How is the lily superior to the glory of Solomon?
Solomon’s coffers were filled with literally thousands of tons of gold. He had so much silver that its value plunged during his reign, replacing tin and cheap metals in common usage. His storage overflowed with the most expensive spices and cedar wood. He owned so many horses that he created a vast underground stable complex to house them. And wives? Well, we know about that. He took 700 wives and 300 concubines: 1,000 women at beck and call.
How then is it said that a fragile lily, opening and bending with the sun, is greater in glory than Solomon? Isn’t this crazy talk?
It would seem so, except for the fact that it is Jesus who says these words!
When Jesus says ‘consider the lilies,’ He uses a word which means ‘to see with the mind, to see with the soul.’ In other words, if we can see with our heart, with our soul, there is a lesson in the lily, in the birds of the air and flowers of the field, which sits in judgment of Solomon…and all who take Solomon’s path.
Kierkegaard gives us a clue to this inner meaning: “In nature all is obedience, unconditional obedience.”
D. Anthony Storm comments:
The lilies and the birds obey God naturally. They do exactly what they were created to do without wavering. Since we have volition and intelligence -- not to mention a divided and corrupt nature -- we need to learn obedience. The lilies and birds are thus teachers of obedience by example.
Jesus says more:
If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.
Solomon turned toward the strivings of the world. Solomon turned his wisdom toward what is worn, what is eaten, tasted and pleasurable, and it became foolishness: light became darkness.
The birds of the field, however, turn toward Creator. The lilies turn toward the provision of God’s rain and sun. In that they are true to their creation.
And here they trump Solomon.
For something in the opulence of Solomon went against his creation intention: in exercise of natural self he violated his true-intended self. Therefore the simplicity and poverty of the flower ranks far ahead of the glory of Solomon…and the dependent, soaring bird teaches more obedience than the life of Solomon.
Solomon made empirical identity into a false self, where his 'own self became the obstacle to realizing his true self' [Merton]. His glory became, not the glory of true self in obedience to Creator, but the glory of another. And so it became less than lilies.
Solomon exercised self for possessions and killed his true, creation self.
The lilies exercise daily, utter dependence on God, and so teach us the path to true self: abandonment to kingdom.
So Jesus applies the sermon: But seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.
Seek the kingdom, wholeheartedly. Trust and open to the Son, like flowers of the field, drinking rain and life from Father's hand. Live and fly, trusting the air of the Spirit beneath your wings, as a hopeful bird...following out creation call.
Herein is the wisdom of the lily!
God grant it to our hearts.
Lord Jesus, teach me to be like a lily, daily growing in You, opening to your morning sun, and resting in your sustaining rain, your healing dew. In your name I pray, Amen.
Lord Jesus, set my nature at one with You, cause me to be my true self...in You, and with nature I will rise to obedience, unconditional obedience, Amen.
Lord Jesus, save me from the trap of Solomon, that would make an idol out of false self and call it true self. Let me consider the lily and so seek first your kingdom! In your name, strong Son of God, healing Sun of Righteousness, I pray, Amen.