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Don‘t lay up treasures for yourself on earth (2)


By Prof. A. P. Lopukhin

Matthew 6:24. No one can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other; or he will be zealous for one, and neglect the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

Instead of “to be zealous for one”, it is better to “prefer one and neglect the other” (in the Slavic translation: “either it holds on to one, but it will start negligence about a friend”). First of all, the real meaning of the expression draws upon itself: does it really happen that a person cannot serve two masters? It can be said that there is no rule without exceptions. But it usually happens that when there are “many masters,” slave service is not only difficult, but also impossible. Even for practical purposes, therefore, the concentration of one power in one hand is carried out. Then pay attention to the construction of speech. It is not said: “he will hate one (τὸν ἕνα) and despise one”, because in this case an unnecessary tautology would result. But one will be hated, one will be preferred, another will be loved, another will be hated. Two masters are indicated, sharply different in character, which, apparently, is expressed by the word ἕτερος, which (unlike ἄλλος) in general means a generic difference. They are completely heterogeneous and diverse. Therefore, “or” “or” are not repetitions, but sentences inverse to one another. Meyer puts it this way: “He will hate A and love B, or he will prefer A and despise B.” Different attitudes of people towards two masters are pointed out, starting with complete devotion and love on the one hand and hatred on the other, and ending with simple, even hypocritical, preference or contempt. In the interval between these extreme states, various relations of greater or lesser strength and tension can be implied. Again, an extremely subtle and psychological depiction of human relations. From this, a conclusion is drawn, justified by the images taken, although without οὖν: “you cannot serve God and mammon,” not just “serve” (διακονεῖν), but be slaves (δουλεύειν), be in full power. Jerome explains this place very well: “For he who is a slave of wealth guards wealth like a slave; and whoever has thrown off the slave yoke, he disposes of them (wealth) as a master. The word mammon (not mammon and not mammonas – doubling the “m” in this word is proved very weakly, Blass) means all kinds of possessions, inheritances and acquisitions, in general, any property and money. Whether this late-formed word was found in Hebrew, or whether it can be reduced to an Arabic word, is doubtful, although Augustine states that mammona is the Hebrew name for wealth, and that the Punic name is consistent with this, because lucrum in the Punic language is expressed by the word mammon. The Syrians in Antioch used to have the word, so that Chrysostom did not consider it necessary to explain it, substituting χρυσός (gold coin – Tsan) instead. Tertullian translates mammon as nummus. That mammon is the name of a pagan god is a medieval fable. But the Marcionites explained it mainly about the Jewish god, and St. Gregory of Nyssa considered it to be the name of the devil Beelzebub.

Matthew 6:25. Therefore I say to you: do not worry about your soul what you will eat and what you will drink, nor about your body what you will wear. Is not the soul more than food, and the body more than clothes?

The connection with the previous verse is expressed through διὰ τοῦτο – therefore, “therefore”, for this reason. The Savior here says something like this: “Since you cannot collect treasures both on earth and in heaven at the same time, because this would mean serving two masters, therefore, leave thoughts about earthly treasures, and even about the most necessary things for your life.” According to Theophylact, the Savior “does not prevent here, but prevents us from saying: what shall we eat? So say the rich in the evening: what shall we eat tomorrow? You see that the Savior here forbids effeminacy and luxury. Jerome notes that the word “drink” is added only in some codices. The words “and what to drink” are omitted from Tischendorf, Westcott, Hort, the Vulgate, and many others. The meaning hardly changes. The words “for the soul” are opposed to the further “for the body”, but they cannot be taken in the meaning of only the soul, but, as Augustine correctly notes about this, for life. John Chrysostom says that “for the soul” is not said because it needs food, and that here the Savior simply denounces a bad custom. The next word cannot be translated as “life”, isn’t life greater than food and a body of clothing? So ψυχή has some other meaning here. One must think that something close to soma is meant here – a living organism, and that yuc ”is used in some common sense, like how we say: the soul does not accept, etc.

Matthew 6:26. Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you much better than them?

Is it possible for a person to live like the birds of the sky? The impossibility of this led the ancient interpreters to explain the verse in an allegorical sense. “So what? – asks Chrysostom. – Do you need to sow? But the Savior did not say: one should not sow and do useful work, but that one should not be cowardly and uselessly indulge in worries. Later writers (including Renan) even allowed themselves to scoff at this saying and said that Christ could be preached in this way in a country where daily bread is obtained without special worries, but that His words are completely inapplicable to people living in more severe climatic conditions, where care for clothing and food is necessary and sometimes involves great difficulties. In popular usage, the expression “to live like the birds of the sky”, which has become almost a proverb, has come to mean a frivolous, homeless and carefree life, which, of course, is reprehensible. The true meaning of these expressions lies in the fact that the Savior only compares human life with the life of the birds of the air, but does not at all teach that people should live like them. The thought itself is correct and expressed vividly. Indeed, if God cares about the birds, then why should people put themselves outside of His care? If they are sure that the Providence of God cares for them no less than for birds, then this confidence determines all their activities regarding food and clothing. You need to take care of them, but at the same time you need to remember that food and clothes for people are at the same time the subject of God’s care and care. This should turn the poor man out of despair and at the same time restrain the rich man. Between the complete lack of care and excessive, let’s say even painful care, there are many intermediate stages, and in all the same principle – hope in God – should operate in the same way.

For example, the birds of the sky are chosen, in order to more clearly express whom a person should imitate. The word “heavenly” is not superfluous and indicates the freedom and freedom of the life of birds. Birds of prey are not understood, because expressions are chosen to characterize such birds that feed on grains. These are the most gentle and pure of birds. The expression “birds of the sky” is found among the Seventy – they render the Hebrew expression “yof ha-shamayim” in this way.

Matthew 6:27. And who among you, by taking care, can add even one cubit to his stature?

The Greek word ἡλικία means both growth and age. Many commentators prefer to translate it with the word “age”, i.e. continuation of life. In a similar sense, a similar expression is used in Ps. very short days. But it is objected to such an interpretation that if the Savior had in mind the continuation of life, then it would be very convenient for Him to use instead of “cubit” (πῆχυς) some other word denoting time, for example, an instant, an hour, a day, a year. Further, if He were talking about the continuation of life, then His thought would not only be not entirely clear, but also incorrect, because with the help of care and care, at least for the most part, we can add to our life not only days, but whole years. If we agree with this interpretation, then “the whole medical profession would seem to us a mistake and absurdity.” This means that the word ἡλικία should be understood not as age, but as growth. But with such an interpretation, we encounter no less difficulties. A cubit is a measure of length, it may also be a measure of height, it is approximately 46 cm. It is unlikely that the Savior wanted to say: which of you, taking care, can add at least one cubit to his height and thus become a giant or a giant? There is one more circumstance added to this. Luke (Luke 12:25-26) says in a parallel place under consideration: “And which of you, taking care, can add even one cubit to his height? So, if you cannot do the slightest thing; what do you care about the rest? An increase in height by one cubit is here considered the smallest matter. To resolve the question of which of the two interpretations given is correct, little can be borrowed from the philological analysis of both words (age – ἡλικία, and elbow – πῆχυς). The original meaning of the first is undoubtedly the continuation of life, age, and only in the later New Testament did it acquire a meaning and growth. In the New Testament it is used in both senses (Heb. 11:11; Luke 2:52, 19:3; John 9:21, 23; Eph. 4:13).

Thus, the expression seems to be one of the difficult ones. In order to correctly interpret it, we must first notice that verse 27 certainly has a close relationship to the preceding verse, and not to the next. This connection in the present case is expressed by the particle δέ. According to Morison, the exegetes paid little attention to this particle. This is the connection of speech. Your Heavenly Father feeds the birds of the air. You are much better than them (μᾶλλον there is no need to translate the word “more”), therefore, you can fully hope that the Heavenly Father will feed you too, and, moreover, without special care and care on your part. But if you give up hope in the Heavenly Father and you yourself put a lot of care about food, then it is completely useless, because you yourself, with your cares, cannot add even one cubit to a person’s growth with “your food”. The correctness of this interpretation can be confirmed by the fact that verse 26 speaks of bodily nutrition, which, of course, primarily promotes growth. Growth happens naturally. Some kind of enhanced nutrition cannot add even one cubit to the growth of an infant. Therefore, there is no need to assume that the Savior is speaking here of giants or giants. The addition of height per cubit is an insignificant amount in human growth. With this explanation, any contradiction with Luke is eliminated.

Matthew 6:28. And what do you care about clothes? Look at the lilies of the field, how they grow: neither toil nor spin;

If a person should not be overly concerned about food, then he is also overly concerned about clothing. Instead of “look” in some texts, “learn” or “learn” (καταμάθετε) is a verb that implies more attention than “look” (ἐμβλέψατε). Lilies of the field do not fly through the air, but grow on the ground, people can more easily observe and study their growth (now – αὐξάνουσιν). As for the field lilies themselves, some understand here the “imperial crown” (fritillaria imperialis, κρίνον βασιλικόν), growing wild in Palestine, others – amaryliis lutea, which with its golden-purple flowers covers the fields of the Levant, still others – the so-called Guleian lily, which is very large, has a magnificent crown and does not imitated in its beauty. It is found, though rare, it seems, on the northern slopes of Tabor and the hills of Nazareth. “Having spoken about the necessary food and showing that it is not necessary to take care of it, He goes on to what is even less necessary to take care of, because clothing is not as necessary as food” (St. John Chrysostom).

Matthew 6:29. but I tell you that even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like any of them;

(For the glory of Solomon, see 2 Chronicles 9:15ff.)

All human jewelry is imperfect compared to natural jewelry. Until now, man has not been able to surpass nature in the arrangement of various beauties. Ways to make jewelry completely natural have not yet been found.

Matthew 6:30. But if the grass of the field, which is today, and tomorrow will be thrown into the oven, God dresses like this, how much more than you, you of little faith!

The grass of the field is distinguished by its beauty, it is dressed in a way that Solomon did not dress. But usually it is good only for being thrown into the furnace. You care about clothes. But you are incomparably superior to the lilies of the field, and therefore you can hope that God will clothe you even better than the lilies of the field.

“Little faith” – the word is not found in Mark, but once in Luke (Luke 12:28). Matthew has 4 times (Matthew 6:30, 8:26, 14:31, 16:8). This word does not exist in pagan literature.

Matthew 6:31. So do not worry and do not say: what shall we eat? or what to drink? Or what to wear?

The meaning of the expressions is the same as in verse 25. But here the thought is stated already as a conclusion from the previous one. It is brilliantly proved by the given examples. The point is that all our cares and concerns should be imbued with the spirit of hope in the Heavenly Father.

Matthew 6:32. because the Gentiles are looking for all this, and because your Heavenly Father knows that you need all this.

The mention of pagans (τὰ ἔθνη) here seems somewhat strange from the first time. John Chrysostom explains this quite well, saying that the Savior mentioned the pagans here because they work exclusively for the present life, without thinking about the future and heavenly things. Chrysostom also attaches importance to the fact that the Savior did not say God here, but called Him Father. The pagans had not yet become filial to God, but the listeners of Christ, with the approach of the Kingdom of Heaven, were already becoming. Therefore, the Savior instills in them the highest hope – in the Heavenly Father, Who cannot but see His children if they are in difficult and extreme circumstances.

Source: Explanatory Bible, or Commentaries on all the books of the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament: in 7 volumes / ed. A. P. Lopukhin. – Fourth edition, Moscow: Dar, 2009 (in Russian).

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