The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Juan de Maldonado’s Commentary on Matthew 6:24-34

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 21, 2011

Text in red, if any, represent my additions.

Verse 24. No man can serve two masters. Whither does this tend? S. Chrysostom (Hom. xxii.) and The Author (Hom. xvi.) answer: Christ had said in verse 19, “Lay not up,” which, He shows, we cannot do, because we cannot serve God and mammon. S. Chrysostom (Hom. xxii.) and Theophylact show how it is to be understood, and that no one can serve two masters who give contrary commands, as God and mammon. This is no doubt true, but Christ gives another reason: ” He will hate,” &c. The words show that no one can have two masters, issuing, not merely different, but even contradictory orders. For nature herself forbids the love of a servant to be divided between two masters; as if Christ had said, ” No woman can have two husbands,” not only because they would give contrary directions, but because conjugal love is of such a nature in itself as to be the possession of one husband alone. Thus one master can have many servants, but one servant cannot have many masters; for the master does not love but direct the servant; the servant does not direct but love his master; and while command can be divided, love cannot. Christ therefore teaches us that riches, not only when wickedly gained and unjustly dispensed, but when both rightly gained and justly dispensed, if loved, call men off from the love of God. For no one is able to love two masters, or, as Christ said elsewhere, ” It is impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven ” (Matt 19:26). The Author (Hom, xvi.) says: “Christ did not say, No man can have two masters, but no man can serve two masters “. Everything to which we are too much inclined, and to which we are in a manner servants, He calls our master (as S. Paul, Rom 6:16; 2 Pet 2:19), and whoever is overcome by it is its servant (S. Basil, Reg., ii. i).

For either he will hate the one. “The one” is here taken for the first, “the other” for the second, a very common and well-known Hebraism. Specify therefore two masters, whom you will, Peter and Paul, either he will hate the one, that is, the first, Peter, and love the other, that is, the second, Paul; or he will sustain the one, that is, Peter, and he will despise the other, that is, the second, Paul. In a word, Christ does not oppose the one person to the other, but the hatred of the one to the love of the other. There is a similar expression in S. Luke 16:13.

You cannot serve God and mammon. Riches are called Mammon in Chaldaic; Mammona in Syriac; and Elias in Theto says: ” The Punic, which is akin to them, employs the same term “; as S. Augustin says (ii., De Serm. Dom., and Serm. xxxv. in verb. Dom. sec. Luc).

Verse 25. For your life. “Life ” (anima) is here put for one part of the man, as is clear from the other part being opposed to it: “Nor for your body what you shall put on”; but because our life consists of that part, anima is put for it, according to the custom of the Hebrews, as S. Augustin says, and as will be seen on Matt 10:39; 16:25 ; S.John 13:37, 38; 15:13; and other places innumerable.

Nor for your body. Christ mentions the two things that are most especially valued by men, and about which they are apt to be the most anxious, because all life consists of them. He forbids us to be anxious about them. But He does not forbid every kind of anxiety: but that alone, in fact, which springs from want of trust in God (as in verses 26, 28, 30), and which takes men off from the service of God (as in verse 24). Lastly, He does not disapprove of all kinds of anxiety, but of that which the servant has towards his rnaster. For He speaks in accordance with what He had said in verse 24.

Is not the life more than the meat? We may rightly question to what this tends. S. Jerome, S. Augustin (ii., De Serm. Dom) S. Chrysostom (Hom. xxii.), The Author (Hom, xvi.), Bede, Theophylact, Euthymius, Strabus, think that it has this following meaning: “Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? For who gives us our life and body but God ? He, therefore, who has given us the greater, will also give us the less.” So 1 Peter 5:7. This is confirmed by verses 26-30.

Verse 26. Behold the birds of the air. There seems to be three chief reasons why Christ named birds rather than other creatures, 1. He wished to give us examples of Divine Providence, as it were, throughout the whole universe, and He therefore begins from heaven with birds, and ends with earth. 2. When the birds are flying above, they are at a distance from all food, and yet God feeds them. 3. Terrestrial animals are more occupied in obtaining and storing up food; and therefore Solomon, that we may learn to be provident and busy, sends us to the ant {Prov 6:6; 30:25).

Of the air. These words have the same sense as the above. For there are domestic fowls which obtain their support from the care of man, but the fowls of the air are fed by God alone. S. Luke (xii. 24) specifies the ravens because, as some think, the young of the raven, as soon as they are hatched, are deserted by the parent birds, that they may depend upon the providence of God alone. It is, therefore, said expressly of the ravens that God provides food for them (Job 38:1; Ps 147:9).

And your Heavenly Father feedeth them. Christ does not say “their Father,” but “your Father”. As if He had said: If God most carefully provides for these creatures, though they are of little account, and He is not their Father, how much more will He feed you, who are men, and His sons?”  Christ,” says S. Chrysostom (Hom, xxii.), “might have brought examples of Divine Providence in Elias and John Baptist. Moses was supported forty days without food (Exod 24:18); Elias was fed by a raven, the most voracious of birds (1 Kings 17:46); John lived in the desert, without thought or care for his life and clothing (Matt 3:4). But Christ desired to show that Divine Providence extends even to the least and meanest of creatures, and that it is not true that the heavens are closed up, as the foolish companions of Job said (22:14).”

Verse 27. One cubit. The meaning of these words is plain from .S. Luke 12:26, by which, if we would rightly understand the passage, we must interpret them. It is clear that Christ was proceeding from the greater to the less. He calls the addition of the cubit, therefore, the least thing, not as in comparison with food, or drink, or clothing (for it is, undoubtedly, greater and more difficult to add, I do not say one cubit, but one hair to our bodies than to provide food and clothing), but in comparison with the whole body and life, as The Author well observes. Christ, therefore, by these words, proves the minor proposition of His former argument, which He had before suppressed. For He had said: “The life is more than the meat, and the body than the clothing”—but (understand) not you, but God makes the life and body. Not you, therefore, but God should provide food and raiment. He now goes on to prove that part of the minor proposition: You cannot make the life and body. You cannot make one cubit, much less the whole.

Verse 28. The lilies of the field. As Christ had said before, not merely “the fowls,” but “the fowls of the air,” so He here says, not “the lilies,” but “the lilies of the field,” to distinguish them from the lilies of the garden, which are planted and cultivated by man. Christ by this example appears to teach that God pleases to take care, not only for the necessaries but also for the comforts and refinements of life, that we may not be anxious even for these: as fathers provide not only that their children should not want, not merely the means of life and education, but those of ordinary refinement and necessary recreation as well.

What Christ teaches in these words He had already taught in fact in clothing the Israelites for forty years in the desert (Deut 7:4).

Verse 29. Not even Solomon. Christ named Solomon rather than any other king, because he excelled all who had gone before, and all who followed him, in riches, power, and glory (1 Kings 3:13), by which all that pertains to the ornament of the person is studied and invented.

In all his glory. Some read “with” for “in,” but the alteration is not required, and it destroys the force of the sentence. The meaning is not, as these suppose, that Solomon, however great and glorious, could not be clothed in such splendour, but that not Solomon himself, even when so clothed, and at the highest point of his grandeur, could be arrayed in such a manner. Our present version, therefore, is the better.

Verse 30. And if the grass. Two opposite qualities of the lily are here dwelt upon— their great beauty and their entire uselessness: their beauty as to be preferred to the glory of Solomon; their uselessness to show that there is nothing so mean and profitless but God takes the utmost care of it. When speaking of their beauty, Christ calls them “lilies”; when of their uselessness,
“hay”. Scripture constantly compares what is most useless and of the shortest duration to hay (Ps 37:2 72:16; Ecclus 14:8; Isaiah 37:27; 40:6).

Mat 6:31  Be not solicitous therefore, saying: What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed?
Mat 6:32  For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things.

Maldonado provides no comments on these verses, perhaps because the thought they express has already been mentioned in his commentary on the preceding verses. See also the following comment.

Verse 33. Seek ye therefore. Be anxious for the kingdom of God; so verses 25, 28, 31. Christ opposes one kind of solicitude to another—the necessary to the useless, the good to the bad. The Greek δέ refers not to the latter class, but to the former—the kingdom of God. The Greek adversative δέ is translated as “But” in the NAB, RSVCE, NIV; however, in the JB, DR, etc., it is not translated, perhaps because the adversative sense of the statement in verse 33 is already indicated at the beginning of verse 31, translated above as “Be not”, and in the imperative which follows the adversative δε heré.

First. We must understand “first” as “only”; for we are not to seek in the “second” place that which we are forbidden to seek at all. Christ did not wholly forbid us to seek other things, but so to seek them that our care for them should not take us from seeking the kingdom of God, or allow them to make us their slaves (verse 24). Christ has not forbidden: He has taught us to seek these things for the kingdom of God’s sake; for, in the Lord’s Prayer, after the words, “Thy kingdom come,” we are to say, “Give us this day,” and, as if to show what the meaning is, ” Seek ye first,” &c. So say S. Chrysostom (Hom xxiii.) and Euthymius.

To the words that follow, “And all these things shall be added unto you,” it has been objected, as if we were not to enquire, not to be anxious, not to seek. The addition is made because the things are not sought in the first place. But what is not sought in the first place, and for its own sake, but in the second place, and for the sake of God, does not seem to be sought at all, because the thing itself is not sought, but God is sought in it. Moreover, “these things” are often added by God, even when we do not seek them or think of them, as shall be shown hereafter.

The kingdom of God. S. Chrysostom, Euthymius, and others understand this as the kingdom spoken of in verse 10; which would agree well, were it not evident that the subject here is not what we ask for God’s sake, but for ourselves, and did not the words, “His righteousness,” immediately follow. It is certain that we should seek this, not for God, but for ourselves. It has been explained of a life of happiness, as if Christ had said: “Study first to come to the kingdom of God” (The Author, Hom xvi.; Bede, Euthymius, Comment). We may receive the words, “The kingdom of God,” as the grace of God, which we ought to seek in the first place as the life of our souls, as in S. Luke 17:21.

And his justice. God’s justice is so called as that which God has commanded
of us. As if it had been said: “Take heed, first to do the will of God, and observe His commandments,” as Zacharias and Elizabeth are said to have walked in all the “justifications,” that is, in the commandments of God (S. Luke 1:26). We must understand the “kingdom of God” by the explanation of S. Paul (Rom 4:17).

All these things shall be added unto you. This seems to be a metaphor taken from things of little value, which, on the purchase of articles of price, are not reckoned, but given as make-weights. Solomon is an example, when he asked not wealth, nor glory, nor power, but wisdom to govern the people of God; that is, when he sought the kingdom of God alone, he had other things for which he had not asked given to him (1 Kings 3:13). Similar expressions are often found in the Psalms (Ps 34:11; 111:5).

Verse 34. Be not therefore. The comparison of the fowls of heaven and the lilies of the field, which are not anxious, and yet God feeds and clothes them, has the same force. We then, His sons, should not be thus anxious; as that for which we most take thought is added to all who dismiss such cares, and seek only the kingdom of God. Be not solicitous, torment not yourselves without cause, spare your anxiety, for, “Sufficient unto the day”.

For the morrows. The words show that we may be allowed to have some care for to-day, but rather that of asking from God than of seeking by our own labour. The allusion seems to be to verse 11 (S. Luke 12:29. Be not causelessly anxious for the distant future, do not discuss what is afar off; as astronomers when they study the heavens, and as they who are described by S. James 4:13). To-morrow is put, according to Hebrew custom, for the future, as S. Hilary and S. Jerome have observed, and as is seen in Gen 30:38.

The morrow will be solicitous for itself. Solicitous for the things which pertain to it; that is, it will cause sufficient anxiety in the search of that which, when it comes, will be necessary for it. Christ speaks, as S. Chrysostom says (Hom, xxiii.), of the day, a thing inanimate, by prosopopoeia (personification), as if it could feel anxiety, or, as rather appears by the metonymy by which death is called “pale,” because it makes men so. In this sense day is said to be anxious for its own things, because it makes us anxious for them.

The evil thereof. The solicitude of which Christ speaks, and which He calls “evil,” that is, affliction and vexation; as Tertullian (ii., Against Marcion), S. Jerome (Comment.), S. Chrysostom (Hom xxiii.), S. Augustin (ii., De Serm. Dom), Euthymius, and Theophylact explain it. S. Jerome says that κακία, “evil,” is put for “a state of evil “. The question remains of the truth of the saying, how Christ forbids us to be anxious for the morrow, when He Himself had a purse (S. John 12:6; 13:29); so that He seems to have been solicitous, not only for the morrow, but for more days to come. Joseph, too, a man of evangelical piety, was careful for seven years to come, and was much praised for his foresight (Gen 41:39-48); and the Apostles were careful to prepare means for their future sustenance (Acts 11:29); and Solomon, to teach us forethought and carefulness, refers us to the ant (Prov 6:6; 30:25). If we are not to have any kind of anxiety for the morrow, we must not plant or sow, for these cannot exist without it. S. Augustin replies that by ” to-morrow ” are meant those other temporal goods which we ought not to seek. That we can, and, at times, even ought to be anxious about temporal goods, has been proved before. The Author explains the being anxious for the morrow to mean “anxiety for what is not necessary”. But Christ speaks even of these; even of the necessaries of life, of food and clothing (verses 26, 28, 31). Former examples have shown that every kind of solicitude for the future is not forbidden, but that which is forbidden is to be gathered out of the entire chapter.

1. Whatever hinders us from seeking the kingdom of God is forbidden.

2. Whatever springs from distrust of God.

3. Whatever does not follow but precedes anxiety for the kingdom of God; which we ought to seek in the first place, and which is of so great consequence, that we ought to be its servants, we who cannot serve two masters (verse 24).

2 Responses to “Juan de Maldonado’s Commentary on Matthew 6:24-34”

  1. […] UPDATE: Juan de Maldonado on Matt 6:24-34 for Sunday Mass, Feb 27. […]

  2. […] Maldonado’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matt 6:24-34). […]

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