The first part of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7) focuses on Jesus’ relationship to the scriptures of Israel. While affirming the eternal value of the law (Mt 5.17-20) Jesus sets his teaching as the standard of living for those in God’s kingdom and intensifies OT teachings that were particularly debated among the Pharisees. There is a transition in Mt 6.1 where the focus shifts to the three actions that were particularly emphasized in first century Judaism – almsgiving, prayer and fasting. Jesus has turned from how to interpret the law (5.21-48) to how it ought to be practiced (6.1-18).
Jesus emphasizes righteous actions are not for publicity (Mt 6.1, 2, 5, 16), but done secretly for the father in heaven (Mt 6.4, 6, 17-18). The reason for secrecy is explicitly connected to reward for righteous actions. Public actions merit the “reward [μισθός]” of public attention. This Greek word μισθός is an economic term referring to the wages earned by a laborer (Mt 20.8; Lk 10.7; 1 Cor 3.8, 14; 1 Tim 5.18; James 5.4). Thus, Jesus says that those who perform righteous action for recognition receive the praise of men as their “pay.” However, Jesus uses another economic term to refer to God who will “repay [ἀποδίδωμι]” those righteous actions done secretly (Mt 6.4, 6, 18). This economic term refers to the act of repayment (cf. Mt 5.26; 18.25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 34). These two words can even appear in the same context. For example, in a later parable in Matthew a work manager is commanded, “Call the workers and pay [ἀποδίδωμι] them the wage [μισθός]” (Mt 20.8). Jesus says that the present payment of righteous action is public acclaim, but the “payment” deferred until future judgment will be given by God in eternal reward (cf. Mt 16.27).
There are numerous minor textual variants to the end of the “Lord’s Prayer” (Mt 6.9-13). The shortest reading ends the prayer, “but deliver us from the evil one [ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ]” (6.13). Various other endings include:
- “Amen [αμην]”
- “Because yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory for the ages, amen [ὁτι σου ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία καὶ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοῦς αἰῶνας αμην]”
- “Because yours is the kingdom of the Father and the son and the Holy Spirit for the ages, amen [ὁτι σου ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος εἰς τοῦς αἰῶνας αμην]”
These differences are easily explained by the fact that this prayer was widely used in the early church. Thus, scribes probably spent little time “copying” and tended to simply write the text as they remembered it.