Lessons from a Hummingbird Bully

During the first few days after I put out the sugar water for our local hummingbirds, they responded with obvious delight. Half a dozen tiny birds visited the feeder frequently, darting back and forth in every direction, doing what I affectionately call their “sugar-buzz ballet.” How I enjoyed seeing them zip in, hover at the feeder, sip briefly, and then zoom away. They are amazing creatures!

A few weeks later, after making sure the feeder was full, I took a trip for a few days. I returned after a long weekend to see radically different behavior at the feeder. Instead of a delightful dance of several birds, there was primarily one standing guard. He seemed to have declared that all the sugar water in the feeder was his and dove aggressively at any other bird that came close.

I was outraged at this bite-sized bully. The nerve! He had not done anything to produce the food. I had provided it freely as a gift for all the hummingbirds to enjoy. It wasn’t like he was low on food; he’d eat a couple of ounces every day, but the feeder held 8 times that. That bullying bird had gone from civilized sharing to being downright cruel to all hummingbird-kind around him.

And then it clicked. What I was feeling is how God feels when He sees us people hoarding and bullying each other over our sugar water — money (or any material thing). The hummingbird bully had not created that sugar water. He had only found it! It was a gift! Every material blessing we have is a gift from God. God says in James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” We don’t create money anymore than that hummingbird mixed up that sugar water. Where do our material blessings come from? God says in Deuteronomy 8:18. “…it is the He (the Lord) who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”

Maybe the hummingbird’s problem (and ours) is that he wanted to be in charge. He thought he was a pretty big deal, all 3 inches of him. He was so important that nobody else could come into his territory or drink from his feeder (even though none of that was true.) OK – maybe I am crediting the hummingbird with a little too much mental capacity, but that IS often how we humans think. In our hearts we think, “I am the boss of me (and everybody else.) This is mine, all mine, and you can’t have it.” (It doesn’t matter if we really need all of it or not.) We only have to look a verse earlier in Deuteronomy 8, connecting verse 17 and 18, to correct out thinking. “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth…’ ”

At some point, all the hummingbirds will have gone south for the winter. Then all the sugar water the bully hummingbird had fought so viciously to keep for himself will sit there…wasted. None of the other birds will have enjoyed it as I intended. None of the other birds will have been nourished by it as I had hoped. How many of us hoard and fight viciously for material things while we’re here on earth? After we’re gone, then what? Will others speak of us as “bully birds”? Will they talk about who could have been blessed by our sharing? I wonder if there is anyone in your life or mine today whom we could nourish or even fill with obvious delight – by sharing our sugar water.