Ever feel so small, as if you have no real value? If you haven’t felt this at some point, God bless you! But I suspect that most of us have at one time or another felt as if we didn’t really matter; that if we were to vanish, we wouldn’t be missed. For those who have ever experienced this, as I have, I offer something Jesus said which reminds us that no matter how small we may feel, how useless, unwanted or unneeded, we have great worth in the sight of God.
In Matthew 10:29 Jesus asks, “are not two sparrows sold for a penny?”*
The sparrow was not good for much. The extremely poor might rely on them for food (consider how unsatisfying that meal would be!). Two of these birds could be purchased for the smallest fraction of money- one penny.
The word for penny is the Greek ‘assarion’, the smallest unit of money worth about one sixteenth of a denarius. The denarius was a day's wage for a laborer or soldier and in modern equivalent was worth about 20 cents (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia). Therefore we have the absolute least amount of money being spent on an ‘item’ of absolute least value.
But wait. In Luke 12:6 Jesus asks a different form of the same question: “are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?”*
Now I am no math whiz, but if two sparrows cost one penny, then four sparrows, not five, cost two pennies. Think about that fifth sparrow; it’s a toss in, an add-on, the equivalent of the thirteenth donut in a baker’s dozen. It was probably so small that it wasn’t worth even a half-penny on its own. That fifth sparrow is the epitome of worthless things.
Yet look what Jesus continues to say: “not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matthew 10:29*); “not one of them is forgotten before God” (Luke 12:6*). Not one of these creatures, no matter how small or worthless they may seem to us, is beyond the care and compassion of the heavenly Father; not even the fifth sparrow.
This is all well and good for the cute little sparrows; how nice to know that God cares for the birds. Indeed! But even better is to know that Jesus didn’t leave it there.
Jesus was speaking to His disciples about the hardships and trials they would face as they carried His message into the world. They were understandably worried about the uncertainty of the itinerant life and the very real prospect of persecution, prison and even death. It must have seemed overwhelming to these simple men. Paul would later exclaim “who is equal to such a task?” (2 Corinthians 2:16 NIV**).
So as He spoke of the sparrows, Jesus told His disciples: “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31 cf. Luke 12:7).
Jesus wanted His disciples to understand that no matter what they faced, no matter how difficult their mission and ministry became, they could have the absolute confidence that the Father cared for them deeply and would watch over them always.
So then, if the Father concerns Himself with something so comparatively worthless, how much more will He give His attention to His children, the followers of His beloved Son?
So the next time you feel valueless or useless, as if you do not matter, consider the fifth sparrow…and know that you are deeply loved.
*English Standard Bible. Copyright © 2000, 2001 by Crossway Bibles, A Division of Good News Publishers, 1300 Crescent Street, Wheaton, Illinois 60187, USA.
**HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society