There is a saying, “for the birds”; and I’ve always wondered why birds get the short end of the stick because when we say this, we aren’t usually referring to the things that bring us pleasure or joy. We reserve this saying for times and situations that are not ideal. Working long hours instead of being out with friends—that’s for the birds. Waiting in a long line at the bank—that’s for the birds. Passing up the turtle cheesecake for fruit instead—for me, that’s definitely for the birds!
What have the birds done to deserve the things we find undesirable? One of my favorite Bible verses is Matthew 6:26, and in this verse, Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” In other words, Jesus teaches that in fact, we should live more like the birds. When we live life trusting that all will be well, that the things we need will be provided, and that when we do what we’ve been designed to do—sing, soar, and live each day without concern, that we will be like the birds and want for nothing.
This is a very generous and Pollyanna-ish understanding of Jesus’ words, and it does leave one wondering if we simplified our lives and lived more like the birds, would all be well in our souls? Would we have songs to sing from our hearts each day if we trusted in God more and tried to control less? The history behind the saying, “for the birds” in fact proves that birds are much more resourceful and carefree than most of us.
During the days when horse-drawn carriages, wagons and buggies donned our roads, it was often the case that birds would eat the undigested oats found in the horse manure left on the road. So when we say that something is for the birds, we are really saying that something is horse manure. Should we all build nests wherever we can find shelter? Was Jesus telling us to eat horse manure? Some would say, “that’s for the birds!”
It’s hard to imagine a life without air conditioning in the summer, without heat in the winter, without smorgasbord feasts at holiday parties. And then there’s the continuous need to change locations based on the seasons. But it’s also hard to imagine a life without peace, without singing, and without trusting in God to provide what’s needed to sustain life. What some call poverty, others may call simplicity. What one considers trash, a bird could use as material to build a nest.
For the birds.