Posted by: Postordinandy | September 14, 2011

Consider the rats of the street

The other day, I unexpectedly found myself with a child-free 20 minutes. (Don’t worry, it wasn’t because I’d left them somewhere by mistake, but because a friend was staying & offered to look after the younger two while I did the school run – and gave me express instructions to “come back slowly”). On the way back, I took the rare decision to sit down on a park bench and see what relaxing felt like.

This particular bench is in a small piece of green land, maybe only 100m square, and is bordered by roads, a rail track, and the edge of a housing estate. There are some reasonably nice bushes, a couple of flower beds that have seen better days, and a patch of slightly worn grass, dissected by busy commuter paths. The bench offered me a view of the railway, a busy road, a large empty car-park, and the patch of grass.

I was pretty tired, and mostly sat down to rest my soon-to-be-40 legs. I am not too good at quiet reflection as a rule, favouring active reflection with others, but knocked up a quick prayer along the lines of “God, help me make the most of this moment”.

As I sat down, wondering mostly how long was too rude to stay out (when does “slowly” mutate into “stuck”), I noticed a pile of bread that someone had put out for the birds on the patch of grass. It was the usual suspects: pigeons watching everything with that sideways glance that suggests they have a bad neck; sparrows flitting in and out of the scrum like hyperactive school children who need the toilet; a stray seagull, perhaps visiting East London on holiday… But then I noticed that some of the lumps of mud I had also seen near the bread were moving – they were in fact rats, muscling in on the scene, racing in and grabbing large clumps of bread before hopping off to the edge of the avian chaos to consume their prize, and then repeat the exercise. 

Now, I don’t have the same aversion to rats that many people do. My wife and I used to have a couple as pets, and I know them to be intelligent, social and inquisitive creatures. Of course, the rats I was watching were not the ‘fancy rats’ we had grown so fond of, but brown street rats – of the kind that, allegedly, one is never more than 20 feet from if you live in the Big Smoke.

Anyway, I found myself thinking about Jesus’ famous words about worry and provision.

Jesus spoke of ravens, and lilies, according to most translations I could find. Neither the ravens or lilies work – lazy things, yet are fed and clothed in splendour (Matthew Henry called the lilies “fading perishing things. We, according to Jesus, are worth much more than they in the sight of God.

As I watched the rats, it occurred to me that they to are not famed for hard work. Most people instinctively shy from them, consider them dirty and disease-ridden – apparently it’s the tails people don’t like… But they survive, thrive even.

This is not that we should be lazy – watching the rats and birds I noticed they were working quite hard, sometimes even together. But so many people are crippled by worry – and in our present economic and political climate such worries are difficult to salve.

Then Jesus said to his disciples:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,

what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.

Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.

Consider the rats of the street:

They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them.

And how much more valuable you are than rodents!

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

Consider how the brambles grow. They do not labour or spin.

Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.

If that is how God clothes the weeds of the suburbs,which are here today,

and tomorrow mown by the council, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!

And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.

For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.

But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.  

Luke 22:22-34 (New International Version [Walthamstow edition])


  1. this was what i needed to remember today. worrying is a bit of an issue for me right now. thanks for writing andy!

    rach x

  2. Cheers Rach. Worry is sometimes appropriate (sometimes I worry that I don’t worry enough about things I should). Hang in there lovely lady – maybe next time I see you I’ll give you one of those ‘funny lift things’ I used to? 😉

  3. Hi Andy,

    This is the second time today i have read this passage & both on the web. Perhaps God is just telling me not to worry about stuff and just get on with living. Obviously spending time with God as well.

    Dave H

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