Matt. 6:25-34 (Part 1)

6:25ff MATHETES: Having therefore convinced us in the former time that our nature was unable to attain to life, and having now revealed the Savior who is able to save even those things which it was formerly impossible to save, by both these facts He desired to lead us to trust in His kindness, to esteem Him our Nourisher, Father, Teacher, Counsellor, Healer, our Wisdom, Light, Honor, Glory, Power, and Life, so that we should not be anxious concerning clothing and food. Epistle to Diognetus, 1.28.

JUSTIN MARTYR: And, ... “Take no thought what you shall eat, or what you shall put on: are you not better than the birds and the beasts? And God feeds them. Take no thought, therefore, what you shall eat, or what you shall put on; for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of these things. But seek the kingdom of heaven, and all these things shall be added to you.” The First Apology, 1.168-169.

TATIAN: Do not be anxious for yourselves, what you shall eat and what you shall drink; neither for your bodies, what you shall put on. Is not the life better than the food, and the body than the raiment? Consider the birds of the heaven, which neither sow, nor reap, nor store in barns; and yet your Father which is in heaven feeds them. Are you not better than they? Who of you when he tries is able to add to his stature one cubit? If then you are not able for a small thing, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the wild lily, how it grows, although it does not toil, nor spin; and I say to you that Solomon in the greatness of his glory was not clothed like one of them. And if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, how much more shall be to you, O you of little faith! Do not be anxious, so as to say, 'What shall we eat?' or, 'What shall we drink?' or, 'With what shall we be clothed?' Neither let your minds be perplexed in this: all these things the nations of the world seek; and your Father which is in heaven knows your need of all these things. Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these shall come to you as something additional for you. Do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow shall be anxious for what belongs to it. Sufficient for the day is its evil. The Diatessaron, 9.59.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Some men, in truth, live that they may eat, as the irrational creatures, “whose life is their belly, and nothing else.” But the Instructor enjoins us to eat that we may live. For neither is food our business, nor is pleasure our aim; but both are on account of our life here, which the Word is training up to immortality. Therefore also there is discrimination to be employed in reference to food. And it is to be simple, truly plain, suiting precisely simple and artless children—as ministering to life, not to luxury. And the life to which it conduces consists of two things—health and strength; to which plainness of fare is most suitable, being conducive both to digestion and lightness of body, from which come growth, and health, and right strength, not strength that is wrong or dangerous and wretched, as is that of athletes produced by compulsory feeding. The Instructor, 2.237.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: We are not to provide for ourselves costly clothing any more than variety of food. The Lord Himself, therefore, dividing His precepts into what relates to the body, the soul, and thirdly, external things, counsels us to provide external things on account of the body; and manages the body by the soul, and disciplines the soul, saying, “Take no thought for your life what you shall eat; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on; for the life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”  And He adds a plain example of instruction: “Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them.”  “Are you not better than the birds?”  Thus far as to food. Similarly He enjoins with respect to clothing, which belongs to the third division, that of things external, saying, “Consider the lilies, how they do not spin, nor weave. But I say to you, that not even Solomon was arrayed as one of these.” And Solomon the king plumed himself exceedingly on his riches. What, I ask, is more graceful, more gay-colored, than flowers? What is more delightful than lilies or roses? “And if God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith!”  Here the particle “what” banishes variety in food. For this is shown from the Scripture, “Take no thought what things you shall eat, or what things you shall drink.” For to take thought of these things argues greed and luxury. Now eating, considered merely by itself, is the sign of necessity; repletion, as we have said, of want. Whatever is beyond that, is the sign of superfluity. And what is superfluous, Scripture declares to be of the devil. The subjoined expression makes the meaning plain. For having said, “Do not seek what you shall eat, or what you shall drink,” He added, “Neither be of a doubtful (or lofty) mind.” The Instructor, 2.263.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: The covering ought, in my judgment, to show that which is covered to be better than itself, as the image is superior to the temple, the soul to the body, and the body to the clothes. But now, quite the contrary, the body of these ladies, if sold, would never fetch a thousand drachmas.  Buying, as they do, a single dress at the price of ten thousand talents, they prove themselves to be of less use and less value than cloth. Why in the world do you seek after what is rare and costly, in preference to what is at hand and cheap? It is because you do not know what is really beautiful, what is really good, and you seek with eagerness shows instead of realities from fools who, like people out of their wits, imagine black to be white. The Instructor, 2.267.

TERTULLIAN: In vain do we flatter ourselves as to the necessities of human maintenance, if—after faith sealed—we say, “I have no means to live?” For here I will now answer more fully that abrupt proposition. It is advanced too late. For after the comparison of that most prudent builder,  who first computes the costs of the work, together with his own means, lest, when he has begun, he afterwards blush to find himself spent, deliberation should have been made before. But even now you have the Lord’s sayings, as examples taking away from you all excuse.

For what is it you say? “I shall be in need.” But the Lord calls the needy “happy.”

“I shall have no food.” But “do not think,” He says, “about food;” and as an example of clothing we have the lilies.

“My work was my subsistence.”

No, but “all things are to be sold, and divided to the needy.”

“But provision must be made for children and posterity.”

“None, putting his hand on the plow, and looking back, is fit” for work. “But I was under contract.”

“None can serve two lords.” If you wish to be the Lord’s disciple, it is necessary you “take your cross, and follow the Lord;”  your cross; that is, your own straits and tortures, or your body only, which is after the manner of a cross. Parents, wives, children, will have to be left behind, for God’s sake. Do you hesitate about arts, and trades, and about professions likewise, for the sake of children and parents?  Even there was it demonstrated to us, that both “dear pledges,” and handicrafts, and trades, are to be quite left behind for the Lord’s sake; while James and John, called by the Lord, do leave quite behind both father and ship;  while Matthew is roused up from the toll-booth;  while even burying a father was too tardy a business for faith.  None of them whom the Lord chose to Him said, “I have no means to live.” Faith does not fear famine. It knows, likewise, that hunger is no less to be regarded with contempt by it for God’s sake, than every kind of death. It has learned not to respect life; how much more food? You ask, “How many have fulfilled these conditions?” But what with men is difficult, with God is easy.  Let us, however, comfort ourselves about the gentleness and clemency of God in such wise, as not to indulge our “necessities” up to the point of affinities with idolatry, but to avoid even from afar every breath of it, as of a pestilence. On Idolatry, 3.68.

TERTULLIAN: Who would be unwilling that we should distress ourselves about sustenance for our life, or clothing for our body, but He who has provided these things already for man; and who, therefore, while distributing them to us, prohibits all anxiety respecting them as an outrage against his liberality?—who has adapted the nature of “life” itself to a condition “better than food,” and has fashioned the material of “the body,” so as to make it “more than clothing;” whose “ravens, too, neither sow nor reap, nor gather into storehouses, and are yet fed” by Himself; whose “lilies and grass also do not toil, nor spin, and yet are clothed” by Him; whose “Solomon, moreover, was transcendent in glory, and yet was not arrayed like” the humble flower.  Besides, nothing can be more abrupt than that one God should be distributing His bounty, while the other should bid us take no thought about (so kindly a) distribution—and that, too, with the intention of diminishing (from his liberality). Whether, indeed, it is as depreciating the Creator that he does not wish such trifles to be thought of, concerning which neither the crows nor the lilies labor, because, indeed, they come spontaneously to hand by reason of their very worthlessness, will appear a little further on. Meanwhile, . . . He chides them as being “of little faith?”  . . . Now, when He adds, “For all these things do the nations of the world seek after,”  even by their not believing in God as the Creator and Giver of all things, since He was unwilling that they should be like these nations, He therefore upbraided them as being defective of faith in the same God, in whom He remarked that the Gentiles were quite wanting in faith. Against Marcion, 3.397.

ORIGEN: “Take no thought what you will eat, or what you will drink. Behold the birds of the air, or behold the ravens: for they do not sow, neither do they reap; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. How much better are you than they! And why do you take thought for clothing? Consider the lilies of the field;”—these precepts, and those which follow, are not inconsistent with the promised blessings of the law, which teaches that the just “shall eat their bread to the full;”  nor with that saying of Solomon, “The righteous eats to the satisfying of his soul, but the belly of the wicked shall want.”  For we must consider the food promised in the law as the food of the soul, which is to satisfy not both parts of man’s nature, but the soul only. And the words of the Gospel, although probably containing a deeper meaning, may yet be taken in their more simple and obvious sense, as teaching us not to be disturbed with anxieties about our food and clothing, but, while living in plainness, and desiring only what is needful, to put our trust in the providence of God. Against Celsus, 4.620.

6:26ff TERTULLIAN: Far be all this from believers, who have no care about maintenance, unless it be that we distrust the promises of God, and His care and providence, who clothes with such grace the lilies of the field; who, without any labor on their part, feeds the birds of the heaven; who prohibits care to be taken about tomorrow’s food and clothing, promising that He knows what is needful for each of His servants—not indeed ponderous necklaces, not burdensome garments, not Gallic mules nor German bearers, which all add luster to the glory of nuptials; but “sufficiency,” which is suitable to moderation and modesty. To His Wife, 4.41.

© OTR 2023