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.”

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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, Best Actor

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.)

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
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-

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 follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

Thanks for following this blog. If you’re visiting, I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me. I also want you to find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest , Instagram, and LinkedIn .

                              Dr. Aletha 

Pearls, pigs, Pickles, and Zits

Pig tries his best to navigate a world that is often unfair, unfriendly, confusing and conflicting, and his friends do their best to help him muddle through. But as Stephan wrote, their efforts often fail, at least in their eyes.

If my local newspaper quit publishing comic strips I would probably still read it, but I wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much.

Cartoons share information in a unique and effective way; in just a few words and/or pictures, the artist can convey ideas and emotions that make us laugh, cringe, seethe, evaluate, examine, and change , often without feeling diminished or threatened.

I’ve read the “funny papers” since I was a child, and if you follow me on Facebook you know I post a cartoon there weekly, a “Friday Funny”. Through the years I’ve had several favorites-Peanuts, Garfield, The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbs, Doonesbury, -some no longer in production. But I’ve found new ones that I like and read regularly.

One is Zits, by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman, a strip about Connie and Walt Duncan , parents of a teenage son Jeremy. Jeremy is a typical teenager, sometimes endearing, sometimes maddening. His parents are health care professionals, Connie a child psychologist and Walt an orthodontist. Years ago, when my husband and I still had a teen son in our home, I would almost believe the writers listened in on our conversations since some days I read my own words in the strip.

I assume the title refers to the frequency that teen boys suffer from “zits”, a slang term for the skin condition, acne. Almost all teenagers develop acne; when severe it can cause significant distress; girls have it too, and sometimes it continues into early adulthood.

Now my husband and I identify more with Brian Crane’s Pickles, a strip featuring a senior couple Earl and Opal Pickles, who are enjoying retirement and grand-parenthood. But sometimes the Pickles find the senior years not so golden; the strip portrays their coping with the inevitable losses of advancing age in a bittersweet way.

My current favorite is Pearls Before Swine, a comic strip written and illustrated by Stephan Pastis. It chronicles the daily lives of an “ensemble cast of suburban anthropomorphic animals”: Pig, Rat, Zebra, Goat, and a fraternity of crocodiles, as well as a number of supporting characters.

Before becoming a cartoonist, Stephan Pastis was a lawyer. On his blog FAQs he explains the name of his strip this way

Q) Where does the title of the strip come from?
A) Matthew 7:6: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine.” (KJV) In the case of the strip, Rat thinks every thing he says is wise, and that it is wasted upon dumb Pig.

Pig tries his best to navigate a world that is often unfair, unfriendly, confusing and conflicting, and his friends do their best to help him muddle through. But as Stephan wrote, their efforts often fail, at least in their eyes.

“Pearls before swine”

Did you know that phrase is in the Bible? Jesus said it in the Sermon on the Mount preaching to a large group on a mountain, according to Matthew, but Luke recorded it as several shorter talks. It contains some of the most well known, often quoted, frequently preached words in the Bible and to me summarizes Jesus’ message to this world . Like cartoons, these three Bible chapters convey much information and inspiration in short, colorful phrases whose meaning is not always readily apparent.

Here is the verse in context, in modern language , the New International Version.

Judging Others

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

Matthew 7:1-6, NIV

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

(In many Bibles, words attributed to Jesus are printed in red letters.)

specks and planks

I understand the part about the eye. As a family physician I see patients complaining of a foreign body in their eye. If you’ve ever had something in your eye, you know how distressing it can be. When I examine the eye, I usually find a tiny speck, sometimes so small I need magnification to see it. It may be a speck of dust, wood shaving, or even metal. After applying a topical anesthetic (deadening eyedrop) I can easily remove the speck. The patient usually is shocked at how small it is, because to them it felt like a “plank”.

a drawing of a human eyeball
A foreign body, speck, may get stuck on the CORNEA and feel like a plank in the eye.
pearls

A pearl is a “concretion formed around a grain of sand or other foreign body within the shell of certain mollusks.” Doesn’t sound appealing but when we display them around our necks, ears, wrists, or fingers, they are treated as fine jewelry. Thus, the word “pearl” has become synonomous with something valuable, costly, precious, desirable.

a white pearl ring with diamond highlights
Photo by Marta Branco on Pexels.com

There are also several medical terms using pearl.

  • an epithelial pearl-a rounded mass of keratin found in found in some skin cancers
  • a drug pearl- a medication dispensed as a pearl-like capsule
  • pearl disease-tuberculosis (TB) in the chest or abdomen consisting of small rounded lesions

But the medical definition that most fits the meaning of this verse is one that all doctors learn early in their training- a clinical pearl.

Clinical pearls are small bits of free standing clinically relevant information based on experience or observation

Medical Teacher

Usually clinical pearls are shared verbally, then preserved and shared as informal written notes (when I was in medical school) although now disseminated electronically. Often our professors would impart these to us during hospital rounds as we examined and discussed patients; we understood these pearls to be valuable knowledge we would not get from textbooks alone, wisdom they gained from years of study and experience.

Physicians based much of the early treatment of COVID-19 in the 2020 pandemic on clinical pearls, since as a novel disease, there were no textbooks or journal articles to use as reference. Internationally, through social media and email, doctors began sharing their experiences treating COVID patients until the information found its way into mainstream medical journals.

planks, specks, pearls, and pigs

Rather than telling you what I think these verses mean, or telling you what I think you should think they mean, I offer some questions to help you decide that they mean to you.

  1. What measure (or standard as used in the NLT version) do I use to judge (evaluate or examine) other people? Do I apply the same standard to myself, or do I want others to?
  2. What planks (logs in the NLT) are in my eye that I need to remove to see others more clearly?
  3. What specks bother me about others? Should I offer to remove them, and if so, how should I?
  4. What pearls do I “wear” that others might want or need? How do I decide to whom and when to offer pearls? How do I react when my pearls are trampled?
before you leave, here’s another post based on Matthew 7, featuring a poem by Robert Frost
a man reading a Bible standing in a grove of aspen trees

Choosing the road to life and wellness

Despite Frost’s assertion that his poem was a joke, multiple commentaries dissect it extensively and assign all kinds of meaning to it, suggesting that we do believe that our choices matter in life, whether relationships, finances, education, or health.

exploring the HEART of faith, hope, and love

I’m hope you enjoyed exploring these Bible verses with me today, and before you leave I hope you will read some of the other posts about the Sermon.

Please look for these cartoons in your newspaper, online, or in one of their books using the affiliate links above. Affiliate commissions help me continue sharing the HEART of health here and with organizations that do so around the world to those who need it the most yet lack access the most .

Thanks for following this blog. If you’re visiting, I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me. I also want you to find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest , Instagram, and LinkedIn .

                              Dr. Aletha 

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