Matthew 6:5 Meaning of When You Pray, Do Not Be like the Hypocrites

Matthew 6:5
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

Explanation and Commentary of Matthew 6:5

A major theme of Jesus’ ministry is the tendency for men and women to live their lives to be seen and praised by others. Having this as motivation means that when they are seen by others, and especially if they are praised, they are receiving the reward that they are actually seeking. That this is so satisfying proves that God is not the object of their faith, but their own status in the eyes of man is their main object of faith.

Jesus teaches that this is a faithless trap that does not even deliver. You may put yourself at the head of the table in comparison to others, only to be asked to move down for a guest of higher status (Lk 14:8). But God does not see men and women that way, and neither did Christ. Jesus taught that true faith is in God alone, and the only person whose opinion of your religion and devotion matters is God. The only reward worth attaining is the one from God who would say to the faithful, “Well done, good and faithful servant…Come share in hour master’s happiness” (Mt 25:23).

The right word for those who would settle for less is “hypocrite.” It is a falsehood to think that Jesus was just nice to everyone all the time. He was not nice at all to those who led people astray with false teaching about his Father in heaven, especially if their aim was personal gain. Jesus held back no just criticism. If you have practiced your religion to be seen, you need only to repent and trust Jesus. He will forgive you and teach you to live for God alone.

Explanation and Commentary of Matthew 6:5

#1 “And…”
Jesus is adding this to a list of examples and illustrations of what it means to truly love God, seek righteousness, and be blessed.

#2 “…when you pray,”
Prayer is a given for the Son of God who spent an enormous amount of time engaging in the activity.

#3 “do not be like the hypocrites,”
In another place, Jesus says to listen to their words, but do not follow their examples (Mt 23:3).

#4 “for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.”
For the religious elites of Jesus’ day, there was a powerful motivation for status in becoming a teacher of the law. They were highly respected, they attracted sycophants, and enjoyed financial prosperity from their ministry.

#5 “Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”
Not only have these hypocrites received the reward they were seeking, but they have received it in full. We should be careful about allowing ourselves mixed motives for ministry. It does not seem from this statement that there is much room for receiving a little reward on earth from man and a little from God. It is either for God’s sake or for man’s sake.

Expert Overview of Matthew Ch. 1-13

Biblical Translations of Matthew 6:5

NIV
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

NLT
“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.”

ESV
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

KJV
“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 their reward.”

NKJV
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”

Matthew 6:5 Meaning and Commentary

Author Bio
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Masters Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.