Matthew 6:26
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
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(26) Behold the fowls of the air.—Better, birds. As the words were spoken we may venture to think of them as accompanied by the gesture which directed attention to the turtle-doves, the wood-pigeons, and the finches, which are conspicuous features in a Galilean landscape. Our modern use of the word has restricted “fowls” to one class of birds; but in Chaucer, and indeed in the English of the sixteenth century, it was in common use in a wider sense, and we read of the “small fowles that maken melodie,” as including the lark, the linnet, and the thrush.

Are ye not much better than they?—Here again the reasoning is à fortiori. Assuming a personal will, the will of a Father, as that which governs the order of the universe, we may trust to its wisdom and love to order all things well for the highest as for the meanest of its creatures. For those who receive whatever comes in the spirit of contented thankfulness, i.e., for those who “love God,” all things work together for good.

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.Behold the fowls of the air - The second argument for confidence in the providence of God is derived from a beautiful reference to the fowls or feathered tribes. See, said the Saviour, see the fowls of the air: they have no anxiety about the supply of their wants; they do not sow or reap; they fill the grove with music, and meet the coming light of the morning with their songs, and pour their notes on the zephyrs of the evening, unanxious about the supply of their needs; yet how few die with hunger! How regularly are they fed from the hand of God! How he ministers to their unnumbered wants! How cheerfully and regularly are their necessities supplied! You, said the Saviour to his disciples, you are of more consequence than they are; and shall God feed them in such numbers, and suffer you to want? It cannot be. Put confidence, then, in that Universal Parent that feeds all the fowls of the air, and do not fear but that he will also supply your needs.

Better than they - Of more consequence. Your lives are of more importance than theirs, and God will therefore provide for them.

26. Behold the fowls of the air—in Mt 6:28, "observe well," and in Lu 12:24, "consider"—so as to learn wisdom from them.

for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?—nobler in yourselves and dearer to God. The argument here is from the greater to the less; but how rich in detail! The brute creation—void of reason—are incapable of sowing, reaping, and storing: yet your heavenly Father suffers them not helplessly to perish, but sustains them without any of those processes. Will He see, then, His own children using all the means which reason dictates for procuring the things needful for the body—looking up to Himself at every step—and yet leave them to starve?

God takes care of all his creatures. For example, consider

the fowls, and those not the tame fowls about your houses, but the fowls of the air, for whom the housewife’s hand doth not provide, neither hath God fitted them for any labour by which they can procure their livelihood, nor doth he require any such thing of them, nor do they labour; yet their Creator (who is

your heavenly Father) feedeth them. You have much more reason to trust in God, if you could not labour, being hindered by his providence, for you are more excellent beings than sensitive creatures, and you have a further relation to God than that of creatures to the Creator, for God is your heavenly Father; you are in the order of nature, and especially considering that God is your Father, much better than they.

Behold the fowls of the air,.... Not such as are brought up in houses, but which fly abroad in the air, wild; and are not supported by their own, or any human care, but by the care of God: Luke 12:24 particularly mentions the "ravens", referring probably to Psalm 147:9, and because they are very voracious creatures: and there it is said, "consider the ravens"; look attentively upon them, and with observation,

for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns. This is not said, that men should not sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns: but to reprove their diffidence and unbelief: who, though they have the opportunity of sowing, reaping, and gathering in, year by year, yet distrust the providence of God; when the fowls of the air do none of these,

yet your heavenly Father feedeth them; see Psalm 145:15. The Jews acknowledge this, that the least and meanest of creatures are fed by God.

"Mar says (c), the holy blessed God sits "and feeds", i.e. all creatures, and takes care of them.''

Are ye not much better than they? Do not you differ from them? are ye not much more excellent than they? And if God feeds and provides for inferior creatures, such as are very mean and contemptible, how much more will he not provide for you? There is a passage in the Talmud, which has great affinity to this of Christ's, and appears to have in it pretty much of the like kind of reasoning. In the Misna (d) it is said, that R. Simeon ben Eleazer should say,

"Did you ever see a beast, or a fowl, that had a trade? but they are fed without trouble.''

In the Gemara (e) is added,

"Did you ever see a lion bearing burdens, an hart gathering summer fruits, a fox a money changer, or a wolf selling pots? And yet , "they are nourished without labour", and wherefore are they created? To serve me, and I am created to serve my Maker: and lo! these things have in them an argument, "from the less to the greater"; for if these, which are created to serve me after this manner, are supported without trouble; I, who am created to serve my Maker, is it not fit that I should be supplied without trouble? And what is the reason that I am sustained with trouble? My sins.''

(c) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 107. 2. Avoda Zara, fol. 3. 2. (d) Kiddushin, c. 4. sect. 14. (e) T. Hieros. Kiddushin, fol. 66. 2. Vid. T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 82. 1, 2.

Behold the fowls of the {k} air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

(k) Of the air, or that line in the air: in almost all languages the word heaven is taken for the air.

Matthew 6:26. Τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ] עוֹף הַשָׁמַיַם, the birds that fly in the air, in this wide, free height, are entirely resigned! Genitive of locality, as in Matthew 6:28. This is manifest (in answer to Fritzsche: towards the heavens) from the juxtaposition of the words in Genesis 1:25; Genesis 2:19; Psalm 8:9; Psalm 104:12; comp. Hom. Il. 17. p. 675: ὑπουρανίων πετεηνῶν. On the saying itself, comp. Kiddushin, s. fin.: “Vidistine unquam bruta aut volatilia, quibus esset aliqua officina? et tamen illa nutriuntur absque anxietate.”

ὅτι] equivalent to εἰς ἐκεῖνο ὅτι, John 2:18; John 9:17; John 11:51; John 16:9; 2 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 11:10. To this belongs all that follows as far as αὐτά.

μᾶλλ. διαφέρετε αὐτῶν] This μᾶλλον (magis) only strengthens the comparative force of διαφέρειν τινος (to be superior to any one). Comp. on Php 1:23, and the μᾶλλον that frequently accompanies προαιρεῖσθαι.

Matthew 6:26. ἐμβλέψατε εἰς, fix your eyes on, so as to take a good look at (Mark 10:21; Mark 14:67).—τὰ πετεινὰ τ. ου., the birds whose element is the air; look, not to admire their free, careless movements on the wing, but to note a very relevant fact—ὅτι, that without toil they get their food and live.—σπείρουσιν, θερίζουσιν, συνάγουσι ε. .: the usual operations of the husbandman in producing the staff of life. In these the birds have no part, yet your Father feedeth them. The careworn might reply to this: yes; they feed themselves at the farmer’s expense, an additional source of anxiety to him. And the cynic unbeliever in Providence: yes, in summer; but how many perish in winter through want and cold! Jesus, greatest of all optimists, though no shallow or ignorant one, quietly adds: οὐχ ὑμεῖς μᾶλλον διαφέρετε αὐτῶν: do not ye differ considerably from them? They fare, on the whole, well, God’s humble creatures. Why should you fear, men, God’s children?

26. fowls] Old English for birds; cp.

“Smale fowles maken melodie

That slepen all the night with open yhe.” Chaucer.

There is no argument here against forethought or labour. In one sense “trusting to providence” is idleness and a sin. God has appointed labour as the means whereby man provides for his wants. Even birds shew forethought, and search for the food which God has provided for them.

Matthew 6:26. Οὐδὲ συνάγουσιν, neither do they collect) as for example by purchase, for the future.[286]—ὙΜῶΝ, your) He says your, not their.—μᾶλλον, more) i.e. you more excel as sons of God, than other men do, or than you who indulge in such care (anxiety) consider. The word μᾶλλον, therefore, is not redundant. In this verse, the argument is from the less to the greater; in Matthew 6:25, from the greater to the less.

[286] “Into barns:” or even into other repositories of food, as we may see instanced in other animals—V. g.

Verse 26. - Parallel passage: Luke 12:24. The less general term, "ravens" (even though these are "of all the birds of Jerusalem decidedly the most characteristic and conspicuous," Tristram, 'Land of Israel,' p. 187), and the change of construction apparent in "which have no store-chamber nor barn," point to St. Luke having preserved the more original form of the saying. So also does the presence in Matthew of the Matthean phrase "heavenly." On the other hand, Matthew's "consider" (ver. 28, vide next note) is perhaps more original. Behold (ἐμβλέψατε). Look on, use your natural eyes. In ver. 28 "consider" (καταμάθετε), learn thoroughly. Our Lord, in the present verse, bids us use the powers we possess; in ver. 28 he bids us learn the lessons that we can find round us. Luke has in both places the vaguer term κατανοήσατε, "fix your mind on." The fowls of the air; Revised Version, the birds of the heaven (so Matthew 8:20; Matthew 13:32); a Hebraism. For the thought, cf. Job 38:41; Psalm 147:9; cf. also Mishna, 'Kidd.,' 4:14, "Rabbi Simeon ben Eliezer used to say, Hast thou ever seen beast or bird that had a trade? Yet are they fed without anxiety." For; that (Revised Version); what you will see if you will look. They sow not, etc. They carry out as regards their food nolle of those operations which imply forethought in the past or for the future. Yet; and (Revised Version). Also what you will see. Your heavenly Father (Matthew 5:16, note). Are ye not much better than they? of much more value (Revised Version). The thought is of value in God's eyes (cf. Matthew 10:31; Matthew 12:12), as men and as his children, not of any superiority in moral attainment. Matthew 6:26
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