Jesus directs the anxious to “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns” and to “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin” (Matt. 6:26, 28). The birds that feed and the lilies that grow are recipients of God’s common grace, as are we. A blessing from God whether acknowledged or not. As Cecil Frances Alexander reminds us,
All things bright and beautiful,
All things great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
God’s common grace, or gratia communis, is his non-saving, general favor bestowed on his creation and is distinct from his grace, or gratia Dei, which is his saving, unmerited favor. Our understanding of common grace is rooted in God’s creation but articulated in his covenant with Noah. As “God blessed Noah and his sons” (Gen. 9:1), so he blessed the human race through them, giving them an earthly sign of his covenant, the rainbow, a visual prism of God’s favor and promised diminution of judgment.
As human recipients of God’s common grace we should respond to it with both honor for God and thanksgiving (Rom. 1:21), and all the more so as the redeemed. For, we who enjoy countless blessings, such as his sunrise and rain (Matt. 5:45), also enjoy the immeasurable blessing of his saving grace through faith in Christ. And by his grace, we may look from the sunrise to the birds and from the rain to the lilies and know that he who graciously cares for all things great and small is our Father in heaven.