On page 29 of "Battling Unbelief" by John Piper, he says that Matthew 6:25 is "an argument from the greater to the lesser":

25“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? ESV

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I've always read it the way it's rendered in the NET translation:

Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing?

which is more like a call for perspective - though Piper's interpretation certainly sits better with the theme of trusting in God's provision in this section.

Which is the right interpretation?


It's possible that both interpretations are in play and that the word pleion (translated "more") has a double meaning. Nolland (NIGTC) acknowledges:

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?'1

So it seems Piper is not alone in his interpretation. R.T. France in the NICNT picks up on this also, but then follows it up by adding:

There is, however, a further nuance in the use of pleion, which I have translated "more important" but which literally means simply “more.” Not only is the life more important than the food which sustains it, it also consists of much "more."2

In other words, then, not only does Jesus here use a greater-to-lesser argument (as he does also in the verses that follow), but he is intimating that these are small concerns compared to all of which life and the body consist.

  1. Nolland John. (2005). Preface. In The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 309). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.

  2. France, R. T. (2007). The Gospel of Matthew (p. 267). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co.

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It is an argument of "Greater Vs. Lesser"

  • The Body is Greater than the clothing that covers it
  • Life is more than Feasting

it's not about that God gave us the Body and the Life, it is that He cares about the small things in our lives. He feeds and clothes the birds

NIV Version Matthew 6:26

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Then He says "Are you not much more valuable than they?"

  • Birds = lesser
  • you = greater

it's not that there is more to life, it's that we shouldn't "sweat the small stuff" so to say.

I mean, there is more to life, and maybe that verse speaks to some that they should know that there is more to life than Meat and Clothing. but the main point being made here is that you shouldn't stress about how you will feed yourself or how you will clothe yourself, if you trust in God, He will take care of you.

"You are greater than the Birds, and My Father cares for them, so He will take care of you as well."

Essentially this is what Jesus is saying

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I suspect that lurking behind Piper's formulation is awareness of forms of rabbinic interpretation. The principle in question here is the so-called qal waḥomer, literally "the light and the weighty". This was the logical move either from greater to lesser (a majori ad minus) or vice-versa (a minori ad majus).

This form of argument was accredited to Hillel, roughly contemporary with the time of Jesus, then.

It is fairly natural for the rhetoric of parts of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew) or the Plain (Luke) to be understood in this way. For more on this see, e.g.:

and, as applied to the gospels in particular,

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