The Study of Matthew 6:33 Through Different Christian Commentators (from various Eras)
The Bible, especially the New Testament, has been subject to many studies, interpretations, and reflections over the centuries. One particular verse that scholars often discuss is Matthew 6:33 - “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” This essay will examine how six commentators from various eras interpreted this passage.
First, consider two pre-1934 commentators - Augustine (354-430) and John Calvin (1509-1564). Augustine saw the primary point of this verse as being a reminder for people to make spiritual matters their priority in life rather than material ones. He believed that by seeking the kingdom of God first, the other things desired would be provided in due course.
John Calvin instead focused on trusting entirely in God for material security and not relying on one's efforts or reliance on possessions as a source of comfort.
We will consider the following two commentators from 1935-2000 - C K Barrett (1917-2011) and William Barclay (1907-1978). Barrett saw Matthew 6:33 primarily as encouraging people to focus on eternal values rather than temporal ones. Rather than worrying about material concerns, true satisfaction should come from aligning with God’s purpose and life plans.
Barclay took this further by suggesting that this verse should be understood as an instruction to take Spiritual values seriously and to place them above temporal concerns.
Finally, let us look at two 21st-century commentators - N T Wright (b. 1948) and Matthew Elliott (b. 1972). Wright believes that the primary point of this passage is for people to live in a manner consistent with God's purposes rather than their desires or ambitions. He also emphasizes the idea of obedience to God’s will being necessary to receive material blessings from Him.
Elliott takes this further by suggesting that it is not enough to have faith in God; one must also obey His commands if one wishes to reap the rewards promised in scripture.
Overall, all six commentators agree that the focus of Matthew 6:33 is on having an eternal rather than temporal outlook in life. They also all stress the importance of obedience to God’s will and trusting Him for provision and security. However, their interpretations vary in terms of which aspects they emphasize most strongly -
Augustine focuses on spiritual priorities over material ones,
Calvin emphasizes reliance on God rather than possessions,
Barrett highlights eternal values over temporal concerns,
Barclay stresses the need to take spiritual values seriously,
Wright emphasizes obedience to God’s will as necessary for blessings from Him, and
Elliott suggests faith and obedience are required to receive the rewards promised by scripture.
In conclusion, while there are differences in interpretation between Christian commentators over time when it comes to Matthew 6:33, the underlying themes of prioritizing Spiritual matters over temporal ones, trusting in God for provision and security, and obedience to His will remain consistent. Through studying such interpretations, we can learn more about God’s Word, draw closer to Him, and become better equipped to seek His kingdom and righteousness in our own lives.
- Augustine (354-430).
- John Calvin (1509-1564).
- C K Barrett (1917-2011).
- William Barclay (1907-1978).
- N T Wright (b. 1948).
- Matthew Elliott (b. 1972).