But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. – Matthew 19:26
Meaning of Matthew 19:26
Matthew 19:26 is one of the most popular verses from the Gospel of Matthew and is taken from the first book in the New Testament of The Bible. The verse ‘With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible’ means that mankind cannot save themselves and it is only possible through God. Jesus here is talking to his people about salvation or becoming a follower of Christianity. The verse was spoken as a reply to a man who had come to Jesus asking him the secret to eternal life. Hence, anyone who wants to become a disciple of Jesus must rely on God to have a good lifestyle.
Interpretations of Matthew 19:26
The verse, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” from Matthew 19:26 is widely used in all denominations of Christianity as priests refer to it quite frequently. While, the phrase might look simple and straight, it is common for people to misunderstand and misconstrue it.
Interpretation #1 Jesus has nothing but pity for his people
In this interpretation, when Jesus says, “with men this is impossible” in Matthew 19:26, He is perhaps implying that human beings possess no power and control over his or her lives. He possibly sees people’s incapability to handle situations, their shortcomings, and frequent mistakes and hence is asking everyone to seek God for help. He believes that it is only God who can save His followers from their problems and help them to lead better life. This explains why he has repeatedly asked Christians to depend on God throughout the New Testament in the Bible.
Interpretation #2 God will give you whatever you ask for
Matthew 19:26, Jesus says that “with God all things are possible.” So, it is only natural to think that Jesus here is implying that God is quite willing to fulfill every demand and wish people make. So, no matter what you ask god, He will do it. His followers believe that God is a ‘Father’. Thus father is meant to care for His children and love unconditionally. In fact, this is a belief in most Christians and even non-Christians all over the world. In this interpretation, the concept is believed as ‘grace of God’ and is extensively preached. Thus, encouraging people to approach God with total confidence and that they will be given anything they ask for.
Interpretation #3 To live a successful life, depend on God and don’t work
The verse, ‘With men this is impossible. With God all things are possible’ changes its implied meaning in this interpretation. When the reader believes in this verse as an ultimate assurance from God, he or she would want to conveniently believe that Jesus is asking His followers not to work or do anything at all. Thus encouraging them not to work hard in their life. All they have to do is keep their daily worries and needs aside and depend on God to provide for them. Most readers believe that it also applies to their basic amenities such as health, food, clothing, and shelter to all the luxury you want. There are plenty of people who do spend hours praying in front of God without doing anything else.
Interpretation #4 A person is helpless and weak when left on their own
In the first part of Matthew 19:26, one of the first things that can really stand out ‘with men it this impossible’. Where the word ‘this’ means everything in this interpretation. So the readers assume that humans are weak and helpless if left alone. It also makes the reader want to think that they are incapable of doing or achieving anything basic in life, such as daily chores, education, or a career if they are operating on their own. So, if someone works very hard and tries to do everything on their own, he or she is likely to fail because they do not depend on God.
Interpretation #5 A man accepts his vulnerable life and turns to God for guidance
This most taught interpretation of Matthew 19:26 means that God and men or humans must have equal dependence. Humans must depend on god for strength, intelligence, and needs, while God must be caring, forgiving, and providing. Here “this” means salvation or becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. In previous verses, Jesus was referring to salvation and said it was impossible with man to attain salvation by himself or by holding on to vanity. Humans cannot save themselves even through their efforts or doing good deeds. One cannot become a follower of Christ on their own. Hence, Jesus said it is only God who is good and makes the required change possible.
Historical Background of Matthew 19:26
The Gospel of Matthew is the first book of the New Testament of the Bible and one of the three Gospels. It tells how Messiah, Jesus, comes to his people and forms a group of disciples, how he taught people through different events, and how Israel became divided and how Jesus condemned hostile Israel. The 19th chapter in Matthew is made of three different parts: First, questioning the Pharisees about divorce and other old laws; second, Jesus praying for the children; and third, a rich man questioning Jesus on how to acquire eternal life. The statement follows a scene where a morally honest, law-abiding Jewish ruler and a devotee of the Ten Commandments questioned Jesus about what else he needed to do to inherit eternal life. However, the man was unwilling to give up his current life and amenities to become a follower.
Literary Devices in Mathew 19:26
The verse Mathew 19:26 is a conversational verse, unlike Psalms, which are poetic. However, there are few examples of the literary devices used in the verse. For example,
Theme – The verse Mathew 19:26 uses the theme of encouragement and reassurance, as it assures that when a person believes in God, everything is possible.
Assonance – In spite of being a regular statement or a dialogue, there is a good use of assonance in this verse. For example, the sound of /e/ in ‘beheld them’, the sound of /i/ ‘With men this is impossible’.
Consonance – There is also a good use of consonance in Mathew 19:26. For example, the sound of /s/ in ‘but with God all things are possible’ and ‘this is impossible’.
Hyperbole – The phrase ‘with God all things are possible’ can be considered an exaggeration as the author claims that everything is possible with God, which undervalues the role of nature or mankind.
Ad Hominem – There is a likely use of ad hominem as Jesus claims that ‘with men this impossible, to imply that humankind is helpless without God.
Juxtaposition – The use of ‘impossible’ and ‘possible’ shows brilliant use of juxtaposition as it is used side by side to create a dramatic contrast.