Before a gazillion channels were available on TV and streaming services such as Netflix had yet to be hatched in the golden nest of Silicon Valley, my husband and I used to watch a lot of old classic movies about World War II. The ones about the war in the Pacific always included scenes with swarms of enemy planes diving out of the sky to bomb the dickens out of American ships.
I’m reminded of those movies when I look out my window and see all kinds and sizes of birds swooping in and out to maneuver for a spot on our birdfeeder.
The squirrels looking on would love to join the fray, but they seem to have developed a healthy fear of butting into the buffet line after seeing their braver buddies end up with BBs in their little backsides. (You animal rights folks can blame my husband for that.)
The chaotic birdfeeder scene also reminds me of the most paranoia-inducing film of my youth, Alfred Hitchcock’s “Birds,” but even more disturbing than that, it’s also a sad picture of the state of politics in our nation, and even among some of our churches, as leaders jockey for power, prestige and money.
Most of us have come to cynically expect such behavior from some politicians. Washington, D.C., has become a birdfeeder of epic proportions where fighting at the feeder seems to be the norm, sometimes without regard for what’s ethical.
It’s a little more surprising when that kind of selfishness rears its ugly head in and among churches, but that certainly can and does happen if pride, greed and jealousy take root. Instead of working together to share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we can find ourselves wrangling over petty differences or obsessed with growing numbers instead of growing in the knowledge of God and in Christlikeness.
In James 3:16, the Bible warns, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” Raise your hand if you’ve never seen this truth play out in real life. Hmm, I’m not seeing any raised hands. If you paid attention to the political shenanigans of this past year, or if you’ve ever been involved in a nasty church split, you’ve certainly witnessed the kind of “disorder and every evil thing” James was talking about.
Like all sinful behavior, the ugly manifestations of jealousy and selfish ambition begin in the heart. That’s why the wise author of Proverbs wrote, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).
My heart — the command center of my true spiritual and moral self — prompts me to either shove others off the birdfeeder or make room for them.
Since the Bible tells us our hearts are “deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9), it’s not always easy to recognize when we’re beginning to allow selfish ambition to control our behavior. The process can begin subtly, with seemingly insignificant choices that can become, if left unchecked, like “little foxes that ruin the vineyard” (Song of Solomon 2:15).
Those little foxes get into our vineyard when we don’t trust God to be enough or provide enough for us. Only God has unlimited resources. His feeder is always full, so why do we ever scratch, claw, throw elbows and connive to get our needs met?
Maybe the birds outside my window seem so selfish and frantic because they know the fillers of the feeder sometimes forget to refill it. But God never does. His supply never runs out (see Philippians 4:19) and there’s plenty of room at His table for all who come in faith.
How much better our world and our lives would be if we’d simply trust, relax and act according to that truth.