September 7, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 12:22-24 (NRSV)
He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!”
We live in a time filled with anxiety. But Jesus urges us not to worry. Why can we be free from anxiety? Because, according to Jesus, God cares about birds . . . but so much more about us. We matter to God more than we can begin to imagine!
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
Yesterday I began a series of devotional reflections on Luke 12:22-32, a passage that begins with Jesus saying, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.” I suggested that, in a time of history filled with anxiety, we desperately need to hear this word from Jesus. Of course, we need more than just the admonishment not to worry. We also need to know why we shouldn’t worry. Jesus explains why in the rest of our passage, offering several reasons why we can be free from worry.
He begins by talking about birds. “Consider the ravens,” he says, “they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them” (Luke 12:24). It’s curious that Jesus chose ravens for this example. For one thing, ravens aren’t the sort of birds we enjoy having in our gardens. They’re not colorful and they make quite obnoxiously loud screeches. Moreover, in the Jewish law, ravens were included among unclean birds of prey, birds that Leviticus refers to as “detestable” and “an abomination” (Leviticus 11:13-19). But, according to Jesus, God feeds even such unpleasant and despised birds. That says something about God’s common grace, doesn’t it?
Jesus’s main point, however, isn’t about ravens. Rather, after explaining that God feeds ravens, he adds, “Of how much more value are you than the birds!” (12:24). If God cares for even for ravens, therefore, how much more does he care for you and me. We don’t need to worry about our lives, Jesus says, because our gracious God cares and provides for us.
As I write this devotion, I can relate to what Jesus is saying in an unusual way. You see, I’m sitting outside on my patio right now, about ten feet away from a bird feeder covered with goldfinches. I took the photo for today’s devotion to show you what I’m seeing right now. So, in an odd way, I’m filling the role of God in Jesus’s teaching. (It’s always a little risky to say I’m like God, but you get my point.)
Why am I feeding these birds? Partly, I do care for them. I want these goldfinches to flourish. But my bird-feeding isn’t only gracious. I feed the goldfinches because doing so gives me joy. I love their skittishness and high, melodious chirps. Plus, these little birds have been my friends during the pandemic, my embodied company in a time of isolation.
So, I do indeed value my hungry goldfinches. But how much more do I value the people in my life, my wife and children, my siblings and their families, my friends and colleagues, the folks in my church and the ones I have the privilege of serving through my work. So I can relate in a personal way to what Jesus says about God’s care for us. And so can you, I expect.
Jesus has plenty of good news for us in this passage. Today we learn that we don’t have to worry because God values us greatly, more than we can imagine, actually. Yes, God cares even about birds. But you matter so much more! Your life, your wellbeing, your soul, your flourishing . . . all of these matter to God. The more you let this truth penetrate your heart, the more you’ll be set free from worry.
How have you experienced God’s valuing of you?
How have you experienced God’s care for you?
Do you sometimes struggle to believe that you really matter to God? If so, why? If not, why not?
What helps you to know, deep inside, that God values and cares for you?
Take some time to jot down ways in which you have experienced God’s care this year. Then, thank God for the ways he has been there for you.
Lord Jesus, thank you for urging us not to worry. And thank you for helping us understand why and how we can be free from worry. Thank you for the good news that God cares for us far more than birds.
Help me, Lord, to take this teaching to heart. Help me to have confidence in God’s care for me. Help me to live today as if my life really matters to God. And, as I do this, please help me not to worry. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: God’s Provision (Luke 9:10-17; 12:4-7; 12:22-31)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.