Great blue herons are seen throughout northern Minnesota, where my wife and I sometimes canoe to an island rookery and view hundreds of them nesting atop the tallest trees. These stork-like birds are typically loners, but this unique island is stained white from years of bird droppings.
One morning I scanned a nearby marsh and saw a motionless heron standing at water’s edge. Moments later it plunged with its dagger-like beak and lifted a pierced northern pike from the water. In one smooth motion it thrust the two-foot pike into the air and caught it expertly so that the fish slid head first down the heron’s long neck.
I wondered what would happen next, and I imagined the sensation of that large thrashing fish in my stomach. How would the bird be able to fly after such a hefty breakfast? As I watched, I got my answer — the bird didn’t fly. Instead, it turned and waddled into the marsh where it digested its meal.
Later, I was reminded of this experience when I read Matthew 6, where Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” Jesus’ take is that our frenetic grasping is due to worry about the future, and he wants us to learn from nature about God’s generous provision.
This is an impossible lesson for those who believe everything is up to them. They are trapped because they have never known that God provides, as when John D. Rockefeller was asked “How much would be enough?” He answered “Just a little bit more,” even though his wealth was almost 2 percent of the total U.S. GDP.
As Jesus develops his thought, he says that the reason God wants us to learn this is so we can give our attention to greater matters. Of these material things, he says, “Your Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
He is recommending life at a higher level — a life free of worry, and focused on the things that really matter. Our culture may measure life by what we possess, which leads to a frenetic grasp for “just a little bit more,” but Jesus recommends the far superior life of loving God and serving others.
Article provided by Pastor Alan Johnson, Urban Heights Covenant Church, 7605 Aurora Ave., Urbandale, 515-278-1371