Matthew 6:25
Therefore I say to you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(25) Take no thought.—The Greek word some times thus translated, and sometimes by “care” or “be careful” (1Corinthians 7:32-34; Philippians 2:20; Philippians 4:6), expresses anxiety, literally, the care which distracts us. And this was, in the sixteenth century, the meaning of the English phrase “take thought.” Of this we have one example in 1Samuel 9:5; other examples of it are found in Shakespeare, “take thought, and die for Cæsar” (Julius Cæsar, ii. 1), or Bacon (Henry the Eighth, p. 220), who speaks of a man “dying with thought and anguish” before his case was heard. The usage of the time, therefore, probably led the translators of 1611 to choose the phrase, as stronger than the “be not careful” which in this passage stood in all previous versions. The changing fortune of words has now made it weaker, and it would be better to substitute “over-careful” or “over-anxious.” The temper against which our Lord warns His disciples is not that of foresight, which merely provides for the future, but the allowing ourselves to be harassed and vexed with its uncertainties. To “take thought” in the modern sense is often the most effectual safeguard (next to the higher defence of trust in God) against “taking thought” in the older.

For your life.—The Greek word is the same as that commonly rendered “soul,” and the passage is interesting as an example of its use in the wider sense which includes the lower as well as the higher life. (Comp. Matthew 10:39; Matthew 16:25; Mark 3:4, et at.) We note in the form of the precept the homeliness of the cases selected as illustration. We hear the language of One who speaks to peasants with their simple yet pressing wants, not to the wider cares of the covetous or ambitious of a higher grade.

Is not the life more than meat, . . .?—The reasoning is à fortiori. God has given you the greater, can you not trust Him to give you also the less? In some way or other there will come food to sustain life, and clothing for the body, and men should not so seek for more as to be troubled about them.

Matthew 6:25-27. Therefore I say, Take no thought, &c. — Our Lord here proceeds to caution his disciples against worldly cares, these being as inconsistent with the true service of God as worldly desires. But the expression used by our translators, Take no thought, is too strong, and not warranted by the original, μη μεριμνατε, which properly signifies, Be not anxious, or, anxiously careful, as is evident from Luke 10:41; Luke 12:11; Luke 21:34; Php 4:6; and almost every other place, where μεριμναω occurs. For we are not to suppose that our Lord here commands us absolutely to take no thought for our life, food, and raiment; because, in other parts of Scripture, diligence in business is inculcated, and men are commanded to labour with their hands, that they may provide for the supply of their own wants, and also those of others, Romans 12:11; Ephesians 4:28; and that, instead of being useless loads on the earth, they may, at all times, have it in their power to discharge the several duties of life with decency, Titus 3:14. What Christ therefore here forbids is, not that thought, foresight, and care which prudent men use in providing sustenance and needful support for themselves, and those dependant upon them; but it is such an anxious care, as arises from want of faith in the being, perfections, and providence of God, and in the declarations and promises of his word, and therefore such an anxious solicitude as engrosses the thoughts and desires of the soul, so as either utterly to exclude or greatly damp and hinder spiritual affections, pursuits, and labours; or which prevents our receiving or our retaining and increasing in the love of God, and the true religion connected therewith. Is not the life more than the meat, needful to support it? And the body than the raiment, necessary to clothe it? and will not he, who has given the greater blessings, give the less also? Behold the fowls of the air — Learn a lesson from the birds that now fly round you. For they sow not, neither do they reap, &c. — Without foreseeing their own wants, or making provision for them, they are preserved and nourished by the unwearied benignity of the divine providence. Are ye not much better than they? — Are ye not beings of a nobler order, and destined for a higher end than they, and therefore more the objects of the divine care? Moreover, which of you, by taking thought — Gr. μεριμνων, by being anxiously careful, can add one cubit unto his stature? Can add one moment to the length of your lives; that is, which of you could profit yourselves at all by anxious thoughts and cares, if you should indulge them? It is evident, as several learned writers have observed, that the word ηλικια, here rendered stature, ought to have been translated age, because the caution is against anxious care about the preservation of life, and about food, the means of prolonging it; not to mention that Jesus is speaking here to full-grown men, who probably had no solicitude about their stature. Besides, the measure of a cubit agrees much better to a man’s age than to his stature, the smallest addition to which would have been better expressed by a hair’s breadth, or the like, than by a cubit, which is more than the fourth part of the whole height of most men. This interpretation of the word is confirmed by Luke in the parallel passage, Luke 12:25-26, where he calls the adding of a cubit, that which is least — That is the thing in which the interposition of the divine providence least appears, as it really is, if understood of the addition of a single moment to the length of one’s life.6:25-34 There is scarcely any sin against which our Lord Jesus more warns his disciples, than disquieting, distracting, distrustful cares about the things of this life. This often insnares the poor as much as the love of wealth does the rich. But there is a carefulness about temporal things which is a duty, though we must not carry these lawful cares too far. Take no thought for your life. Not about the length of it; but refer it to God to lengthen or shorten it as he pleases; our times are in his hand, and they are in a good hand. Not about the comforts of this life; but leave it to God to make it bitter or sweet as he pleases. Food and raiment God has promised, therefore we may expect them. Take no thought for the morrow, for the time to come. Be not anxious for the future, how you shall live next year, or when you are old, or what you shall leave behind you. As we must not boast of tomorrow, so we must not care for to-morrow, or the events of it. God has given us life, and has given us the body. And what can he not do for us, who did that? If we take care about our souls and for eternity, which are more than the body and its life, we may leave it to God to provide for us food and raiment, which are less. Improve this as an encouragement to trust in God. We must reconcile ourselves to our worldly estate, as we do to our stature. We cannot alter the disposals of Providence, therefore we must submit and resign ourselves to them. Thoughtfulness for our souls is the best cure of thoughtfulness for the world. Seek first the kingdom of God, and make religion your business: say not that this is the way to starve; no, it is the way to be well provided for, even in this world. The conclusion of the whole matter is, that it is the will and command of the Lord Jesus, that by daily prayers we may get strength to bear us up under our daily troubles, and to arm us against the temptations that attend them, and then let none of these things move us. Happy are those who take the Lord for their God, and make full proof of it by trusting themselves wholly to his wise disposal. Let thy Spirit convince us of sin in the want of this disposition, and take away the worldliness of our hearts.Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought ... - The general design of this paragraph, which closes the chapter, is to warn his disciples against avarice, and, at the same time, against anxiety about the supply of their needs. This he does by four arguments or considerations, expressing by unequalled beauty and force the duty of depending for the things which we need on the providence of God. The "first" is stated in Matthew 6:25; "Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?" In the beginning of the verse he charged his disciples to take "no thought" - that is, not to be "anxious" about the supply of their wants. In illustration of this he says that God has given "life," a far greater blessing than "meat;" that he has created the body, of far more consequence than raiment. Shall not he who has conferred the "greater" blessing be willing to confer the "less?" Shall not he who has formed the body so curiously, and made in its formation such a display of power and goodness, see that it is properly protected and clothed? He who has displayed "so great" goodness as to form the body, and breathe into it the breath of life, will surely "follow up" the blessing, and confer the "smaller" favor of providing that that body shall be clothed, and that life preserved.

No thought - The word "thought," when the Bible was translated, meant "anxiety," and is so used frequently in Old English authors. Thus, Bacon says, "Haweis died with 'thought' and anguish before his business came to an end." As such it is used here by our translators, and it answers exactly to the meaning of the original. Like many other words, it has since somewhat changed its signification, and would convey to most readers an improper idea. The word "anxiety" would now exactly express the sense, and is precisely the thing against which the Saviour would guard us. See Luke 8:14; Luke 21:34; Philippians 4:6. "Thought" about the future is right; "anxiety, solicitude, trouble" is wrong. There is a degree of "thinking" about the things of this life which is proper. See 1 Timothy 5:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:10; Romans 12:11. But it should not be our supreme concern; it should not lead to anxiety; it should not take time that ought to be devoted to religion.

For your life - For what will "support" your life.

Meat - This word here means "food" in general, as it does commonly in the Bible. We confine it now to animal food. When the Bible was translated, it denoted all kinds of food, and is so used in the old English writers. It is one of the words which has changed its meaning since the translation of the Bible was made.

Raiment - Clothing.

25. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought—"Be not solicitous." The English word "thought," when our version was made, expressed this idea of "solicitude," "anxious concern"—as may be seen in any old English classic; and in the same sense it is used in 1Sa 9:5, &c. But this sense of the word has now nearly gone out, and so the mere English reader is apt to be perplexed. Thought or forethought, for temporal things—in the sense of reflection, consideration—is required alike by Scripture and common sense. It is that anxious solicitude, that oppressive care, which springs from unbelieving doubts and misgivings, which alone is here condemned. (See Php 4:6).

for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on—In Luke (Lu 12:29) our Lord adds, "neither be ye unsettled"—not "of doubtful mind," as in our version. When "careful (or 'full of care') about nothing," but committing all in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving unto God, the apostle assures us that "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Php 4:6, 7); that is, shall guard both our feelings and our thoughts from undue agitation, and keep them in a holy calm. But when we commit our whole temporal condition to the wit of our own minds, we get into that "unsettled" state against which our Lord exhorts His disciples.

Is not the life more than meat—food.

and the body than raiment?—If God, then, gives and keeps up the greater—the life, the body—will He withhold the less, food to sustain life and raiment to clothe the body?

This text must not be interpreted in a sense contradictory to those many other texts, which forbid an idle life, an command us in the sweat of our face to eat our bread, or to provide for our families, 2 Thessalonians 3:10,11 1 Timothy 5:8: nor did Christ himself live such a life; he went about doing good, finishing the work which his Father had given him to do. It must be therefore understood:

1. Of no such thoughts as are inconsistent with the service of God, mentioned in the last words.

2. Of no anxious and distracting thoughts.

3. Of no such thoughts as should show any distrust and diffidence in God’s providing for us.

God hath given us our lives and our bodies, without our care for the existence of them; why should we, in a lawful and moderate use of means, distrust God for a subsistence for them? He hath given us the greater, will he not (think you) give us the less? Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life,.... Since ye cannot serve both God and "mammon", obey one, and neglect the other. Christ does not forbid labour to maintain, support, and preserve, this animal life; nor does he forbid all thought and care about it, but all anxious, immoderate, perplexing, and distressing thoughts and cares; such as arise from diffidence and unbelief, and tend to despair; which are dishonourable to God, as the God of nature and providence, and uncomfortable to men:

what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. The several and the only things, which are necessary for the support and comfort of human life, are mentioned; as meat, drink, and clothing; Eating and drinking are necessary to preserve life; and raiment, to cover and defend the body, from the injuries of the heavens: and having these, men have everything necessary, and ought herewith to be content; nor should they be anxiously thoughtful about these: for

is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? And yet, God has given these without man's thought: and since these are better, and much more excellent, than food and raiment, as all must and will acknowledge; and God has given these the greater gifts, it may be depended upon, that he will give the lesser; that he will give meat and drink; to uphold that valuable life, which he is the author of; and raiment to clothe that body, which he, with so much wisdom and power, has accurately and wonderfully made.

{9} Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

(9) The perverse burdensome carefulness for things of this life, is corrected in the children of God by an earnest thinking upon the providence of God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 6:25. Διὰ τοῦτο] because this double service is impossible.

οὐχὶ ἡ ψυχὴ, κ.τ.λ.] Chrysostom: ὁ τοίνυν τὸ μεῖζον (life and body) δοὺς πῶς τὸ ἔλαττον (food and clothing) οὐ δώσει;

The care has been unwarrantably limited to anxious care, a meaning which is no less unjustifiable in Sir 34:1; the context would be expected to furnish such a limitation if it were intended. Jesus does not only forbid believers the πολλὰ μεριμνᾶν (Xen. Cyr. viii. 7. 12), or the ἀλγεινὰς μεριμνάς (Soph. Ant. 850), the μεριμνήματʼ ἔχειν βάρη (Soph. Phil. 187), or such like, but His desire is that—simply giving themselves to the undivided (curae animum divorse trahunt, Terence) service of God, Matthew 6:24, and trusting to Him with true singleness of heart—they should be superior to all care whatsoever as to food, drink, etc. (Php 4:6); nevertheless, to create for themselves such cares would amount to little faith, Matthew 6:30 ff., or a half-hearted faith as compared with their duty of entire resignation to that God whose part it is to provide for them. It is only by absolute and perfect faith that the moral height of αὐτάρκεια (Php 4:11 ff.), and of exemption from earthly care, is to be attained. Comp. A. H. Franke’s example in founding the orphanage.

τῇ ψυχῇ] Dative of immediate reference: in regard to the soul (as the principle of physical life, Matthew 10:39, Matthew 16:25, Matthew 2:20), in so far as it is sustained by means of food and drink. In the case of μεριμνᾶν the object (τί φάγητε) is in the accusative (1 Corinthians 7:32-34; 1 Corinthians 12:25; Php 2:20; Php 4:6).Matthew 6:25-34. Counsels against care. More suitable to the circumstances of the disciples than those against amassing treasures. “Why speak of treasures to us who are not even sure of the necessaries of life? It is for bread and clothing we are in torment” (Lutteroth).25. Therefore] i. e. because this double service is impossible there must be no distraction of thought.

Take no thought] “Do not be anxious,” which was the meaning of “take no thought,” when the E. V. was made. The same word occurs Php 4:6, “Be careful for nothing.” Cp. 1 Peter 5:7, “Casting all your care [or anxiety] upon him.” See Prof. Lightfoot, On a Fresh Revision of the New Testament, &c., p. 171.

The argument in the verse is: such anxiety is unnecessary; God gave the life and the body; will He not give the smaller gifts of food and clothing?

25–34. The parallel passage (Luke 12:22-31) follows immediately the parable of the “Rich Fool.”Matthew 6:25. Μὴ μεριμνᾶτε, take no care for) The disciples had left all things which could be the source of care to them.—τῇ ψυχῇ, the soul) The soul is supported by food in the body, which itself lives on food: the body alone is covered by raiment.—καὶ τί πίητε, and what ye drink) This has been easily omitted by copyists, or is easily understood (subauditur) by us. The 31st verse requires the express mention of drinking rather than the present, for in it the careful are introduced as themselves speaking, whereas in the present verse our Lord speaks in His own person.[283]—Ἡ ΨΥΧῊΤῸ ΣῶΜΑ, the soul—the body) Both of which God gave and cares for. See the latter part of Matthew 6:30.[284]

[283] ab Vulg. Hil. Bas. Epiph. Jerome (who says, however, it was added in some MSS.) omit ἢ τί πίητε. But BC, Orig. 1,711d Memph. read the words. Rec. Text has καὶ instead of , the reading of the oldest authorities.—ED.

[284] There is nothing so small and insignificant, which His omniscience neglects, Matthew 6:32.—V. g.Verses 25-34. - These verses, with the exception of the last, which should perhaps hardly be included, are very similar to the parallel passage, Luke 12:22-32. It seems probable that in the differences Luke preserves the more original form (cf. the notes on the separate verses, infra). What their original position was is another question. Their immediate sequence in Luke to the parable of the rich fool is no doubt perfectly natural, and is accepted by most commentators as original; but the connexion with the context here is so close that, especially with the probabilities of the case in vers. 22, 23, and ver. 24, St. Matthew may, after all, have recorded them in their original place. Our Lord says in these verses, "Dare to follow out this warning that I have given you about double service into your daily life. Do not give way to anxiety about the things of life, but look up to God in steady gaze of faith; he will provide." 'Or, more in detail - If God has given you life, shall he not add the food and the clothing (ver. 25)? Anxiety about the support of your life is needless (witness the birds, ver. 26) and powerless (witness the limit of a man's life, ver. 27); while as for clothing, it is equally needless (witness the flowers, ver. 28) and comparatively powerless (witness Solomon's own case, ver. 29). Remember your relation to God (ver. 30). Therefore do not give way to the least anxiety about these things (ver. 31), because this is to fall to the level of the Gentiles, and also because God, whose children you are, knows your needs (ver. 32). But make his cause, without and within, your great object, and all your needs shall be supplied (ver. 33). Therefore be not at all anxious, bear the burden of each day only as each day comes round (ver. 34). Verse 25. - Therefore (διὰ τοῦτο). Because of this fact last mentioned, the impossibility of dividing your service. Cease to be anxious about things of this life, for anxiety about these is a mark of your attempting this impossibility. I say unto you. Though the absence of the personal pronoun (unlike Matthew 5:22, etc.) shows that he is not here contrasting himself with them or with others, yet he still emphasizes his authority. Take no thought; Revised Version, be not anxious (μὴ μεριμνᾶτε). The translation of the Authorized Version, which was quite correct in its day (cf. also 1 Samuel 9:5), is now archaic, and therefore often misunderstood. For the popular derivation of μεριμνάω ("division," "distraction"), cf. 1 Corinthians 7:33, "But he that is married is anxious for (μεριμνᾷ) the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and is divided (μεμέρισται)." Observe that forethought in earthly matters was practised by our Lord himself (John 12:6). For your life (τῇ ψυχῇ ὑμῶν). In the Gospels ψυχή is the immaterial part of man, his personality as we should say, which survives death (Matthew 10:28), and is the chief object of a man's care (Matthew 10:39, where see note). What ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink. Although the second clause is omitted by א and a few chiefly "Western" authorities, it is probably genuine, especially as there is no trace of it in Luke (but cf. Westcott and Heft, 'Introd.,' p. 176). Is not the life more than meat? i.e. you possess the greater, shall there not be given to you the less? Humphry compares Matthew 23:17. Meat; Revised Version, the food (τῆς τροφῆς); i.e. the Revised Version

(1) changes "meat" to its modern equivalent,

(2) defines with the Greek the food as that which is necessary for the body. Similarly before "raiment." Take no thought (μὴ μεριμνᾶτε)

The cognate noun is μέριμνα, care, which was formerly derived from μερίς, a part; μερίζω, to divide; and was explained accordingly as a dividing care, distracting the heart from the true object of life, This has been abandoned, however, and the word is placed in a group which carries the common notion of earnest thoughtfulness. It may include the ideas of worry and anxiety, and may emphasize these, but not necessarily. See, for example, "careth for the things of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:32). "That the members should have the same care one for another" (1 Corinthians 12:25). "Who will care for your state?" (Philippians 2:20). In all these the sense of worry would be entirely out of place. In other cases that idea is prominent, as, "the care of this world," which chokes the good seed (Matthew 13:22; compare Luke 8:14). Of Martha; "Thou art careful" (Luke 10:41). Take thought, in this passage, was a truthful rendering when the A. V. was made, since thought was then used as equivalent to anxiety or solicitude. So Shakspeare ("Hamlet"):

"The native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought."

And Bacon (Henry VII.): "Hawis, an alderman of London, was put in trouble, and died with thought and anguish." Somers' "Tracts" (in Queen Elizabeth's reign): "Queen Catherine Parr died rather of thought."

The word has entirely lost this meaning. Bishop Lightfoot ("On a Fresh Revision of the New Testament") says: "I have heard of a political economist alleging this passage as an objection to the moral teaching of the sermon on the mount, on the ground that it encouraged, nay, commanded, a reckless neglect of the future." It is uneasiness and worry about the future which our Lord condemns here, and therefore Rev. rightly translates be not anxious. This phase of the word is forcibly brought out in 1 Peter 5:7, where the A. V. ignores the distinction between the two kinds of care. "Casting all your care (μέριμναν, Rev., anxiety) upon Him, for He careth (αὐτῷ μέλει) for you," with a fatherly, tender, and provident care."

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