Jesus on Comparing the Beauty of Flowers and Fabrics

[A guest post by the botanist (plant lover) Todd Elder]

Closeup of an orange lily with pollen, photo credit: Todd Elder

People sometimes say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. This just means that if you ask different people what they like, you will get different answers.
For example, if I ask, “what is your favorite color?,” your response will probably be different from my response or the answers from your brothers, sisters, and friends.

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. ~Jesus

In His famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that King Solomon’s clothes are not as beautiful as the lily flowers in the field (Matthew 6:28-29). This might seem like an odd thing to compare, but He is telling us what our Creator finds beautiful should make us think about life.

photo credit: Todd Elder

Closeup of the lily’s petals

We can look at both flowers and fabrics and find there are many reasons why He said this

The Bible says that we are created in the image and likeness of God. This likeness includes the ability and knowledge to enjoy the beauty and variety which He has created. We are designed with senses that can:

  • see colors
  • smell scents
  • feel textures
  • hear sounds
  • and taste flavors.

It is marvelous that we are able to enjoy so many things including both the flowers around us and the fabric we wear in our clothing.

Fabric Is Often Made from Plants

Hand desplaying floral fabric, photo credit: Todd ElderThere is a big difference between plants and fabric. Perhaps the biggest is that plants were made by our Creator to grow, repair themselves, and have seeds to create more plants. Fabrics are made by people and must be woven together, mended if ripped, torn, or falling apart, and must be replaced when it has become worn out.

Plants have a mixture and variety of shapes and designs for the veins that carry water through the plant. Fabrics typically have just a square weave (like the one in the photo) and even the more complex weaves must follow a pattern.

Plants are so much more advanced than fabrics.Same floral fabric highly magnified, photo credit: Todd Elder

Which is better, the original or a copy of it? If you have ever used a photocopier, you will know the copies are worse because they have can have specks, smudges, and streaks. Typically the original is better because it is more detailed and clear.

When we look at plants and flowers and compare them to clothing this is also true. Did you know that traditionally most clothing is made from plant fibers found in the stems and leaves of plants such as lignin, flax, and cotton? Did you know that the colors in the clothing often come from pigments and dyes collected from the flowers of plants?

It is the plants which produce our clothing. The plants are the original and the clothing is the manmade copy. Some clothing even tries to copy the idea of a flower into the color or weave of the fabric as decoration. But any flower designs on the fabric are very limited in detail.

More than Meets the Eye

Did you know that there is a lot more to a flower than people can see? This is because our Creator also designed the flowers for insects. People can see what is called the visible color spectrum (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and violet). But insects are able to see more colors than people because they can see in the infra-red and ultra-violet. Flowers use this wider spectrum of colors to communicate with insects.CG Lily showing visible spectrum colors and ultraviolet contrast, photo credit: Todd Elder

For example, when a bee goes looking for pollen and nectar, it will go to some flowers and skip others. Why? Because the flowers that have their pollen ready will also produce ultraviolet colored chemicals the bee’s vision can detect; in fact, it almost glows for them. It is like a person going down the street where some businesses like grocery stores have a bright neon sign saying ‘open’ while other businesses are dark and obviously closed. The bees can go directly to the flowers that are ready. To make the pollen even more noticible, when you look at them in ultraviolet light, the petals are typically dark making a strong contrast against the glowing pollen.

How Would God Clothe Us?

As with any verse in Scripture, we can learn even more by reading the verses around it. The larger passage of Matthew 6:24-34 contains an incredible lesson about what is important in life. This begins with the inability to serve two masters: God and riches. It then says not to worry about food, money, and clothing. Instead, we should seek the kingdom of Heaven and righteousness. If we do this, then He will provide what we need.

Have you ever wondered how He would clothe us? Could we actually look better than the flowers?

The answer is yes … especially in His eyes.

In Isaiah 61:10 there is the promise of being clothed in the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness. In Revelation 19:8 the “Bride of Messiah” is given fine white linen that represents the righteousness of the saints. In Ephesians 6:11-17 there is the armor of God which contains the helmet of salvation, belt of truth, shield of faith and all the other items.

This is how He clothes His people … and it is magnificently beautiful.

People cannot dress themselves in this way. The clothing of kings—even with their colors and fine materials—do not compare to God’s purity and righteousness. Through the Messiah our Savior, we believe we will be found worthy to wear that ‘heavenly’ type of clothing.

What can we learn from all of this? The fact that there is so much we cannot see, even in a flower, reminds us there is both a physical and a spiritual aspect to life.

We cannot see what is happening spiritually, but it exists and it has an effect.

Knowing this, it does not take much to realize that even as a rich king, Solomon could not dress himself in clothing as fine as a flower. If he tried to match a white lily, his clothing could not be so clean, pure, and bright a white. If he copied a colorful lily, he still could not match the richness of color and the fine detail designed into the flower by our wonderful Creator.

Neither Solomon’s wealth and power, nor any other man’s, can produce the true beauty that comes from within.

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