Click for audio: Lesson From the Birds
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 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? (Matthew 6:25-26).
Jesus raises a puzzle when he suggests as an ideal model for peace of mind and prosperity the “birds of the air” who do not sow or reap or gather goods to assure their future. The average bird obviously ranks very low in terms of intellectual capacity, which may be why we refer to people whose intelligence we question as bird brains. And yet all the things Jesus says of the birds are true. If you observe any bird, you will see an animal that is perfectly adapted to survive and flourish in its environment. You will see an animal that is fully alive. You will see an animal that does not live for the future or regret the past, but one that is fully tuned into the now moment. Though the human being obviously possesses a superior capacity for intelligence, it is rare to find one living in the state of harmonious contentment seen even in your average bird.
Anthropologists mark the beginning of our interest in spiritual matters by artifacts they discover in conjunction with the development of human intelligence. They’ll point to Neanderthal burials, for example, as an indication that humans were beginning to think of life in a larger context than that of physical expression. Do the birds of the air think of such things? Have they developed religions, theories of what happens when they die, or do they apply theological constructs around ideas of sin and punishment, heaven and hell? There is no evidence that they do any of these things.
Perhaps Jesus was suggesting that it is through letting go of our preconceived notions of who and what we are and getting back to our true core that offers the prosperity we seek.