What would you pay for five sparrows? Would you even buy five sparrows? Probably not. We have no use for sparrows in our modern world. But sparrows were the sacrifices of the poor, and as such they didn’t cost much. According to today’s verse, they cost two assaria, and my NLT version says that an assaria equals 1/16 of a denarius. So I did some digging on the Roman coin system and remembered why I got out of numismatics. Studying coins isn’t my forte.
In either case, assaria were first made out of bronze and then they were made out of copper. Other translations refer to them as pennies, so they can’t have been worth much during the time. Granted, if they were pure copper, they’d be worth a pretty penny now. But that’s beside the point.
Today’s verse is Luke 12:6-7. This is Jesus speaking, warning people against hypocrisy, reminding them not to fear men and to fear God because men can only hurt the body but God has the power to hurt the body and the soul. And then he follows that statement with this one:
6 “What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins[a]? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. 7 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.
First of all, I find it interesting that God will accept a sparrow as a sacrifice. Blood sacrifices were part of the faith system He set up for the people of Israel, but how much blood does a sparrow have? Not much, I’d think. But it was important that everyone be able to sacrifice. And God was willing to accept the sacrifice of a sparrow, just as He was willing to accept the sacrifice of a lamb or a goat or a cow. It was the heart behind the sacrifice that mattered to Him, which is a good reminder that God has never changed what is important to Him. People have always been His focus. Relationships have always been the key. Granted, there was a list of acceptable animals and unacceptable animals (and I can’t tell you the significance off the top of my head), but the main importance of a sacrifice was the heart behind it.
But I think it’s interesting that Jesus follows His statement on hypocrisy with this bit about sparrows and value. He tells the people that sparrows are cheap but even then God doesn’t forget a single one of them–and that people are more valuable to God than sparrows.
And He also tells people not to be afraid.
I’m not a scholar. Anyone who reads this blog knows that my knowledge of the Bible is limited. And anything I say on here is my opinion of what the Scripture says, based on my experiences with God and the teaching I have had in church. I don’t know Greek. I’m not experienced with ancient cultures. And while I try to compare as many translations as I can, I’m still working with translations.
But to me, fearing God and being afraid of God are two separate things.
To fear is an active verb. It’s a choice. Like you choose what you wear in the morning when you get up, you can choose to fear God or take Him lightly.
To be afraid is a state of existence. Afraid is an adjective describing a state of being verb. There’s no action there. It’s indicating a life lived in terror, constant fear.
Jesus is telling people to beware of hypocrisy. The root of hypocrisy is pride, believing yourself better than the people around you, believing yourself better than you really are. Jesus had no patience for hypocrites (the Pharisees), and God won’t bless them. So He’s saying that if we fear God we’ll remember that we are the creation and He is the Creator. That we are broken and flawed and empty without Him, and that without Him we can’t accomplish anything.
But on the flip side, Jesus is also saying not to be afraid of God. God made us. He loves us. Other Scriptures tell us that we can call Him our Father. God wants to be close to us. He wants to have a relationship with us. And you can’t have a relationship with someone if you are afraid of them. You can have a healthy fear of a friend or a father. Healthy fear is a good idea. But being constantly afraid? No.
God is worthy of fear, yes. But healthy fear. Remembering Who He Is and what He can do. Realizing that He could snuff us out if He so chose . . . but understanding how much He loves us and what He sacrificed so that we could talk to Him.
God knows when sparrow dies. He keeps track of them apparently. He cares about His creation so much that the death of even something as trivial and insignificant as a sparrow brings Him sorrow. And He cares about us so much more than sparrow. We’re worth so much more to Him than that.
The price of sparrows was sufficient to temporarily forgive the sins of the poor of Israel. And that’s why God gave Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice, because His blood was priceless. And that’s what we were worth to God.