Third Sunday After Pentecost
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22 "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; 23 but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 "No one can serve two masters; for 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 God and mammon. 25 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.
22 Ὁ λύχνος τοῦ σώματός ἐστιν ὁ ὀφθαλμός· ἐὰν οὖν ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου ἁπλοῦς ᾖ, ὅλον τὸ σῶμά σου φωτεινόν ἔσται· 23 ἐὰν δὲ ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου πονηρὸς ᾖ, ὅλον τὸ σῶμά σου σκοτεινὸν ἔσται. εἰ οὖν τὸ φῶς τὸ ἐν σοὶ σκότος ἐστί, τὸ σκότος πόσον; 24 Οὐδεὶς δύναται δυσὶ κυρίοις δουλεύειν· ἢ γὰρ τὸν ἕνα μισήσει καὶ τὸν ἕτερον ἀγαπήσει, ἢ ἑνὸς ἀνθέξεται καὶ τοῦ ἑτέρου καταφρονήσει. οὐ δύνασθε Θεῷ δουλεύειν καὶ μαμωνᾷ.
25 Διὰ τοῦτο λέγω ὑμῖν, μὴ μεριμνᾶτε τῇ ψυχῇ ὑμῶν τί φάγητε καὶ τί πίητε, μηδὲ τῷ σώματι ὑμῶν τί ἐνδύσησθε· οὐχὶ ἡ ψυχὴ πλεῖόν ἐστι τῆς τροφῆς καὶ τὸ σῶμα τοῦ ἐνδύματος; 26 ἐμβλέψατε εἰς τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, ὅτι οὐ σπείρουσιν οὐδὲ θερίζουσιν οὐδὲ συνάγουσιν εἰς ἀποθήκας καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος τρέφει αὐτά· οὐχ ὑμεῖς μᾶλλον διαφέρετε αὐτῶν; 27 τίς δὲ ἐξ ὑμῶν μεριμνῶν δύναται προσθεῖναι ἐπὶ τὴν ἡλικίαν αὐτοῦ πῆχυν ἕνα; 28 καὶ περὶ ἐνδύματος τί μεριμνᾶτε; καταμάθετε τὰ κρῖνα τοῦ ἀγροῦ πῶς αὐξάνει· οὐ κοπιᾷ οὐδὲ νήθει· 29 λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐδὲ Σολομὼν ἐν πάσῃ τῇ δόξῃ αὐτοῦ περιεβάλετο ὡς ἓν τούτων.
30 Εἰ δὲ τὸν χόρτον τοῦ ἀγροῦ, σήμερον ὄντα καὶ αὔριον εἰς κλίβανον βαλλόμενον, ὁ Θεὸς οὕτως ἀμφιέννυσιν, οὐ πολλῷ μᾶλλον ὑμᾶς, ὀλιγόπιστοι;
31 μὴ οὖν μεριμνήσητε λέγοντες, τί φάγωμεν ἢ τί πίωμεν ἢ τί περιβαλώμεθα; 32 πάντα γὰρ ταῦτα τὰ ἔθνη ἐπιζητεῖ· οἶδε γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος ὅτι χρῄζετε τούτων ἁπάντων. 33 ζητεῖτε δὲ πρῶτον τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ τὴν δικαιοσύνην αὐτοῦ, καὶ ταῦτα πάντα προστεθήσεται ὑμῖν.
Larger Thought Unit
This reading is a small section of what has long been called the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7). The reading ends with verse 33 and cuts off the final “punch line” of the unit which is verse 34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about it own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” The intention is to end the reading with “the kingdom,” that is, on the same note as that of last Sunday, making out of today’s reading an ‘exposition’ of what the ‘gospel of the kingdom’ (4:23) is about. Indeed, in our liturgical cycle of Sunday readings, it is the only section of Mt 5-7 that is read. In the larger unit of the entire sermon, the content is not one of exhortation and encouragement, but rather one of commandments given to disciples to hear and obey. The revelation of the new law on the new mountain of God by the new redeemer of Israel has nothing to do with “vision” but with instruction. Whereas Moses was taught by God on the mountain, the disciples are taught by Jesus, the eschatological messiah.
The English “sound” is the translation of ἁπλοῦς and is put in opposition to πονηρὸς, which is translated as “not sound” but actually means “evil, wicked.” Hence the clue to understanding the message hinges on a correct understanding of ἁπλοῦς. From its use in the New Testament one must conclude that it refers to being generous, open, and outgoing. Hence, if the eye, with which we perceive the reality around us, is “open” to all without distinction, i.e., do not differentiate between Jew and Gentile, “good’ and “bad,” then one will not be found “evil” by God himself who does not make such differentiation:
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil (πονηροὺς) and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mt 5:44-48)
That is why the servant who does not forgive the debt of his neighbor as his master did for him, is considered “wicked’ (πονηρέ,; Mt 18:32). This openness to the “other,” whoever he might be, is also the topic of the parable of talents (Mt 25:14-30). The servant who did not want to share the master’s “money” with the τραπεζίταις (v.27)—which means “commensals, table fellows” and is a clear reference to the unrestricted table fellowship between Jews and Gentiles as advocated by Paul—is found also πονηρέ, (v. 26).
This reading is corroborated by exhortations to follow God, not “mammon” (money, wealth, property), and not to worry about what such provides: clothing and food. If one does so, then one is no better than the “Gentiles” (Mt 6.32; see also Mt 5.47 quoted above). What is rather to be sought is the kingdom of God that is secured only by a righteousness equal to that of God himself who does not differentiate between Jew and Gentile as the Pharisees do. The disciples’ righteousness is to go beyond that of the latter: “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5.20) And this is what Paul, the faithful servant, did (Gal 1.13-17; Phil 3.3-7).
David E. Garland, Reading Matthew, Crossroads Publishing Company, NY, NY, 1995; pp. 82ff.
Paul Nadim Tarazi, New Testament Introduction, Vol.2: Luke and Acts, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY, 2001; pp.97-100; 105; 133-34.