Sparrow Faith: Foundational Praise

Wesley Shaw

In the tenth chapter of Matthew, Jesus prepares His disciples to go forth in ministry to build His kingdom. He told them that they would have power against unclean spirits to cast them out and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. He proceeds to build their faith, saying in verse 29, ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father, but the hairs of your head are numbered. Fear not, therefore; ye are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6 substantiates this when Jesus says, “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings and not one of them is forgotten before God.”

In the time of Jesus, sparrows sold for very low prices; two for a copper coin and five for two copper coins. It is believed that this was the temple price for they were considered a poor man’s sacrifice.1 Those who could not afford to sacrifice a sheep or a goat might bring a sparrow. Moses once directed healed lepers to bring two sparrows to the temple for a cleansing ceremony (Leviticus 14:1-7).

In discussing His kingdom in Matthew chapter 6, Jesus presents His famous Sermon on the Mount, relating the dichotomy of two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. In verse 24, He directs His attention to the fact that we cannot serve God and mammon. Mammon is a transliteration of the Aramaic word mammon which means “treasures or riches.” Jesus said that no one can serve two masters (v. 24). Therefore, when man begins to worship material riches instead of the one true and living God they become more than their natural state. The riches are elevated to an idolatrous position of a material god, the god of mammon.

Jesus continued His sermon in verse 25, saying, “Therefore (in other words, because of what I have said previously, the following should be understood), I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body; what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat and the body more than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather in barns. Yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?”

Jesus’ summation occurs in verse 33 when He says, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” How poignant that Jesus would point to two of His creations to describe the parameters of kingdom faith: the sparrows of the air and the lilies of the field. Jesus singled out the sparrow as important in ceremonial law as a sacrifice for the poor, but moreover important to Him as part of His creation as well as important in our understanding of our own value as children of God and understanding the role of faith. Hence the title, “Sparrow Faith.” Jesus is presenting in this sermon two types of faith: sparrow faith, or faith in the kingdom of God, and mammon faith, or faith in the kingdom of this world.

Speaking on this same subject, in the often misunderstood passage in Luke 16:9-13, Jesus says, “And I say unto you, make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness that when you fail they may receive you into everlasting habitations. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much, and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon who will commit to your trust true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

Within this passage is the most profound statement that Jesus makes about money. He says that it is not just a little thing; it is, in fact, the least. How can this be? It would seem in our lives to be one of the most important of things.

In order to begin to view money as a comparatively little thing we must become cognizant of the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 6. In speaking of God and mammon He is defining two spiritual kingdoms or principalities. Money is the focus and end of all means in the principality of mammon (the kingdom of this world). But, for God, money is not an end but simply a means, something that is to be pressed into His service to achieve much higher spiritual ends. It is a man-created entity whose value is dependent on the opinion of men as determined in the marketplace. Jesus said in Luke 16, “If ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s.” Money is man-created and man-valued, belonging in the realm of this world where Satan is the god of this worldly kingdom. We can, however, through discipline develop the ability to press this world’s money into God’s service, achieving spiritual objectives for His kingdom.

The ability to disciple oneself in the area of finance is oftentimes most difficult, whether on an individual basis or as an organization or government like the United States. The philosophy of “buy now, pay later” has brought us to the brink of bankruptcy as a nation and individually. Credit card and consumer debt is at an all time high. The biblical principle of finance inherent in the Word of God, when applied to one’s life, brings healing and restoration. Jesus was so adamant about the handling of finances that the only time in His life he became violent was related to the moneychangers’ improper handling of money (Matthew 21:12). As was stated before, He speaks approximately 200 times on prayer and over 2,000 times on money related matters.2

The problem with mishandling of money is that it usually creates an enslavement to itself and its dominion. When we look at individual families, organizations, or governments that live beyond their means without financial discipline we see them under the dominion of that indebtedness. The Bible says that “the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). Am I saying not to borrow money? No. In many cases it can be a useful tool. However, the Bible says that we should count the cost (Luke 14:28). In other words, we should have a definite plan to pay off that debt. In the case of credit cards, we should pay them off in thirty days. The goal for home mortgages should be to pay them off in ten years or less. This may seem impossible to some, but within the realm of God’s kingdom principles of finances, it is possible.

The foundation of God’s principles of finance is sparrow faith. Sparrows are very industrious and prolific birds that have been able to adapt when necessary to new environments. “Sparrows are in the genus passer of the family Ploceidae and are distributed throughout the temperate and tropical regions of Europe, Asia, and Africa and are technically classified as singing birds.”3 Sparrows like the house sparrow, which was introduced to America from Europe, have shown great adaptability regardless of the terrain. Their habitat includes cities, towns, suburbs, and farmsteads. They breed and nest in buildings, bush tops, hedgerows, and thickets.4 Sparrows usually work together as teams and are very successful in obtaining their provision regardless of the weather or time of year. They intuitively know that their provision is out there and they successfully go after it. Theirs is a simple faith, trusting in their Creator while at the same time aggressively working to obtain it. Jesus says that He provides for the sparrows and us because of love. God is the source. There is sometimes a tension between our work and the grace inherent in our provisions. We must, of necessity, work to obtain it, but it is there for us simply because of grace, mercy, and love on the part of God. It does not come because of sowing and reaping. Jesus said, speaking of the sparrows that they “neither sow nor reap” (Matthew 6:26). If provision came because of sowing and reaping that would throw our provision back onto works and not grace. God says He does not have to provide for us, He does so because He loves us.

That is not to say that sowing and reaping are not correct Biblical principles. They are, in fact, correct, but not for provision. We will later discuss at length the Biblical principle of sowing and reaping but suffice it to say that they apply in a different domain and before they can be utilized the correct understanding of sparrow faith must be in place. Otherwise, all other areas of God’s biblical principles will be distorted.

To understand the biblical principle of the grace of God is sometimes difficult because we are so indoctrinated with performance-based thinking. In the workplace, we are judged by performance. If we show up for work and do a job, we get paid. If we do well, we get a raise. If we do poorly, we get fired. To understand the grace of God in respect to provision is to understand that money is not the end. If money becomes the end somehow we do not believe that the Lord loves us. However, if God is the source our faith is enlarged and we are assured that the provision is there because He loves us.

We must proclaim the word of the Lord over our lives which says, “I will not leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). We can take comfort in these words even as the spirit of fear runs rampant throughout our world. While that spirit of fear attempts to overtake us, we are able to overcome simply by exercising sparrow faith. That faith abides in the understanding that God loves us and desires to bless us with adequate provision.

While some have interpreted sparrow faith as an invitation not to work, this interpretation was never intended by God. His use of the industrious sparrow as an example should put this notion to rest. In the same passage of scripture that Jesus speaks of sparrow faith He tells us to consider the lily. In Matthew 6:28 He says, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these.” God even likened Himself to the lily when He said, “I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys.” Song of Solomon 2:1. The lily is of the genus Lilium, a member of the family Liliacae.5 In their wild state, lilies grow naturally in dry open fields, in poor soil, and full sun. Others grow in rich forest mold, in moist shady glades. Experts point out that within the lily family are some of the most important therapeutic plants in agriculture such as garlic, leek, asparagus, aloe, and others.

As we consider the lily we can see why the Master pointed out this part of his creation as an example to His disciples. In addition to this plant’s representation of beauty and grace of God’s kingdom, it has a tenacity to grow whatever the soil condition and wherever it is planted. No matter if it is placed in mold, in forests without much sun, or in dry ground with scorching sun; they thrive. Where other plants might die, the lily has a toughness to survive. In addition to its outward beauty and grace many species have inward therapeutic value. Garlic is known the world over as the premier health tonic. Likewise leeks or onions and asparagus are high on the nutritional list. Aloe, on the other hand, has been used for healing of burns for centuries. Lilies have an outward beauty and grace, inward healing propensity, and a strength and tenacity to prosper wherever planted. As we consider Christ’s admonition to consider these two representations of His creation, the sparrow and the lily, may He empower us in our determination to be representations of beauty and grace in holiness, to have indwelling within us the therapeutic power of His spirit and word, and the strength and determination to thrive and prosper in whatever soil He plants us. 1 Lockyer, Herbert, Sr., Nelsons Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1980), p. 64. 2 Dayton, Howard, Your Money Counts, (Crown Ministries: Longwood, FL, 1996), p. 7. 3 Couch, William T, Colliers Encyclopedia, (RE Collier & Son Corp.: NY, 1989), pg. 124.
4 Shaw, Frank, Birds of America, (Gallery Books: NY, 1990), p. 309. 5 Couch, William T., Colliers Encyclopedia, (PE Collier & Son Corp.: NY, 1989), p. 391.

This article “Sparrow Faith: Foundational Praise” was excerpted from the book Financial Praise by Wesley Shaw, PhD. It may be used for study & research purposes only.