Luke 12:6-7 (NIV)
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
At first glance, our Verse of the Day provides us encouragement as Jesus shares how the Father values each one of us. The idiom or metaphor of numbering the hairs on our heads indicates that the Father knows us intimately. He is aware of our every problem, every need, every situation … and is concerned about every aspect of our lives. As David noted, “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. (Cf. Psalm 55:22) And Peter recounted this truth when he wrote: “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (Cf. 1 Peter 5:7)
But what I found challenging is the surrounding context in which our passage is found. I’ll reprint it here for us:
Luke 12:1-12 (NIV)
1 Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to His disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him. 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
This larger context creates some theological tension for us. First, we are warned about the deception of hypocrisy in our lives. Jesus indicates it will be exposed. Then He shifts to “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more; rather, fear the One who has authority over your eternal destiny. Yes, fear Him!” Then we are assured that God knows us intimately and we are valued, and He encouraged, “Do not be afraid.” Then we are admonished regarding our profession of faith and its determination of our forgiveness. I mean, there is a lot to consider here. The question is whether each one of these “teachings” are connected to the other, or if they are simply being presented by Luke as a “list” of teachings that Jesus was communicating to those who gathered to hear Him … similar to how we see various Proverbs being presented.
When I read some other commentaries on Luke 12, I could not find a consensus on the issue I posed. Some commentators broke out each “discourse” within Luke 12:1-12 as I have outlined them here into separate “small sermons.” The idea is that each topic has its own application as we allow these teachings of Jesus to impact us. Notice how Jesus begins each “topic” with the words: “I tell you.” To me this indicates a separation of thoughts or messages; however, I find here an overall theme of how our relationship with God is to be viewed, understood, and expressed. And, perhaps, that is what our application should be … understanding that our fellowship with God through the Lord Jesus must be based on truth and sincere faith. We do not have to be afraid of our future if we reverence God and place our complete trust in Christ Jesus His Son … whom He sent to reconcile us to Himself. To me, this is the core message being taught by Jesus. Jesus is affirming that we can trust Him, but we must be humble and honest in our willingness to confess Him as Lord! When tested, and we will be tested, the evidence of sincere faith will be manifested to all. Our true faith will be exposed and will be seen by those around us … as it is already known to God.
So this is an important lesson for us to embrace. The truth will always be exposed in the light. There is no place for hypocrisy with God. We deceive ourselves if we think our hidden sins are not known. We might fool people, but we will never fool God. He knows and sees all things done. And so, perhaps, that is the warning for us to fear God … the One who has authority over our eternity after our physical death here on earth. Our faith is being tested each day … each situation … each choice or decision we make for ourselves. So we must view our relationship with God in this context of truth and light. God knows each of us intimately; and He desires us to know Him intimately as well. So honesty is the place to start. If repentance is indicated, then follow through. As John advised: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make God out to be a liar and His word is not in us.” (Cf. 1 John 1:8-10)
Lord Jesus, your words challenge us today. As we consider what you are teaching, I pray that each of us will self-examine our hearts and see the truth you have brought to light. I pray we will follow the prayer of David when he confessed the sin that he tried to hide. David was exposed, but he determined to repent and restore His fellowship with you. I pray each of us will find the same honesty and courage to return to you and be reconciled when your Spirit convicts us of hypocrisy and dishonesty. Against you and you alone we sin, and nothing is hidden from your sight. Teach us to fear you, O Lord. Let obedience be our reverence.
Psalm 51:1-12 (NIV)
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
May our hearts embrace the teachings of Jesus. May our hearts repeat these words of David. Yes, may our hearts be sincere so that we will walk in the truth. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen….
I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. ~ Psalm 119:14