Matthew 6:27
Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(27) One cubit unto his stature.—The Greek for the last word admits either this meaning (as in Luke 19:3, and perhaps Luke 2:52) or that of age (as in John 9:21; John 9:23, and Hebrews 11:24). Either gives an adequate sense to the passage. No anxiety will alter our bodily height, and the other conditions of our life are as fixed by God’s laws as that is, as little therefore dependent upon our volition; neither will that anxiety add to the length of life which God has appointed for us. Of the two meanings, however, the last best satisfies the teaching of the context. Men are not anxious about adding to their stature. They are often anxious about prolonging their life. Admit the thought that our days are but “as a span long” (Psalm 39:5), and then the addition of a cubit becomes a natural metaphor. It is to be noted that in the parallel passage in St. Luke (Luke 12:26) this appears as “that which is least,” and which yet lies beyond our power.

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.Which of you, by taking thought - The third argument is taken from their extreme weakness and helplessness. With all your care you cannot increase your stature a single cubit. God has ordered your height. Beyond his appointment your powers are of no avail, and you can do nothing. So of raiment. He, by His providence, orders and arranges the circumstances of your life. "Beyond" that appointment of His providence, beyond his care for you, your efforts avail nothing. Seeing, then, that he alike orders your growth and the supply of your needs, how obvious is the duty of depending upon him, and of beginning all your efforts, feeling that He only can grant you the means of preserving life.

One cubit - The cubit was originally the length from the elbow to the end of the middle finger. The cubit of the Scriptures is not far from 22 inches. Terms of "length" are often applied to life, and it is thought by many to be so here. Thus, it is said, "Thou hast made my days as a handbreadth" Psalm 39:5; "Teach me the measure of my days" Psalm 39:4. In this place it is used to denote a "small length." You cannot increase your stature even a cubit, or in the smallest degree. Compare Luke 12:26.

Stature - This word means "height." The original word, however, means oftener "age," John 9:21; "He is of age;" so also John 9:23. If this be its meaning here, as is probable (compare Robinson, Lexicon), it denotes that a man cannot increase the length of his life at all. The utmost anxiety will not prolong it one hour beyond the time appointed for death.

27. Which of you, by taking thought—anxious solicitude.

can add one cubit unto his stature?—"Stature" can hardly be the thing intended here: first, because the subject is the prolongation of life, by the supply of its necessaries of food and clothing: and next, because no one would dream of adding a cubit—or a foot and a half—to his stature, while in the corresponding passage in Luke (Lu 12:25, 26) the thing intended is represented as "that thing which is least." But if we take the word in its primary sense of "age" (for "stature" is but a secondary sense) the idea will be this, "Which of you, however anxiously you vex yourselves about it, can add so much as a step to the length of your life's journey?" To compare the length of life to measures of this nature is not foreign to the language of Scripture (compare Ps 39:5; 2Ti 4:7, &c.). So understood, the meaning is clear and the connection natural. In this the best critics now agree.

How vain a thing is it to distract yourselves with anxious thoughts about your body and your life! All your thinking will not add a cubit to your stature: as your being and existence derives from God, so the increase of your stature depends upon him; likewise he maketh the child to grow to the just proportion which he hath intended him, and beyond that he cannot pass. If God’s blessing be necessary to this, and so necessary that no thoughts, no means, will add any thing without the Divine blessing, what reason have you to take any such thoughts, as you cannot expect he should bless to their desired effect and issue? Which of you by taking thought,.... As Christ argued before, from the unnecessariness of anxious thoughts and cares, about the provisions of life; so here, from the unprofitableness of them; it being impossible for a man, with all his care and thought, to

add one cubit unto his stature, or "to his age"; so the word is rendered, John 9:21 to the days of his life, he is so solicitous about; for a cubit may as well be applied to a man's age, as an "hand's breadth" is to his days, Psalm 39:5. Nor is it so reasonable to think, that Christ should be speaking of making such an addition to a man's height; though that, to be sure, is an impossible thing: since the far greater part of Christ's hearers must be come to their full growth, and could not hope to have any addition made to their height; though they might hope to add to their days; much less such a monstrous one as that of a cubit, and which is a strong reason against the other sense of the word, and for this: for our Lord is speaking of something very small, which men cannot do; as appears from what Luke says, Luke 12:26 "If ye then be not able to do that which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?" Whereas, to add a cubit to a man's height, is a great deal:

"the stature of a middling man (says (f) Bartenora) is three cubits.''

And to add one more, makes a large addition to his stature; but to apply this to a man's age, is a small matter, and yet is what men cannot do: the sense of the words is this, that no man, by all the care and thought he can make use of, is ever able to add one cubit, or the least measure to his days; he cannot lengthen out his life one year, one month, one day, one hour; no, not one moment.

(f) In Misn. Erubim, c. 4. sect. 5. & Negaim, c. 13. sect. 11.

Which of you by {l} taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

(l) He speaks of care which is joined with thought of mind, and has for the most part distrust yoked with it.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 6:27. Τὴν ἡλικίαν] the duration of life (Hammond, Wolf, Rosenmüller, Kuinoel, Schott, Käuffer, Olshausen, de Wette, Baumgarten-Crusius, Tholuck, Ewald, Bleek, Hilgenfeld). For, after the more comprehensive exhortation of Matthew 6:25, Jesus passes in Matthew 6:26 to the special subject of the support of life by means of τροφή, with which subject Matthew 6:27 is intimately connected. Matthew 6:28-30 refer, in the first place, specially to the body itself, regarded by itself and as an outward object. The duration of life determined by God is set forth under the figure of a definite lineal measure. Comp. Psalm 39:6; Mimnermus in Stobaeus, 98. 13. In opposition to this, the only true connection, others (Euth. Zigabenus, Erasmus, Luther, Maldonatus, Jansen, Bengel, Fritzsche), following the Vulgate and Chrysostom, interpret: the height of the body, the stature, Luke 19:3; Luke 2:52. But what an absurd disproportion would there be in such a relation in representing a very trifling addition (Luke 12:26) by πῆχυν! For πῆχυς, אַמָּה, is equivalent to the whole length of the lower part of the arm, two spans or six handbreadths, Böckh, metrol. Unters. p. 210 ff. Fenneberg, üb. d. Längen-, Feld- u. Wegemaasse d. Völk. d. Alterth. 1859, who thinks, however, without any reason, that the sacred ell (seven handbreadths) is meant.Matthew 6:27. τίς δὲ, etc. The question means: care is as bootless as it is needless. But there is much difference of opinion as to the precise point of the question. Does it mean, who by care can add a cubit to his height, or who can add a short space of time, represented by a cubit, to the length of his life? ἡλικία admits of either sense. It means stature in Luke 19:3; age in John 9:21, Hebrews 11:11. Most recent commentators favour the latter interpretation, chiefly influenced by the monstrosity of the supposition as referring to stature. Who could call adding a cubit, 1½ feet, to his height a very small matter, the expression of Lk. (ἐλάχιστον, Matthew 12:26)? The application of a measure of length to length of days is justified by Psalm 39:5 : “Thou hast made my days as handbreadths”. But Dr. Field strongly protests against the new rendering. Admitting, of course, that ἡλικία is ambiguous, and that in classic authors it oftener means age than stature, he insists that πῆχυς is decisive. “πῆχυς,” he remarks (Ot. Nor.), “is not only a measure of length, but that by which a man’s stature was properly measured.” Euthy. on this place remarks: “καὶ μὴν οὐδὲ σπιθαμήν (half a cubit) οὐδὲ δάκτυλον (a 24th part): λοιπὸν οὖν πῆχυν εἶπε, διότι κυρίως μέτρον τῶν ἡλικιῶν ὁ πῆχύς ἐστι. Thus a short man is τρίπηχυς, a tall man τετράπηχυς.” But how are we to get over the monstrosity of the supposition? Lutteroth helps us here by finding in the question of Jesus a reference to the growth of the human body from infancy to maturity. By that insensible process, accomplished through the aid of food, Gods adds to every human body more than one cubit. “How impossible for you to do what God has done without your thinking of it! And if He fed you during the period of growth, can you not trust Him now when you have ceased to grow?” Such is the thought of Jesus.27. can add one cubit unto his stature] As the word translated “stature” also=duration of life, the meaning may be “add a cubit to his life.” Comp. Psalm 39:6 (P. B.), “Thou hast made my days as it were a span long.” This rendering falls in better with the connection. With all his anxiety man cannot add to his length of days, or clothe himself like the flowers.Matthew 6:27. Τὶςἐξ ὑμῶν, which—of you) A mode of speaking frequent with Christ, full of majesty, and yet suited for popular use.—ἡλικίαν, stature) See Gnomon on Luke 12:25-26.—πῆχυν, a cubit) So as to become of gigantic height.Verse 27. - Luke 12:25 almost verbally. While ver. 26 insisted on the needlessness of anxiety, since, though birds show it not, they are provided for, ver. 27 insists on its uselessness, since after all it can effect so little. You wish to lengthen your life by it if only to a trifling extent; but you cannot do so. Which of you by taking thought (ver. 25, note) can add one cubit? "Hic videtur similitude petita esse a studio, quod erat trecentorum cubitorum: ἡλικία est cursus vitae" (Wetstein). Unto his stature. So even the Revised Version; but the Revised Version margin "age," and so most modern commentators (cf. the rendering preferred by the American Committee, "the measure of his life"). "Age"

(1) is so much nearer the immediate subject, preservation of life,

(2) is so much more frequent an object of anxious care,

(3) gives so much more suitable a meaning to "cubit," a most trifling addition (Luke 12:26), that it is, without any doubt, the true meaning of ἡλικία (cf. John 9:21-23; Hebrews 11:11; cf. Psalm 39:5).
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