Fear and Trust: the cost

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.

This section does not try to sketch a misleading picture of a God. Sparrows fall to earth and disciples of Jesus are slain, and Jesus never says that it hardly matters. “What these sayings assert is that God is indeed God, that he is above success and failure, help and isolation, weal and woe, holding them in hands that Jesus says are the hands of the Father.” (Schweizter, as found in France, 404)

Where these verses begin with the repeated message not to fear, this verse reminds the reader that fear in general and fear of God (v.28) is balanced by trust in God as one’s heavenly Father. The God who can destroy in Gehenna is also the One who cares for the smallest of creatures. The sparrow, which can be purchased for a pittance, are cared for by God (v.31) while alive, but even their death is within the Creator’s care. It all happens with “your Father’s knowledge.”

The Greek text literally translates as “without your Father.” Most translations include “knowledge,” “consent,” “will,” or “care” as the English seems to demand a clarification from the expression which is generally taken, of itself, as whether the Father is present.  But depending on the view of the reader it simply offers up more questions of divine sovereignty and providence: “does God simply know about the death of the birds (and therefore also of his people), or does he allow it, or does it happen because he has decided on it, or is the point that even in their death they are not outside his loving concern?” (France, 404).

The clearest understanding is that nothing happens to the children of a loving Father which falls outside his providential care; it neither takes him by surprise nor frustrates his purpose. This saying does not, of course, promise immunity from death or suffering for God’s people, only the knowledge that it does not happen “without your Father.”

Sources

  • R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007) 401-406
  • Scripture – New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970
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