July 18, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 12:6-7 (NRSV)
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
In the first century A.D., sparrows were a dime a dozen. Yet, according to Jesus, God knows and values sparrows. If this is true, then how much more does God know and value us? The fact is that God knows each one of us through and through. And God cares for us more than we will ever comprehend.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
I write most of my devotions while sitting on the patio behind my home in Pasadena. Since the weather here is relatively mild, I can do this during much of the year. Give me a fan in the summer and a space heater in the winter, and I’ll do my writing out with the squirrels and the birds.
We have lots of birds in our back yard, mainly because we keep several bird feeders well stocked. For the most part, our avian visitors are small: Lesser Goldfinches, Dark-eyed Juncos, House Finches, and a variety of sparrows. (As you can see in today’s photo, sometimes my feeders attract quite a crowd, in this case, of Lesser Goldfinches.)
I’ve never actually thought about what one of our tiny bird visitors might be worth in dollars. Given how small and common they are, not too much, I expect. So, I’m not surprised by the statement of Jesus in Luke 12:6 that five sparrows are sold for “two pennies.” The NRSV slightly understates the worth of two assaria in Greek, which were copper coins equal to what a day laborer could make in a half hour or so. But Jesus’s point is clear. Sparrows aren’t worth very much money, which is why they were used as food for people who were quite poor. Yet, according to Jesus, “not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight” (Luke 12:6).
Now, it’s certainly possible that Jesus was speaking hyperbolically here. But I must admit I rather like the idea that God is watching the birds in my backyard, enjoying them as small wonders of his creation. If I like watching the birds day after day, surely God likes doing so even more. This reminds us of just how much God values what he has created, something we learn from Genesis 1 but sometimes forget.
Jesus’s main point is that God, who pays attention to even for one of the least valuable animals on earth, cares so much more for you and me. “Do not be afraid,” Jesus said, “you are of more value than many sparrows” (12:7). What is implied but not stated here is this: You are of more value to God than many sparrows. God knows you. God cares about you. God values you more than you’ll ever fully know.
As an added illustration, Jesus said, “But even the hairs of your head are all counted” (Luke 12:7). The ironic and irreverent part of me wants to respond, “Yes, but that was more impressive when I was young and still had a full head of hair.” But, at the same time, I take Jesus’s point. After all, even now with thinning hair, I have no idea how many hairs are on my head. I can’t imagine trying to figure that out. But God knows me so well that even such a trivial fact about me matters to him.
Jesus used these common illustrations to emphasize how intimately God knows us and how much we matter to him. If you stop and think about it this is really wonderful. The truth is that God knows everything there is to know about you and he values you more than you will ever comprehend. Amazing!
Now, the context for this good news in Luke is persecution that followers of Jesus experience in both the present and the future (Luke 12:4, 11). Jesus reassured his first disciples – and us, by implication – that God knows our sufferings and cares deeply for us. That’s encouraging, for sure. But Jesus did not say that this means God will always deliver us from hard things. So we’re left with holding in tension the fact of God’s deep care for us and the fact that this doesn’t mean God will always rescue us from hardships. I must confess that I find this perplexing at times, especially when people I care about are hurting. I can wonder why God doesn’t intervene more directly to set people free from pain, injustice, and oppression.
Nevertheless, today I am cheered by the fact of God’s care. I hope you are too. No matter what you’ve experienced in life, God knows and God cares. I’d like to close with the version of this good news that appears in Paul’s letter to the Romans: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 37-39).
How do you respond to the idea that God knows absolutely everything about you? Is this comforting? Unsettling? Or????
Do you live as if God cares greatly for you? If so, why? If not, why not?
When in your life have you been especially aware of God’s care for you?
You may be in a place of deep assurance about how much God cares for you. If so, that’s great. But many of us are not in such a place. If you would like to have a deeper experience of God’s care for you personally, let me encourage you to talk with God about this. Then, pay attention to how God will let you know just how much he knows and values you.
Lord Jesus, thank you for the reassurance in today’s passage from Luke. Thank you for letting us know that God knows us through and through, and that God cares for us more than we can truly comprehend. Help me, Lord, to take in this knowledge.
I want to pray today for those who are going through hard times. It can be difficult to experiences God’s loving care when we’re suffering pain or injustice. You know that, Lord. So I ask for an extra measure of your grace to be poured out on those who are in pain today.
I ask that you help me to live each day with the assurance of God’s care. May I truly know that nothing in all creation can take me away from God’s love given to me through you, Lord Jesus. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Best of Daily Reflections: God Cares About You More Than You Can Fathom
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.