Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say to you…
The works of God are words of God; they speak to us. The works of God are mirrors, reflectors of God; they show God to us.
1. The lilies of the field, as God's workmanship, reveal the fountain of life and being. Flowers taken alone cannot make manliest to us the depth and breadth of that fountain, but they may show us its quality. A cup of bright and sparkling water brought to us from a well tells us nothing of the quantity of water in that well, and nothing concerning the force of the spring or springs constituting the well; but even a cup of cold and pure water may demonstrate that the well is pure. In like manner, flowers show nothing of boundless might and of high wisdom, but they do reveal the calm beauteousness of the source whence all living things flow. It is often said that there cannot be gross vice in a man who, delighting in flowers, cultivates them. May we not, in harmony with this remark, observe that there can be nothing harsh or hard or repulsive in the God who has made the lilies of the field?
2. The lilies of the field embody and express Divine conceptions — thoughts and ideas of God. The image of every flower was in the mind of the Creator before creation. He designed the lilies of the field and the glorious company of their kindred. If this be accident, and if so-called accident can produce this, then verily accident is God. Not more certainly have paintings and sculpture been preconceived by the artists, and buildings of renown designed by architects, than flowers have been in the first instance mental creations by God.
3. The lilies of the field are God's workmanship. In the fine arts the conceiver is the worker. In other departments one designs and plans, and others execute. Flowers are the work of God's fingers. The first of every kind is a distinct creation, with seed in itself, and the rest the offspring of this seed. The seed is the second cause. God is the first cause. The laws of life and growth are God's mode of working, but in these laws there is a strong, skilful, living hand. There are rules of working in every handicraft, but no man denies the existence of the craftsman, because his productions are made by the established and recognized laws of his craft, and by tools adapted to the materials upon which he works, and to the object which he has before him.
4. The lilies of the field are God's care. This is not manifest to the eye of the body. And sometimes things happen which tend to exclude the idea and sense of God's care. The scythe of the mower cuts down the flowers. The wind passes over the flower and it is gone, and the place thereof knoweth it no more. The flower is consumed by some animal. A careless foot treads it down. Some hand — perhaps a wanton hand — plucks it. The flower has not grown without human culture. And thus, that which has reared the flower, and that which has cut short its day, alike hide the care of God. But care does not involve perpetual existence, or freedom even from that kind of injury which terminates being. In the providential sense there are no wild flowers. There are children without father and mother, or with evil fathers and mothers, who are destitute of human care; but there are no flowers without Divine care. And the proof of Divine care is in their perfection.
5. The lilies of the field exhibit God's bountifulness. All flowers alike of the field and of the garden render some ordinary service — are of some use. They furnish food, medicine, clothing, shelter, to innumerable living things. And they render in part this service to man. God does not provide for us according to the rigid rule of that which is necessary. He adds to that which is necessary that which is pleasant to the senses and agreeable to the soul. The cup of supply is not only filled, it runs over.
6. The lilies of the field are propagated and developed by the working of various natural laws. There is a tendency in some minds to look only on the hard and rigorous side of law. But law is good. It secures many and great advantages. And we may transfer our remark to moral law. The law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. The morning dawns, the sun shines, spring takes the place of winter, the earth is fruitful, flowers bloom, and the lilies of the field grow, according to law. Some men magnify natural laws into a god, and others degrade moral laws into an irksome and unrighteous yoke. The moral law of God obeyed will bring forth nothing but love. To speak evil of any laws which God has made is to speak evil of God.
7. The lilies of the field are parts of a perfect whole. They sustain a relation with the whole earth, and with all that therein is, and they are in harmony with the entire creation. Their life, their growth, their form, their colour, are all in concord. There is nothing which they contradict, nothing with which they clash. The key-note of creation is in the flowers, a note neither too high nor too low for us men, but adapted to allure into singing the heart of every human child of God who has been reconciled unto his Father.
8. The lilies of the field show us a sense of beauty in the nature of God, and a satisfaction in its expression. To God, objects which are capable of being beautiful would not be "very good" unless they were clad in beauty. This is one reason of sin being so hateful to God. It is moral deformity, spiritual hideousness and ugliness. There is a beauty in holiness which is one of the Divine attractions to it.
9. The lilies of the field are what they are through various affinities and relationships. They are the children of the sun. His beams travel more than ninety millions of miles to cherish and to colour them. They are the children of the earth, and are brought up on her lap, and are nourished at her bosom. They are the children of the rain and of the dew and of the air. The flowers have several subordinate parents, each of which hath its service, and performs its part. In this condition of floral life we see one of the conditions of our own existence. We have a Divine Father, and we have human parents — mother and father. We have intercourse with heaven, and are resident on earth. We have to do with things spiritual and material, temporal and eternal. We are moved from within, and we are influenced from without. Various agencies and influences work together to array the lilies of the field, and several forces are ever working upon our human nature. A true Christian is a pilgrim on earth with citizenship in heaven, a child of God while a son of man, the workmanship of God, though instructed and comforted and helped by his fellows. As sun and earth and rain and dew work together to produce the lilies of the field, so all things work together for good to them that love God.
10. The lilies of the field are supposed to find in the nature of man that which will respond to their attractiveness. They are made, in part at least, for man's eye and for man's soul. If we were that which we ought to be, we should need no voice to bid us "consider the lilies." Discipleship to Jesus Christ does not shut our eyes to the earth, or close our hearts to the material works of God.
11. The lilies of the field may teach us freedom from care, and from morbid self-consciousness. That which God has to do for us He does perfectly, without our thought and care. Let us not direct our mind to that which belongs to God's thought. Let us not try to touch with our hands that which is the exclusive work of God's fingers. Anxiety can do nothing that is good, but it may effect much mischief. It cannot produce anything that is good. "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?" It cannot beneficially alter anything. "Thou canst not make one hair white or black." It is not in itself a power of good. It is not power to pray. It is not power to work. It is not power to think. It is not power to judge. It is not power to discriminate and determine. But it is power for much mischief. It blinds the eye, so that there is no seeing of God, nor is there any vision of heaven. It makes the ear deaf, so that the voice of God's promises, and the voice of the Holy Ghost the Comforter, cannot be heard. It palsies the tongue in the direction of praise. It destroys all taste and relish for the abundant provisions of God's mercy. It spoils all present blessings. It wastes the passing moment. It encumbers to-day with that which belongs to the morrow. It forms unwise projects, and begets scaring dreams. It is as foolish as though the lilies were to begin to spin. O, ye anxious ones, consider the lilies.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.