The Birds of Heaven

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Field of Lilies - Tiffany Studios, c. 1910

The Birds of Heaven (also referred to as The Flowers of the Field or The Lilies of the Field) is an important discourse given by Jesus as recorded in the New Testament books of (Matthew and Luke).

From Matthew 6:2433 (King James Version "KJV"):

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one,

and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

"... Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not..."

From Luke 12:20–32 (KJV):

But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall

be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.
The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.
Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?
And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?
If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?
Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?
And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.
For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.
But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Commentary[edit]

St. Augustine says that the parable should be taken a face value and not allegorized. Its meaning is clearly stated, "...seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."[1]

Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) often referred to Matthew 6:26. For him the birds of the air and the lilies of the field represented instructors in "religious joy", an appreciation that "there is a today". For him learning joy was to learn to let go of tomorrow, not in the sense of failing to plan or provide, but in giving one's attention to the tasks of today without knowing what they will have meant.[2]

Worldly worry always seeks to lead a human being into the small-minded unrest of comparisons, away from the lofty calmness of simple thoughts. ... Should not the invitation to learn from the lilies be welcome to everyone ... As the ingenuity and busyness increase, there come to be more and more in each generation who slavishly work a whole lifetime far down in the low underground regions of comparisons. Indeed, just as miners never see the light of day, so these unhappy people never come to see the light: those uplifting, simple thoughts, those first thoughts about how glorious it is to be a human being.[3]

M. Conrad Myers sees in the reference to Solomon "and all his glory" a subtle echo of Eccesiastes 2:11 "But when I turned to all the works that my hands had wrought, and to the toil at which I had taken such pains, behold! all was vanity and a chase after wind, with nothing gained under the sun."[4]

While various attempts have been made to identify the specific type of flower,[5] G.E. Post suggests "lily" is here meant to include a wide assortment of wild flowers.[6]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

The Birds of Heaven
Preceded by
The Lord's Prayer
in the Sermon on the Mount
New Testament
Events
Succeeded by
Discourse on Judging
in the Sermon on the Mount