Matthew 6:27

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Matthew 6:27 is the twenty-seventh verse of the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament and is part of the Sermon on the Mount. This verse continues the discussion of worry about material provisions.

In the King James Version of the Bible the text reads:

Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

The World English Bible translates the passage as:

“Which of you, by being anxious, can add one moment to his lifespan?

For a collection of other versions see here: Matthew 6:27

In the original Greek this verse speaks of adding one cubit, a word and a measure of length derived from the forearm.[1] It was usually equivalent to about 46 centimetres or 18 inches.[2] It is odd to increase the lifespan by an amount of length, as a lifespan is measured in time, not distance. There are two methods of resolving this dilemma. The first is to read cubit as a metaphorical term that can stand for any unit of measurement, and this verse is thus speaking of adding time to the life span. Most modern Bible translations, including the WEB, take this approach. The second option, taken by the creators of the KJV, is to argue that the Greek term usually translated as lifespan, helikia, can also sometimes mean stature, and this verse is thus speaking of adding physical height to the body. According to Fowler, Plummer argues against this translation because an increase of height of a cubit would create someone monstrously large, a fate few would desire. Fowler rejects this view, believing that Jesus may be talking about the growth of children rather than adults.[3] Morris feels that we should not rule the idea that Jesus is here using a humorous exaggeration, as he does elsewhere on occasion.[4] Luz feels that this could be a reference to the then popular idea that Adam before the fall was much taller, and if humans were ever to return to the original state of grace they would regain this height.[5] Beare notes a compromise view, which is that "a cubit of life" could be an expression for the length of time it takes to walk a cubit.[6] Since a cubit is roughly equivalent to a step, Nolland reads this verse as meaning that worry won't help one take a single step towards maturity.[7]

With either translation the meaning of this verse is the same. Jesus is here telling his followers that there is nothing to gain in life by being worried or anxious. This view on worry is a widely accepted one in the medical community today, and there is even a great deal of evidence that excessive worry can do a great deal to shorten the life span. Schweizer, however, feels that modern technology has somewhat negated this verse as a reasonable concern for one's health can increase one's life span significantly.[8]


  1. ^ Nolland, John. The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary on the Greek text. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005 pg. 311
  2. ^ Hill, David. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981
  3. ^ Fowler, Harold. The Gospel of Matthew: Volume One. Joplin: College Press, 1968
  4. ^ Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1992.
  5. ^ Luz, Ulrich. Matthew 1-7: A Commentary. trans. Wilhlem C. Linss. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortess, 1989.
  6. ^ Beare, Francis Wright. The Gospel According to Matthew. Oxford: B. Blackwell, 1981.
  7. ^ Nolland, John. The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary on the Greek text. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005 pg. 311
  8. ^ Schweizer, Eduard. The Good News According to Matthew. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975

Preceded by
Matthew 6:26
Gospel of Matthew
Chapter 6
Succeeded by
Matthew 6:28