“Look at the birds…” Matthew 6:26
It is simply fascinating how Jesus, when addressing our ordinary anxieties (the context of Matthew 6), does not merely tell us “stop,” but here instead commands us to look at birds.
When was the last time you intentionally watched birds? What about ants (Proverbs 6), trees (Psalm 1), vines (John 15), lilies (Luke 12), clouds (Genesis 9) or deer (Psalm 42)?
God has been encouraging prayerful meditation on creation for thousands of years and modern psychological studies are testifying to the wisdom of the Scriptures: “As little as 10 min of sitting or walking in natural settings significantly and positively impacted mental well-being.” (1)
God regularly points his people to look at, meditate on, and experience the non-human creation as a key source of wisdom and perspective. Why?
Jesus wants to help us see how we are similar to the rest of creation. What we have in physically in common with the birds is that we are creatures sustained by the same Creator (Mat. 6:26b). What we have psychologically in common with the birds is that we cannot “by being anxious can add a single hour” to our life (Mat. 6:27). Only God’s thoughts have control over the future.
In this way, “nature is not our mother, nature is our sister” (2). We have much in common with her in being finite, embodied, periodic-table-formed creatures.
Sometimes, the most helpful (and obedient?) thing we can do when feeling “anxious about tomorrow” is as simple as going outside and prayerfully watch the birds. In the midst of these semi-quarenteened times, make a point to spend a minimum of ten minutes per day being present to non-human creation. What else might God show you?
- (1) https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02942/full
- (2) G.K. Chesterton, Mere Orthodoxy