“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.
Jesus Is the Picture of a Caring God
God’s Son was a peasant. No doubt in the learning of His trade, Jesus caught His thumb in the vice or was forced to pull the rough wood splinters from His hand. Jesus very likely grieved at Joseph’s funeral, and probably saw one or two of His infant brothers or sisters die when a dram of penicillin—had it been invented—would have saved them.
God’s perfect boy cried over the plight of urban Jerusalem with its thousands of lost citizens. Finally, of course, they hanged Him by His hands. While hanging there, He asked the howling gales about his Father’s concern. “Do You care, Father?”
“Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabacthani—My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
Perhaps at this very moment of suffering, the Emperor Tiberius was getting a rub-down by a Nubian slave while Pilate was involved in a board game with one of the Praetorian guards. Perhaps the Jews at that very time were so busy with Passover shopping to even notice how much all their apathy was costing God.
Jesus suffered and died during a week when there was a multiplicity of things happening. Even then He must have known His penny-loving Father was grieving over all He was undergoing on that horrible, dark day. Jesus says in this great passage that the very hairs of our head are numbered, so thorough is God’s love and concern for us (Matthew 10:30). My greatest evidence of the thoughtful care of a loving God used to be when I would hear Ethel Waters singing:
“I sing because I’m happy.
“I sing because I’m free.
“For His eye is on the sparrow
“And I know He watches me.”
When the Pain Comes
Thus, I know when the pain comes that God cares. There are moments when we are prone to say God lives in heaven above a brass sky, protected from all human pain by a kind of godly apathy. We cry and look around for Him, but He is silent. We wish He would show up for just a moment of compassion for all we are feeling, but our prayers don’t seem to be getting the thorough reading we want them to have when they reach His drowsy throne.
But oh, He does care! Remember the life of Adoniram Judson:
He asked God to send him to India, and God sent him to Burma.
He asked God to give him the security of a warm family and his devoted wife died of fever.
He asked God that his fevered child might live, but she died.
He asked God to give him many converts so he could feel that God was blessing his ministry, and he struggled for seven empty years to win his first convert to Christ.
What did he do to keep his sanity while his every prayer seemed to fall on a deaf heaven? He remembered the principle that God is the God of sparrows. He goes on numbering the loss of the old sparrows and counting the eggs in the nests of those new ones as each of them hatch.
The hard times of life are the very province of God’s most impressive miracles. There is God who didn’t avoid the human question marks. He hovers above the cross, weeping, crying over the anguish of His Son. Maybe we are too prone to forget this. We rail at God for ignoring our hurt when—if we are honest—God passed PAIN 101 with flying colors and many tears.
Why should we feel that our crosses are more special than that carried by Christ? No servant is above his master (Matthew 10:24). Where did we get the idea that when we became disciples, God said, “Way to go! Thank you so much for believing. I’m so flattered. Here’s your very own Hardship Exemption Card! If you ever get in trouble, just flash this card and I’ll have you back on your bed of roses in no time.”
Rejoice! You Are Loved!
Look at the cross and try to remember that God will not superstitiously deliver you from great suffering or death. Christians suffer as do non-Christians. Atheists and devoted saints die at the same rate, but God is still a sparrow lover.
Why do Christians find such preoccupation with the cross? Because the cross is evidence that God means it when He says He cares for us and loves us.
The first verse of the Bible that I memorized is evidence that when God says He cares about us, He really means it.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
The cross has become a tribute to a love that means business. If you are prone to ask, “How much does God love you?” just remember the words that long ago fell from the poet’s pen:
“Could we with ink the oceans fill
“And were the skies of parchment made,
“Were every stock on earth a quill,
“And every man a scribe by trade,
“To write the love of God above
“Would drain those oceans dry,
“Nor would the scroll contain the whole,
“Though stretched from sky to sky.
God cares for you—you may count on His concern. Remember the birds: “Are not sparrows two-a-penny, yet without your Father’s leave, not one of them may fall…”
If God so loves us, we live under requirement; here is what God requires: “The very hairs of your head are numbered…fear not, you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Here is an old hymn worth singing because it helps us to remember we are loved.
“We are pursued by the sparrow lover.
“We are loved by the One who loved us all the way to Calvary.
“So, stand! Stand and declare that love. . .
“to the God of sparrows,
“to the God of lavish care,
“to the God of the cross.”