Sparrows Sold for a Farthing "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father" (Matthew x. verse 29)
The Lord teaches not only the scholar, but the teacher. In spite of the magnitude of the truths He came to teach, they must have reached, in some measure, the simplest of his hearers. No one could have turned away from the little crowds that gathered round to hear His words, on the plea that the Lord was too profound in His thought or too technical in His expression. The Infinite Wisdom of God was enshrined in the garments of perfect simplicity and arresting beauty. He took, one by one, the gems of Divine Truth and revealed them to His hearers in the language of everyday life and through the objects of everyday experience. Whether the Lord spoke of the sower going forth to sow - of the virgins awaiting the bridegroom - of the lilies of the field arrayed more beautifully than was Solomon - of the husbandman planting a vineyard - of the labourers awaiting hire in the market place - or of the sparrows sold for a farthing, the minds of the hearers would be directed instantly to the commonest and most familiar circumstances of their everyday life. Objects and incidents around them were made to speak eternal truths. The more they listened to His words, the more would earth become the perpetual suggestion, the polished mirror of heavenly realities. It was the touch of the ideal teacher, whose thought and whose method alike were perfect. All who heard Him speak of the sparrows sold for a farthing, had seen these sparrows. Possibly even as He uttered the words, his hearers turned to see the birds fluttering about on the roofs and walls or perching on the stalls of the market place, and twittering from the barns. And henceforth the sight of the birds would recall the profound principle of Divine Providence, and unsleeping, unforgetting care of God for man. "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing, and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father ". "Ye are of more value than many sparrows ".
Unlike some of the objects of those homely illustrations which the Lord used in His teaching, the presence of the sparrows is almost universal. The bustle of city life does not exile them to the peace and quiet of the country. They flourish in the noise and roar of the London streets, and appear there to be as much at home as they are in the open country. They would seem to be the last remnant of Divine handiwork in places where man's handiwork predominates - persisting still even where life is most artificial - an abiding touch of nature, to remind one of the God of nature, where the memory of nature and of the God of nature is prone to be forgotten. As Michael Fairless says, "They ... are dumb Chrysostoms - but they preach a golden gospel for the sparrows are to London what the rainbow was to eight saved souls out of a waste of waters a perpetual sign of the remembering mercies of God".
These "remembering mercies" of God deepen our wonder the more we learn of them. The Divine care for sparrows, sold in pairs for a farthing, is the allegory or figure, chosen by the Lord Himself, whereby we may come to know more fully the ways of His Providence. All the bird life of the world is an image of thought life. Our thoughts are birds - they are endowed with wings whereby to rise. The keenness of a bird's sight exemplifies the keenness of the eye of though - tfor our thoughts penetrate deeper and further into the nature of things than do our physical eyes. And the great variety of birds helps us to realise the wide difference in the nature of our thoughts. There are thoughts of purity and of use, of coarseness and rebellion, of love and thankfulness, of unholiness and lust. The general division into good and bad is exemplified in the ancient Jewish laws regarding clean and unclean birds. Tame, gentle and beautiful birds suggest the good thoughts of the mind, the fierce, useless and unclean birds suggest our evil and false thoughts. These latter are the night birds, the hideous " winged things " of our consciousness. And how unresting are our thoughts - how diverse in form and nature and song!
It seems that our thoughts are as uninvited as are the birds that hover around us. Thoughts come and goand we seem to be quite unresponsible for their advent or their disappearance. An old Persian proverb points out, however, a great truth in this connection" birds of evil plumage come unbeckoned, but only the consent of man makes possible their stay ". This is a very true comment on our thinking. Sometimes a thought occurs which appals us, so hideous is its appearance. From whence has it come? Its home must be near. We have not invented it, yet it is clear and unmistakable in our mind. Its home is indeed near - but unsuspected and hidden. It has come from the dark valleys of our sleeping heredity, a testimony to us of the terrible capacities of man for evil thought and purpose. In the Writings of the Church, the representative character of birds is shown in many wonderful ways. The thoughts of an angel bring birds, correspondential in character, into the trees and skies that are around. The evil thoughts of the impure and malicious find concrete expression in the hideous bird-life. On this earth the fixity of things prevents this. Yet its truth is expressed in a general way. Animal and bird life throughout the ages copies to some extent the development of man. The great monsters of primeval ages have goneand as civilisation proceeds, the wild and vicious and hideous animals and birds disappear.
The sparrow was among the clean animals of the Hebrew sacrifices, and its precise representation relates to the commoner and more humble thoughts of a spiritual nature. Clearly there is, in the sparrow, no symbolism of the sublime and profound. They are the homely and the humble thoughts which can characterise the life of every man - and they are within the sight of God and they come under His Divine care and protection. They may hover in our mind unbeckoned, unexplained; they may be varied in character and swift in movement - yet they are as much under the control of the Divine Providence as natural birds are under the control of biological and physical laws. The laws of thinking and the science of our spiritual thoughts are ordered and systematic, however elusive they may appear, and they lie within the Divine hands that they might serve the Divine Will. Often enough these thoughts, common and lowly as they are, fall to the ground. We may pass through experiences in life which bring down our thoughts from heaven to earth - which depress our spiritual aspirations and threaten the destruction of our faith. Every day of our lives these sparrows fall. Injustice makes us cynical - disappointment brings doubt - some appeal of the world or of self leads us into evil. The fall of the sparrow is not the precipitous crash of a lofty faithit is the daily, the almost hourly, forgetfulness of a simple commandment; the disloyalty to some spiritual principle; the disregard of a humble ideal. But careless as we are of these sparrows, unmoved as we may be at their fall, the Lord in His " remembering mercy " is mindful of them. They come still with a sturdy pertness to people our minds, and their noisy twitterings awaken us to new mornings of spiritual endeavour. They declare the nearness of the skies, the spiritual heavens, even in our artificial or worldly preoccupations. In the midst of the city, hemmed in as we are by the world and the things of the world, these humble thoughts of spiritual truth, of the Lord and His Love, of the need for purity, and justice and charity these and kindred thoughts speak to us each hour of the God from whom they came, and point to a world which is more than this world. Over such heaven-sent thoughts as these, the Lord watches with care. They come from Him, He knows the fate of each, the use of each, and the whole energy of omnipotence is directed towards sustaining and preserving them. When one falls, He knows. Trivial though such a fall may seem, the omniscience of God is aware. Our failures, however small, are signals to Him that new and ever more loving efforts be put forth for our salvation.
In the infinite love of God there is no distinction between the great and the small, the sublime and the humble. Over the least things that raise us from earth, as over the greatest things, there is the shadowing protection of the Divine.
As the fall of the sparrow is known to the heavenly Father, so are our thoughts of heaven known to Him in their risings and their falls. "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father ".