Humming bird and butterfly in my garden last summer feeding on Pentas
Have you ever considered the huge part that food plays in our lives today? I love to eat good food; and my wife is an excellent cook of the cuisines of several countries. I’m not just a steak and tater guy and I very much like the variety, but there is only so much that I can eat; when I am full I quit eating. I have wondered a few times if many live to eat, or eat to live. Everybody can answer this question individually about themselves. In one sense both answers are true. If we don’t eat we won’t live, and if we don’t live we won’t be able to eat. The question is why do we eat?
As I think about one of the differences between human beings and the rest of the creatures upon the earth it is this – human beings work. The animal creation keeps busy all the time. Birds and animals keep their days occupied with hunting, eating, drinking, bathing, and playing, but there is a major difference between their activities and human work. Human work is a meaningful activity with a purpose and goal in mind. Animals aren’t capable of having goals or purposes beyond their next meal or so. They never look past what they are doing to question themselves why they are doing it. There is only one motivation to life – survival.
I don’t know of any bird or animal that reminds me of their never-ending activity for survival more than the hummingbird. I want to tell you some facts about them. There are about 320 species of hummingbirds; all of them are found in The Americas and the Caribbean. There are no hummingbirds found in Europe, Africa, Asia, or Australia. The largest population is in the regions around the equator in the countries of Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, and Brazil where they live in diverse habitats such as deserts, jungles, and the high mountains of the Andes. Only 12 are native to North America, and of these only one is found east of the Mississippi River – the Ruby-throat. I am sitting in my study right now watching a hummingbird cautiously eating from one of our feeders.
Most hummingbirds are very colorful and have been described as a “glittering fragment of the rainbow”. Most may know of the flight of the hummingbird. They are so acrobatic that they can fly forward, backward, upwards, downwards, sideways, and even upside down. I have many times seen them remaining stationary appearing motionless. The wing beat averages between 25-80 times per second. When mating it can reach 200 beats per second. Hummingbirds never hop or walk as do other birds. They move only by flying even as they feed, drink, or bathe. They truly are a piece of God’s great creativeness.
Hummingbirds have the highest output of energy per bird of all the living warm-blooded animals. To fuel all of this activity it consumes an enormous amount of food. I read this comparison by Crawford H. Greenwalt, an astute student of the humming bird. According to Greenwalt, a man weighing 170 lbs. that works as a manual laborer expends about 3,500 calories per day. If he worked as hard as a hummingbird this same man would have to consume 155,000 daily. A normal man eats about 2 lbs. of food per day; but if his energy output equaled that of the hummingbird he would have to eat 370 lbs. of potatoes a day. To me these are mind-boggling figures.
I can think of 2 things though that should differ between human beings and hummingbirds. First, we are not to be preoccupied with food. Jesus told us quite specifically not to be anxious about what we eat and drink saying this was the obsession of pagans (Matthew 6:31-32 ). We are also not to go to the other extreme and have a contempt for food and other material things and become ascetics; both are wrong. God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment, but we are to partake of these things with thanksgiving and moderation ( I Tim. 4:3-5; 6:17 ).
The second difference between human beings and the hummingbirds is that eating for us is never and end in itself, but a means to a higher end. We look past the eating to life itself and all that it entails; to accomplish that which God has called us to do. We eat in order to refuel for a higher objective. I have observed in recent years the preoccupation with food, and the disdain for actual work. Meaningful work is a gift given us by God Himself. As He worked in creation we have been mandated by Him to care for it. We are to be about our Father’s business in the way He leads each of us.
God has placed man over His creation to subdue and manage it. We should be grateful to Him for giving us this privilege. May we be faithful in carrying it out.
Until tomorrow, Lord willing,