Luke 12:25

ESV And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
NIV Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?
NASB And which of you by worrying can add a day to his life’s span?
CSB Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying?
NLT Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
KJV And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?

What does Luke 12:25 mean?

This is the core verse of the section (Luke 12:22–31). Jesus isn't ensuring all His followers an earthly life well-fed and appropriately clothed. He's saying that worrying—to obsess or panic, in this context—about food and clothing isn't going to do any good. He has just told the parable of a man who accumulated so much grain he could stop working for a few years, but all the grain in all the barns won't keep him alive if God decides his time on earth has ended (Luke 12:13–21).

Anxiety won't lengthen your life. Therefore, worrying about food and clothing won't lengthen your life. God will provide His followers with the food and clothing they need to fulfill His purposes in their lives. That purpose is our priority and great privilege.

Granted, God's purposes aren't always in line with what we would want. We, like the rich farmer, may want to "relax, eat, drink, be merry" for several years (Luke 12:19). Jesus wants us to be so bold sharing the gospel that we do not fear when authorities threaten our lives (Luke 12:4). He doesn't want us to take advantage of our relationship with Him but to serve Him diligently and lead others faithfully (Luke 12:35–48). Ultimately, it is not in this life that we can expect to be well fed and dressed, but at Jesus' return (Luke 12:37; Revelation 19:7–10).

The interpretation of this verse is disputed although the metaphorical meaning remains similar. The Greek translated "a single hour" can also mean "a single cubit"—a measurement of length. "Span" just means "length"; "of life" is added for clarity. The ESV, NASB, and NIV interpret the phrase to mean worry cannot add even a small amount of time to our lifespan. By translating "cubit" literally, the KJV interprets it to mean worry cannot add eighteen inches to our height. The former version is more likely since Jesus is talking about the need for food; an extra foot and a half of height is neither a small thing nor a basic human necessity. Either way, the point is that worry cannot give us what we want.

One more thing to consider is that this verse is not telling us that we should refuse medical care that could cure or mitigate the conditions of a disease or injury. God's plan, not our worry, determines our lifespan, but medical treatment may be part of God's plan for our lives. That we're not to be paranoid about earthly life does not mean we should treat it carelessly.
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