Truth, Understanding, Insight

Matthew 10:42 & The Cup of Cold

3rd March 2008, hej


1) The reward & Cup of Cold

Yahshua gives instruction to his twelve disciples when they go to preach in the towns. This is recorded in Matthew Chapter 10. Yahshua ends with a promise of reward for all time to those who help the prophet and righteous.

He that receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. (Matt. 10:41)

He then adds

whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. (Matt. 10:42)

It is to be noted that the word for 'water' is not in the Greek. It is perhaps better translated 'cold drink'. There is significant value for us if we give a cold drink to a disciple. Does it seem a very small thing to do? If we think this is a small act, it is possible we have inherited our sensibilities from Britain where it is cold, or possibly the availability of refrigeration has made the obtaining of cold water seem unremarkable.

Let us consider how very remarkable this is.

The climate of Israel is very similar to the temperate climate in Australia. Jerusalem is located at a latitude of 31° 47' N. Sydney is at latitude 33° 50'S and Perth is latitude 31° 60'S. This means a significant percentage of Australia's population live in a climate similar to that in Israel. All that live in the temperate climate would agree that for a considerable portion of the year it is hot, and sometimes it is very hot. Obtaining a cold drink without modern refrigeration in this climate is non-trivial.

First we could ask if the word 'psuchros' in the Greek text for 'cold' means 'cool' or 'cold'? A cool drink would be one that is lower than 35-37°C, which is our body temperature. The word in the Greek is used in John 18:18, Acts 28:2 and 2 Corinthians 11:27. In all of the instances the word 'cold' refers to an experience of people where is it so cold that a fire is needed. In Revelation 3:16 a distinction is made between, 'hot', 'cold' and 'lukewarm'. From this passage it is clear that 'psuchros' for 'cold' is the opposite to hot. A related word is used in Matthew 24:12.

And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. (Matthew 24:12 )

This context indicates that the word for cold means 'without life'. Interestingly the Greek word 'psucho' used here is related to 'breath' and indicates a reduction in temperature by evaporation to chill something. Anyone who has experienced the effect of water on the skin on a cool evening wind will know how cold this is.

It can be concluded that Yahshua did not mean something at room temperature, but something cold. A cold drink could not come from a nearby building or a handy jug. Water quickly warms to room temperature, therefore, a person giving a cold drink would have to obtain it fresh from somewhere very cold.

How and where would they have obtained cold water in Yahshua's day? One answer is contained in the very Greek work used. In a dry climate by blowing 'breath', or wind, over a wet surface the resultant loss of energy as the water evaporates to the air leaves the surface cold. This technique has been used to cool buildings in the Middle East for centuries. In these cooling chimneys items could be kept cold. Studies have shown it will easily achieve a drop in temperature of around 8-12 °C. Another option for obtaining cold water is from the ice water of the snows of Mt Hermon. This, of course, is location specific. On a hot day it is possible that water from a deep underground well is cool as it comes from surrounds that are more stable at between 18 and 23°C. On a hot day 20 ° C may seem cold. If the well was supplied by a spring fed by melting snow it could be below 15 °C which would seem quite cold. All of these sources of cold water are obtained by effort. Therefore obtaining a cold drink in the climate of Israel is not easy.

Recent research1 has shown just how important a cold drink is. A study of a naturally ventilated office building in Athens, which has a similar climate to that found in Israel, showed that contrary to expectations, 89% of the occupants were comfortable at internal temperatures up to 30.5°C. This was so remarkable the researchers studied their behaviour. It was found that they adjusted their activity levels, the windows and their clothes. They also found unexpectedly that they were all consuming a significant number of cold drinks. The researchers did some calculations and found cold drinks make a real impact on our thermal balance. A glass of water at 5 ° C has a direct cooling effect of 42kJ and at 1 per hour this was 12W cooling or an equivalent effect as dropping the body's metabolic rate by 10%. As water itself has almost no calorific content or energy, if we drink water in summer, we would use energy or lose weight as we become cooler. If we can eat ice this effect is increased. In effect to give someone a cold drink is to offer them cooling relief.

To give relief to someone in the name of a disciple, is to offer help in the name of the disciple, or to associate yourself in giving help with their work. In Yahshua's eyes, if we put in the effort to offer someone the physical relief of a cold drink in the name of the disciples, we would not lose our reward.

A distinction must be made. What we must offer is not a simple drink of water. The action is not trivial. Yahshua's promise is to those making an effort to give spiritual refreshment to someone. This is aptly described in the proverbs.

As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refreshes the soul of his masters. (Pro 25:13).

For when Yahshua comes again the hope of his presence is described as bringing times of refreshment:

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; (Act 3:19)

1 Baker, Nick and Mark Standeven (1996), Thermal Comfort for Free-running buildings, Energy and Buildings Vol 23 175-182