Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Luke 12:24
Why do people work for a living when Jesus promises that God will care for us just as he cares for the ravens? Are we just not trusting God enough for his sustenance? Should we quit our jobs and wait for manna to fall from heaven?
A rabbi from the 2nd century made a relevant observation:
“Have you ever seen a wild beast or a bird who has a trade? Yet they get along without difficulty. And were they not created only to serve me? And I was created to serve my Master. So is it not logical that I should get along without difficulty? But I have done evil and forfeited my right to sustenance without difficulty.” Simeon ben Eleazar, Mishnah, Kiddushim 4:14
Rabbi Eleazar bases his thoughts on the creation story in Genesis. According to Genesis 1:26, humans were made in God’s image to reign over creation-,- so just as a king’s subjects are his “servants,” God decreed that animals are man’s “servants.”
But unlike animals, Adam sinned by eating the apple, and was condemned to toil for food instead of having it easily available. The rabbi explains that because he is a sinner like Adam, he must work hard for his food, unlike the animals.
We can gain from the contrast between the words of Jesus and Rabbi Eleazar. It’s simply a reality of life that we must work and make a living to sustain ourselves, and often our jobs are toilsome and frustrating. We aren’t guaranteed a life free of sweat and labor. But we can trust that through the work that God gives us, he’s providing for our needs, just as he cares for the birds.
Rather than worrying that we’re on our own to scratch out a living, we can rest on the fact that we are precious in God’s sight, and that he’s watching over us. We can do our work to please him because we know he cares for us.
Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/capricious/ and Vincent Van Gogh
“Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. “Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them…You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.” Luke 12:36-37, 40
A friend recently told me of his belief that a certain Middle East city would be utterly wiped out in the near future because of how he read Bible prophecy. But the potential death of thousands of people didn’t seem to be much of a concern to him – just that he was excited about “knowing” the future. It seems like we have watched so many gory movies that the suffering of others doesn’t seem real enough to horrify us.
Many folks are fascinated with understanding world events in the light of end-times scenarios. We feel secure by feeling we have an understanding of the story being played out before us, and we get a thrill when a Middle East headline fits our reading of Revelation. But this excitement about end-times can develop into a callous “spectator mentality” that is numb to the suffering of others.
Jesus speaks several times about the end times too, and he said of his second coming, “of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Mark 13:32). He reminds us that our attempts at date-setting are futile, because not even he knows. But when Jesus talks about being ready for his return like the servants waiting for their master, what does he mean?
Jesus’ parable is to remind us that we need to always be mindful of the fact that he will return to judge, and that we should be faithful at all times because of it. We shouldn’t say to ourselves that if we abandon our walk with the Lord that we can just fix things later, because “later” may not come. All of us should have a special urgency to share the gospel and live lives that are a witness to Christ, that we will be found faithful when he arrives.
Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith! Luke 12:27-28
Jesus uses parables to explain difficult theological ideas with stories of everyday things. One of the methods he uses is a technique called kal v’homer, meaning “light and heavy.” It was of teaching a larger truth by comparing it to a similar, but smaller situation. Often the phrase “how much more” would be part of the saying.
Jesus used this when he taught about worry, in today’s passage above. We also see it in parables where he doesn’t necessarily use the phrase “how much more”:
“In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” (Luke 18: 1 – 8)
Here we see an unjust judge finally grants justice to a widow who keeps bothering him. Jesus concludes that if an unjust judge will help a widow who keeps coming to him, how much more will God answer the prayers of those who keep praying! Jesus tells another story of a man who goes to his neighbor asking for bread to feed some unexpected guests. He says, even if the neighbor would not give him bread because he is a friend, he will do it because of the man’s obnoxious persistence.
If we understand that Jesus is deliberately contrasting these people who are very unlike God, we see how much greater he is! God is not a callous judge – he cares deeply for the widow and orphan. God is not a sleepy neighbor, he knows our every need, and wants our good at all time. If even the very least godly people will act to help us when pressed, how great will God’s answers be to the persistent prayers that we bring to him!
“Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! ” Luke 12:24
When ravens come to mind, I think of Jesus’ words about how God feeds them even though they do not plant crops. Human beings spend their entire lives toiling by the “sweat of the brow” to harvest food, how can it be that this bird could still eat even if it doesn’t work? It shows that God is the ultimate source of our sustenance, not just our own hands.
In the Judean desert near Qumran, I had all the more awe for God’s care of the ravens. The temperatures soared to almost 120° every afternoon, and the land in the area looked as bleak as the surface of the moon. But yet we saw flocks of ravens soaring overhead, carefree and unworried about the harsh conditions. It would be easy for them to find food nearer to farms and rivers, but instead they built their nests on rocky cliffs in desolate areas. How could God provide for them out here?
When Jesus was telling his parable, I wonder if he was thinking of the story in his scriptures about how the ravens fed the prophet Elijah. During a drought, God supplied food for Elijah by sending ravens who brought bread and meat to him each day. Once again, God was providing for the birds in the harshest conditions, so much so that they could feed the prophet!
Or maybe Jesus was thinking of what God said to Job, “Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?” (Job 38:41) From birth, raven chicks have insatiable appetites, crying loudly with beaks open wide for food. Even after they have left the nest and are adult-sized, young ravens follow their mother, crying out for food from her, which she provides for them until they are self-sufficient. What parent wouldn’t feel the anxiety of a mother trying to find food for her hungry children? And yet God provides for helpless birds in the harshest of conditions.
How great an assurance that God cares for even the least of the birds, and he does it in barren desert and drought. How can we worry when we have a God who cares as much for us?