For Bible Study Nerds

How odd it seems that Jesus felt compelled to argue with first-century hearers about God’s faithfulness in caring for them. Yet there he is in Matthew 6:25-34, forcefully presenting debate-style arguments to support this seemingly-obvious message.

First, when admonishing hearers not to worry, Christ used a common rabbinical debate form known as going from the major to the minor. This is seen in Matthew 6:25, “Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” The implication, of course, is that God has already provided each person with the major elements here—life and a body—so why would he scrimp on the minor things (food and clothes) that are necessary for those?

Next, in verse 26, Jesus used comparative reasoning to form his argument. “Look at the birds of the air…are you not much more valuable than they?” In other words, God provides for the needs of his inconsequential creations (birds) each day, so comparatively speaking, he will also provide the daily needs of his most prized creations—you and me.

Third, in Matthew 6:27, Jesus delivered an undeniable argument of cause-and-effect reasoning: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” The answer, of course, is no one, making worry a zero-sum enterprise better replaced by trusting in God’s faithfulness to provide.

Verses 28-30 finds Jesus pointing to the lilies of the field to make an argument drawn from conditional reasoning (i.e. “If…Then…”): “If that is how God clothes the grasses of the field…will he not much more clothe you?”

Finally, in verse 32, Jesus uses exemplar reasoning to drive home his point. Pagans who don’t know God are the negative example he uses in this case. Those who follow God, then, are called to be the opposite: Positive examples of faith that fully trust their heavenly Father’s knowledge and ability on their behalf.

In all, Jesus deployed five distinct forms of argument in the few, simple sentences here—just to make the point that we don’t have to worry because God cares for us. Wow. Maybe today, once again, it’s time for you and me to “Look at the birds of the air…”


Works Cited:

[BKB, 133]



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About: Mike Nappa

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