"For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes." (Luke 12:23)

This statement has been slightly mistranslated and more than slightly misinterpreted. Let's understand its meaning within the context of Jesus' discussion with his students.

Jesus is continuing his discussion of materialism, in response to one of his students asking him:
"Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." (Luke 12:13)
Jesus indicates that the accumulation of possessions relates directly to greed as well as anxiety regarding the survival of the body. With respect to greed, Jesus stated:
"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions." (Luke 12:15)
Then with respect to "worry" - or anxiety regarding the physical body, Jesus clarified that we are not these physical bodies:
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear." (Luke 12:22)
Then he states here that:
"For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes."

This is slightly mistranslated. 


The word "life" is translated from the Greek word ψυχή (psychē), which means, according to the lexicon, "the breath of life - the vital force which animates the body and shows itself in breathing" and "a living being, a living soul."

Thus Jesus is not speaking of "life" in general here - as one might make a generalization about "life." Jesus is speaking specifically of the spirit-person within: The person who occupies the physical body.

Furthermore, the word "food" here is τροφή (trophē) could mean food in the right context, but it also means "nourishment" according to the lexicon.

Therefore, this first part of the phrase would be more appropriately translated to (as translated in the Gospels of Jesus):

"Because the soul is greater than food..." 


Jesus is identifying two things and comparing them. The first is the soul or the spirit-person within - the self. This is our identity. We are not these physical bodies. We are spiritual in essence - children of the Supreme Being.

"... just as the body is greater than clothing."

Jesus is continuing his comparison here, but this comparison is confirming the type of comparison made in the first part, "For the soul is greater than food."

Thus a more appropriate translation of the entire sentence would be something like:

"Because the soul is greater than food just as the body is greater than clothing."

This sets up the comparison that Jesus is making here.

This kind of comparison is often made in modern speech. For example, a person might say that "Gold is more valuable than silver, just as rubies are more valuable than glass." Is this statement about rubies and glass? No. The rubies and the glass are being compared to clarify the relationship between gold and silver. The topic is the gold and the silver.

In the same way, Jesus is discussing the soul - the person within - and the idea of making sure the body is fed and taken care of. This relates directly to the fact that the soul - the person within - is not the physical body.

Clothes cover the body just as the body covers the soul


Jesus is comparing clothes covering a body to the concern about the body versus the needs of the soul. Just as clothes cover the body, taking care of the body - possessions related to the body - covers the soul. They do not fulfill the soul, just as clothing only covers the body but doesn't feed it.

Each of us is a soul. It is not as if the soul is some kind of moral organ or something. The soul is what gives this body life. Once the soul leaves, the physical body dies.

Therefore, to nourish the body with food and possessions is not the same as feeding the soul.

The word "nourishment" relates to the seeking to nourish or otherwise fulfill the requirements of the physical body. Should a person have all the nutritious foods to feed the body; this would not be enough. Because the spirit-person within requires spiritual food. Jesus stated this clearly:
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work." (John 4:34)
What is Jesus speaking about here? He is speaking of love and loving service. He is loving the Supreme Being and wants to "finish His work." Not only does he want to "finish His work" but Jesus states clearly that this is his "food." This is what nourishes Jesus. This is what fulfills the spiritual Jesus.

Just as loving service to God feeds Jesus, each of us needs our loving relationship with the Supreme Being. This is why we each search the world for our "soul mate." And even when we think we have found that perfect person for us, we soon learn that they are not the perfect person we originally thought they were.

The fact is, we are looking for the perfect person who is our "soul mate" because the Supreme Being is our soul mate. He is the perfect person we need. A loving service relationship with God is the only thing that will truly fulfill us.

This is why Jesus' most important instruction was:
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:27-28)