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God’s love: Two-a-Penny

By Calvin Miller | Retired as Professor of Preaching and Pastoral Ministry at Beeson Divinity School and continues to reside in Birmingham, Alabama. He is a Contributing Editor of Preaching.

"Are not sparrows two-a-penny, yet without your Father's leave, not one of them can fall to the ground" (Matthew 10:24-30).

I am touched by the love of God. When I see the suffering of so many in this tortured world of ours, I am prone to ask myself, "Where is there even an iota of justice?" But I rarely ask myself, "Where is God?" I know God is there and He is in love with His world. He has promised his presence and that is adequate for me, but He has declared His love in the most simplistic and proverbial way. God loves sparrows. And if sparrows, why not us? Sparrows in Jesus' day were sold for a penny, yet not one of them could fall to the ground without the Father's leave.

One day I was walking down the streets of a Montana city with a fellow preacher who had his 3-year-old son along. As we walked, the little boy looked down and saw a penny lying on the sidewalk. The child became so excited; he reached down and grabbed it. He could have been no happier if it were a thousand dollars.

"Daddy, Daddy," he cried. "Look what I found—a penny!"

His excitement fascinated me. I could not imagine getting so excited about so little. I ran my hand into my pocket and found I had a whole pocket full of change, mostly pennies. I hurried my step to walk just ahead of the child and for the next few moments I dropped pennies for the sheer joy of watching his excitement as he found them. 

Pennies buy so little that I didn't even feel any sense of sacrifice in what I was doing; but to the little boy, the retrieval of every one of them was over and again erupting with joy.

The God of Pennies

I doubt if I would even stop to pick up a penny, yet that which was not to be treasured by me was clearly celebrated by the child. I have been overwhelmed time and again by what seems to be God's sense of wonder. Treasuring the seemingly worthless is somehow like our God.

Could it be that we all become too dull to esteem the ordinary values of life that leave us so unlike God? Does God have a low value system or just a highly developed esteem for the ordinary? It must be the latter, or God never would have stopped to save us. Does it bother God that Idi Amin killed a quarter of his own countrymen? Does He care that the Ayatollah Khomeini executed ruthlessly those who stabilized his own early regime and called for his homecoming. Does God grieve over Stalin's execution of 60 million of his own countrymen or that terrorists murder so many in His name? 

When I am prone to think like this, I stop to consider a little boy's excitement over finding pennies. Then I know that things, which seemingly are worthless, with better vision have real worth. As long as God cares so much for sparrows—knowing they sell two for a penny—maybe the cross is God's finest shopping spree. For at Calvary He spent all He had to buy the souls of those who put Him to death. So much for so little! In the midst of our senseless human circus, God goes on deliberately picking up pennies.

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