|Matthew 6:25-34: The Lilies of the Field and The Birds of the Air. 24 “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,[a] or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?[b] 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God[c] and his[d] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (NRSV)|
Some Danish Dude once said.
I have been reading a book by a Danish philosopher named Søren Kierkegarrd and I thought it was very timely with all that is going on and this verse would be good to reflect on while we are stressed and unsure of the future.
There are a few things I think we can learn from the lilies and the birds as Kierkegarrd points out in his book. If you like philosophy and Jesus, I highly recommend his book, “The Lilies of the Field and the Birds of the Air”. It is a very short read (90 pages) that is full of goodness. The three discourses that Kierkegaard writes about are silence, obedience, and joy. I will be only talking about silence, but get the book if you want to see how obedience and joy work with silence. Don’t let the word discourse scare you. Kierkegaard only uses that word because he did not feel that he could call it a sermon because he was not a pastor. Silence please…
The lily and the bird, our silent teachers, model “seek[ing] first God’s kingdom and his righteousness.” As Kierkegaard explains, “There is in fact nothing I shall do? Yes, quite true, in a certain sense there is nothing. You shall in the deepest sense make yourself nothing, become nothing before God, learn to keep silent. In this silence is the beginning, which is first to seek God’s kingdom” (Kierkegaard).
Kiekegaard wants us to become nothing. He wants us to not think of ourselves and to humble ourselves. Silence is the first step to seeking the kingdom. We let go of ourselves and look to Christ.
Do not hear what I am not saying or what Kierkegaard is not saying. He is not saying an absence of sound, but the silence is a certain type of sound. The sounds that he equates to silence are that which are natural or from nature and those that are in uniformity. The sounds that are all around us but that we rarely hear because we are too concerned with ourselves – the raging of the sea, the sound of the wind whispering, and the sound of the lilies and birds. Everything acting as it ought. We see this in nature, Kierkegaard argues. The sounds that all blend together that make no sound by themselves, but create a sound all together and that sound echoes one thing: “Glory to God.”
This may seem confusing, but let me contrast it with what Kierkegaard describes as non-silence. Spoiler: It is humans and their chattering. I feel this is very much our world right now. We are chattering and not relishing in the silence which is the highest form of prayer. Kierkegaard states, “He had thought that to pray was to talk; he learned that to pray is not only to keep silent, but to listen. And that is how it is – to pray is not to listen to oneself speak, but is to come to keep silent, and to continue keeping silent, to wait, until the person who prays hears God”.
Kierkegaard goes on to say that one of the first things we should listen for is the Lord’s prayer.
Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:9-13, NRSV)
We pray this way so that you may forget your plans and concerns.We turn our thoughts and prayers to God, “your kingdom come”. This is when you find yourself like the liles in the field and the birds of the are. You find that you are in the presence and the fullest sense of reality. You are in the presence of God. Kierkegarrd says,
“. . . out there with the lily and the bird you perceive that you are before God, which most often is entirely forgotten in talking with other people. For when just two of us talk together, even more so when we are ten or more, it is so easily forgotten that you and I, that we two, or that we ten, are before God. But the lily [or the bird] who is the teacher, is profound. It does not involve itself with you at all; it keeps silent, and by keeping silent it wants to signify to you that you are before God, so that you remember you are before God — so that you might earnestly and in truth become silent before God” (Kierkegaard).
This is not to say that silence removes struggle and suffering or it is an illusion as in most eastern religions. The lilies and the birds are silent in suffering. Kierkegaard says that our ability to be silent in suffering and hard times are to be like the lily and the bird. They are able to live fully and securely on their depencey in the reality of God and not on themselves. It is this deeper trust that allows them to continue, no matter the conditions. Conditions of course that can bring sickness and death.
I hope that we can forget ourselves. Thinking of others and being silent before God. We can be like the lilies of the field and the birds of the air that are wholly dependent on God and trust fully in God.
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Søren Kierkegaard, The Lily of the Field and the BIrd of the Air: Three Godly Discourses, trans. and ed. Bruce H. Kirmmse (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016).