How Lilies of the Field challenged the fallacy of racism

That actor went on to have one of the most successful acting careers in history, winning numerous more awards, but more importantly appearing in productions that explored issues of race, discrimination, human rights, and justice.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (In the Old Testament, Solomon was a King, who was the richest man in the world at that time.)

 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 

 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Matthew 6, ESV

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

“Lilies of the Field”

Although his acting ability had already won critical acclaim, a young actor made movie history in 1963 in a film based on this Bible text. In Lilies of the Field , he portrayed an itinerant handyman who meets a group of German-speaking nuns living in rural Arizona. After performing a small repair on a roof for them, he naturally asks to be paid. To which the Mother Superior replies,

“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.”

That actor went on to have one of the most successful acting careers in history, winning numerous more awards, but more importantly appearing in productions that explored issues of race, discrimination, human rights, and justice.

Sidney Poitier, now 93 years old, won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field. He was the first black man to win the best actor award, and the second black person to win any Academy award. ( Hattie McDaniel won Best Supporting Actress for her role in 1939’s Gone with the Wind, making her the first black person to be nominated for and receive an Oscar. In June 2020 HBO planned to add “historical context” to the streaming version of the movie.)

He went on to win the Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama, the first Black person to win in that in that award program. He later won the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award in 1982.

In a post on the website The New Lyceum, Joey Barretta wrote this about the actor.

Sidney Poitier was the first black actor to win the Best Actor Oscar in 1964, the same year that the Civil Rights Act was passed and a year prior to the Voting Rights Act. He rose to be a star at a time in which racism was common and his career began before segregation was abolished. This man is a true hero, albeit one who played some compelling fictional characters setting an example for the fallacy that is racism. By portraying decent men, he set an example of excellence in character that even the prejudiced whites of his day could not ignore.

J. Baretta, March 5, 2018

Some of Mr. Poitier’s other works which delved into social issues include

  • Cry, the Beloved Country-based on the novel about apartheid in South Africa
  • To Sir, With Love-social and racial tensions in an inner city school
  • Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner – interracial marriage
  • A Patch of Blue and The Defiant Ones -interracial friendships
  • In the Heat of the Night and They Call Me Mister Tibbs!– racial bias among law enforcement professionals
  • Separate but Equal– portrayal of Thurgood Marshall, future Supreme Court Justice
  • Mandela and deKlerk-portrayal of Nelson Mandela, future President of South Africa
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from story to novel to movie

The movie was based on a 1962 novel, The Lilies of the Field , by William Edmund Barrett. He in turn used the true story of the Sisters of Walburga as his inspiration.

Why not read a post I wrote about another novel that used this Bible verse. Here’s an excerpt-

In The Narrow Corner, W. Somerset Maugham tells a story about Dr. Saunders, an English physician who lives and practices in China. He is quite in demand among wealthy Chinese; we never learn exactly why he left England but the author hints that he was more highly regarded in the Far East than he had been in Britain. 

Dr. Saunders is summoned away from his home  to a South Pacific island to attend to a wealthy man who requests his medical care. He boards a small ship with a salty captain and a young man who keeps his reason for travelling a guarded secret.

What was supposed to be a pleasant and uneventful trip to a tropical island, turned into an uncomfortable and shocking adventure when they meet four people whose lives proved more complicated that they initially appeared.  Dr. Saunders and his travelling companions soon find themselves sucked into their intrigue. 

continue reading at

books lined up with titles of classic novels

The Narrow Corner- a classic novel

In The Narrow Corner, Maugham tells a story about Dr. Saunders, an English physician who lives and practices in China. He is quite in demand among wealthy Chinese; we never learn exactly why he left England but the author hints that he was more highly regarded in the Far East than he had been in Britain. 

exploring the HEART of life through literature and media

I’ll hope you’ll watch Lilies of the Field if you’ve never seen it before. And also watch some of Mr. Poitier’s other films, which I think you will find add revealing context to the social justice issues our country is confronting and correcting in the 21st century. Check out this article for some suggestions .

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

Dr. Aletha

Exploring the Heart of Justice

Families and businesses are making hard choices, choices in which fairness is important but may be difficult to achieve. I was listening to a podcast last week that addressed this issue as a matter of justice, which I think is an interesting way to look at it.

We’re experiencing two pandemics; the medical one causing illness, suffering and death due to a ravaging disease and the economic one causing financial hardship, food insecurity, and job loss due to a devastated economy.

Families and businesses are making hard choices, choices in which fairness is important but may be difficult to achieve. I listened to a podcast last week that addressed this issue as a matter of justice, which I found worth thinking more about.

What is justice?

In the podcast, Dr. Celine Grounder interviewed Adam Grant, a psychologist and professor. She asked him what makes for a good leader in the kind of crisis we’re experiencing now. He replied the best companies and their leaders base decisions on justice and he described 3 types of justice.

  • distributive justice- making choices that lead to fair outcomes
  • procedural justice-making decisions through a fair and unbiased process
  • interpersonal justice-making decisions in a way that treats people with respect, dignity, and compassion
What is Biblical justice?

This idea caught my attention because I made an insight recently while reading the part of the Bible known as the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew chapters 5 through 7 contains some of the most well known passages from the Bible, some you may not realize are biblical. Have you ever heard these phrases?

  • eye for an eye
  • turn the other cheek
  • go the extra mile
  • the Golden Rule
  • pearls before swine

These phrases, from the Sermon are attributed to Jesus and may not have been from a single sermon; the lessons it teaches may have been given at different times, as in the book Luke, which contains some of the same messages.

In the Sermon as in other New Testament scenes, Jesus taught his followers how they should live their lives and one word he uses several times is “righteousness”.

Righteousness sounds overtly religious, living bound by strict laws, emphasizing rule keeping, striving for perfection. As Richard Foster wrote, righteousness can consist of “control over externals, often including the manipulation of others.” (from Celebration of Discipline )

So I was surprised that one version, the New Living Translation (NLT), uses a different word for righteousness-justice.

God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.

Matthew 5:6, NLT
a ceramic cross with the Beatitudes Matthew 5:3-10

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Matthew 5:6, NIV

Several other Bible verses suggest righteousness and justice are two aspects of the same concept.

  • The Lord loves righteousness and justice;the earth is full of his unfailing love. Psalm 33:5, NIV
  • The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. Psalm 103:6, NIV
  •  But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!   Amos 5:24, NIV

Reflecting on these and other scriptures in I Am With You author Ann Spangler wrote this

“Righteousness is a Biblical word that means being in a right relationship with God, and with others. Injustice fractures and destroys relationships….righteousness is

“primarily a relationship, never an attainment; a direction, a loyalty, a commitment, a hope-and only someday an arrival” (quoting Addison Leitch)

Practicing justice

Farther in the Sermon Jesus tells the people to

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Matthew 6:33, NLT

suggesting that living justly isn’t merely thinking about justice, but behaving in a just manner, perhaps like the interpersonal justice Mr. Grant describes in the podcast.

Reverend Erin Clifford explains both Old and New Testament Biblical justice in this short video.

social graphic from the LIGHTSTOCK.COM collection, an affiliate site

some other thoughts on the Sermon

Matthew 5:6 is from part of the Sermon known as the Beatitudes. learn more about it here

How to be blessed, happy, and healthy

And in the rest of the Sermon, Jesus goes on to describe some other criteria for living a righteous or just life. I’ll explore that further in another post.

Here is a link to the podcast if you’d like to listen to it .

EPIDEMIC- Good and Bad Bosses

“EPIDEMIC is a twice-weekly podcast on public health and the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19).  Hosted by Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist who has worked on tuberculosis and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, and was an Ebola worker during the West African epidemic. And co-hosted by Ron Klain, the U.S. Ebola czar from 2014 to 2015.”

The COVID-19 pandemic may well be the defining moment of our times. Our lives have changed irrevocably. We need to understand the science so we can care for ourselves, our families, and our communities. And we need voices of reason to help us make sense of it all.

EPIDEMIC

In this episode, Dr. Celine Gounder talks to Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. They discuss

  • work during a pandemic and which companies are taking considerations to continue to take care of their employees, and which companies aren’t.
  • what good leadership during a crisis really looks like, and whether the COVID-19 pandemic may change the kinds of benefits that employers offer their employees.
  • how companies can improve their work-from-home culture, as well as how the pandemic may change people’s work-life/home-life balance permanently. 

exploring the HEART of justice

Thanks for joining me to explore justice from a social and Biblical perspective. I plan to share some other thoughts on this since it is so vital to working through the health and economic crisis we are facing.

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

Dr. Aletha

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