4. Do Not Be Anxious: Seek the Kingdom (6:25-34)

25 For this reason I say to you, Do not be worried about your life, what you shall eat,a or about your body, what you shall wear.

Life is more than food, isn’t it, and the body than clothing?

26 Look at the birds of the air! For they do not sow, nor do they reap, nor do they gather into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you of more value [to God] than they [are]?

27 Which of you b by worryingb can add a ‘cubit’ to his or her age?

28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Study closely the lilies of the field, how c they grow.c They neither work hard nor spin; 29 but I say to you, not even Solomon in all his glory robed himself as one of these. 30 If this is the way God decks out the grass of the field which d is [here]d today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more [clothe] you—[you people of] little faith?

31 Don’t worry, then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we robe ourselves?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; also, e your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 Instead first seek the kingdomf and his righteousness, and all these things shall be granted to you as well. 34 Don’t worry, then, about tomorrow. For tomorrow will worry about g itself. Sufficient for the day is its [own] evil.

Textual Notes

a. η τι πιητε (‘or what you shall drink’) is added by B W (L Θ 1006 1506 etc.) f13 33 205 209 etc., but missing from f1 892 etc. a b ff1 k l vg syc samss. The choice is difficult. V. 31 might support either an original inclusion or scribal insertion; the natural pairing of eat and drink makes a scribal insertion easily understandable. The role of the image pair in vv. 26, 28-30 tips the scales in favour of scribal insertion.

b-b. Missing from 1293 it syc. This broadens the scope but fits the context less well.

c-c. The original hand of appears to have read ου ξενουσιν (‘they do not card’), with the order of the following two verbs inverted. P. Oxy. 655 seems to have been influenced by such a reading. To read ου ξενουσιν for αυξανουσιν would be an easy mistake (as would the converse). If it is a mistake, then the word order has been subsequently adjusted to match. The change could also be an ‘intelligent’ correction, giving three linked work verbs (there are three matched verbs in vv. 26, 31). Those who view the change as an ‘intelligent’ correction find support from noting that at Lk. 12:27 the corresponding verb has simply been dropped by D sys, c (a) and the general term ‘work hard’ (κοπια) has been replaced by ‘weave’ (υφαινει): clearly a matched set has been deliberately created. We will offer suggestions below as to the likely role of the at-first-surprising presence of ‘grow’.

d-d. W supplies the lack of a predicate for οντα (lit. ‘being’) with εν αγρω (‘in [the] field’), perhaps influenced by Lk. 12:28.

e. * mae add ο θεος (‘God’) to make it immediately clear that God is the father intended; they then have no need of the following ‘heavenly’ (so also lat syc bo).

f. του θεου (‘of God’) is added by L W Θ f1, 13 33 892 1006 1342 1506 etc. This reflects the awkwardness of the late position of αυτου (‘his’) after the extended phrase την βασιλειαν και την δικαιοσυνην (‘the kingdom and the righteousness’), but is itself awkward after ‘your heavenly Father’ in v. 32. B probably responds to the same awkwardness by inverting the order of ‘kingdom’ and ‘righteousness’ to bring ‘his’ and ‘kingdom’ together (though here the motivation might have been an understanding that ‘righteousness’ comes before possession of the ‘kingdom’).

g. A definite article (sing. or pl.) is added by E (Δ) Θ 0233 f1, 13 33 205 565 106 1424 1506 etc. This provides an accusative object for the verb: ‘the thing[s] concerning itself’ (a gen. object for μεριμναν is unparalleled, so it has probably been ‘corrected’).

Since people do not always recognise slave service to mammon for what it is, vv. 25-34 offer concrete illustrations. Anxiety about the concrete necessities of life is incompatible with the all-encompassing nature of the claims of the kingdom of God.

The material occurs in a quite similar form in Lk. 12:22-34. The most notable differences are: Luke has an assertion in the place of the rhetorical question of Mt. 6:25 (similarly in vv. 26, 30); Luke has ‘crows’ for Matthew’s ‘birds of the air’ and ‘God’ for ‘your heavenly Father’ in v. 24 (probably both Matthew’s change; in v. 32 Matthew has ‘your heavenly Father’ again where Luke has ‘your Father’); Luke appears to have inserted a transition piece before v. 28a, which has led to the substitution of ‘the other things’ for ‘clothing’; Luke has dropped the reference to clothing in v. 31 and replaced it with an unusual word for being anxious; Luke has softened the reference to Gentiles (as pagans) in v. 32 into ‘all the nations of the world’; Matthew has added ‘and the righteousness’ in v. 33 to Luke’s ‘his kingdom’; Matthew and Luke use entirely different materials at v. 34. The final clauses of vv. 25 and 27, the opening clause of v. 32, and v. 34 have reasonably been suspected of being developments. But the greater expansion postulated for the Q form by Robinson and Heil, who claim that the version of Gos. Thom. 36 preserved in P.Oxy. 655 is more original, seems altogether less likely.

6:25‘I say to you’ denotes emphatic assertion as already in 3:9, but with an additional note of authority from the echo of the frequent occurrences of ‘[Amen] I (ἐγώ) say to you’ earlier in the Sermon on the Mount. While ψυχή is quite a flexible word with a range of meaning, it is clear enough that ‘[physical] life’ is the sense here. The first proscribed form of anxiety is that about the nourishment needed to sustain life. Is that which concerns the clothing of the body essentially different? That depends on the answer to a further question. Does ‘what shall you wear?’ have to do with concern about the prospect of exposure to the elements or with how one will appear to others? At first sight the glamorous garb of the lilies (v. 29) might suggest the latter, but a promise of being more splendidly dressed than Solomon is hard to defend, and the language of need in v. 32 points in the direction of clothing for the body as a fundamental need of human life. Food and clothing are frequently paired as related basic human needs. Since σῶμα (‘body’) and ψυχή (‘life/soul’) also form a standard pair, the cumulative case is strong for taking the interest in clothing here as related to the basic human need to survive. Though it is inevitable that it is ‘the body’ which is clothed, there is nonetheless probably a conscious artistry in connecting ‘food’ (which goes into the person) with ‘life’ (the inner aliveness of the person) and clothing (related to a need that remains external) with the body.

The call not to be anxious about our basic human need to survive represents a profound challenge to fundamental human preoccupations. The situation of those whose material condition is marginal requires no comment, but those who are better placed materially are generally no less characterised by anxiety about their needs, either because their own perception of what their basic needs are has expanded to match their material circumstances or because the very fact of wealth makes for a sense of insecurity about successfully retaining hold of it. Those who discuss the issue have sometimes become polarised about whether the notion of anxiety involved here is essentially psychological or whether it has to do with patterns of human behaviour. If pressed to a choice, then one must claim that the former is where the emphasis must lie, but anxiety produces its patterns of action also.

The question posed at the end of v. 25 represents the first support for the challenge issued. But what is its point? It is commonly taken to mean: ‘life and body are greater than that which nurtures them physically; so, since God has given the greater, should we not have confidence that he will give the lesser?’ But some scholars have thought this approach to be flawed, as a rather unclear anticipation of much the same point in the illustrations to come. Another possibility is to find guidance from wisdom teaching which identifies negative emotion as damaging to life. ‘If you only have your worries, what is your life worth?’ This makes a poor fit in the context, but it may nonetheless begin to point us in the right direction. An obvious characteristic of anxiety is its tendency to be all-consuming: the scope of life narrows under its pressure. It may well be that it is precisely to this narrowing that the question is directed. In the larger context seeking the kingdom (v. 33) will be excluded by the anxiety-induced restriction of focus (and thus mammon will have dominated in the attempt at double loyalty), but at this stage the point is more general and requires only the recognition that life is more than the basics of survival. The first reason, then, for not being anxious is that it narrows life intolerably.

6:26With the illustration of the birds we get to the main thrust of this section: anxiety is wrong because it represents a failure to trust God as provider. Appeal to nature is a wisdom pattern (e.g., Job 12:7-10; Pr. 6:6-11), as is the view that God provides food for his creatures. Matthew speaks of ‘the birds of the air (οὐρανοῦ)’ also in 8:20; 13:32, and this is a frequent OT phrase. There is a nice balance between ‘the birds of the air’ and ‘the lilies of the field’ to come in v. 28. The verse compares the birds with the farmers who in their planning and labour see through the stages of the agricultural cycle in order to have grain for bread for the coming year. The birds engage in no corresponding forward-planning; they do not work with a view to a future yet out of reach. Yet, through the provisions of the natural order, God feeds them. It is difficult to know whether we should find here a comment on the farmers’ efforts. Are they characterised as the behaviour of the anxious? Are they mentioned to enhance the contrast with the birds (people are both more valuable and they work for their food)? Is there a connection with those who have left all in response to the call of Jesus to be wandering preachers? None of these options is really satisfactory. The focus is sharply on God as the one who provides. What the birds do not do makes no judgment on the activity of the farmer, it is merely a negative foil for what God does.

The image is meant to evoke an awareness of God’s pervasive care and provision, not to give encouragement to be as careless as the [birds]. What the [birds] fail to do speaks to us, but does not exactly tell us what we should do. As often with Jesus’ teaching…, while having our present pattern of action put in question [here acting on the basis of anxiety], we are not ultimately told what to do about the details of life; we are being addressed at a different level.

The appeal to nature is entirely selective: planning for the future can be found among animals, as can starvation. But the reality of other images does not undermine the pertinence of the one which Jesus has chosen to use. It is this image which in the context of Jesus’ ministry has the capacity to speak relevantly about God to the specific human situation of anxiety about basic life needs.

6:27τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν (‘which of you’) on the lips of Jesus always invites a negative answer, and the negative affirmation thus established is applied by means of a comparison, implicit or explicit. It is not, however, immediately clear what comparison might be intended here. There is first of all a difficulty in deciphering the image.

πῆχυς is literally ‘forearm’, and from this a ‘cubit’, a measure of length (ca. eighteen inches). ἡλικία means ‘age’ or ‘stage of life’, but also ‘stature’. The obvious image is of attempting to increase one’s height by worrying, but Luke does not seem to have taken it this way since he glosses with ‘If, then, you cannot [do such] a very small thing…’ (12:26), and working with a unit as large as eighteen inches makes for an odd image.

The commonly claimed sense (adding to one’s span of life) involves taking ἡλικία to mean ‘length of life’, a sense which is otherwise unattested. What else is possible? ἡλικία has obvious links with the idea of maturity. Standing alone it can refer to the requisite age(-range) for some activity or state of affairs (to be physically mature, be of age to take responsibility, etc.). The physical sense ‘stature’ is also derived from the idea of growing up and thus becoming bigger over time. Is the term being used in relation to the desire to attain the stature required for something desired (whether this is something quite concrete like functioning as a priest, being an elder of the community, or gaining one’s inheritance, or something more general like the status of one who has gained maturity or seniority)? Along these lines, with a double layer of metaphoricality, πῆχυς could be functioning as a time measure (cf. Ps. 39:5) and standing for a passage of time that will take one a step closer to the necessary age (ἡλικία) for entry into that stage in life which opens up for one what is desired. The implied statement would be: You cannot by worrying gain the seniority to which you aspire. The important but unstated corollary is that what worrying cannot achieve comes nonetheless: it comes in due course as the provision of God.

Understanding the verse this way, we have another image of getting something (from God) which has not been pursued by worry: God sees to such things without one worrying about it. This image from the human sphere is sandwiched between the first nature image relating to food and the second nature image related to clothing. We are not told what to apply this image to, but its central position suggests that its thrust is general: it addresses both areas of need initially identified in v. 25.

6:28In preparation for the second image from nature, the opening clause narrows the focus to concern about being adequately clothed. It again takes up ἔνδυμα, the term for clothing in the final clause of v. 25, a word which (apart from Luke’s parallel to v. 25) only Matthew uses in the NT. Used technically, κρίνα most likely referred to the white lily, candidum lilium, but the added ‘of the field’, the reference to ‘grass’ in v. 30, and the breadth of popular usage suggest that the reference is broader: field flowers with a lily-like appearance (perhaps even the likeness to lilies is optional). The reference to growth invites the hearer to attend to the development process that produces the beautiful flowers. The plants are not always like that; they change from being unadorned to being splendidly decked out (note the imagery in v. 30 of God clothing the [already existing] grass of the field). What makes the difference? The chosen verbs probably invite us to consider the possibilities of hard work to earn enough to purchase the cloth or to domestic production of one’s own cloth; these are not the ways that plants gain their beautiful flowers.

6:29Solomon’s garments receive no OT comment, but his glory is spoken of (1 Ki. 3:13), and it is natural enough to think of his garb as of corresponding magnificence. Jesus can assume that his hearers will share his aesthetic judgment that natural beauty outshines the most artful of human productions.

6:30No uncertainty is suggested by the εἰ (‘if’). The ephemeral nature of wild plants is proverbial. Here, however, their utter transience is underlined by pointing not to the falling flowers, browning off and dying back, but beyond that to reduction to ash in the domestic oven. (When wood is expensive and in short supply, grass will help to heat the cooking oven.) Matthew may well have seen σήμερον (‘today’) as a useful hook back to v. 11 (the Lord’s Prayer); if there is any significance for meaning in the link, it can only be to underline the need to focus on ‘today’ (to surface again in v. 34). ἀμφιέννυναι occurs in the NT only here and at 11:8, where it is used of one dressed in fine robes; the verb is probably chosen here because more than basic clothing is in mind (hence the translation above: ‘decked out’). Attention to the rapid demise of the beautiful field grasses implicitly identifies them as less significant to God than are people and thus prepares for the how-much-more statement at the end of the verse.

Where v. 26 ends with a value statement that leaves the provision statement implicit, vv. 28-30 end with an explicit provision statement (but characterised by the same language of ‘more’ found in the earlier implicit provision statement), with the value statement implicit. Despite the proximity of ‘decks out’, we should probably look back further to v. 28 for the implied verb for the clothing of those addressed. Otherwise we end up with the rather odd notion that while the field flowers are clothed more splendidly than Solomon, those addressed will be clothed yet more splendidly than the flowers.

‘People of little faith’ (ὀλιγόπιστοι) is traditional here (cf. Lk. 12:28), but Matthew finds the expression useful and will use it three further times. It is always used of disciples and always points to their failure to believe that they will be taken care of.

6:31To restate the premise after the supporting points made in between, we are taken back to the language of v. 25. References to ‘life’ and ‘body’ drop away; to be more concrete, the imperative is expressed with the aorist (subjunctive), not the present; the language changes to direct speech with the addition of ‘saying’ and the move from second to first person forms; ‘What shall we drink’ comes in to make the standard pair and to provide another set of three; the clothing verb from v. 29 replaces that of v. 25, to echo a little of the journey between v. 25 and v. 31.

6:32The verse starts with a belated additional negative reason for not being anxious about these basic needs, which, as elsewhere in Matthew, draws on the stereotypical negative Jewish image of Gentiles: one ought to be able to do better than the pagans! The ἐπι prefix in ἐπιζητοῦσιν may suggest a narrow focus of concentration on the seeking. No doubt we are to understand that the Gentiles seek in this way because they are anxious about their own basic needs, but the text deliberately moves away from the focus on worry because over against what is now expressed as seeking a commended form of seeking is set in v. 33. The verse then moves to the positive with a point reaffirmed from the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer (v. 8): God knows that we have these needs.

6:33We have these needs, but that is not where our attention should be directed; the kingdom of heaven is on the move, and that is what must claim our attention. To ‘seek first’ is not to indicate that other things are to be sought secondarily with a lesser amount of attention. πρῶτον either has the sense, ‘as being the most important thing of all’ or it sequences in the manner of Mt. 23:26 (‘first clean the inside of the cup’), with the point being that God’s provision of our basic needs follows on from the seeking of his kingdom. Though orientation rather than specific action is first and foremost in view, presumably one knows how to seek the kingdom from the whole drift of the Sermon on the Mount, set as it is in the context of Jesus’ announcement of the approaching kingdom. The addition of ‘righteousness’ helps to guide this awareness by drawing attention to the focal place given to righteousness (esp. 5:20). The understanding offered here does, however, depend on what we can make of the ‘his’ in ‘his righteousness’. So what are we to make of the αὐτοῦ (‘his’) that follows ‘righteousness’?

The awkwardness of the whole phrase τὴν βασιλείαν καὶ τὴν δικαιοσύνην αὐτοῦ (lit. ‘the kingdom and the righteousness of him’) is best explained as resulting from Matthew’s insertion of ‘and the righteousness’ into the source form (cf. Lk. 12:31). What does this mean for the dislocated αὐτοῦ? Several translations (including the NRSV alternative) understand the sense as ‘its [the kingdom’s] righteousness’, which would be very attractive if it were grammatically possible, but the masc./neut. form can hardly refer back to the fem. noun for ‘kingdom’. Failing that, the antecedent must be God as referred to in v. 32 (‘your heavenly Father’). Does αὐτοῦ cover both ‘kingdom’ and ‘righteousness’ or only the latter? One cannot be sure, but the force of αὐτοῦ in relation to ‘righteousness’ can be nuanced more effectively if it does not need to have a sense that works equally well for ‘kingdom’. Nearly all of Matthew’s absolute uses of ‘the kingdom’ have ‘kingdom’ in the genitive, but the use in 25:34 provides a point of comparison for an absolute use here.

In what sense is the righteousness God’s (contrast 5:20: ‘your’)? It could be exemplary: ‘seek to imitate his righteousness’, with a back reference to 5:48. But this would seem to put too much emphasis on a relatively minor strand of the Sermon. It could be righteousness that comes from God, but that would be to introduce a new thought not encouraged either by the main drift of the Sermon or by earlier uses of ‘righteousness’. It is better to have the reference be to the righteousness that God requires of us, that he approves of, or something similar (cf. Jn. 6:28-29; 2 Co. 1:12; Jas. 1:20). Matthew does not lose sight of basic human needs. They are also the subject of God’s promise, but only as something added on (προστεθήσεται—lit. ‘add [on/to]’) to the main thing. ‘All’ (not in Lk. 12:31) is meant to be fulsomely reassuring in respect to human needs.

6:34This verse shows strong links with proverbial wisdom, which points out in many ways the fruitlessness of anticipating either by worry or action a tomorrow whose shape we cannot know. The Matthean context, however, gives a distinctive turn to the proverbial wisdom. The ties with the Lord’s Prayer continue here (with the reference to evil and the focus on today), and these probably provide the key for linking v. 34 with the preceding materials. In connection with the Lord’s Prayer, the promise of God’s provision which emerges in vv. 25-34 and climaxes with the promise of v. 34b is a promise about the needs of the present. But a good deal of human anxiety involves worrying about ‘tomorrow’ (the future). What is implied about tomorrow in the thrust of teaching which has been given? This is the agenda of v. 34.

We already know that we are not to worry about our basic needs of today; now we are specifically challenged not to worry about our needs of tomorrow. We are not to worry about tomorrow because tomorrow will do the worrying about tomorrow. But what can this mean? The goal here is to take from us our sense of worrisome responsibility for tomorrow. The rhetorical strategy used to achieve this is to relocate to a credible somewhere else the worry about tomorrow which comes so naturally to us. ‘Tomorrow’ fits the needs well, as a place to pass this responsibility to, because it is tomorrow and only tomorrow which is located in the appropriate time frame for paying attention to the needs of tomorrow (tomorrow’s today!). Of course the language is not intended literally: the whole passage is about stopping worrying (not transferring the task of worrying to another); and tomorrow cannot genuinely be an agent of action. In truth the handing of the task of worrying over to tomorrow is a convenient pedagogical fiction intended to help us release the worrying into oblivion.

The normal perspective from which the final clause is read is that of the human capacity to cope with bad things, difficult things (one day’s worth is enough to manage at any one time). But with its emphasis on God’s provision and our need to focus on the kingdom, the whole drift of the passage is against this. Again the Lord’s Prayer can help us. Our prayer is (v. 13) for God to rescue us from such disastrous events as we find ourselves engulfed by. It is likely that v. 34 does not have a comprehensive concern with evil, but that (avoiding an odd introduction of a new subject) the focus is on that aspect of evil which underlies the anxiety people feel about their daily needs. If one had to worry only about planting enough grain or working enough hours, then the human situation would be less worrisome. Anxiety is created primarily by the very real possibility that such arrangements will let us down (there will be a drought; our supplies will be destroyed; we will be robbed; etc.). The promise of God’s provision involves a promise to deliver us (from the consequences of) such eventualities as they press on us on a daily basis. If God looks after today, that will be enough. God does not abstractly guarantee the future; he deals with the needs of each today. This is the one-day-at-a-time perspective of the Lord’s Prayer which keeps so firmly in focus the immediacy of receiving from the hand of God. There is no need to worry about tomorrow because God will deal with it as the ‘today’ of that day.

I. Making Our Relationship with God the Measure of All Things (7:1-11)

1. Do Not Judge: Beware of the Beam in Your Own Eye (7:1-5)

1 Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For on the basis of the [act of judgment] by which you judge you shall [yourself] be judged; and by means of the measure with which you measure it shall be measured to you.

3 Why do you see the speck in the eye of your brother [or sister], but do not notice the beam in your [own] eye? 4 Or how a can you saya to your brother [or sister], ‘b Allow me: I will cast the speck out of your eye’?—and, look, the beam [is] in your [own] eye! 5 Hypocrite! First cast the beam out of your own eye, and then you will seek clearly to cast the speck out the eye of your brother or sister.

Textual Notes

a-a. Rendering the future tense. Some texts have the present, but without any difference of meaning.

b. αδελφε (‘brother’) is added by vgmss (sams) in agreement with Lk. 6:42.

Though this unit has several links with earlier parts of the Sermon, it takes up a new topic which has no specific relationship with what precedes. Though it is hard to be sure, the three units 7:1-5, 6, 7-11 are probably best taken as an appendix to chap. 6. They are all concerned with how one fits God into one’s reckoning, which has already been the consistent concern though chap. 6.

The standard view of the development of this material is that Mt. 7:1 has been expanded first with 7:2 (v. 2a is little more than a restatement, while v. 2b is found in a quite different context in Mk. 4:24), or with the more elaborate development found in Lk. 6:37b-38, and then with 7:3-5 (parallelled in Lk. 6:41-42), which may have had a quite separate history.

7:1The call not to judge has made its way deeply into popular imagination: ‘Who am I to judge?’ Unfortunately the applications people often make (giving personal space to others; modesty about one’s own capacity to discern what is right; the desire not to be faced with responsibility for decisions in complex or disputed matters) probably have little to do with the intention of either Jesus or the Gospel writers. In a postmodern context there can be a siren call to a radical pluralism. As popularly understood, the principle is soon set aside when the wrong done by the other person touches a place of deep personal invest-ment.

On historical-critical grounds the text is regularly interpreted in isolation from its present Gospel contexts (cf. Lk. 6:37), but with such a small block of text and the breadth of meaning possible for the keyword κρίνειν (‘judge’) there is a real danger of subjectivity in choosing which aspects of the teaching and practice of Jesus it should be connected to. The text could be (a) a commendation of practice like Jesus’ ‘completely judgment-free fellowship with outcasts like sinners and tax collectors’; (b) an attack on the judiciary; (c) an insistence that one leave all judgment to God; (d) a warning against having a critical spirit; (e) a prudential awareness that others tend to treat one as one treats others, and so on. At the very least our present Gospels provide the earliest commentary on these words of Jesus and deserve to be carefully heard.

As a place to start, we can note that the motivation for not judging is to avoid having it done to oneself. In Matthew the whole word group (κριν-, κριμ-, κρισ-) is used overwhelmingly for the eschatological judgment of God. Since Matthew clearly expects everyone to face the eschatological judgment of God, the only sense in which one can avoid being ‘judged’ by God, is in avoiding being condemned in the judgment. So κρίνειν here means ‘judge negatively/condemn’ in the second clause, and it must have a corresponding meaning in the first clause.

Why is condemning others such a bad thing? And is all condemning condemned? To take the second question first, Mt. 19:28 views quite positively a role for the Twelve in the eschatological judgment. Is the problem in 7:1, then, the desire to anticipate what properly belongs only to the eschaton (cf. 2 Co. 4:5) or what is properly God’s exclusive preserve (cf. Rom. 14:4, 10, 13; Jas. 4:11-12)? Either or both of these may play a role, but the development of Mt. 7:2 takes us in another direction.

7:2The two supporting clauses that constitute this verse both make the same kind of point, the second more clearly than the first. The imagery of the second comes from

grain contracts in which it was frequently specified that grain delivery and payment therefore would be measured with the same instrument—that of the purchaser (see Couroyer, RB 77 [1970] 366-70). Similar statements are used proverbially in a variety of Jewish sources (see Rüger, ZNW 60 [1969] 174-82)…. If we [condemn] others… we must expect God to respond in the coinage of strict justice. Mercy and generosity [of spirit] to others is a declaration to God that such is the coinage we wish to have used in his dealings with us as well.

The first statement repeats the verbs from 7:1, but with the indicative forms (‘… you judge, you will be judged’); the significant difference is ἐν ᾧ… κρίματι (‘on the basis of the [act of] judgment by which’). The very act of judgment establishes a set of criteria to which the one judging must expect to answer (in relation to one’s own conduct) before God; and the suggestion is that it creates a set of criteria in relation to which it were better that one did not ask to be judged. The background thought is of one’s own need for God’s mercy and forgiveness. The thought of Jas. 2:13 is similar. To some degree we have a negative statement of Mt. 5:7.

A final matter for comment is that of the relationship of all this to the judicial system. None of our comparative materials relates to court judgment, and there is no evidence that Jesus or the Gospel writers were critical of the existence of a judiciary. While it would be too much to say that the present teaching has no relevance to the judicial function, the focus is certainly on the human propensity to condemn others for their faults and failings. Any wider application will be a development from this.

7:3The bizarre images in vv. 3-5 do not challenge precisely the propensity to condemn others for their faults and failings; they deal rather with a related tendency evincing something of the same spirit. The shared feature is that in each case one loses sight of the true nature of one’s own situation. In v. 3 the Greek word order provides a detailed chiastic arrangement between the two balanced clauses.

The question form with its implicit accusation is rhetorical: it does not intend to insist that any particular hearer (singular forms are used; contrast the plurals of vv. 1-2) is like this; only that such things often happen, and each individual should consider his or her own situation. The rhetorical questioning and the grotesque imagery represent a shock tactic designed to get through to the self-deceived. There are two linked scenes with shared imagery. κάρφος is a speck or a chip of anything dry; the word emphasises smallness. The change of verbs from βλέπεις (‘see’—normally literal) to κατανοεῖς (‘notice’—related to mental perception and not to vision) is apt, as one does not ‘see’ but certainly should notice something in one’s own eye. δοκός is a plank of wood such as is used in a weight-bearing capacity in construction. The scale of exaggeration makes the image one that cannot actually be concretely visualised. On ‘brother or sister’ see the comments at 5:22. We have a scene of grossly selective perception. One acutely observes even little problems in others, but one does not attend to the most glaring matters in oneself.

7:4-5The second scene presupposes the first and moves on from it. The offer represents the one offering as competent and able to offer help from a position of secure superiority. But the reality is far different. A falsely based assertion of superiority is masquerading as care and generosity.

The primary point is that the situation is being misrepresented. However, the exhortation in v. 5 develops a further aspect by taking up the practical difficulty of engaging in such a task when visually handicapped by the presence of a huge chunk of wood in one’s eye.

On hypocrisy see the remarks at 6:2. Here the hypocrite is not actually conscious of the misrepresentation, but the label indicates that he or she is responsible, nonetheless: the self-blindness is a result of culpable failure to perceive how things really are. V. 5 makes clear that there is no problem in seeking to help others in their areas of failure. Such help, however, must be based on a realistic assessment of and attention to one’s own situation. In no case should one allow attention to minor matters in others to deflect one’s attention from major matters in relation to oneself. If Davies and Allison are right to find a chiasm in vv. 4-5 centred on ‘first cast out’, this will reinforce the emphasis here on the need for remedial action in relation to one’s own situation.

Though the clarity of vision here is for the sake of helping another and the clarity of vision in 6:22-23 is for one’s own situation, something of the content of the vision of 6:22-23 (the sharp antithesis between storing up treasure in heaven and on earth; the antipathy between serving God and mammon) should probably be brought forward to 7:5. This may help with the transition to v. 6.