Consider the Lilies Matt 6:22-34
Vs 28 sets the tone for what Jesus is teaching his disciples in today’s reading, “… walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? …”
The old King James translation may be the one many of us remember best, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
Matt 6’s message is easy to misinterpret.
It is not some New Age, self-help, pep talk about positive thinking. Its not Bob Marley’s pop-wisdom as reflected in his song, “Don’t worry—be happy”.
This is about orienting our lives, aligning it with God’s priorities for living life. Life, this thing someone called, “wonderful chaos”, is filled with randomness—things that happen to us over which we have no control. But Jesus talks about the things we can control.
That is where Jesus wants us to focus on.
The Dalai Lama says: “If you cannot do anything about it, why worry? And if you can—then do something about it!”
Even that seems a trifle simplistic, but there is wisdom to that statement too.
Worry, as Jesus uses it here us more a constant focus on the non-essentials of life. Such a focus sometimes becomes an empty obsession. That form of worry is harmful to us and it adds no value to life.
We live in a pressure cooker world. There is so much information coming at us at any given time that we all suffer from an information overload. There is no discrimination between what is meaningful and useful to us and what is not. We open our eyes and turn on the television and the day’s marathon bombardment of information begins. We travel to work and from the moment you turn on your car until you step into your office there is information to process coming at us at full speed.
Some of this is absolutely necessary, such as whether you are driving safely under the speed limit, being aware of traffic and signals. But there are also billboards, car radios, personal phones pinging out their next message to us, all demanding we pay attention to what they have to say.
Overload is something we all suffer from.
To live a healthy life we need to guard against giving in to the loudest and most demanding voices coming at us. The alternative is to focus on the meaningful voices that lead us to meaningful life.
Jesus uses an example of how one can reorientate your life for a better outcome.
He says it so beautifully;
“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar.”
For Jesus it begins with a healthy outlook on life. To live with open eyes means to be able to appreciate and internalize the beauty God has given to this world, not only in a physical sense, but also in a spiritual sense.
The alternative is to become cynical, angry, to withdraw from life or to become inwardly focused or self-absorbed and stuck in a vision that rarely changes. A kind of life-sucks mentality. Or a me-me focus on ourselves first at all times.
Jesus calls us, his listeners in this text, to make choices in life. We have been given free will and with that comes great responsibility. We can do the right thing or the wrong thing and most of the time we know the difference. Jesus says; “you cannot worship two Gods at once.”
We either follow the God of love or we follow the gods we create for ourselves. We don’t need others to tell us who those gods are. Unless we are in denial we can usually figure that out for ourselves.
Jesus says, if we choose the God of love, the one he called, Abba-Father, the private and personal gods must go.
“There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God.”
Let’s get this straight. This is not an invitation to resign your job and demand that God feed you every day while you do nothing for yourself.
It means that we need to be aware of the pitfalls of shallow human materialism and an inwardly focused life.
We have a responsibility to live in such a way that we do no harm to ourselves and to do no harm to others and I think had Jesus known back then human development would one day threaten the health of the planet, he would have included that, too, as part of the community he points to.
“What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving.”
The preoccupation with getting he refers to is a preoccupation with getting more than you need or more than one’s fair share. It is about getting more at the cost of another having less. In other words, again, a materialism of destruction.
God’s giving, that Jesus refers to here, is a world view that says the entire cosmos, including this planet and all its people, belongs to God. To follow God’s principle of love would transform our lives and the lives of those who share this earth with.
This is a dream for the world, that Jesus expresses.
When we need to learn to trust more—may we find our way to trust.
When we need to learn to be less concerned about the superficial things in life—may we focus on what is life-giving.
When we need to learn to share—may generosity liberate us from our insecurities.
When we truly experience need, and anxiety fills our days, may we find God’s presence in the God inspired relationships and community we have helped create.
This is Jesus’s way of reminding us that we are God’s Beloved. Amen.
22-23 “Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!
24 “You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both.
25-26 “If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.
27-29 “Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
30-33 “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.