A common and frequently encountered bird in our area is the raven. Because of this, a phrase caught my eye as I was reading in the Gospel of Luke. In Luke 12:24 (RSV), Jesus tells us to "... consider the ravens ...." The suggestion led to curiosity. Can this bird - often considered a nuisance - teach us anything? Curiosity led to research and research to reflection.
Ravens are mentioned several times in the Bible.
In Genesis 8:7, the raven is the first creature to go forth from the ark after the Flood. It didn't return. (I secretly like to think it discovered Alaska and liked it so well it did not want to go back!) The book of law (Leviticus 11:15) declares it ceremonially unclean and not to be eaten. Yet it is these "unclean" birds that bring food to the prophet, Elijah, while he is hiding from his enemies (1 Kings 17:4-6). Perhaps Jesus' statement comes from his knowledge of the book of Job, where the Lord, out of a whirlwind, declares to Job: "Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God and wander about for lack of food?" (Job 38:41).
Native Alaskans have long honored and respected the raven. Their stories and legends often tell of his subtlety.
So what do we learn from the ravens?
First of all, they use their intelligence. They solve problems instead of being put off by them. The term "birdbrain" is not an insult to a raven.
Secondly, they look over a situation before taking action. An old proverb declares that "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." Ravens are not fools. They look things over, they weigh risks and rewards, they check for possible dangers or traps. Then, when all is to their satisfaction, they act.
Third, they take advantage of opportunities. You can confirm this by watching as they raid unattended grocery bags left in the bed of a pickup truck. They have even figured out that two, working together, can drag a tarp off covered bags!
Finally, they adapt to changing circumstances. Unlike other species, ravens seem to be in no danger of extinction. There are as many now, if not more, than there were 200 years ago. Our "civilization" has changed their world, but they have met the challenge.
Take advantage of opportunity.
Adapt to change.
This could be an outline for a business administration course or nearly any human endeavor. These are good things to remember and good guidelines to follow. So, as you face the challenges of life, "... consider the ravens...."
Ron Covey is pastor of the Douglas Community United Methodist Church.