G.K. Chesterton said, “People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. But the fact is, there never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy.”
We are infatuated with “the praise & attention of man.” We anchor our identity and our sense of meaning and purpose in life to “popular opinion.” And according to popular opinion, God should leave us alone to pursue our individualistic agendas of self-infatuation. We dabble in ‘Theology’ just enough to develop reverential smokescreens to “justify” our detachment from God. For example, we insist on saying, “God is holy” in order to ensure that He’ll never get too close to us; because we know, if God gets close, he’ll obliterate our preferences to live in accordance with popular opinion.
But the fact is, God insists on being very very close to us. Though he is divine, and though it completely defies our presuppositions about “orthodoxy”; God takes on flesh (which the most popular theologians throughout human history consider absolutely vulgar and inappropriate). Though God is infinitely holy (i.e. rightly infatuated with Himself), and though we are infinitely unholy (i.e. wrongly infatuated with ourselves); God nevertheless wants to be in an intimate, irrevocable, marital relationship with us! This would be like a truly good man choosing to marry a whore! And if a good man married a whore, you wouldn’t be shocked to learn that the whore perpetually relapsed into her patterns & protocols of whoreableness. In which case, you’d perhaps expect the husband to refuse to speak to his wife; but God – seeing, with pristine clarity, the darkest depths of our wretchedness and evil [Matthew 5] – nevertheless chooses to move toward us in the most personal and intimate sort of way (taking on flesh), and speaking with us face to face!
Perhaps we thought that we could successfully sabotage the relationship? Perhaps we thought we could push God away, so as to never have to deal with being disturbed by God’s deep and invasive love for us? But we were wrong. God loves us, and He wants to be with us too much to leave us to our vices. And what is our greatest vice? What is our most prolific addiction???
Our chief addiction is: superficial approval (a.k.a. popularity). We are incessantly preoccupied with the perception and praise of man. We love the “glory” that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” [John 12:43].
And like all unhealthy addictions, this obsession with popularity is destroying us. Therefore, God loves us enough to WARN US. God says, “BEWARE! …Beware of always caring how you’re being viewed and validated.” [Matthew 6:1,2,5,16,17]
Do we HEED this warning? We really don’t HEED any of Jesus’ warnings [e.g. Matthew 19:23-24]. We regard Jesus like Willy Wonka, we ‘esteem’ Him as “undeniably brilliant,” but frankly His ways are weird to us; and we aren’t actually interested in subscribing to His modus operandi. And subsequently, we make ourselves miserable. As Jack says, “We are ½-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition [& especially ambitious for the flattery & ‘approval’ of mortals]; and meanwhile God is offering us infinite joy. We are like ignorant children who go on making mud pies in a slum because we cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea! We are far too easily pleased.”
Jesus warns us away from our unhealthy addictions (which follow the pattern of an ever-increasing desire for an ever-diminishing return), in order that we might receive a healthy addiction (an ever-increasing desire for an ever-enlivening & abundant return).
Instead of being preoccupied, and oppressed by, ‘what people think’; Jesus says, “Be like the birds!” We are anxious and weighed-down by our fear of man, and Jesus wants to set us free. Jesus wants to realign our fixation, so that we no longer seek and treasure the mastery of man’s empty praise, but instead we seek and treasure the Kingdom of God, and we bask in the assurance of being already approved of by the Master of that Kingdom! Jesus offers us the freedom of living by mercy rather than merit. Our daily bread, assurance of pardon, and need for protection is never earned, but rather it rises out of the fact that God is our Father; and He will never fail to freely-provide for us. God says, “For freedom I have set you free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” We are invited to embrace & exercise the freedom of being like birds! Birds can fly for 2 reasons:  they have wings, and  they’re not weighed down with chronic concerns about what people think of them, or the cares of this world. Jesus insists that you enter the joy of having a secret life, in the secret service of your Father in heaven who always sees, and already approves, you! Like a bird playfully flying, scanning for worms and twigs; you are commanded to enjoy the process of discovering and receiving the provisions and shrewd practices of a secret service agent of the Kingdom of Heaven!