on Matthew 6 :2
Therefore when thou doest thine alms - In the first verse the exhortation is general: Take Ye heed. In this verse the address is pointed - and Thou - man - woman - who readest - hearest.
Do not sound a trumpet - It is very likely that this was literally practised among the Pharisees, who seemed to live on the public esteem, and were excessively self-righteous and vain. Having something to distribute by way of alms, it is very probable they caused this to be published by blowing a trumpet or horn, under pretense of collecting the poor; though with no other design than to gratify their own ambition. There is a custom in the east not much unlike this. "The derveeshes carry horns with them, which they frequently blow, when any thing is given to them, in honor of the donor. It is not impossible that some of the poor Jews who begged alms might be furnished like the Persian derveeshes, who are a sort of religious beggars, and that these hypocrites might be disposed to confine their alms-giving to those that they knew would pay them this honor." Harmer's Observat. vol. i. p. 474.
It must be granted, that in the Jewish writings there is no such practice referred to as that which I have supposed above, viz. blowing a trumpet to gather the poor, or the poor blowing a horn when relieved. Hence some learned men have thought that the word שופר shopher, a trumpet, refers to the hole in the public alms chest, into which the money was dropped which was allotted for the service of the poor. Such holes, because they were wide at one end and grew gradually narrow towards the other, were actually termed שופרות shopheroth, trumpets, by the rabbins; of this Schoettgen furnishes several examples. An ostentatious man, who wished to attract the notice of those around him, would throw in his money with some force into these trumpet-resembling holes, and thus he might be said שופר σαλπιζειν, to sound the trumpet. The Jerusalem Gemara, tract Shekalim, describes these שופרות shopheroth thus - These trumpet holes were crooked, narrow above and wide below, in order to prevent fraud. As our Lord only uses the words, μη σαλπισης, it may be tantamount to our term jingle. Do not make a public ostentatious jingle of that money which you give to public charities. Pride and hypocrisy are the things here reprehended. The Pharisees, no doubt, felt the weight of the reproof. Still the words may be taken in their literal meaning, as we know that the Moslimans, who nearly resemble the ancient Pharisees in the ostentation, bigotry, and cruelty of their character, are accustomed, in their festival of Muhurram, to erect stages in the public streets, and, by the sound of a trumpet, call the poor together to receive alms of rice, and other kinds of food. See Ward.
Works of charity and mercy should be done as much in private as is consistent with the advancement of the glory of God, and the effectual relief of the poor.
In the synagogues and in the streets - That such chests or boxes, for receiving the alms of well-disposed people, were placed in the synagogues, we may readily believe; but what were the streets? Schoettgen supposes that courts or avenues in the temple and in the synagogues may be intended - places where the people were accustomed to walk, for air, amusement, etc., for it is not to be supposed that such chests were fixed in the public streets.
They have their reward - That is, the honor and esteem of men which they sought. God is under no obligation to them - they did nothing with an eye to his glory, and from Him they can expect no recompense. They had their recompense in this life; and could expect none in the world to come.
on Matthew 6 :2
Do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do - The word "hypocrite" is taken from "stage-players," who act the part of others, or speak not their own sentiments, but the sentiments of others. It means here, and in the New Testament generally, those who "dissemble" or hide their real sentiments, and assume or express other feelings than their own - those who, for purposes of ostentation, gain, or applause, put on the appearance of religion. It is probable that such persons, when they were about to bestow alms, caused a trumpet to be sounded, professedly to call the poor together to receive it, but really to call the people to see the proofs of their liberality and piety; or perhaps it may mean that they should not make a great noise about it, like sounding a trumpet.
In the synagogues - The word "synagogue" commonly means the place of assembling for religious worship known by that name. See the notes at Matthew 4:23. It might mean, however, any "collection of people" assembled for any purpose, and it is not improbable that it has that meaning here. It does not appear that they made a noise in bestowing charity in the synagogues, or that charity was commonly bestowed there; but it was probably done on occasion of any great assemblage, in any place of concourse, and at the corners of the streets, where it could be seen by many.
They have their reward - That is, they obtain the applause they seek the reputation of being charitable; and as this applause was all they wished, there is, of course, no further reward to be looked for or obtained.
on Matthew 6 :2
6:2 As the hypocrites do - Many of the scribes and Pharisees did this, under a pretence of calling the poor together. They have their reward - All they will have; for they shall have none from God.