(From a reflection on Matthew 6:25-34,)
In this text, Jesus sits on the hillside and takes his time. “Look at the birds,” Jesus says. “Consider the flowers,” he says. “Look at the grass.” And waits. Until everyone is fully attending to the wildflowers in the field. All their heads turn. He waits. The flowers wave. He waits. The people begin to notice the variety. They begin to notice the detail.
Jesus asks three questions:
Isn’t life more that food and clothes?
Aren’t people more important than plants and birds?
Does worry accomplish anything?
And then Jesus takes us one step further.
“Why are you worrying about clothes?” We read it as “Why do you devote so much time to what you look like on the outside?” or “Why do you worry about which tie and which shirt and whether this is a suit morning or a sport coat morning?”
But I don’t think that what Jesus meant. Not the scolding we give to people struggling to figure out which outfit to wear.
Let’s stop with Jesus for a moment.
He points out the birds and the lilies and the grasses. And while the people are calming and focusing, Jesus remembers the first birds, the first lilies, the first grass.
“In the beginning was the word. And the word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made.”
And what may be behind his words is, “when I know that the reason for clothes in the first place is your broken relation with God.”
Jesus takes us back to the Garden for an instant, to a time when humans were devoted to tending what God provided. To a time of obedience to the commands to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength and to be devoted to each other. When lilies and birds and grasses were beautiful and we weren’t so consumed with covering up our shame.
In that question, “why are you worried about clothes,” Jesus digs deeply into our hearts. “Because we are hiding from you.”
And then Jesus calls us back to that kind of pursuit of God, knowing that his death and resurrection and ascension and Spirit will make pursuit and obedience possible.
“My Father” he says. “My Father will father you.”
“When you first needed clothes because of your shame, God got you durable clothing. Why do you need to worry about clothing? Why do you worry? Aren’t people more important? Isn’t life more?”
“So come into the Kingdom of God,” Jesus says. “Seek his kingdom.”