"Buy four and get one free" has a contemporary ring to it. But there were such bargains going in the marketplace in New Testament times as well. There's not much meat on a sparrow, but they were sold for food in Palestine. Inexpensive though they were, you could "comparison shop" and get a deal.
Matthew 10:29 says: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father." On the other hand, Luke 12:6 knows the bargain price: "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?" You can get 2 for 1 or you can get 5 for 2. That's one sparrow for free, without cutting out "proof of purchase" tokens on the package!
Jesus uses the image of the sparrow to talk about people. Even folks who seem as insignificant as two-a-penny sparrows are valuable to God. "Not one of them will fall to the ground without the Father knowing." Even those people who seem to other people just one among many two or five in a pre-packed set are individuals in God's eyes.
No, it's even better than that. When he says, "Not one of them..." he means even the one that the fat merchant has thrown into the bargain free.
Even that one.
Dr Conrad Gempf is a lecturer in New Testament at London Bible College. He also writes for and edits the monthly webzine there.
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