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  • Writer's pictureHenry Rafferty

Bird Watching

Old Testament Reading- Jeremiah 29:11-14

New Testament Reading- Luke 12:1-12

By Henry J. Rafferty CP -October 10, 2021

There once was a man who was fabulously wealthy. He was known by many people,

from local and state leaders to large business owners, to everyday people. This man, we will call Mr. Thespian, was a well-known businessman and large landowner in the area. He was very diversified in his business practices, never putting all his eggs in one basket, as they say. He grew crops, locally and in other states. He sold farm equipment and owned a garage that fixed the same equipment. He was into real estate, both as a buyer and owner, but also taking in rent as a landlord. His business and land holdings gave him the respect of many people and a strong voice in political, school, and community affairs.

Mr. Thespian was not always so wealthy and powerful. He, like so many, started with nothing. His family was not poor, but they were certainly not rich. His parents owned a dairy farm, and both worked hard, passing on to their children a good work ethic and stressing to them always the value of money and hard work. His parents were not the affectionate type, very stoic, a no-nonsense couple that didn’t always do much in life but work. No hobbies, no church or civic involvement, they just stayed to themselves, minding their own business and expecting others to do the same. They were not nasty, antisocial people, just the types of people that kept to themselves. All of these qualities they would pass to their children.

Mr. Thespian’s family life was, for the most part, cold. No birthdays or celebrations of any kind, “Just a bothersome waste of money,” that’s what his father often said. His mother was no different, very rigid and matter of fact in her manner and philosophy. The family could work all day and never speak much to each other. Sitting at the dinner table, there was no prayer, no need for that, “Hard work put this food on the table, and don’t you forget it,” his father would say. No one was mean to each other, they just were, well, living together in silence. You might say, you could find more joy in a funeral parlor than in that home, sad really.

When Mr. Thespian grew up and went out into the world, I’m not sure his parents noticed, other than the reduced amount of work that was accomplished. As he was around more people, he observed that, “You get more flies with honey,” and quickly learned that it is how you present things to people that counts, not what is really served. Mr. Thespian became a master of duplicity, what he felt about someone and what he made them think he felt about them; he was very good at buttering you up. Later, as he became more adept at this newfound philosophy, manipulation became the name of the game.

Due to his work ethic that his parents instilled in him, Mr. Thespian was anything but lazy. Soon after leaving his parents home, he found work anywhere he wanted to work. Employers loved him, he would do anything they asked and would work as much as needed. He moved up the work ladder very fast because he believed in hard work, and he knew that you would never get anywhere sitting on your backside. By his late teens, he was working six to seven days a week, averaging seventy to eighty hours per week, and was doing very well for a young, single man just starting out in life.

By the time Mr. Thespian was twenty-six years old, he had made a nice bit of money, was paying on his own home, and was working for one of the largest farmers around. His employer was a crop farmer, not dealing with animals, like the dairy cows he grew up with, that had to be milked twice a day at the same times each day. Crop farming offered more work with machines than dairy farming did, and less time constraints. He learned from his employer that by not having the time constraints, you could involve yourself in more things, like real estate buying. Spring and fall were busy times with planting and harvesting, but summer work usually involved morning or evening work with large gaps of free time in between that could be utilized for these other fiscal opportunities.

At age twenty-eight, Mr. Thespian had his eyes on something other than money, he had grown quite fond of his employer’s daughter, and she returned his feelings in kind. His boss was overjoyed to have such a talented and hard-working young man courting his only daughter. After a marvelous and extravagant wedding, a wedding that Mr. Thespian’s parents would not attend, due to disagreements about the use of wasted money, the new couple would take a short honeymoon and then come back to become more and more involved in the farm.

The new farm couple really wanted for nothing, they both worked hard and because the bride’s father owned the farm, the young couple was being groomed to take over some day. Mr. Thespian’s wife soon convinced her husband that they could garner favor and influence in the community if they involved themselves in civic and church duties. The more people you know, the more people you can make money from, that was their attitude.

When a failure in the economy of the nation resulted in the Great Depression, many families were forced to sell their farms. Mr. Thespian’s sister had married a man that became a lawyer and the two decided to go together and make offers to people for their farms. The attorney would find out how far in debt people were and with the financial backing of Mr.

Thespian’s father-in-law’s farm, they would come up with the money needed to buy the farms. Under the guise of helping people, these two sharks smelled the blood, then went in for the kill, offering very little for the farms in their true value, and just giving enough for the proud farmers land to get them out of debt, but leaving them with nothing for the future.

Scripture tells us that God is all-seeing, all-hearing, and all-knowing, and that nothing escapes His knowledge. You may fool people, but you cannot fool God.

After decades had passed, the attorney, and his parents, and the in-laws passed away and he and his wife were left with everything in their names. Mr. Thespian was now the wealthy and powerful man that we discussed at the beginning of the story, but there is more to it than that. Scripture tells us that God is all-seeing, all-hearing, and all-knowing, and that nothing escapes His knowledge. You may fool people, but you cannot fool God. Mr. Thespian, to the world, was a well-known and respectful farmer and citizen, that had become wealthy through hard work and marrying right, but God knew his heart. Yes, he was a hard worker, but he was motivated not by the things of God: mercy, compassion, charity, and love, but by the things of the world: power, greed, envy, and ruthlessness. God knew that he and his brother-in-law had used the system to legally rob people of the land, land that many of them had grown up on and sweat and bled for all their lives, leaving them with nothing and sending them to the cities to wait in the soup lines and to try to scratch out a living doing loveless work.

Mr. Thespian was a hypocrite, he preached fairness and justice, while taking advantage of people when they were most vulnerable. Jesus told His disciples in Luke: 12,

“Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.”

The word hypocrite comes from the Greek word hypokrites, which means “an actor” or “stage player.” It is made up of two words which literally means, “an interpreter from underneath.” This makes real sense when we know that ancient Greek actors wore large masks to show the character they were playing, thereby telling the story from underneath a mask. In almost everything Mr. Thespian did, he wore a mask, what he wanted people to think was on the mask, while underneath was not the same person at all. The mask was what his reputation was all about, but inside he was full of only thoughts for himself. Even when he did things for the church and the community, it was still just a mask that disguised the real man that was just doing these noble things for his own sense of ego and to manipulate others for when he needed something.

This kind of condition may get you a long way in this world, but not where God is concerned. Jesus tells His disciples more from Luke 12,

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”

Always remember that we are not the authors of this world or this life, we are not the masters of it as we sometimes believe. God is the one that wrote the playbook, created the rules, and is officiating the game, we are but the players. Jesus reminds us not to think merely of this existence but always consider the one beyond this and that the next one lasts forever, so get it right. Don’t worry about anyone but God alone, He is the only one you should worry about being right with.

What are we to do? It is all so hard, isn’t it? It is when we aren’t right with our Heavenly Father. When we make the decision to live according to His ways instead of relying on our own ways and to humble ourselves to God and our fellow human beings, then it gets much easier. In the ancient Jewish sacrifice system, cattle, sheep, and goats were used as sacrifice, but if you didn’t have much, you could use doves or even sparrows if you were really poor. These animals were sold outside of the Temple in Jerusalem on High Holy Days. Jesus tells His disciples in Luke 12:6-7,

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Jesus is trying to tell us, yes, fear God because He has the power to do all things to you

but remember that He loves you more than anything. The poor sacrificed sparrows to help get right with God, they used the blood of the birds for settlement of debt for sin. God even knows how many sparrows are killed, even the smallest and most numerous of birds, God cares about them. Jesus tells us though that God even knows the number of hairs on our heads and that He loves us much more than sparrows, that is hope. Jeremiah 29 tells us God’s words for the exiled Israelites in Babylon,

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Again, hope, God is telling His people, yes, you are going through a hard time right now, but stand firm and don’t lose faith for God is always with you.

God watches over and cares about all the sparrows that have given their blood in sacrifice in our stead, yes, even sparrows He cares that much about. If He cares that much for them, Jesus tells us that it is so much more that He cares for us. When days are tough and when life seems too hard, know that God is watching over us and patiently waiting for us to call out to Him. In Jeremiah 29:12-14 God tells us,

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.”

Make God and His kingdom a daily part of your life so that you don’t fall into the trap that Mr. Thespian did. A person that sets themselves up as their own god is not going to see their reward come to fruition. Instead, pray often and purposefully, never forgetting who the author of our lives really is. In this world you will find trouble, but Jesus tells us,

“Take heart for I have overcome the world.”

Thanks be to Almighty God. Amen.

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