"Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"
When Jesus asks us to look at the birds of the air, it might just be a good idea to do exactly that. Birds are part of God's creation. They are beautiful and independent. They can do something we cannot do-namely, fly. They also sing beautifully, in a countless variety of sounds. They sing loudest at sunrise, heralding the precious gift of another day of life. There is something going on here besides us.
Our heavenly Father cares for the birds. The lesson for us? He will also care for us. This may seem obvious to some. For myself, and I think many others, one of the hardest things of life is trusting in God's provision. Somehow we get caught up in the idea that it is all up to our own effort; that it is a jungle out there; and we had better fight for our survival as aggressively as we can. In extreme cases this way of thinking will lead to unethical, illegal or even violent behaviour.
Many aspects of our worldly existence deceive us into thinking this way. In the secular world, work, personal advancement and material gain are lauded as a be-all and end-all. As Christians, we will recognize the falsity of this idea but we may nevertheless fall into countless other attitudinal traps. The fact is that there are great financial pressures placed on Christians from a multitude of directions. We need money for our food and housing. We want to support our local church and mission agencies. We want to do good works, to extend a helping hand. We also want and need vacations and recreational activity. Could it be that some Christians are even more pre-occupied with the need for dollars than some non-Christians?
Our faith challenges us in so many ways that we could lose count if we are not careful. Yet Jesus himself tells us to lighten up and quit worrying so much:
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 28-34) ESV.
I love this passage. I do not claim to understand fully all that it means. If I am feeling blue or bewildered I can take comfort in knowing that I can obey God simply by considering the lilies of the field.
Craig M. Gay has written about attitudes towards money in a book entitled Cash Values: Money and the Erosion of Meaning in Today's Society (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004) excerpted in Crux (Spring, 2005). He attempts to describe an appropriate Christian attitude towards money:
The new ethic is still disciplined in the sense that it takes economic rationality seriously, and it is still "ascetic" in the sense that it recognizes the dangers of covetousness and licentiousness, but it is not dour. On the contrary, it is light-hearted and seeks simply to emulate the graciousness of God who, as James affirms (James 1:5):"gives generously to all without finding fault." (p.19).
Economic rationality implies many things. Christians certainly must balance their cheque books and pay their debts; it would not do otherwise. Indeed we may consider this kind of rationality to be a gift from God, just as scientific or medical or any other kind of rationality may be so considered.
Yet another perspective comes from a country song I once heard reminding us that you do not see U-Haul trailers attached to hearses.
Lilies of the Field is a classic movie made in the 1960's starring Sidney Poitier. While not a perfect explanation of the scripture, it is meaningful and entertaining. It would be of interest to church planters, if it could be found at the video store.
Blessings in the spirit of light-hearted and generous Christian fellowship