You are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:31
As the chill night has fallen this winter, a little red-capped bird has taken refuge in the grapevine wreath hanging beside our front door. He tucks himself in behind the decorations for the night. We don’t see him until we open the door to walk out, and then he disappears in a flutter. This little bird reminds me of the words of Scripture, how “even the sparrow finds a home” in the Lord (Psalm 84:3) or how the people of God are like a shelter to “every kind of bird” (Ezekiel 17:23) or how the kingdom of God grows like a mustard seed so that the “birds of the air” find refuge in its branches (Luke 13:19). The birds have nowhere safe and solid until they find their safety and solidity in God.
Jesus told his disciples that they were of more value than little birds. The context in which he told them this is interesting. It was when Jesus was sending them out to share the good news. He told the disciples that they would find themselves among people who debase truth and demean the value of others (Matt. 10:24-28). They would walk among those who would revile and accuse them (Matt. 10:17-23). But the disciples are not to be afraid, for their Father watches over them. Every hair of their head is counted. They are of more worth than many sparrows (Matt. 10:31).
Jesus’ words to the disciples are invitational: an assurance that their lives matter to him, matter to God. Whatever happens, the Father is with them. God cares for birds–so then think how much more God cares for people.
But Jesus’ words are also exhortational: a command, a requirement, a calling that his people value all human lives. Jesus knew that, like the disciples, we would find ourselves in situations where fear reigns, words are debased, and life is demeaned. He knew that just as “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18), so too fear edges love out of our hearts.
The problem is not so much that we’re afraid. The problem is that we have allowed fear to define us and to distort our commitment to the value of all human life. The remedy, perhaps, is to recall that the church is to be a refuge, like the mustard seed that grows so big that the birds can find a home, like a wreath hanging on the side of the house.
“You are worth more than many sparrows,” said Jesus. We are. All of us: unborn lives and refugee lives, Christian lives and Muslim lives. These human lives of every hue are worth more than many sparrows. More than two or five or twelve. Worth more than infinite sparrows.