The True Concern.
Matth. 6, 19—34.
“Here, says Tholuck *), the connection breaks off in a striking way.” As if the connection had been the best so far! The matter is rather to be understood in this way. So far, the evangelist had formed larger sections, which he placed side by side without any connection, and just as he had worked in chapter 5,17. 6,1 so he does it here: he does not think of connecting the following section with the previous one. He only wants to have coherence within the individual sections, and there he has always used transitional articles – ουν, γαρ, δε – even if the coherence was missing in the section from which we just came.
Even now, he wants to give a self-contained section, for the beginning and end of it deal with the thought that the concern for earthly things does not befit the believer, but here he is already faced with the fact that he cannot insert a transitional particle twice (v. 22, 24) even with the best of intentions: he is forced to insert two sayings without any connection. He is already starting to falter, his strength is leaving him, and he despairs of being able to give the rich treasury of sayings at his disposal and which he wants to use in the Sermon on the Mount, this treasure of pearls strung on cords, to his readers. Already here in the present section, he no longer forms such beautiful wholes out of his own strength, as before; without any essential change, he takes the sayings as he finds them in the scripture of Luke and afterwards – to mention it immediately – in chapter 7, 1-20 he does not even attempt to form separate, similar sections in them, but counts the pearls for his reader one by one.
*) a. a. O. p. 452.
1. The Care for Heavenly and Earthly Goods.
Matthew 6:19-21, 25-34.
The exhortation not to seek after earthly treasures but rather heavenly ones (Matt. 6:19-21) has two points: that the latter are imperishable while the former are perishable, and that where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also. Although both points can be easily tolerated side by side in Matthew’s presentation, it is better motivated that the latter is added as a reason for the whole statement, since in the beginning of Luke 12:33-34 it is said: “Sell what you have and give alms.” There we know what the reminder that the heart is attached to treasure is meant to do: the believer should free himself from everything he possesses that is earthly.
With a new approach, the warning against earthly worries begins in Matthew 6:25: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink.” Why? Because (v. 24) no one can serve two masters, and therefore not God and Mammon. But the following passage does not speak of the service rendered to Mammon, only of worry about earthly needs. The “little faith ones” are reminded that the heavenly Father feeds the birds of the sky — why shouldn’t He also provide for them, who are worth much more? — that no one can add a cubit to his height — why worry, then, about clothing? — that life is more than food, and the body more than clothing — that is, whoever has given the greater will not deny the lesser — that the lilies of the field do not toil and yet grow in their splendor, that only the Gentiles are concerned with earthly needs, while the heavenly Father knows that His own need everything necessary for bodily nourishment: but seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well.
It is not in the slightest bit implied here that one should serve Mammon. Neither is it in the passage from Luke that Matthew copied and appended to his own account. Matthew even preserved the transition phrase, as Luke had used it: διὰ τοῦτο λέγω ὑμῖν. But Luke was justified in using this transition because he was not speaking about the service of Mammon but rather about the foolishness of accumulating wealth in order to eat, drink, and be merry, rather than being rich in spiritual things (Luke 12:16-31). In that context, the conclusion of the discourse, “Seek first the kingdom of God,” and the introduction, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life,” have meaning, significance, and coherence.
The conclusion, “But seek first the kingdom of God,” *) is a real conclusion that is prepared for by every individual part of the preceding development, and thus summarizes and dominates the whole. In Matthew’s account, however, it is not this conclusion because, to mention just one thing, he does not take into account the idea of the twofold service. Finally, even more importantly, this saying does not stand at the end of the development, but a new reason is given for not worrying, one which pertains to tomorrow, and that is a new qualification. The reasoning here is that tomorrow will take care of its own needs, and each day has enough trouble of its own. Perhaps the reason the evangelist added this new point at this juncture was the fact that, in Luke, after that conclusion (Luke 12:32), the exhortation follows that the little flock should not be afraid, for it has pleased the Father to give them the kingdom. Perhaps Matthew thought it was more appropriate to replace this exhortation with a new point that was indeed very striking, but that did not belong either in the context or at the conclusion of this discourse.
*) Luke 12:31 πλην ζητειτε την βασιλειαν του θεου, Matthew 8:33 explanatory ζητειτε δε πρωτον την βασιλειαν του θεου
If someone looks at the matter in a humane and understanding way and reads the speech in Luke 12:22-31 with its rich reasoning, its rapid succession of individual reasons, and at the same time with its clean depiction of images in a straightforward manner as is necessary for questions of this kind, and properly appreciates its artistic structure, they must concede that it is a free literary creation and nothing less than a speech of Jesus that has been preserved in this form in memory for years. The security of Christian self-awareness, which knows itself to be secure in possession of its eternal treasure and lifted above anxious care for earthly needs, created this speech. Also, the parable of the rich man who intended to gather his treasures and died before enjoying them is also a literary work and its point, which had already become a proverb in 1 Corinthians 15:32, is borrowed literally from the book of Sirach (C. 11:19).*)
*) This reminiscence is also noted by Weisse, who remarks (II, 150) that it is “not likely that we possess this parable in its genuine form.” Rather, we have it in the form in which it first arose, we have it firsthand — from that of Luke.
That Luke freely composed this entire passage is not unlikely, even though he has tied it to an occasion that is sharpened to a different point: we have already noted that the plastic art of the evangelical narrative did not reach so far that it could have created a complete connection in the whole and the large. Before the warning to seek earthly treasures stands Jesus’ response in which he rejected the request of a man from the crowd to settle the dispute over the division of the inheritance between him and his brother. “Man,” Jesus replied, “who made me a judge or an arbitrator between you?” (Luke 12:13-14). It is true that this word is not directed against greed or worldly concerns in general but is the expression of the same opposition to positive law that we have already learned about above. It should not be said that with this response of Jesus, he merely “does not want to interfere with the development of the state’s life in general,” *) but that the new principle has nothing to do with this forum of law at all. So even if it is certain that different things are brought together here, we must nevertheless go further and assert that it is not even certain that Luke had no literary share in the representation of that collision that was supposed to be the occasion for the following speech on the true concerns. First of all, it is unlikely enough that a stranger ever made a proposal to the Lord to settle an inheritance dispute between him and his brother, not to mention at this occasion where he was surrounded by countless strangers. It is more likely that the same thought, the same reaction against positive law that produced the exhortation to believers to settle their disputes amicably among themselves (Luke 12:57), also created that collision in order to express in a different turn that the Christian principle cannot involve itself in the decisions of positive law. The thought was given and familiar to the Gospel from the community: why should it not be represented in various forms? And if he used it this time (C. 12:13-15) to create an occasion for the speech on earthly concerns, what does that prove other than that he was not more successful with his pragmatism this time than usual?
*) Weisse, a. a. O.
2. Worship and Service to Mammon.
That the idea that one cannot serve two masters, and thus cannot serve both God and Mammon at the same time, although the connection, “for he will hate the one and love the other,” is supposed to be very close, does not have such a close connection with the following exhortation not to worry about life, as the transitional formula claims. We have already noted that this formula belongs in a completely different context.
At the end of the parable of the rich man and before the prohibition of earthly concerns, Matthew reads in the Gospel of Luke (12:21) the remark: “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” This contrast, this resonance that lies in the words treasure and riches, reminds the evangelist of another form of this contrast where riches are also mentioned, and without further consideration, he writes down the saying he read later in the Gospel of Luke (16:13), a saying that has found its place here only because of its external connection, as the parable of the unjust steward (Luke 16:9) and the subsequent saying about faithfulness and its testing in small matters (verse 10-12) also mention Mammon.–
Matthew’s willingness to follow even the most distant resonance, to let himself be drawn in the most unexpected direction by a single word, and his precise knowledge of the Gospel of Luke are demonstrated to us at this point in his Sermon on the Mount with an example that is strong enough to bring down the whole edifice of apologetics. How deep and firm must be the foundation of this building then?
3. The Inner Light.
After the exhortation to seek not earthly but imperishable heavenly treasures (verses 19-21), for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also, follows the saying that the believer must always maintain the inner light if he does not want to be surrounded by deep darkness. This inner light is just as important and indispensable to spiritual life as the eye is to the body as a lamp.
If even the evangelist did not dare to connect this sentence with the preceding and following ones through transitional particles, does the apologist think he can establish and develop the connection in the best way possible? “The direction towards earthly goods,” says Tholuck, “makes the mind only concerned with earthly things.” – What a tautology! – “But if the eye of the mind is earthly, how will the whole person be in darkness * )!” However, the mind, namely the heart, which was previously mentioned, is already the general aspect of the human being, or the whole person. On the other hand, “the light within you” is a last, but highest point in humans, from which all decision and self-determination ultimately arise, and which therefore must also be maintained with the greatest care in its purity as this source and as the last refuge of truth.
And how should this saying be related to the following one about serving two masters? “The health of the inner eye,” Tholuck replies **), “consists in recognizing the true, highest good as the only one, to which everything else must be subordinated.” With a “therefore” like this, one could connect the most remote things. The saying about the inner eye deals purely and solely with the inner relationship of the spirit to itself; in the saying about serving two masters, it is a matter of the division of the spirit between opposing interests.
*) a. a. O. p. 458.
**) p. 462.
In the Gospel of Luke, after the saying about the imperishable treasure, Matthew reads the admonition (Luke 12:35-36): “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast.” Matthew does not copy this saying – he later works it into a parable – but the word “lamp” reminds him of another saying about the lamp of the body and the spirit that he reads in Luke (11:34-36) and that has found its place here only through an external allusion – “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket” (verse 33). Matthew copies it, but leaves out the unclear and confused tautology of the closing statement (verse 36). This is how this saying ended up here.
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