“Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? – Luke 12:24-26
They may not be your favourite species of birds, me neither. Though larger, they look rather like crows, with a heavier bill and shaggier plumage. They have no beauty or comeliness that they would get you excited. Whatever you think of them, Jesus says to “consider the ravens.” To consider means to think carefully about something, especially with regard to taking action; to gaze on steadily or reflectively. Jesus is saying pause for a moment and gaze reflectively on the raven and see what insights you can learn from it and what actions you can take away with you from the raven.
Kind as he is, Jesus has already considered the ravens and for us:
- They do not sow. The troubles that ail farmers are alien to these birds. They do not have to scout for fertile and suitable lands for cultivation. They do not till soils and plant. In essence, they have no labour from which to expect a pay. Ravens are not employees waiting for wages. Questions like, “What do you do for a living?” do not apply to them. They do not work.
- They do not reap. Their hopes do not rest on a paycheck at the end of a week or a month. They have no shares in companies and are not paid dividends. Whether the prices of stocks rise or fall, it really is none of their business. They don’t follow the price of bitcoin. They do not depend on the reward of their efforts to put food on their tables. They have no investments to hope to profit from.
- They have no storeroom or barn. No purses. No savings. No bank accounts. They have no treasures here on which to set their hearts. If there is an inferno that consumes a warehouse, they never worry because they don’t own storerooms or barns. They do not spend money paying for security because it is not a need of theirs; they have no problems with moths or rust. It is those who have treasures stored up that worry about thieves breaking in to steal or moth and rust destroying their storage, the ravens have no such concerns.
Yet God Feeds Them
Look at God. If the ravens are so careless and unwise, why feed them? Why not allow them to face the consequences of their inaction? God is not blind to the ways of the ravens. Yet (Nevertheless, nonetheless, notwithstanding, in spite of that), God feeds them. This flies in the face of “he who does not work should not eat”, doesn’t it? Dear child of God, your heavenly father is able to feed you. Whether you are employed, unemployed or underemployed; have fat reserves or not, God is able to cater for your needs. Rest on that. When a knackered Elijah was fleeing for his life from Jezebel, he asked to die. He was hungry and an angel attended to him. God fed him where there was no farm or restaurant. Earlier God had ordered ravens (ravens again) to bring him bread and meat. He himself was used to assure the widow of Zarephath in a time of lack (1 Kings17:7-16). What lessons did Jesus intend to impart when he multiplied bread and fish for thousands to eat with leftovers gathered (Matthew 14:15-21)? He himself was once stopped and required to pay his tax. He told Peter to catch a fish in the lake and find in it a coin. He said: “Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours” (Matthew 17:24-27, my emphasis). He didn’t only pay his own tax, he paid Peter’s too. Why do we have all these records of God meeting needs in dramatic ways? It is so that you would from them learn to trust God to meet your own needs too. And for those of you who earn wages or salaries, look around you. Can’t you see that the things God has provided for you, the needs he has met, outweigh your earnings?
More Valuable than Birds
Dear child of God, you are valued by him. If God cares for the birds of the air, how much more so will he care for you? Jesus gives us a basis for that level of faith: he says you are much more valuable than birds. How so? First, you were created in God’s likeness; you are the crown jewel of his creation. He has put you as head over all he created; he gave all the seed-bearing plants, beasts of the earth and birds of the air and all ground-moving creatures to you for food. When God made that declaration, the Bible says, “And it was so” (Genesis 1:29-30). It is so. Therefore, in effect, if God is taking care of the ravens, he is actually raising poultry for you! Secondly, when you were lost in sin, he sent Jesus to die for you. Paul asks, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all –how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things (Romans 8:32)? God has already proven how valuable you are to him by giving his only begotten son for you. That is evidence that you are precious to him and he will take care of you, much more than he does birds.
Grateful For Whatever the Provider Provides
When you consider the ravens, you would find that they are aggressive omnivores; they feed on plants and animals alike. Basically, whatever their provider, God, provides, they accept it with gratitude and eat. It is a lesson to be learnt from them. Many times people have issues with God’s provisions for their welfare because they are picky. While in the wilderness on their way to Canaan, the Israelites complained about God’s provision for them. They complained about the manna and wished to return to Egypt to feed on the very things they ate with tears and cried for deliverance. Elijah didn’t decline his meals because they were brought by ravens, he simply ate and regained his strength. What provision has God made for you that you have felt it inadequate or beneath your standards? Consider the ravens and receive with thanks what the Lord has graciously provided. You must, like Paul, learn the secret of living in abundance and in want, while learning to do everything through Christ who supplies you with strength.
The Futility of Worry
Jesus asks, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” The import of that question is that it is impossible to worry yourself into an increase in the span of your life, or like some manuscripts say, add a single cubit to your height. You will not get anything done by worrying about it. If there is any easy option that people turn to, but which has absolutely no rewards, it is worry. The only thing that comes out of worrying is negatives: restlessness, rise in blood pressure, detriment to health and taking up time that could be used to engage in productive ventures. Instead of worrying, pray. Philippians 4:6 says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.”
A Very Little Thing
You cannot add even a second to your life. The day that God said to the fool, “This very night your life will be demanded from you”, it was over for him. His is the apex of courts, there is no one higher to appeal to. When he says ‘yes’, no one can say ‘no’. If you hold your body at its superior and inferior ends and draw it, your height will not increase. You are not elastic; your members will only be ripped apart. You cannot add a single hour to your life or a single cubit to your height. That is a difficult thing you would say, yet, Jesus says it is a very little thing. It is a little thing for God to increase your life or height; it is a very little thing for God to meet your needs. He is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). Whatever the number of brain cells you have and what kind of thoughts they can put together, God is able to do immeasurably more than that. The ways in which he can act to meet your needs are past finding out; you cannot plumb the depths of his wisdom and power. The goats on a thousand hills, who meets their needs? God asked Job, “Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food (Job 38:41)? You know the answer. Trust in him.
As economies around the world struggle with rising commodity prices occasioned by various factors, the temptation to fret and act like the rich fool will come. God is not limited by the economics of this world. Jesus, who knows this first-hand said to Satan, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). He has promised to meet your needs; hold on to his word.
Please note, that this is not an encouragement to idleness or laziness, but a call to move from trust in your own devices for sustenance to a dependence on God. The lesson itself followed from the parable of the rich fool. His ground had produced a good crop and he said to himself: “I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry’” (Luke 12:18-19). When a seed is planted, it dies before a new plant emerges from the ground. That is a miracle that God performs. It was he who gave increase to the ground and harvest of the rich man. But the moment the man shifted his trust and dependence from God to his harvest, heaven called him a fool. David captured what the message is when he said, “though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them” (Psalm 62:10). This kind of attitude that trusts in one’s efforts, earnings and savings idolizes material things and shifts God to the periphery.
Therefore, by all means, work, get paid and save for tomorrow. But do not trust in your sowing, reaping or storage. Trust in God. He is able to meet all your needs according to his riches in glory by Jesus Christ. You are much more valuable to him than birds. The birds don’t work, yet God feeds them. He will feed you too.