After the long dismal days of winter, the dark skies and wet weather I am really enjoy the warmth of spring today. The sun is shining, the temperature is rising, birds are singing outside my window and plant life is springing into life. Green shoots are appearing on the trees and the early spring flowers are blooming. Just this morning someone has commented to me that people have smiles on their faces. It is amazing what a difference even a few hours of sunshine can make!
Reflecting on the beauty of the natural world set my mind to thinking about some words of Jesus. In his teaching he frequently used the things around him as object lessons to teach principles about the kingdom of God. Whether it was drawing on ideas from domestic life, farming, fishing or even simply from creation, he would engage his listeners with things that they were familiar with to illustrate a truth he wanted them to remember.
On one occasion he said: ‘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.’ (Mt 6:28–29 ESV). From time to time Jesus would wander off into the hillsides to be alone with God. Perhaps it was while he went on these hikes that he noticed the beauty of the wild flowers. Certainly he expected that his listeners would also appreciate the aesthetic qualities of flowering plants. Solomon was renowned for the splendour of his reign. Such was his wealth that silver was considered to be valueless during his reign. Yet Jesus says that the beauty of the wildflowers surpasses even the majesty of Solomon.
The context of Jesus’ statement about the flowers was in a section of teaching where Jesus tells us not to worry. Now I don’t know about you, but whenever anyone has told me not to worry it has rarely brought me any comfort or set my mind at ease. In fact drawing attention to the fact I might worry often makes me more inclined to worry. My answer when someone says: ‘Don’t worry things can only get better’ is to say ‘But what if they don’t?!’
Jesus however offers a real antidote to worry. He tells us life is more than food and drink, and the body is more than clothing. He points to the birds of the air and the flowers of the field and reminds us that God provides for them. That being the case will he not equally care for us since we are more valuable than them? He also exposes the folly of worry by asking ‘which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?’ (Mt 6:27 ESV).
The best way to help someone who is anxious is to give them something else to focus their attention on and, in the conclusion to his teaching on this subject Jesus does just that. He says: ’But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.’ (Mt 6:23 ESV). This statement however, is more than diversion therapy, it is a promise that if we make the Kingdom of God and his righteousness our number one priority then we will find that He will take care of the necessities of our lives and we will no longer need to worry about them.
The lesson is simple but it takes a lifetime to learn. The next time you find anxiety and worry building up within you remember the birds of the air and the flowers of the field and choose to trust your Heavenly Father who cares even more for you. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.