Jesus also uses the example of birds to illustrate freedom, especially freedom from worry. Worry is one of the chief enemies to our freedom in Christ. Anxiety and fear of the future keep people weighed down and earth bound. Consequently, when we are full of worry we do not participate in God’s own liberty. This is why Jesus says:
“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matt. 6:25-27)
In the above passage Jesus gives us a number of keys to free us from worry about temporal things. First, life is more important than food and the body is more important than clothes. We might think that life is about providing food and clothing for the body, especially if we are a provider, but Jesus thinks on a whole other plain. The life and body have a higher call than food and clothing. Our life is meant to testify of God, and our body is meant to be a temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, Jesus is teaching us that if we focus on our true purpose ––“seeking first his Kingdom and his righteousness”––the Father will make sure we have all we need (Matt. 6:33).
Like all of Jesus’ teachings this one has been distorted. Some may translate it as “I don’t need to do a thing and God will take care of me.” But that mentality goes against what Jesus teaches us elsewhere about good stewardship. Seeking first God’s Kingdom and his righteousness means glorifying the Lord in your calling through hard work (2 Thes. 3:6-15). But it also means not overworking because of worry and pride (Psalm 127). In other words, whatever we do we are to reflect God in our productivity and fruitfulness.
This brings us to the second lesson of the above passage: the heavenly Father feeds the birds. And in the same way the heavenly Father feeds the birds he desires to feed us. We are not the ones feeding ourselves; God is feeding us. Our finances do not come from our employers who are fleeting; they come from the Father who will never pass away. We must realize that it is not by our effort that we provide for ourselves, but rather we are provided for by God’s grace.
Thirdly, Jesus makes a clear distinction between birds and humans. Birds are good, they are God’s creation and testify of God’s nature and power. However, human beings are much more valuable than birds. If God cares for the birds (if the Father gives them grace) how much more will he give us grace? Thus, Jesus is teaching that men and women are the most valuable creatures of God’s creation.
Lastly, we deceive ourselves by thinking that worry can add time to our life. Our logic goes something like this: “If I worry about something I can protect myself.” In other words, worry reveals that we are at the centre rather than God. It is God who keeps us rather than our own power. Worry actually depletes our life and keeps us from the true source of life. Worry is idolatry––we try to live outside of grace by our own power. This is why Jesus instructs us about worry straight after talking to his disciples about idolatry: “No one can serve two masters…You cannot serve God and Mammon” (Matt. 6:24). The beginning of worry is the inception of idolatry and its continuance means an entrenchment in idolatry; it means serving another god.
Prayer: Father, teach me the lesson that Jesus was illustrating through the birds of the air. You don’t want me to worry; you desire me to be free. May you be the centre of my life rather than me. Free me from worry, in Jesus’ name.