Question: "Why does Jesus say we are worth more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:31)?"
Answer: As Jesus gets ready to send out His twelve apostles to continue the work of advancing His Father’s kingdom, He prepares them for an onslaught of extreme persecution (Matthew 10:16–25). Knowing their hearts are filled with trepidation, He comforts and encourages them (Matthew 10:26–33). One urgent and undeniable concern of these soon-to-be-tested disciples is their fear of physical harm and death. In addressing the matter, Jesus asks them, “Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29–31, HCSB).
Jesus reinforces a previous lesson about the Father’s provision and care for their bodily concerns: “Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?” (Matthew 6:25–26, HCSB). If the Father takes care of seemingly insignificant creatures like the birds of the sky and tiny sparrows, how much more care and concern will He demonstrate for His beloved children, who are made in God’s own image?
Jesus mentions the price of sparrows sold in the market. In Luke’s account, He asks, “What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them” (Luke 12:6, NLT). One copper coin was equivalent to less than a penny today. Sparrows, the typical food of the poor, were cheap. While Jesus underscores the birds’ insignificance, He emphasizes His disciples’ great worth. The Father cares so intimately for His followers that He even knows the number of hairs on their heads. If God looks out for the least and humblest of His creatures so that “not one of them falls to the ground” without His consent, how much more vigilantly will He tend to His kingdom servants? This lesser-to-greater reasoning was a standard teaching tool among rabbis. Jesus used it again in Matthew 12:12 to show the value of humans over animals in God’s sight.
The disciples would have nothing to fear with their sovereign Lord and loving Father to support them on their mission. God’s providence is so all-encompassing that not even a single sparrow can fall to the ground without Him knowing it. God is in control of the biggest, most frightening events of our lives as well as the tiniest minutia. Even if we suffer as His servants and die, we can trust that nothing happens to us outside God’s control, will, and plan (Romans 8:17, 28; Ephesians 1:11).
Jesus says we are worth more than many sparrows because God’s servants are highly valued. We are His beloved and treasured children (1 John 3:1; John 1:12–13; 2 Corinthians 6:17–18; Galatians 3:26). We are chosen by God, adopted into His family through Jesus Christ, and recipients of His glorious grace (Ephesians 1:4–6; see also 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 2:13). He purchased us not with “mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (1 Peter 1:18–19, NLT). A sparrow could be bought with a penny, but the high price God paid for our redemption was the blood of His own Son (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 6:20). So great is God’s love for us that He gave His one and only Son to die for us and claim us as His own (Romans 5:8; see also Romans 8:31–39; John 3:16–17).
Not only are we worth more than many sparrows, but God considers us His “masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10, NLT). We are not inconsequential or expendable in God’s eyes. We are His most priceless and valuable works of art, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). God, who created us in His own image and likeness, sees us as the crowning work of His creation (Genesis 1:26–27; 5:1; 9:6; James 3:9). Armed with this assurance, we like the apostles can go wherever the Lord sends us, and, despite opposition, we can walk confidently in God’s loving care as we accomplish the good things He has planned for us to do.