Being paid is a good thing, right?
Maybe. Depends what you’re paid with. Being given your just reward is generally not a pleasant thing.
In an American idiom, “getting what you got coming” is not necessarily a good thing, either. Generally, the expression is rather negative and results in discomfort for the one given the…well…the “gift.”
So, what type of reward does one get in Matthew 6:5-6? It turns out to depend on which word is being used.
Refe, on our share page, asks:
I was translating Mathew 6 and came across some interesting terms in vs. 5 and 6.
In v.5 Jesus says this of the hypocrites: ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν.
And in v.6 of his disciples: ὁ πατήρ σου ὁ βλέπων ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ ἀποδώσει σοι.
Both of the verbs used in these verses (apexw – ‘to receive in full’ and apodidwmi – ‘to pay what is due, to render account) seem to connote a sales transaction. Is this a reasonable reading of the text, or is it more appropriate to go with the softer semantic force of simply ‘to receive’ and ‘give’? If so, it seems to suggest that Jesus is presenting prayer as a kind of transactional process which adds an interesting color to the text.
Interesting question: Do ἀπέχω and ἀποδίδωμι frame the teaching in terms of a “business transaction”?
Here’s something more:
ἀπέχω appears to also have the sense of “to hold something/someone at a distance.”
ἀποδίδωμι appears to also have the sense of “return” or “restore” in the sense that when a transaction is complete, the former situation is restored.
So, could there be a bit more going on here than what translation usually convey?
The NIV1984 renders both words with ‘reward‘ which somewhat hides the distinction. I don’t want to distract from Refe’s question, but in this context, might “they have been paid, but kept at a distance” convey the sense well for ἀπέχω. And, “the Father will restore by paying the difference” convey the sense well for ἀποδίδωμι? I haven’t thought through these suggestions much. I’m just throwing them on the table to generate some discussion.
So, another question is: Could the original text be conveying some information about the resulting relationship between the debtor and the one to whom the debt is paid?
Thanks for the question Refe. For others who have asked questions on the share page….give us a little time. You are not missed! 🙂