Verse Commentary on Matthew 6:19-34
In the previous passage (Matt 5), the focus was on the blessings and
responsibilities of the kingdom of God. The disciples of Jesus were to be
salt and light so that the world "may see your good deeds and praise your
Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). This passage deals with one of those good
deeds, the requirement that a disciple trust God completely and seek His
kingdom first and foremost (Matthew 6:19-34).
1. Treasures on Earth and Treasures in Heaven (6:19-21)
19. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on
earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and
steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth
and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
19-20. These verses contrast
treasures on earth with
heaven. Do not store up . . . treasures. In Greek the
verb and the noun have the same root and can be literally translated,
"Do not treasure up treasures." A treasure is not only the stored object
but also the place of safe keeping. Where a treasure is stored is just
as critical as the stored object itself.
Moth was a symbol of destruction,
particularly of clothing (cf. Isaiah 51:8; James 5:2). In the ancient
world clothing symbolized wealth and status and was often used as dowry.
The Greek word for rust is literally
"eating" or "eater." Rust implies that
the hoarded treasure is a precious metal subject to corrosion. Yet, silver
and gold do not rust. Some commentators think "worm" might be a better
translation, implying that the stored treasure is food. Regardless of the
exact figure, the meaning is quite clear. Treasures hoarded on earth,
whether food, garments or money, are never secure.
Thieves break in. The Greek verb
literally means "dig through." Palestinian houses were built with mud
bricks, which made it easy for burglars to dig through walls.
21. For where your treasure is, there your heart
will be also.
In Jewish thought the heart
represented a person's very being. Two alternatives are available to a
person: heaven or earth. Which of the two one chooses determines one's
2. A Good Eye and an Evil Eye (6:22-23)
22 "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes
are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are
bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within
you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
22. The focus has shifted from the
heart to the eye. "The
eye is the lamp of the body" was probably a popular proverb
whose truth was taken for granted. Yet, Jesus seems to challenge this
popular notion. The eye, this very source of light, may itself have a
problem. If the eye is good, healthy and transparent, all is well. But
what if it is not?
Greek word for bad
literally means evil.
If then the light within you is darkness, how
great is that darkness! It is clear that Jesus was not
speaking simply of the physical eye. His concern was for the spiritual
health of the disciples.
But what is this inner light of the disciples? And how can such light be
darkness? In the Parable of the Vineyard Workers (Matthew 20:1-15), when
those who worked all day grumbled that they were paid the same wages as
those who worked only one hour, the owner said to one of the grumbling
workers, "Are you envious because I am generous?" (20:15). The Greek
literally reads, "Is your eye evil because I myself am good?" The evil eye
has to do with envy over money matters.
When money becomes a priority in a disciple's life, it snuffs out the
lamp of the gospel and turns it into utter darkness. Prosperity aborts
3. God and Mammon (6:24)
24 No one can serve two masters. Either he will
hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and
despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
24. The two words
and "masters" refer to a slave's
relationship to a slave-owner. In antiquity it was in fact possible to
belong to more than one master, as Acts 16:16 indicates. Jesus means
that one cannot serve two masters
equally well or at the same time.
in Hebraic thought do not mean two extreme and opposite emotions. They
often mean less or more love (compare Luke 14:26 and Matthew 10:37).
Similarly, despise means to be less devoted.
The verse ends with a summary statement:
cannot serve both God and Money. The Greek word for Money is Mammon, which was taken from Aramaic, the language of
Jesus. It meant wealth, property, or possessions, without the negative
connotation usually attached to it.
The Greek word for serve means to be
a slave to someone. So the meaning here is that while possessions are
neither good nor evil in themselves, one cannot be a slave to possessions
and be a disciple in the kingdom of God.
3. Human Anxiety and Divine Care (6:25-34)
25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your
life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will
wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important
than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap
or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you
not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a
single hour to his life? 28 "And why do you worry about clothes? See how
the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell
you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of
these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is
here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more
clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, 'What
shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For
the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows
that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not
worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has
enough trouble of its own.
25. Do not worry about your life.
Jesus intended to free his disciples from worry, not from work.
Life more important than food, and the body more
important than clothes. This statement is puzzling in view of
the fact that life would be impossible without food, and the body needs
clothing for protection. How can one be concerned for one's life without
any concern for food or clothing?
The word life, which in Greek is also
the word for "soul", refers not only to biological life but more importantly
to the totality of a person's purposeful existence in the presence of God.
In Matthew 16:26 Jesus says, "What good will it be for a man if he gains the
whole world, yet forfeits his soul?"
In these statements, the distinction is not between soul and body.
Hebraic thought, unlike Greek philosophy, did not make such a distinction.
The distinction is rather between a life which has meaning and purpose
derived from God and a life that is merely concerned with the drudgery of
In verses 26-30 Jesus explains this truth by giving two illustrations from
the world of nature. The first is in verse 26 and the second is in verses 28-30;
verse 27 is a digression that interrupts the two illustrations.
26. This first illustration has to do
with the birds of the air. These
statements of Jesus raise difficult questions for Christians. What about
birds that starve to death? Worse yet, what about people who trust God and
yet have no food? Is Jesus encouraging his disciples to be lazy? Is it wrong
to earn a decent income to provide for one's family or future retirement?
When Jesus said the birds of the air do not sow
or reap or store away in barns, he implied that these were normal
and necessary human activities. Yet, he also meant that his disciples must
live in complete trust in God's providence rather than finding their
security in their ability to make a living. The disciples must pray, "Give
us today our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11). God provides not simply because
people grow food and work, as necessary as that is, but because they are
more valuable than birds.
27. The Greek word for a
"single hour" is a cubit, which was a measure of approximately
eighteen inches. The word for life can also mean stature or height. Thus the
meaning is either life expectancy or height. In either case, it is utterly
useless to worry.
28. The second illustration has to do
with the lilies of the field. The Greek word for
means generic wild flowers or "weeds" that grow on their own without
cultivation (see v. 30).
Whereas in v. 26 the human activities of sowing, reaping and storing
refer to men's work, the activities described in verse 28 as labor and
spin refer to
women's work. This implies that there were women among the followers of
29. Not even Solomon, the Israelite
king whose splendor was well known (1
Kings 10:4-5), was a match to the dazzling beauty of wild flowers.
30. Since wood was scarce in
Palestine, dry grass was used for fire.
Even such short-lived weeds whose destiny was the fire were the object of
O you of little faith. This gentle
rebuke, which is one word in Greek, is always addressed to the disciples
(Matthew 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; 17:20). It is a clue that Jesus was about to
teach his disciples a deeper lesson in faith.
31. Verses 31-33 are a summary of
what was said above.
People in any age or any culture ask such questions as "What
shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?"
or "What shall we wear?" But the common
people of Galilee literally asked such questions. Unemployment was high, as
indicated by the idle workers in Matthew 20:1-15. There were many beggars.
Economic conditions were desperate.
Yet even more specifically, Jesus spoke these words to disciples who had
left everything to follow him (Matthew 4:20). "What then will there be for
us?" they asked (Matthew 19:27). In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus was in
effect saying to them, Don't worry! God will provide.
32. Perhaps "gentiles" would be a
better translation of the Greek word for
pagans (NASB, NRSV, NKJV). The NIV translates this same Greek word as "nations"
or "gentiles" in other places in Matthew (10:18; 28:19). The word
indicates non-Jews. Gentiles or pagans were singled out here not because
of racial bias but because they worshiped many gods in contrast to Jews
who worshiped the one true God. People who don't know God as heavenly
Father are prone to run after all these things.
the kingdom of God means to be
single-minded in one's pursuit of the life of discipleship. It must
become the only concern, in the light of which all other concerns are
judged. On one occasion, when a would-be disciple asked Jesus to allow
him first to go and bury his father, Jesus tersely replied, "Follow me,
and let the dead bury their own dead" (Matthew 8:22).
Jesus never defined the kingdom of God. It simply means God is absolute
king in one's life, whatever that may imply in individual cases. In one
sense, God as creator has always been sovereign king. In another sense, He
must be made king deliberately by individuals who submit to His rule and
The kingdom of God is not an arbitrary power. Its most important
characteristic is righteousness. This is
a very important concept in Matthew. In Matthew 5:20 Jesus said to his
disciples, "Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and
teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."
But righteousness was also a very
important quality required of the people of God in the Old Testament.
Unfortunately, the Pharisees and teachers of the law had reduced this demand
of God into a manageable list of rules and regulations. Jesus was not saying
that more was required of the disciples than the Old Testament standard of
righteousness. He was simply calling his disciples to the kind of
righteousness that God had always demanded of His people. It meant to "be
perfect... as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).
When the kingdom of God and His righteousness become a consuming passion
in a disciple's life, all these things
will be given in addition. The verb here means to add something more to what
has already been given. The kingdom of God is the primary gift. When one is
so consumed with the joy of finding the kingdom of God, other things
diminish in value. It is like the man in the parable who found a treasure in
the field and in his joy went and sold all that he had and bought that field
34. This verse concludes the section
that began at verse 25 with the same words,
worry. Here we find a more pessimistic view of life than the
Each day has enough trouble of
its own. The optimistic promise in verse 33 must be put side by
side with the harsh realities of life that disciples may face. They were
to live a day at a time, trusting God for the daily bread and leaving
tomorrow in His hands. A beggar is concerned for enough food for one