Introduction/ Thesis statement
The gospel of Matthew is a book that alludes to the Old Testament books and other books from the New Testament, which had preached the coming and the works of Jesus Christ. Though the book has about three divisions, chapter six, verses twenty four to thirty (Matthew 6:24-34), enormously condemns worship of wealth due to greediness because such worship competes with the true worship of the sovereign Lord. According to Matthew, Jesus used parables, narratives, and miracles to pass his message to the people.
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Moreover, he openly condemned ungodly practices like wealth possession at the expense of the faith of an individual. Matthew chose words with precision to ensure that all Christians, even children, clearly understood the message in the sermon. With application of literary elements like symbols and similes among others, Jesus convinced people to worship God and not wealth.
Although the bible has different authors, some of the stories are parallel or similar especially in the Gospels, which are the case with Matthew, John, and Luke. Though translated from Greek, the book of Matthew (Matthew 6:24-30) elaborates the themes of faith or trust, materialism (wealth, possessions and greediness) and Christianity, which ultimately separate man from God.
The passage translation
Originally, Matthew 6:24-30 was in Greek, which led to different translations according to personal understanding of the text or message. Therefore, the following is the personal translation from the Greek language and New International Version (NIV). ““No one can serve two masters.
Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. 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 than food and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow, reap, or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not valuable than they are? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in his entire 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—you of little faith?” (Matthew 6: 24-30 New international Version Bible).
Choice of words in the translation in comparison to others
The above translation may differ slightly from the Greek version due to the choice of words, which may have a slight different meaning. Greek is not as popular as English; therefore, the use of simple English verbs, phrases or words enables students or readers who are non-native speakers to study effectively.
The words are simple, straightforward, and unsophisticated to enable anyone, even a child, to understand the message in the text. Due to simplicity, readers do not have to refer or infer to the original text in Greek or to the bible dictionary to get the meaning of the complex words in the text.
Moreover, the interpretation of the message is easier due to the simplicity of the words; therefore, the themes like trust and faith are clear. The bible is a complex and enormous book that needs clarity of words; thus, simple words not only attract the readers, but also encourage them to read on.
As aforementioned, English is a worldwide spoken language and unsophisticated language or choice of words enables all new learners to understand clearly the words including the message without the need of an instructor or a teacher for interpretation. Words like “single cubit” are complex words that will force a reader to use a dictionary. Therefore, I opted to use the word “increase your earthly survival time” to bring out the clarity that is lacking in the original text.
The other word is “masters”, which I replaced with “people or individual” for easier understanding. The word ‘masters’ might have two meanings viz. a leader or a boss; therefore, it may confuse the reader. However, a simplified word like ‘person’ cannot have multiple meanings leading to clarity.
I also used the word “richness” instead of “splendor” when describing King Solomon’s wealth to elaborate the text or message. Therefore, the simple choice of words as rich, people, and individual over others like Masters and splendor not only promotes easier understanding of the verses, but also attract new English learner to read and understand the sermon.
The literary elements used in the passage
Although the bible has been in existence for many years, Matthew explicitly used different literary elements to elaborate and cite the preaching of Jesus as it is the case in chapter six. According to Matthew, symbolism is one of the major elements applied by Jesus during his preaching. For instance, He used clothes, food, and money among other items during his preaching. According to Jesus, the aforementioned items connoted wealth, greediness, and other worldly possessions that most people fight and struggle to achieve.
Even though Jesus did not condemn directly the issue of amassing wealth, the items he mentioned contribute to wealth, which eventually separate man from God. Money is a symbol of wealth, power, and luxury and thus anybody focusing on money is likely to forget about the existence of God in his or her life.
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From the preaching of Jesus about wealth and God, it is evident that, in the process of amassing riches, an individual commits a number of sins. Such deeds not only diminish his or her faith, but may also end up shortening his or her lifespan. On the other hand, Jesus used wild birds, flowers, and grasses, which are symbols of poverty.
True to Jesus’ words, birds, flowers, and grass do not have houses, own land, money, or clothes; nevertheless, they eventually live a happy life, something that majority of human beings lack. Jesus used such symbols to warn people of the futility of chasing earthly possessions at the expense of knowing and revering their Creator.
Additionally, the body is a symbol of life and happiness; therefore, people who take care of their body or life assume God cannot do so. For anybody to live a longer life on earth, he or she should have faith in God and not work hard to prolong it. Finally, Solomon was a famous sagacious rich King; he is a symbol of wealth. However, Solomon’s life did not shine, as it is the case with the birds.
When Jesus used Solomon as a symbol of wealth, he meant to discourage people from struggling or worrying about wealth, which separates them from God. However, slightly complex, symbols motivate the readers to reflect and meditate on the message and understand it fully. To sum it all, Jesus used different elements of work to not only attract his listeners, but also to encourage them to trust in God.
The second literary element is narration, which elaborates Jesus’ preaching. He gives a story on a servant with two masters before underscoring the inability to serve them equally. A servant is mostly a poor person struggling to survive and by having a divided attention, s/he will do a shoddy or poor work.
The master will have to dismiss such a servant for inefficient work and the same story applies to anybody struggling to work for earthly possessions. The use of narration is to bring out simplicity in a bid to clarify the intended message or sermon. The second story is about birds, their lifestyles, and happy life void of anxiety. The third story is about wild flowers and grass, which shine but do not struggle to gain wealth.
Though living in wild habitat, flowers and grasses worry less about what might happen the following day. Through narration, Jesus was able to use common examples that are visible and easy to understand; thus clarifying his preaching .The third literary element is a simile, which compares clothes to flowers. “Not even King Solomon with all his richness dressed like flowers” (Matthew 6: 29).
Though not tended, flowers outshine clothes, which need skill and precision to make and even the inherent beauty of flowers outshines the clothes of a rich man. Therefore, the use of a simile in his comparison elaborates and clarifies the intended message. The simile gives a direct comparison to physical, visible, and tangible items thus making it easier for anybody to interpret the message.
The different translations of the words ‘single cubit’
In the old books, the phrase “single cubit” is a bit complex when compared to my translation, which I have replaced with “extends earthly survival with one hour.” conventionally, an adult stops growing in height at the age of twenty-two.
Therefore, he or she has to read the text with concern and deep reflection to understand the hidden meaning, which is to increase one’s lifespan. On the other hand, the best choice of words and other literary forms is simple, open, and clear; no complex words in the translation. Moreover, simple forms of literary choices also promote clarity and easier interpretation of the text or message.
According to the teachings of Jesus in the book of John, the word “food” has different or symbolic meaning as opposed to my periscope. According to John, Jesus used the word food not to mean literary eating, but to imply spiritual nourishment.
In John, Jesus says, “My food, is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:31-36). Therefore, according to Jesus, his food was to nourish spiritually all people and the accomplishment of his earthly work is his ‘food’. Although Jesus and his disciples were hungry, he did not allow them to look for food until he was done with his preaching.
The harvests from the fields are useless if nobody listens to the preaching of Jesus. When compared to Matthew, the word “food” has different meaning in the two books. While the book of Matthew literary uses ‘food’ to imply food for body nourishment or nutrients, the book of John uses the same to imply spiritual and Godly nourishment.
Nevertheless, the apostle Luke uses the word ‘food’ when referring to the miracles of Jesus. In the book of Luke, the word ‘food’ has the literary meaning of eating for body growth (Luke 9:13). Though used in different books, both Luke and Matthew refer to ‘food’ as necessity for body nutrients, while in John it means listening to God’s word.
The similarity, difference/contradictions of the story with other Gospels
The story of ‘God and Possessions’ is also similar to the story of ‘trust in God’ in the book of Luke 12:22-29. In the two texts, Jesus is asking his disciples not to worry about wealth especially food, clothes, and other forms of possessions at the expense of their spiritual wellbeing.
The two stories are also similar because the apostle Luke uses wild flowers and grass to symbolize poverty. In the same way, he also alludes to the Old Testament on the lifestyle of King Solomon in that, despite being rich, Solomon’s clothes were not as shinny as the flowers of the field.
Therefore, the two stories have the same literary elements and thus the same meaning. The two disciples used the element of narration to emphasize the ministry work of Jesus. Additionally, though slightly different, the simile used in both stories is similar and thus has a similar meaning. The themes of the stories are same whereby trust, faith, Christianity, and wealth are the main themes highlighted. On the other hand, there is a slight difference because instead of using birds, Luke uses a cow as a symbol to elaborate his message.
In addition, Luke does not start with a story about a servant with two masters; thus, slightly differs with the book of Matthew. The book of Luke also highlights the theme of management, which lacks in the book of Matthew. The two stories also contradict because, while Matthew uses ‘bird’, John uses ‘cow’ to symbolically mean poverty yet both of them were the disciples of Jesus who listened the same story at the same time.
Therefore, Jesus preached a similar story to the same audience but at different times, which led to the difference especially in the symbols used. Similarly, the commencement of the story is not in the same way because while Luke omits some of the aspects, Matthew adds some words or phrases that are missing in Luke’s text thus bringing out the contradiction or difference.
Significance of the pericope to the First audience
During the times of Jesus, most people struggled to amerce wealth, which made them to commit sins while others decided to worship their wealth and not God. Eventually, Jesus had to condemn the people’s act of leading to the emergence of the above pericope.
Because of the tough times and the need to make ends meet, the first audience to listen the sermon on the above pericope was not only surprised but also confused. Everybody has to work in order to meet his or her daily needs but Jesus was urging them to forget about that and concentrate on God (Musser Para.3).
Therefore, Jesus compelled Christians to practice the virtues of faith or trust other than doubting God. However, some of the disciples and the followers of Jesus opted to forgo their daily routine jobs like fishing to preach the word of God. The disciples of Jesus had to trust in God for the provision of their daily upkeep thus most of them had to continue to compel Christians to worship God other than wealth or other gods.
Significance of the pericope in the contemporary world
Contemporarily, wealth or riches are the essential needs but at the expense of God’s word. Currently, both Christian .Most priests, pastors and other church leaders compete to drive lavish cars or enormous bungalows at the expense of their Christian faith. Some preachers or church leaders/ elders especially of the newly sprouting churches fight for leadership positions in their institutions.
The aim for fighting for the leadership positions is to enable them control church funds (money). On the other hand, “Christians or people who acquire wealth or riches in ungodly ways will definitely pay the price” (Wiersbe “Bile Exposition Commentary set volume 2” 1).
Therefore, Christians should trust or have faith in God thus enabling them to acquire genuine wealth. In addition, most Christians like politicians and other leaders worship either their wealth (vehicles, bodies) or other gods. Some people decide to worship other gods because of the lure of acquiring quick money, which completely separates them from God.
Due to greed, some church leaders accept or give bribes to gain favors. Others people (Christians) either practice politics or are politicians who end up supporting one party or the other. Finally, enmity brews up in most churches or Christians. When Christians practice virtues like equality, trust, faith, mercy and love everybody in the world will be worshipping God. Due to fight for power, money and other forms riches kill, fornicate, or even consult witch doctors thus separating them from God.
Eventually people or Christians are not only living a devilish lifestyle but also die prematurely. According to Wiersbe “Bile Exposition Commentary set volume 1”, people or Christians who trust God for their daily provisions live both a longer and peaceful life (15). Therefore, the above pericope preaches or ministers to both Christians and non-Christians to practice Godly virtues. Thusly, the world will be a better place to be if wealth is not a priority among Christians.
In Summary, the book of Matthew is an entity in the bible that preaches the desire of Jesus. Jesus always wanted Christians to practice Faith and trust in God for their everyday survival. Although the pericope is in many translations, the message is the same. The apostles of Jesus were among the early Christians or audience to hear the above pericope. Most of them opted to follow Christ and his preaching and they had to forgo their jobs or family. Contemporarily, few Christians practice the message in the above pericope.
Besides worshipping wealth, they also adore other god apart from the sovereign mainly due to greed. Some even kill or fight due to property ownerships but if they adhere to the message in the above pericope, nobody in the world will die or fight over wealth. Finally, according to the pericope God is the provider of all earthly riches therefore anybody who struggles singly to acquire wealth will end up as a pauper.
Musser, Donald. An introduction to the Bible revised edition. Nashville: Abingdon, 2001.
New international Version Bible, 1999. Web. <https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%204:31-36&version=NIV>
Wiersbe, Warren. Bile Exposition Commentary set volume 2. New York: Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, 2009.
Wiersbe, Warren. Bile Exposition Commentary set volume 1. New York: Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, 2004.