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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Things we learn from birds

Jesus says what I need to hear, in Matthew 6:25-34: Do not worry.

Pictured: A totally not-worried sparrow. Image source.

First of all, he tells us not to worry because it doesn't do any good.

Verse 27: "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Truth. Worrying is totally not helpful.

Jesus makes two analogies, about birds and lilies.

Don't worry about food, says Jesus, because God feeds the birds, and you're much more important than birds.

Don't worry about clothes, says Jesus, because God clothes the lilies, and you're much more important than lilies.

And I want to say, "well that's nice, but birds don't have a great life anyway. They live for what, 2 years? 5 years? And sometimes they fly into a glass window and die from the impact."

It's just an analogy. It doesn't mean you're going to have the same quality of life as a bird. And personally, I find it's a lot more convincing to think of how God has provided for me in the past, rather than try to tease out the similarities between me and birds. For example, right now I'm about to graduate and I need to find a job, and I worry about that sometimes. But then I remember how, for the past 4ish years at college, I've been employed the entire time, doing jobs I really like. And the process of getting a job is mystifying and I totally don't understand it, but somehow God has worked it out, over and over again, and I've been very happy.

Jesus says don't worry because God knows what you need.

Verses 32-33: "For the pagans run after all these things [food, clothing], and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

Don't worry. God understands. Focus on God, and he'll sort out the other stuff.

I wonder about Jesus' original audience, hearing these words. Perhaps many of them were poor, and didn't know where their next meal would come from. This stuff that Jesus says- about God providing because he knows what we need- is it true? Or is it a cliche that comes off as incredibly insensitive to people who are actually in need?

No, Jesus wasn't insensitive. He had compassion for everyone he met- especially those who were poor and vulnerable. But how can this be true? There ARE people whose basic needs are not met. Where is God?

What about when bad things happen? How can Jesus say not to worry, when there's no guarantee that you won't die tomorrow? There's no guarantee of anything, really, except that God is with us and understands what we're going through.

And still Jesus says, "Do not worry." And "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness."

Lately I've found that instead of worrying, I should pray.

The truth is, I'm not in control. There are forces in this world that are more powerful than me- for example, employers who are deciding whether to hire me or not. I don't know what's going to happen. But worrying isn't going to help anything- I should pray instead. Because I have a God who loves me and totally understands me. Something will work out, because in the past something has always worked out.

God is with me, and God has been with me through everything I've worried about in the past year. God is with me, even when I forget to pray, even when I question whether he "has a plan for my life." No worries.

Question for my readers: What helps you not to worry?

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This post is part of a series on the gospel of Matthew.

Previous Post: What's the point of treasures in heaven? (Matthew 6:19-24)

Next Post: Do not judge. (But kind of do.) (Matthew 7:1-6)

Click here to go to the beginning of the series.

3 comments:

  1. Hi Perfect Number,

    I think "Jesus" is what helps still my worry ... But it's complicated.

    I have to admit that I don't fully understand all of "reality," even though I understand much more as an adult than I did as a kid.

    Wen my kids were little, my wife and I spent effort keeping them from dangers they didn't know or understand (walking into the street, talking with strangers). We also spent energy calming them when they faced perceived dangers that we knew were okay (like the boogey man or the first day of school).

    I believe Jesus Jesus dying on the cross protects me from the real danger of eternal death (that honestly I don't quite get and am not as afraid of as I should be). And when he tells me not to be afraid, he is saying that anything he allows my way can only be for my good (like the first day of school).

    The issue is believing he knows what he is up to, and believing he sees all of reality while I see only a little.

    Really good post. Thanks.

    Sam

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  2. Thanks, Sam. :) "The issue is believing he knows what he is up to, and believing he sees all of reality while I see only a little." I know this has to be true, based on my beliefs that God is all-powerfully, all-knowing, loving unconditionally, but I still worry a lot because sometimes in the world bad things happen- where is God then?


    But Jesus said not to worry. And I've realized that I used to pray a lot more, and back then I wasn't worried. So I know I need to pray. :)

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  3. Yeah, a simple lesson I keep forgetting!

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