Jesus is continuing on his discourse from ‘The sermon on the mount’ on the subject of worry. You can almost imagine him looking up into the sky as he is speaking and pointing at some birds as an illustration.
It’s a simple but profound image. Birds are seemingly carefree, they fly around, gather food, sleep and repeat. They seem quite happy about it too, given the amazing morning birdsong you can here as they sing to each other. One can almost get quite envious of this simple lifestyle.
It’s not that they are unproductive, even though the worms (or whatever) have been provided by God, they still have to dig and search around for them. Jesus is not saying that we won’t have to toil to get what we need. Birds don’t just sit on a branch with their mouths open waiting for worms to drop from the sky (unless they are the baby birds in the picture). What we need to do, like them, is to work hard and then, the important thing is to not worry. Worrying is what they don’t do. They are not sowing or reaping and stockpiling worms for the hard winter. They go out, get their food and then do the same the next day.
I don’t think Jesus is warning about making provision for the future, that is a wise thing to do. What He is highlighting is not to worry about the future and simply trust that we have a loving heavenly father who wants to provide for us.
God’s provision for all creation is called ‘common grace’. This is the idea that God is gracious to all he has made, whether deserved or not. He blesses all. He looks after and sustains all of nature, the things that man cannot control and is not even aware of. There are probably fishes in the deepest ocean that God sustains that haven’t even been discovered yet. What a generous, kind and gracious God He is.
The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. (Psalm 145:9)
For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45)
The point Jesus is making is that if God looks after the birds, how much more will He look after us. It is not a popular concept in our society at the moment, but in God’s eyes, humans are more important than animals. It is humans who were created in God’s image. He bestowed on us more worth than everything else He created. So if He looks after each little bird on a daily basis, He will certainly look after you and I.