“Consider the lilies, how they grow. They neither toil nor spin.”In the Gospel according to Monty Python, chapter “Life of Brian”, Brian addresses a crowd that seems to have difficulty getting his point.
Brian: Consider the lilies...in the field.
Woman 1: Consider the lilies?
Brian: Well, the birds then.
Man: What birds?
Brian: Any birds.
Brian: Well, have they got jobs?
Woman 1: Who?
Brian: The birds!
2nd Woman: What's the matter with them?
Man: He says the birds are scrounging.
Brian: Oh, the point is, the birds, they do all right, don't they?
2nd Woman: Well, good luck to them!
Man: Yea, they're very pretty.
Brian: Okay! And you're much more important than they are, right? So what are you worrying about? There you are, see?
Woman: I'm worried about what you got against birds!
Brian: I've not got anything against the birds. Agh! Consider the lilies...
Man: He's havin' a go at the flowers now!
2nd Woman: Give the flowers a chance!
Brian’s audience can’t get clear on whether Brian is criticizing flowers and birds because of their slothful scrounging or whether he’s lifting them up and praising them. Jesus’ audience – and that’s us – faces the same ambiguity. On the one hand he seems to be commending the birds and flowers to us, urging us to be like them. Stop our worrisome working and trust in the grace of the world to provide. So the flowers and the birds, they’re the smart ones, the enlightened ones. They’re the model for us to emulate.
“Even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.”Then on the other hand he turns around and says, no, it is we humans who are much more valuable.
“Of how much more value are you than the birds! . . . how much more will God clothe you.”I guess the message is that we’re the ones that are important, but it’s the birds and flowers that are getting it right. But if they’re the ones getting it right, what makes us more important?
What seems to distinguish us is that we work and toil and worry. Is that what gives us so much more value? Then why is the wise teacher Jesus telling us to stop the working, laboring, and worrying?
Sloth presents us with the same conundrum. With all of the seven deadly sins, I will want to say that the point is not to squelch, repress, exorcise the sin, but to understand why it’s there and to recognize its positive function. For instance, in gluttony there’s something admirable about great gusto for the tastes of life. Sloth, along with pride, is one of the two easiest ones in which to see the positive. We all need to chill out, take a break, de-stress sometimes. There’s a lot to like about sloth.
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This is part 7 of "The Seven Deadlies" (part 2 on Sloth)
Next: Part 8: "Student Assistants to Life"
Previous: Part 6: "Consider the Lilies"
Beginning: Part 1: "Seven and Sin"