God and the Free Sparrows

Robert Wurtz II

“Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6–7 KJV)

The context of our passage deals with the persecution of people who believe in the Lord Jesus. In the time directly following our Lord’s ministry (ca. 33 AD) until the advent of Constantine in the early fourth century, Christians suffered tremendous persecution. It came from unbelieving Jews as well as Roman authorities. The unbelieving Jews sought to snuff out Christianity altogether. The Roman authorities required its citizens to regard Ceasar as Lord. Christians could not do this and remain true to Christ. Therefore, they were tortured, tormented, and killed by the thousands. 

In a society where it seems that Christian lives are worthless, people can begin to despair. With people being killed left and right, the persecuted may begin to wonder if God truly cares about them. Jesus here encourages us by way of illustration. He asks, “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?” Simple math demonstrates that if the cost is two sparrows for one farthing, the fifth one must have been thrown in free. What an awful thing to ponder if you or I were that free sparrow. It’s bad enough to be sold in the first place, but to be the free one? Talk about feeling expendable!

People may make merchandise of God’s creatures in a cold-hearted way, but God remembers the free Sparrow. Jesus adds this detail, Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. The sparrow has great value, but people are created in God’s image. In fact, Jesus adds another detail, But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. We would be hard pressed to find a verse in scripture where both God’s power and love are put on display like this. God knows the present number of the hairs on my head? Yes. And God loves us enough to keep track of them. 

Sometimes in life, people will treat us like we are expendable. If we live long enough, we are sure to suffer rejection and a host of other things. If we live in areas of the world that are hostile to Christianity, we could be imprisoned, beaten, or killed. In some cases all three. The time would fail to discuss the multitudes of dear saints who have been tortured and killed over the centuries. The world hates Christians. That will always be the case. 

What about being mistreated by professing believers? It ought not to happen, but it sometimes does. Paul dealt with it. John the Revelator dealt with it. The risk is that we allow the mistreatment to dictate our perspective of things. What did Paul say? “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? People may reject us or even persecute us, “But if God is for us…” What does it matter if people hate us and mistreat us when we have Christ, who also makes intercession for us? 

People can deal us a lot of harm, but they have not power on over us ultimately. Paul continues on and asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” On the one hand, we seem to be treated, at times, like that sparrow who was sort of thrown in as part of a package deal. Like sheep to a slaughter. What did Paul (who had been beaten within an inch of his life many times) say concerning this? Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 

Does it really matter what people think? should our joy and victory be predicated on people’s response to us (and the message of the Gospel)? I’m reminded of Leonard Ravenhill who once told of how God gave him a “word for the year.” On this occasion, he didn’t even have to look into the scriptures to find it. It was a single word: rejection. Ravenhill’s dejected response? Great! As if to say, “Oh boy, that’s just great!” History is now showing that people may have rejected Ravenhill quite often during his lifetime, but God never did. Moreover, his life and message continue to be a great blessing to many today. This is the key thing. He may have felt rejected, but in reality, he was more than a conqueror through Him who loved us. What does that mean? The late great Greek scholar A.T. Robertson summarized this verse as, “We gain a surpassing victory through the one who loved us.”

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