His turns of phrase, but at His straightforward speech, and that He showed authority beyond that of the prophets. The prophets said, "Thus saith the Lord," but Christ spoke as God, "I say to you."
Missionary Leaflet # E29b
Copyright © 2001 Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission
466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca 91011
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
Edited by Donald Shufran