In the concluding part of Chapter Six of the Gospel of Saint Matthew, all part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tests the faith of the multitudes in reminding them that they worry too much about the wrong things while not watching how the darkness penetrates the light, blinding them to the dangers of trying to play both ends for mammon has no place in God's House. Our Lord reassures those gathered on the Mount that if the Father cares for all creatures, how much more He will provide for the only species He created with a soul - man. Christ berates them in a loving way, "O ye of little faith" - a commentary on mankind today who have veered so far off the narrow path in search of the bangles that adorn the wide path toward the other master. It's only too evident: no man can serve two masters.
For the eighth part of The Sermon on the Mount and the completion of Chapter 6, I should like to continue to produce the commentaries only, without adding related Scripture to it. The reason for this, rather than skipping over the context, (we have read and interpreted chapter 5) is to get the meaning, without overwhelming the senses with a multiplication of electrical ink. The first commentary under each verse is generally from Father Leo George Haydock, author of the Haydock Commentary, where credit is given to the commentator at the end of the commentary, while the rest are from Saint Thomas Aquinas' Catena Aurea or "Golden Chain", where the credit is given at the beginning. I have cleaned up the commentary for easier reading, deleting the long names of the works they have come from, but leaving you with the name of the proposed commentator alone. The name "Psuedo-Chrysostom" is from a work that was once, but wrongly, attributed to Saint John Chrysostom, and "Gloss", I believe, is generally from commentaries found in the margins of the Scripture translation. When it comes to "St. Gregory" I suppose the source(s) could be any number of "Gregory's" - most likely St. Gregory the Great - though, as far as I can tell the on-line version of this great work of Saint Thomas Aquinas does not share this information:
22 The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be simple, thy whole body shall be lightsome.
Every action is lighted or directed by the intention. If the intention be upright, the whole body of the action is good, provided it proceed not from a false conscience. If the intention be bad, how bad must be the action! Christ does not here speak of an exterior, but an interior eye. He, therefore, who directs all his thoughts to God, may justly be said to have his eye lightsome, and consequently his heart undefiled with worldly affections; but he who has all his thoughts corrupted with carnal desires is, beyond a doubt, enveloped in darkness. (St. Chrysostom)
23 But if thy eye be evil, thy whole body shall be darksome. If, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great will the darkness itself be?
St. John Chrysostom: Having spoken of the bringing the understanding into captivity because it was not easy to be understood of many, He transfers it to a sensible instance, saying, "The light of thy body is thy eye." As though He had said, If you do not know what is meant by the loss of the understanding, learn a parable of the bodily members; for what the eye is to the body, that the understanding is to the soul. As by the loss of the eyes we lose much of the use of the other limbs, so when the understanding is corrupted, your life is filled with many evils.
St. Jerome: That is an illustration drawn from the senses. As the whole body is in darkness, where the eye is not single, so if the soul has lost her original brightness, every sense, or that whole part of the soul to which sensation belongs, will abide in darkness.
Wherefore He says, "If then the light which is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" that is, if the senses which are the soul's light be darkened by vice, in how great darkness do you suppose the darkness itself will be wrapped?
Pseudo-Chrysostom: It seems that He is not here speaking of the bodily eye, or of the outward body that is seen, or He would have said, If thine eye be sound, or weak; but He says, "single," and, "evil." But if one have a benign yet diseased eye, is his body therefore in light? Or if an evil yet a sound, is his body therefore in darkness?
St. Jerome: Those who have thick eye-sight see the lights multiplied; but the single and clear eye sees them single and clear.
St. John Chrysostom: Or; The eye He speaks of is not the external but the internal eye. The light is the understanding, through which the soul sees God. He whose heart is turned to God, has an eye full of light; that is, his understanding is pure, not distorted by the influence of worldly lusts. The darkness in us is our bodily senses, which always desire the things that pertain to darkness.
Whoso then has a pure eye, that is, a spiritual understanding, preserves his body in light, that is, without sin; for though the flesh desires evil, yet by the might of divine fear the soul resists it. But whoever has an eye, that is, an understanding, either darkened by the influence of the malignant passions, or fouled by evil lusts, possesses his body in darkness; he does not resist the flesh when it lusts after evil things, because he has no hope in Heaven, which hope alone gives us the strength to resist desire.
St. Hilary: Otherwise; from the office of the light of the eye, He calls it the light of the heart; which if it continue single and brilliant, will confer on the body the brightness of the eternal light, and pour again into the corrupted flesh the splendor of its origin, that is, in the resurrection. But if it be obscured by sin, and evil in will, the bodily nature will yet abide subject to all the evils of the understanding. (Aquinas, Catena Aurea - Gospel of Matthew)
24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Behold here a fresh motive to detach you from the love of riches, or mammon. We cannot both serve God and the world, the flesh and the spirit, justice and sin. The ultimate end of action must be one, either for this or for the next life. (Haydock)
Pseudo-Chrysostom: The Lord had said above, that he that has a spiritual mind is able to keep his body free from sin; and that he who has not, is not able. Of this He here gives the reason, saying, "No man can serve two masters."
Gloss: it had been declared above, that good things become evil, when done with a worldly purpose. It might therefore have been said by some one, I will do good works from worldly and heavenly motives at once. Against this the Lord says, "No man can serve two masters."
St. John Chrysostom: Or otherwise; in what had gone before He had restrained the tyranny of avarice by many and weighty motives, but He now adds yet more. Riches do not only harm us in that they arm robbers against us, and that they cloud our understanding, but they moreover turn us away from God's service.
This He proves from familiar notions, saying, "No man can serve two masters;" two, He means, whose orders are contrary; for concord makes one of many. This is proved by what follows, "for either he will hate the one." He mentions two, that we may see that change for the better is easy. For if one were to give himself up in despair as having been made a slave to riches, namely, by loving them, he may hence learn, that it is possible for him to change into a better service, namely, by not submitting to such slavery, but by despising it.
Gloss: He seems to allude to two different kinds of servants; one kind who serve freely for love, another who serve servilely from fear. If then one serve two masters of contrary character from love, it must be that he hate the one; if from fear, while he trembles before the one, he must despise the other. But as the world or God predominate in a man's heart, he must be drawn contrary ways; for God draws him who serves Him to things above; the earth draws to things beneath; therefore He concludes, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
St. Jerome: "Mammon," - riches are so termed in Syriac. Let the covetous man who is called by the Christian name, hear this, that he cannot serve both Christ and riches. Yet He said not, he who has riches, but, he who is the servant of riches. For he who is the slave of money, guards his money as a slave; but he who has thrown off the yoke of his slavery, despenses them as a master.
Gloss: By "mammon" is meant the Devil, who is the lord of money, not that he can bestow them unless where God wills, but because by means of them he deceives men. (Aquinas, Catena Aurea - Gospel of Matthew)
25 Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat: and the body more than the raiment?
A prudent provision is not prohibited, but that over-solicitude which draws the soul, the heart, and its affections from God, and his sweet all-ruling providence, to sink and degrade them in empty pursuits, which can never fill the soul. (Haydock) --- Be not solicitous; [ Me merimnate. It does not seem well translated, take no thought.] i.e. too solicitous with a trouble and anxiety of mind, as appears by the Greek. --- For your life; lit. for your soul, which many times is put for life. (Witham)
St. Jerome: Some manuscripts, add here, "nor what ye shall drink." That which belongs naturally to all animals alike, to brutes and beasts of burden as well as to man, from all thought of this we are not freed. But we are bid not to be anxious what we should eat, for in the sweat of our face we earn our bread; the toil is to be undergone, the anxiety put away. This "Be not careful," is to be taken of bodily food and clothing; for the food and clothing of the spirit it becomes us to be always careful.
Gloss: That is, Be not withdrawn by temporal cares from things eternal.
St. Jerome: The command is therefore, "not to be anxious what we shall eat." For it is also commanded, that in the sweat of our face we must eat bread. Toil therefore is enjoined, carking (burdensome or annoying - worry - JG) forbidden.
Pseudo-Chrysostom: Bread may not be gained by carefulness of spirit, but by toil of body; and to them that will labor it abounds, God bestowing it as a reward of their industry; and is lacking to the idle, God withdrawing it as punishment of their sloth. The Lord also confirms our hope, and descending first from the greater to the less, says, "Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?"
St. Jerome: He who has given the greater, will He not also give the less?
Pseudo-Chrysostom: For had He not willed that which was should be preserved, He had not created it; but what He so created that it should be preserved by food, it is necessary that He give it food, as long as He would have it to be preserved.
Hilary: Otherwise; Because the thoughts of the unbelievers were ill-employed respecting care of things future, cavilling (to raise trivial - when compared to what is needful - concerns. Quibble. - JG) concerning what is to be the appearance of our bodies in the resurrection, what the food in the eternal life, therefore He continues, "Is not the life more than food?" He will not endure that our hope should hang in care for the meat and drink and clothing that is to be in the resurrection, lest there should be affront given to Him who has given us the more precious things, in our being anxious that He should also give us the lesser. (Aquinas, Catena Aurea - Gospel of Matthew)
26 Behold the birds of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they?
27 And which of you by thinking can add to his stature one cubit?
Why should the children of God fear want, when we behold the very birds of the air do not go unprovided? Moreover, what possible good can this anxiety, this diffidence procure them? Almighty God gives life and growth, which you cannot do with all your solicitude, however intensely you think. Apollo may plant, Paul may water, but God alone can give the increase. (1 Corinthians iii. 6.) Of how much greater consequence is it then to love and serve Him, and to live for Him alone! (Haydock)
St. Augustine: Some argue that they ought not to labour, because the fowls of the air neither sow nor reap. Why then do they not attend to that which follows, "neither gather into barns? Why do they seek to have their hands idle, and their storehouses full? Why indeed do they grind corn, and dress it? For this do not the birds.
Or even if they find men whom they can persuade to supply them day by day with victuals ready prepared, at least they draw water from the spring, and set on table for themselves, which the birds do not. But if neither are they driven to fill themselves vessels with water, then have they gone one new step of righteousness beyond those who were at that time at Jerusalem, who of corn sent to them of free gift, made, or caused to be made, loaves, which the birds do not. But not to lay up any thing for the morrow cannot be observed by those, who for many days together withdrawn from the sight of men, and suffering none to approach to them, shut themselves up, to live in much fervency of prayer.
What? will you say that the more holy men become, the more unlike the birds of the air in this respect they become? What He says respecting the birds of the air, He says to this end, that none of His servants should think that God has no thought of their wants, when they see Him so provide even for these inferior creatures. Neither is it not God that feeds those that earn their bread by their own labor; neither because God hath said, "Call upon Me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee," [Ps 50:15] ought the Apostle therefore not to have fled, but to have remained still to have been seized, that God might save him as He did the Three Children out of the midst of the fire.
Should any object in this sort to the saints in their flight from persecution, they would answer that they ought not to tempt God, and that God, if He pleased, would so do to deliver them as He had done Daniel from the lions, Peter from prison, then when they could no longer help themselves; but that in having made flight possible to them, should they be saved by flight, it was by God that they were saved. In like manner, such of God's servants as have strength to earn their food by the labor of their hands, would easily answer any who should object to them this out of the Gospel concerning the birds of the air, that they neither sow nor reap; and would say, If we by sickness or any other hindrance are not able to work, He will feed us as He feeds the birds, that work not. But when we can work, we ought not to tempt God, seeing that even this our ability is His gift; and that we live here we live of His goodness that has made us able to live; He feeds us by whom the birds of the air are fed; as He says, "Your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much greater value?" (Aquinas, Catena Aurea - Gospel of Matthew)
28 And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow: they labor not, neither do they spin.
29 Yet I say to you, that not even Solomon, in all his glory, was arrayed as one of these.
30 Now if God so clothe the grass of the field, which is today, and tomorrow is cast into the oven: how much more you, O ye of little faith?
"O ye of little faith;" that is, of little confidence in God and His providence. (Menochius)
St. John Chrysostom: Having shewn that it is not right to be anxious about food, He passes to that which is less; (for raiment is not so necessary as food;) and asks, "And why are ye careful wherewith ye shall be clothed?" He uses not here the instance of the birds, when He might have drawn some to the point, as the peacock, or the swan, but brings forward the lilies, saying, "Consider the lilies of the field." He would prove in two things the abundant goodness of God; to wit, the richness of the beauty with which they are clothed, and the mean value of the things so clothed with it.
St. John Chrysostom: He calls them no more lilies, but "the grass of the field," to shew their small worth; and adds moreover another cause of their small value; "which today is." And He said not, "and tomorrow is not," but what is yet greater fall, "is cast into the oven." In that He says "How much more you," is implicitly conveyed the dignity of the human race, as though He had said, You to whom He has given a soul, for whom He has contrived a body, to whom He has sent Prophets and gave His Only-begotten Son.
Gloss: He says, "of little faith," for that faith is little which is not sure of even the least things.
St. Hilary: Or, under the signification of grass the Gentiles are pointed to. If then an eternal existence is only therefore granted to the Gentiles, that they may soon be handed over to the judgment fires; how impious it is that the saints should doubt of attaining to eternal glory, when the wicked have eternity bestowed on them for their punishment.
St. Remigius: Spiritually, by the birds of the air are meant the Saints who are born again in the water of holy Baptism; and by devotion raise themselves above the earth and seek the skies. The Apostles are said to be of more value than these, because they are the heads of the Saints.
By the lilies also may be understood the Saints, who without the toil of legal ceremonies pleased God by faith alone; of whom it is said, "My Beloved, who feedeth among the lilies." [Cant 2:16] Holy Church also is understood by the lilies, because of the whiteness of its faith, and the odour of its good conversation, of which it is said in the same place, "As the lily among the thorns."
By the grass are denoted the unbelievers, of whom it is said, "The grass hath dried up, and the flowers thereof faded." [Isa 40:7]
By the oven eternal damnation; so that the sense be, If God bestows temporal goods on the unbelievers, how much more shall He bestow on you eternal goods! (Aquinas, Catena Aurea - Gospel of Matthew)
31 Be not solicitous therefore, saying: What shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed?
32 For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things.
It is not without reason that men are in such great fear and distress, when they are so blind as to imagine that their happiness in this life is ruled by fate. But such as know that they are entirely governed by the will of God, know also that a store is laid up for them in his hands. (St. John Chrysostom)
33 Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and His justice: and all these things shall be added unto you.
Your Father knoweth; he does not say God knoweth, but your Father, to teach us to apply to him with greater confidence. (St. John Chrysostom) --- He that delivers himself entirely into the hands of God, may rest secure both in prosperity and adversity, knowing that he is governed by a tender Father. (St. Aquinas)
Rabanus: It should be observed that He does not say, Do not ye seek, or be thoughtful for, food drink, and raiment, but "what ye shall eat, what ye shall drink, or wherewithal ye shall be clothed." Wherein they seem to me to be convicted, who, using themselves the usual food and clothing, require of those with whom they live either greater sumptuousness, or greater austerity in both.
St. Augustine: To wit, these temporal goods which are thus manifestly shewn not to be such goods as those goods of ours for the sake of which we ought to do well; and yet they are necessary. The kingdom of God and His righteousness is our good which we ought to make our end.
But since in order to attain this end we are militant in this life, which may not be lived without supply of these necessaries, He promises, "These things shall be added unto you." That He says, "first," implies that these are to be sought second not in time, but in value; the one is our good, the other necessary to us.
For example, we ought not to preach that we may eat, for so we should hold the Gospel as of less value than our food; but we should therefore eat that we may preach the Gospel. But if we "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness," that is, set this before all other things, and seek other things for the sake of this, we ought not to be anxious lest we should lack necessaries; and therefore He says, "All these things shall be added unto you;" that is, of course, without being an hindrance to you: that you may not in seeking them be turned away from the other, and thus set two ends before you. Chrysostom: And He said not, Shall be given, but, "Shall be added," that you may learn that the things that are now, are nought to the greatness of the things that shall be.
St. Augustine: But when we read that the Apostle suffered hunger and thirst, let us not think that God's promises failed him; for these things are rather aids. That Physician to whom we have entirely entrusted ourselves, knows when He will give and when He will withhold, as He judges most for our advantage. So that should these things ever be lacking to us, (as God to exercise us often permits,) it will not weaken our fixed purpose, but rather confirm it when wavering. (Aquinas, Catena Aurea - Gospel of Matthew)
34 Be not therefore solicitous for tomorrow; for the morrow will be solicitous for itself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.
The morrow will bring with it cares enough, to occupy you in providing what will then be necessary for you. Christ does not prohibit all care about temporal concerns, but only what hinders us from seeking the kingdom of heaven in the first instance; or what makes us esteem more the things of this world, than those of the next. (Menochius) --- The affliction and labour which each day brings with it is a sufficient trial, nor ought we seek by our anxiety for labour and affliction before it arrive; for why should man forestall the evil day, which has not arrived, and perhaps may never arrive? But again, this does not prohibit us from making a provision for the morrow, for Jesus Christ does not say to us, provide not for the morrow, but, be not solicitous for tomorrow. (Estius, in different location) He who supplied our wants today, will supply them also tomorrow. The evil of the day is sufficient, without borrowing tomorrow's burden to increase the load. It is the curse of the envious and wicked to be self-tormented, whilst they who live by faith, can always rejoice in hope, the true balm of every Christian's breast, the best friend of all in distress.
St. Jerome: Tomorrow in Scripture signifies time future, as Jacob in Genesis says, "Tomorrow shall my righteousness hear me." [Gen 35:33] And in the phantasm of Samuel the Pythoness says to Saul, "Tomorrow shalt thou be with me." [1 Sam 28:19]
He yields therefore unto them that they should care for things present, though He forbids them to take thought for things to come. For sufficient for us is the thought of time present; let us leave to God the future which is uncertain. And this is that He says, "The morrow shall be anxious for itself;" that is, it shall bring its own anxiety with it. "For sufficient for the day is the evil thereof." By evil He means here not that which is contrary to virtue, but toil, and affliction, and the hardships of life.
St. Augustine: Or otherwise; Tomorrow is said only of time where future succeeds to past. When then we work any good work, we think not of earthly but of heavenly things. "The morrow shall be anxious for itself," that is, Take food and the like, when you ought to take it, that is when necessity begins to call for it.
"For sufficient for the day is its own evil," that is, it is enough that necessity shall compel to take these things; He calls it "evil," because it is penal, inasmuch as it pertains to our mortality, which we earned by sinning. To this necessity then of worldly punishment, add not further weight, that you may not only fulfil it, but may even so fulfil it as to shew yourself God's soldier.
But herein we must be careful, that, when we see any servant of God endeavouring to provide necessaries either for himself, or those committed to his care, we do not straight judge him to sin against this command of the Lord in being anxious for the morrow. For the Lord Himself, to whom Angels ministered, thought good to carry a bag for example sake. And in the Acts of the Apostles it is written, that food necessary for life was provided for future time, at a time when famine threatened. What the Lord condemns therefore, is not the provision of these things after the manner of men, but if a man because of these things does not fight as God's soldier.
St. Hilary: This is further comprehended under the full meaning of the Divine words. We are commanded not to be careful about the future, because sufficient for our life is the evil of the days wherein we live, that is to say, the sins, that all our thought and pains be occupied in cleansing this away. And if our care be slack, yet will the future be careful for itself, in that there is held out to us a harvest of eternal love to be provided by God. (Aquinas, Catena Aurea - Gospel of Matthew)