3. Law and Grace, 5:1-7:29
v] Social righteousness, 6:19-34
b) Worry and God's fatherly careSynopsis
In this passage from the Sermon on the Mount Jesus Jesus calls on his disciples to rest on God's mercy.
When it comes to living as a child of God in this world, a disciple needs absolute reliance / faith in God, a reliance that is full confidence rather than cowardly anxiety.
i] Context: See 6:19-24.
ii] Structure: The heavenly Father's care:
Discipleship in a secular world:
Laying up treasure in heaven, v19-24:
Dependence on God's providential care / faith, v25-34.
Proposition / exhortation, v25:
life is more than food.
Explanation / argument #1, v26-27:
consider the birds, v26;
people cannot change the measure God has set.
Explanation / argument #2, v28-34:
if God cares for the environment will he not care for you?
seek first the kingdom of God.
Concluding saying, v34
a day at a time.
When it come to structure, redaction criticism gives little away, in fact, any deconstructing does violence to the text, although v34 may be redactional, but better viewed as an independent saying of Jesus derived from the oral sources available to Matthew. The rest of the independent sayings of Jesus found in this passage are common to Luke, although arranged differently. It is generally felt that both Luke and Matthew independently draw on a common source, usually identified as the extant document Q, although a common oral source cannot be discounted. It is obvious that both Matthew and Luke arrange the source material to suit their didactic purpose. See "Synoptics" below.
The issue of a total allegiance to God is emphasized by the commentators: "This section carries forward the main theme of the preceding paragraphs, viz. the necessity for exclusive engagement to the service of God", Hill; "serve God rather than possessions", Filson; "the disciple is to have a single-minded devotion to God. Double-mindedness is impossible in practice", Fenton. "Jesus is calling for absolute faith and trust in the providence of God's love and the putting of his will and purpose before all else", Argyle. "The disciple must be the slave of God alone and have no care for anything except his will", Fenton. It serves as a call "to commit all of one's strengths and abilities to the Reign of God, without cowardly anxieties, but rather with full confidence in God the Father", Schnackenburg. "Anxiety about the concrete necessities of life is incompatible with the all-encompassing nature of the claims of the kingdom of God", Nolland.
It is unlikely that total allegiance in these terms is the intention of the passage. As noted in the previous studies on this chapter, it does seem likely that Matthew's arrangement of Jesus' teachings in chapter 6 answers the problem posed in chapter 5, namely, the problem of God's impossible law. Here we have the fundamental answer to how a person may stand right / approved / covenant compliant in the sight of God - the answer is, not by works, but by faith. A person's eternal standing in the sight of God is dependent on God's mercy / grace appropriated through faith and not by works of the law. Jesus' idealistic ethic drives us to the foot of the cross for mercy. Having heard the words of Jesus and not acted on them, we are like the person who has built their house on sand, and great will be the fall. With our own righteousness in tatters we are left with but one avenue of escape and that rests on the covenant faithfulness of God revealed in his saving activity in Christ. So, with total allegiance / faith in Christ, we head for his house, knock on his door and ask to come in. In the day of the great flood, his house will stand, and in it we will stand.
What, if any, is the ethical value of these sayings on total allegiance? Jesus' words do give direction to the Christian life, but in respect to this passage, how? Do we attempt the monastic / Francis approach? Do we literally abandon mammon for God, and this on the basis that a person cannot serve two masters - "strive first for the kingdom"? To literally apply the "all for Jesus" type of demand only ever sets the believer up for failure, guilt, guilt dissipation and reductionism (the inevitable de-powering of the law so that it can be done, eg., applying a passage like this in the terms of a call to tithing. "Serving God rules out serving money, the logical conclusion is that followers of Christ should not be anxiously concerned about food and clothing", Mounce, ie., we can be concerned about "mammon", but not "anxiously" so!!!!.
Do we apply an open ended "put trust in God first and God will take care of the rest of life", Blomberg? The trouble is, sparrows do starve! The seeming naivety of Jesus' words (often presented as a renunciation of possessions and work) has prompted many a defense for the value of work and for the planned provision of a family's welfare. So, how do we approach Jesus' words?
A literal approach, the Francis model, is fraught, to say the least. It has been suggested that the church in Jerusalem did actually attempt a literal application of Jesus' words and this is why it was necessary to take up collections for them, but this view is rather speculative. We could spiritualize the passage, but as a method of interpretation, it is superficial, to say the least, eg., Jesus' words serve as a call to renounce greed and covetousness ....... blah, blah!
In the end it seems more likely that the language being used is figurative, ie., the language employed for a moral tale where there are levels of reality. Food and clothing are the essential elements for the preservation of life, but the "life" that Jesus is really concerned with is not mere existence, but "eschatological existence", Bultman. Reaping, gathering and spinning for "food" and "clothing" well images our striving for eschatological existence. In chapter 5 we learn that law-obedience cannot serve this end because the righteousness that exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees is beyond any of us. Thus we must rely on / trust in God's providential grace. It works for the birds and the weeds of the field, so it can work for us - "Shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith!"
Is the passage shaped by Biblical theology? Jesus may be teaching that like the children of Israel in the wilderness, the disciple can "go for broke / give up all", because God will provide for the journey to the promised land. So, given that God has promised his provision for the "way" (manna from heaven), the disciple can set aside "anxiety" (= doubt/fear) and rest in "faith" on God's promises. The line in the Lord's Prayer, "give us today our daily bread" (give us the manna we need for our journey today), is probably in the same vein - "Lord! give us the resources we need for our service to your will." This the Lord will indeed do, although not always (often never!) in the way we might imagine, since, as Jesus puts it, "my kingdom is not of this world." The now/not yet reality of the kingdom, imaged in the Old Testament institutions of the Sabbath day, the Jubilee (the Sabbath year) and the sabbatical (the seventh fallow year), all reveal a God whose provision for his people may be trusted. In Christ, the one who miraculously feeds a crowd from some bread rolls and pickled fish, the Sabbath rest of God's people is realized (inaugurated!!). So, "stop worrying about what you are going to eat and drink to keep you alive", Barclay. Such a perspective will inevitably produce a "carefree vitality" and "free spontaneity" that transcends our contemporary lives, lives that are "overly planned" and "institutionally cared for", cf. Luz, 348.
This passage is paralleled in Luke 12:22-31, except for a word here and there, and Matthew's all important "and his righteousness", v33, along with the summary in v34. Although Matthew and Luke place Jesus' teaching in different contexts, both tie the passage to the demand for a total dedication to God. This link is established by Luke in the following passage, 12:32ff, rather than the proceeding passage, as in Matthew.
The passage evidences the melding of a number of sayings from Jesus, but Luz and others take the view that Matthew's redaction of the tradition (usually regarded as the source Q) has been conservative, less so Luke. The point is that Matthew has generally recorded the tradition as received, but has arranged it to serve his own ends. The pericope before us is particularly useful in the present context due to the keyword oligopistoi, "of little faith." Verses 27 and 34 are both independent sayings of Jesus (some argue a common proverb of the time) which probably found their way into the Aramaic oral tradition of the gospel prior to its reception and formatting by Matthew. The sayings link to the subject matter, but are somewhat disruptive.
v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 6:25
Faith, v25-34: i] Faith applied: Life is more than food, so do not doubt God's ultimate care / grace, v25. Having exposed what "slave service to mammon" is all about, 6:19-24, we are now provided with a theological basis for a life dedicated to God rather than the things of this world. By means of a series of rhetorical questions Jesus develops this theology. The first rhetorical question draws out the truth that life is more important than things, or more particularly, a life lived to God is of more value than a life lived for things.
dia touto + acc. "therefore" - because of this. The preposition dia with the accusative touto is more inferential than causal, as NIV; "this is why", TEV.
uJmin "you" - [i say] to you. Dative of indirect object. The phrase "I say to you" often indicates the importance of what follows. There is some debate as to whom Jesus is addressing. Although there is a case for all humanity, it is far more likely that these words are for his disciples.
mh merimate (merimnaw) pres. imp. "do not worry" - do not worry, be anxious. It was long argued that this construction produces a command to cease an ongoing action, although this view is not as widely accepted today. The sense of the word in not clear. "Anxiety" is widely accepted, but it may well lean toward "doubt / fear", as opposed to "faith".
th/ yuch/ dat. "about [your] life" - about the soul, inner life, being. As with tw/ somati, "body", Dative of reference / respect, as NIV. Here "bodily existence", Jeremias, ..., or probably better, "eschatological existence", Bultman. If "existence", the word can cover the whole self from "earthly life" to "the inner person / the self", Nolland. Is the "worry/anxiety" a being concerned for the provision of our basic needs, or a being distracted by worldly cares (mammon)? Given that personal effort is implied, is this "anxiety / worry / fear / doubt" passive, or active (busyness)? "About your living", Berkeley.
ti + subj. "what [you will eat]" - what [you may eat or what you may drink, nor for the body of you] what [you may put on]. The question is formed by the interrogative pro. ti + a deliberative subjunctive.
ouci "[is] not [life]" - The negation here produces a question expecting a positive answer. Whether merimnaw means doubt, fear or anxiety, the point of this statement / proverb is that the life / being of a person is more substantial than the environment which nurtures it - a person's life is more important than food and clothing. To focus on the ephemeral is to "narrow life intolerably", Nolland; "there is much more to life than just food", TH.
thV trofhV (h) gen. "[more than] food" - [more than] food [and the body and more than clothing]. The genitive, as with tou endumatoV, "clothes", is ablative, of comparison. The sense of "food" and "clothing" has long been debated. If "life" is "eschatological existence" then "food" and "clothing" are the fundamental elements which secure that existence, namely, the Law. Chapter 5 ends that possibility and so we are introduced to grace.
ii] Explanation / argument #1, v26-27. a) God's providential grace illustrated - consider the birds of the air, v26. The question, as to whether the "anxiety / doubt" is active or passive, is answered in this verse. Jeremias and others have argued that "human effort", busyness, is the issue here, an interpretation with a long history. Yet, wild birds are very busy creatures, daily into hunting and gathering. So, the comparison is not between busy believers and non-busy birds, but rather believers covered by God's providential care / grace and birds covered by God's providential care / grace. What is true for one is true for the other, and given that we are more valuable than the birds, we can expect an overflowing of God's grace.
emblyate (emblepw) aor. imp. "look at" - "Observe", but possibly "consider"; "look at the birds flying around", TEV.
eiV + acc. "[the birds]" - into, to [the birds]. The preposition serves to introduce a prepositional phrase which serves as the accusative object of the verb "to look at."
tou ouranou (oV) "of the air" - of heaven. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / local; "the birds located in / flying in the sky." "Heaven" here is just "sky"; "Look at the birds in the sky", CEV.
oti "-" - for [they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns]. Probably epexegetic, specifying "the birds" in mind, "that ........", NASB. Note the negated correlative construction, ou ... oude ... oude; "they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns", ESV.
kai "and yet" - and. Here adversative / contrastive; "nevertheless, and yet, in spite of this." A particular usage for this conjunction, serving to introduce an unexpected or noteworthy fact, BAGD.
trefei (trefw) pres. "feeds" - [the heavenly father] of you [feeds them]. "Used of food for people, animals or even plants", Morris.
ouc "[are you] not" - [are you] not [yourselves worth more than they]? Used of a question expecting a positive answer.
umeiV pro. "you" - Emphatic by position, underling the fact that God's care for those in his service exceeds that of the animal kingdom.
autwn gen. pro. "[much more valuable] than they" - than they. The genitive is ablative, of comparison.
b) Independent saying - "People cannot change the measure God has set for them", Luz, v27. When it comes to the big picture, our security lies in God's hands, although at the micro level, private health insurance, nourishment, shelter and the like, do indeed extend a person's life.
ex (ek) + gen. "[who] of [you] / [any one] of [you]" - [but who] from [you]. The preposition serves as a partitive genitive.
merimnwn (merimnaw) pres. part. "by worrying" - being anxious. The Participle is adverbial, instrumental, expressing means, "by means of"; "Can worry make you live longer?" CEV.
prosqeinai (prostiqhmi) aor. inf. "[can] add" - [is able] to add. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "is able."
thn hJlikian (a) "[his] life" - [to] the life span / height [of him]. The word properly refers to size, so height of stature is most likely intended, but length of life is more widely accepted today. It should be noted that height of stature has been the traditional interpretation. Although strange to our ears, the point being made is that such matters (eg., our height) are in the hands of God.
phcun (uV ewV) "a [single] hour" - [one] cubit. Accusative direct object of the verb "to add." Half a meter / 18 inches, the height a person may wish to reach if they were short (height challenged!). The word is not normally used of the length of a person's life.
iii] Explanation / argument #2, v38-34. a) God's providential grace illustrated - if God cloths the weeds of the field in glorious wonder, will he not so clothe you, of ye of little faith, v28-30. As with the illustration on food, this illustration does not compare busy believers toiling over apparel with non-busy weeds in the field bursting effortlessly into flower, but rather believers covered by God's providential care / grace with weeds covered by God's providential care / grace. What is true for one is true for the other. A believer need not doubt God's grace, given the evidence of his gracious kindness toward a mere weed, which grace toward the believer of "little faith" is pollw/ mallon, "much more."
peri + gen. "[worry] about [clothes]" - [and] about, concerning [clothing, why be anxious / doubtful]? Expressing reference / respect; "about, concerning";
katamaqete (katamanqanw) aor. imp. "See" - observe, think about (with the purpose of ultimate understanding*) [the lilies of the field]. A hapax legomenon, once only use in the NT. "Understand / take in this fact about", MHT 1.
pwV adv. "how" - how [they grow]. This adverb expresses manner, "how, in what way", although in this context, it serves to introduce a dependent statement of perception expressing what should be observed, namely, how the widlflowers grow.
tou agrou "[lilies / flowers] of the field" - The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / local, giving the likely sense "lilies which are located / grow in the field." "Lilies" is best taken as "weeds" = "wild flowers", NAB. "All the wonderful flowers that adorn the fields of Galilee", BAGD.
ou kopiwsin (kopiaw) pres. "they do not labor [or spin]" - The word "work" refers to hard labor, the frantic struggle to get a crop in. "They don't work hard (frantically) to make their clothes", CEV. Note the negated correlative construction ou ... oude, "neither ... nor ..."
de "yet" - but. Adversative, as NIV.
uJmin dat. pro. "[I tell] you" - [i say] to you. Dative of indirect object. Note again that this phrase is often used to introduce an important statement.
oJti "that" - Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Jesus says about the wildflower illustration.
en + dat. "in [all]" - [not even solomon] in. Local, expressing the context within which Solomon exists, "his state or condition", BDAG, 327.2. Possibly "with all his wealth", CEV, but better as NIV, referring to Solomon's kingly glory.
autou gen. pro. "his [splendor]" - [all the glory] of him. The genitive may be classified as adjectival, possessive, or verbal, subjective, "the glory that he displayed", Olmstead.
wJV "like" - [was clothed] as. Comparative.
toutwn gen. pro. "[one] of these" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive.
ei + ind. "if" - [and] if [god thus clothes]. Introducing a 1st. class conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true; "if, as is the case, .... then ...." Probably best expressed as if inferential, "since therefore ..."
ton corton (oV) "the grass" - Accusative direct object of the verb "to clothe." Presumably referring to the "wild flowers", which in the end, serve but a practical end - feed, fuel, mulch, ...
tou agrou (oV) gen. "of the field" - A local genitive, as above; "which grows in the field ..."
onta (eimi) pres. part. "which is here [today]" - being [today]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "grass". "Which have one brief day", Barclay.
ballomenon (ballw) pres. pas. part. "is thrown" - [and tomorrow] being thrown. The participle is again adjectival, attributive, limiting "grass", "and which is thrown ..."
klibanon (oV) "fire" - [into] an oven. "Furnace", AV, but better, "oven", a wood-fired clay oven similar to a pizza oven.
pollw/ dat. adj. "[will he not] much [more clothe you]" - [not] much [more you]. Dative of measure / degree of difference; "to a greater degree", BAGD. Note that the negation ou expects a positive answer.
oJligopistoi adj. "of little faith" - ones of little faith. A particular NT word always applied to disciples. Matthew uses the word four times, and Luke once, Lk.12:28. For Matthew it is an important word and probably serves as the key to the meaning of this passage; faith is the issue.
b) Faith rewarded - The kingdom of God and his righteousness belongs to those who do not doubt his ultimate care / grace, v31-33. Having established that God's providential grace toward the lower orders of creation assures his providential grace to the higher, especially his children, disciples are now told to put aside all their doubts and fears and replace them with trust in a loving Father - his eternal rule and covenant faithfulness ("his kingdom and his righteousness"). Note how v31 restates v25 forming an inclusio. Luz suggests that v31-33 links with Jesus' teaching on prayer, especially the introduction to the Lord's Prayer, 6:7-8 - disciples need not follow "the pagans" in their feverish prayer life, constantly agitating for health, wealth and happiness, rather, we need only ask in faith, "give us this day our daily bread", and rest on the truth that "our heavenly Father knows his children and cares for them", Luz.
oun "So" - therefore. Inferential; establishing a logical connection to the teaching so far; drawing out the "implications of v25-30", Davies & Allison.
mh merimnhshte (merimhew) aor. subj. "do not worry" - do not be anxious. A subjunctive of prohibition, forbidding the intention of an action. "Make up your mind to stop worrying", Barclay, is probably the intention, but possibly "do not start worrying", TEV, ie., inceptive, to not begin the action. As already noted, "worry" is probably not what is intended, but "doubt", doubt in God's providential care, particularly in eschatological terms = salvation.
legonteV (legw) pres. part. "saying" - Attendant circumstance participle identifying action accompanying the main verb "to worry", "do not worry and say", or possibly modal, "do not worry saying. "Do not ask anxiously", REB.
fagwmen (esqiw) aor. subj. "[what] shall we eat?" - [what] might we ear [of what might we drink, or what might we clothe ourselves with]. Deliberative subjunctive introducing an interrogative sentence expressing what is desirable; so also "drink" and "wear".
gar "for" - for, because, since. Introducing a causal clause explaining why we should not doubt. "Be rid of doubt / anxiety ..... because such is the behavior of those without faith and because (gar) your heavenly Father knows what you need."
ta eqnh (h) "the pagans" - [all these things] the nations, gentiles.... Nominative subject of the verb "to seek." Referring to those who do not know God and either ignore, or oppose him. The "misguided", Davies & Allison; "those outside the family of faith", Hagner. "The unbelievers", NAB.
epizhtousin (epizhtew) pres. "run after" - seek. The prefix epi serves to give direction to the verb such that a particular object is expected, here daily needs. The durative sense of the present tense probably gives the sense "always worrying about", CEV, "preoccupied with", TH, "keep thinking about", Barclay.
oJti "that [you need them]" - [for the heavenly father of you has known] that [you need all these things]. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what the Father knows.
de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument / narrative and so left untranslated.
zhteite (zhtew) pres. "seek" - Present tense is durative expressing an ongoing seeking. The object being the kingdom [of God], the now/not yet reign of God over his gathered people, "God's people living under God's rule", France. As above, the seeking is expressing "a preoccupation with"; "Make the kingdom [of God] ..... the object of all your endeavor", Barclay.
prwton adv. "first" - Here in the sense of "first priority / importance", Morris, although Gundry suggests the adverb is more emphatic than permissive.
tou qeou (oV) gen. "-" [the kingdom] of god. If "kingdom" is taken to mean sovereign rule then the genitive is verbal, subjective. "Instead first seek the kingdom and his righteousness", Nolland. Variant "of God" = "kingdom of God", is probably an addition seeking to correct the awkward placement of "his" in "his righteousness." Nolland suggests the "and the righteousness" is from Matthew's hand and was inserted between "the kingdom" and "his" = orig. (ex. Q) "seek his kingdom", cf. Lk.12:31. See "kingdom of heaven", 3:2.
thn dikaiosunhn (h) "righteousness" - [and] the righteousness, justice [of him]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to seek." It is interesting how the commentators seem undisturbed by what is, in Pauline studies, a highly disputed term. What is meant by "the righteousness of God", or as here, "his righteousness"? It is most often understood in terms of the right conduct of the disciples: "the concrete practice of righteousness", Luz; "to live in God's way"; France, "to do the things that God wills", Morris; "the righteousness that God requires", Davies & Allison, so also Nolland; "righteousness of the kingdom" = "obedience to all of Jesus' commands", Blomberg; "that righteousness of life that demonstrates obedience to the divine will", Mounce; "what is demanded of the disciples, the performance of good works", Schnackenburg; "that which is truly the will of God", Hagner; obeying God's commands, Keener; ....... Yet, it seems more likely that the reference is to God's "goodness", Robertson; "the right conduct of the Father", his "covenant fidelity", Dumbrell, leading to "the vindication of Jesus' disciples", Gundry; to God's covenant fidelity expressed in his saving activity. Hill rejects this on the assumption that God's saving activity is eschatological and this would imply that the reference to the "kingdom" is eschatological, but both are now/not yet realities, see also Davies & Allison. The "righteousness" here is "the vindicating salvation by which God saves those who seek him", Filson (Filson doesn't quite stick his neck out on this "second Isaiah" approach and so poses it as a question). Surely 3:15 and 5:6 take a similar sense. So, Matthew is identifying the product of faith, namely kingdom membership realized in the saving righteousness of God. "Seek the divine kingdom and the vindication which it will bring", M'Neile.
posteqhsetai (prostiqhmi) fut. pas. "will be given" - [all these things] will be added to the account of. A clear restatement of the promise that God will care for his children.
uJmin dat. pro. "to you" as well" - to you. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage.
c) A concluding independent saying - A day at a time, v34. This concluding verse, which is particular to Matthew, has all the hallmarks of a proverb and is often treated that way. The message is usually understood as "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" = "one day's worth is enough to manage at any one time", Nolland. So, we should focus on the cares of today and leave tomorrow's cares for tomorrow. Of course, this is good advice. How often do we arrange our lives on the basis of a future assumption only to discover that the future is not quite what we had conceived? Yet, this proverb is not without a context. The passage concerns God's providential care / grace. We need only concern ourselves with the troubles of today, for the future, our future in God's eternal kingdom, is secure in his hands.
oun "therefore" - Inferential.
mh merimhnshte (merimnaw) aor. subj. "do not worry" - do not be anxious / doubt. Subjunctive of prohibition. As noted above, this particular negated construction possibly expresses a command not to begin an action, although better "never be anxious", Turner.
eiV thn aurion "about tomorrow" - toward the morrow. Adverbial use of the preposition, possibly temporal expressing a general, rather than a specific, time frame, so "for the future", Davies & Allison, but also reference / respect, "with respect to tomorrow", Olmstead.
gar "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why we need not worry / doubt about tomorrow "because tomorrow will take care of itself."
eJauthV gen. pro. "[will worry about] itself" - [tomorrow will be anxious] of itself. Genitive of direct object after a verb of emotion; "to care for itself."
th/ hJmera/ (a) dat. "day" - [sufficient] the day [is the evil of it]. Dative of reference, or interest, advantage; "sufficient for the day", ESV.
hJ kakia (a) "trouble" - the wickedness, evil, badness. Nominative subject of an assumed verb to-be. Also in a more general sense, as here, "trouble / difficulty". "One day's trouble is enough for one day", Phillips.
authV gen. pro. "of its own" - of it. The genitive is possessive.