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Feed the Birds

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Date: 2022-03-06
Audience: Grass Valley Corps & Online
Title: Feed the Birds
Text: Matthew 6:25-34
Proposition: God teaches us to care for others
Purpose: Go feed the birds
Grace and peace
Jesus is speaking to a crowd of people who have been following him to hear about his view of life and how to live it. As he was teaching them about the importance of their inner motives leading to outward actions being done for the right reasons, he taught them the Lord’s Prayer as a kind of guide to examining ourselves.
To make it easier for them to understand what he meant, he went on to offer explanations for the various parts of that prayer. We’ve seen how he emphasized the importance of seeking God’s will rather than personal enrichment or superiority. The part of the prayer we are up to – “Give us today our daily bread” – is a check to see where we are placing our trust.
Jesus offers elaboration on this in the passage we have set aside as Matthew chapter 6, verses 25 through 34. Grab your Bibles and look that up! We’ll start with the first thing he says there.
By the way, I’m using the Lexham English Translation today because it uses some more literal words than the NIV or NLT we usually use here. While I obviously don’t mind getting into the nuances of translating from ancient Greek to modern English, I know that some of you find that to be more than you really want to know. Like my youngest daughter, who likes to chant “boh-ring!” and roll her eyes when I get word geeky.
Found your way to Matthew 6:25? Okay, if your version is different, the words may be a little different, but the meaning they come down to is going to be the same.
Jesus continues his discussion of how to live a God-centered life by saying this:
25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, what you will eat, and not for your body, what you will wear. Is your life not more than food and your body more than clothing?[1]
Often people define this as a quantity thing – life is more than just food. It’s food and family and friends, and cars, and chocolate ice cream, and watching TV! But that isn’t what Jesus seems to be saying here. Instead he’s pointing out a value inherent in life that is greater than the value of food. And that clothes are nice and all, but isn’t the body itself really so much greater than a pair of jeans?
What’s he setting up here? He’s making a point about our perspective being too limited.
I’ve been known to watch that American Pickers show from time to time, and they find these farms or other properties where people have got these great classic old trucks or cars or whatever and they’ve been left in a garage or a field somewhere for years and years and their rusting and falling apart. And the Pickers are all about doing what they can to take these things that were made to be used and enjoyed and driven and fix them up at least to the point that someone will take that thing and love it instead of leaving it sit.
As much as we tend to think of manufacturers as being all about profit, the things they make are made for use.
A car designer pours her life into that vehicle design. She sees it being manufactured, watches the pieces being assembled, sees her vision becoming a reality, and then waits to see what people do with her creation. Will they love it? Will they care for it? Will they drive it and enjoy it? Or will they ignore or leave it parked in a lot somewhere to rust? Before it goes to market, the designer makes sure the car will have all it needs to be used the way she intended. That means having fuel to keep it running, making sure there are roads for it to drive on, and that there are people who will buy and love and use that vehicle.
An architect, designing a building, wants to see that plan come to life and become a space that people move into and use. A boatwright builds a vessel to be sailed. A program director creates a program to become part of the lives of those who enter it. In each case, they take care to be sure that what they are creating will be used, sustained, and fulfil its purpose.
God made a life for you. He set up the environment in which you would live, chose your parents to give you the chance to be the best you could be, established genetics to aid in that process. Just like a boatwright or an architect or a car designer, the LORD built you to succeed. He created your life to be used, driven, as it were, for a purpose. Your body is the same. He created it to do so much more than just house your spirit and wear Nikes.
Food and clothing are important things. They help preserve and improve our lives and power, grow, and protect our bodies. But they are little things, compared to our bodies and our lives, aren’t they? The designer who created our lives did so with a purpose in mind. And a plan for how we would be able to meet that purpose. That includes providing our fuel, our roads, and anything or anyone else we need to get those things done.
Because your life is so much more than food and your body is so much more than clothing. Your designer doesn’t want you abandoned in an old barn somewhere. He wants to see your purpose fulfilled.
Jesus doesn’t just say that this is true. He has an example you can look at to see God’s hand in action.
26 Consider the birds of the sky, that they do not sow or reap or gather produce into barns, and your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they are?[2]
Birds are day-to-day creatures. They haven’t developed refrigerators or fast food restaurants. They simply go through life and look for food when they need it. And its there.
I’m not saying that birds don’t work to eat. They do. I’m not saying they don’t store anything. Some do, some don’t. What I’m saying is that everything they need is provided.
A friend once told me the most burning question she had for God, if she ever has the chance to ask it, is why he created mosquitos. I told her that that’s easy. Mosquitos are there to feed the bats. I suggested that ever time she got bitten or heard that shrill little whine in her ear in a dark place, she take a moment to thank God for his provision for all of his creatures.
While we are often encouraged in scripture to make plans and to think ahead, we are never asked to worry. We are asked to trust. Not to trust blindly, but to work on faith – that proven track record of provision and care God has always shown us.
Sometimes we try to ignore our blessings and just blame him for things we feel we’ve missed out on or that we wanted but never got, but when we’re honest with ourselves we will see that our lives have always had all we really needed when we have needed it. In fact, for most of us, especially here in America, we’ve had so much more. And I don’t just mean food and clothing, but especially those.
So what is there to worry about?
And besides, what good does it do to worry? As Jesus went on to say:
27 And who among you, by* being anxious, is able to add one hour to his life span?[3]
Actually, it’s stranger than that. What he said is that no one could worry to add even a CUBIT to their life. A cubit is a measure of distance – about 18 inches, or half a meter.
Translating it to say you can’t add an hour to your life is perfectly fine. There was one early church leader, a guy named Tertullian, who saw it differently though. He said that, because this verse said worry couldn’t add a cubit to your life, that wearing heels – something men did at the time – or women putting on hair extensions were obviously forbidden. It would be funny, except that people took that seriously for a long time. Want to know why I keep warning us to be careful about translations and interpretations? It isn’t that they are bad, but when we lose the original context, we can end up in some weird places. And where our world is different from the Biblical world, we should tread even lighter, understanding that we need to be listening to the meaning of what Jesus told us and the reason. Here, he’s telling us not to worry. So, guys? Go put those heels on. Oh, wait, fashion has moved on, hasn’t it? Well, that’s okay. Fashion doesn’t matter so much. Or, as Jesus put it:
28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe the lilies of the field, how they grow: they do not toil or spin, 29 but I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was dressed like one of these. 30 But if God dresses the grass of the field in this way, although it* is heretoday and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not do so much more for you, you of little faith?[4]
Oven is the right word, if you were curious. Dried grass and flowers and brush were the fuel for the fire that baked the bread in the community ovens in the villages and towns of the day.
And if the untended, wild grasses and flowers spring up on their own and grow into some of the most beautiful things on earth, but they are just here for a flash, then gone, maybe to be burned, maybe to simply fade back into the dirt they came from, and yet God chose to make them so beautiful, then why are you worried? You are so much more than a bit of vegetable matter.
I am a terrible gardener. I can’t even keep a potted plant alive. One year my wife bought me a miniature bonsai tree. The man who sold it to her had cared for it from a seedling. They take about 15 years to grow, being pruned and trained to look just so. The whole job I had was to provide it with light and then, once every two weeks or so, mist it with a sprayer.
Within a month, it was dead. The limbs had turned brown and dried into sticks. I don’t know what I forgot to do, but it was fatal.
Another time, not long after Bridget and I married, her mother brought us a rubber tree plant from her office that had closed. For twenty years this plant had survived under fluorescent lights being fed nothing but stale coffee dumped out of the cups of office workers at the end of the day. Then it came to my house. Two weeks later it was dead, brown, and dried up, which would have been great if we needed fuel for our fire, but we had an electric oven in that apartment.
The point here, besides the fact that I’m not the person to give a potted plant to, is that God takes care of what he plants. I suspect that if I had cared about my gifts as much as I cared about the givers, I would have made a point of learning to take care of them better. Plants can only thrive and grow with care. So when you see fields of flowers growing untended or forests rising up without being farmed or hedges blooming without any intervention, ask yourself who is caring for them that they are growing so well?
And if God cares for these stray plants so much, how much more does he care for you? And what does that mean? Jesus said that it means this:
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?,’ 32 for the pagans seek after all these things. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.[5]
The pagans, in this context, is a way of referring to the whole world that wasn’t considered to be part of the people of God. Remember that Jesus is talking to his followers about what they set their hearts on.
If your focus is on these things – food, clothing, money, THINGS… - then you have no energy, time, or desire left to pursue the things that matter most.
If you focus on the things that matter MOST and leave the little things to the God who says he will take care of them for you, then there is room for better things to happen. Jesus finished his description of what it means to rely on God for your daily needs by saying:
33 But seek first his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow, because tomorrow will be anxious for itself. ⌊Each day has enough trouble of its own.[6]
In the recovery community the driving command is that we all need to live one day at a time.
I often remind people that it does us no good to live in the past. Not one of us can change any one thing that came before NOW. Nothing from an hour ago or a day ago, a week ago or a year or more. What’s done is done and it can’t be undone. The most sincere apology can’t untell a lie. No matter how much you pay, you can’t undo a theft. No choice that has been made and acted on can be unchosen. We can only work FORWARD from this point.
The same is true of the future. There is certainly nothing wrong with planning for the future, but since none of us knows what the future holds, our planning will always be a little vague.
Knowing the truth of that, what does anyone hope to accomplish by worrying at something? What good does it do for you to push your care out onto some phantom event that may or may not ever come about? Or that may happen, but only AFTER you get hit by a stray meteorite falling to earth? Or after the aneurism you give yourself by worrying so much?
You want to deal with something? Deal with today. Focus on what is in front of you right now.
Living in the Kingdom of God is something that demands your attention and awareness in the present. What would happen if you focused your attentions on being PRESENT in the present?
Paying attention to the people you are with.
Being aware of what is needed within your reach today?
Doing what needs to be done for today and leaving tomorrow’s concerns for tomorrow.
Would you find that freeing?
[1] W. Hall Harris III et al., eds., The Lexham English Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), Mt 6:25. [2] W. Hall Harris III et al., eds., The Lexham English Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), Mt 6:25–26. [3] W. Hall Harris III et al., eds., The Lexham English Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), Mt 6:27. [4] W. Hall Harris III et al., eds., The Lexham English Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), Mt 6:28–30. [5] W. Hall Harris III et al., eds., The Lexham English Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), Mt 6:31–32. [6] W. Hall Harris III et al., eds., The Lexham English Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), Mt 6:33–34.
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