So Do Not Fear
I once was met with an obstacle in the middle of the sidewalk…death in the form of a lifeless bird. Returning from our men’s Bible study and discussion group, we had just been talking about the grace of giving (2 Cor 8:7). Our vibrant discourse reminded me of the difficulty of freely giving. Everyone agreed with the biblical idea of being a generous giver, but few were ready to confess their sins of greed, covetousness, stealing, hoarding, etc. Our financial sins are almost always related to the level of fear we are living with at any given point in our lives. Giving away our resources, without fear, is a matter of faith.
When humans are not consumed with greed, they are typically consumed with fear. If you do not believe me, compare the amount of money you give to the Lord’s work each year, to the amount you invest for insurance protection. You might be able feed a whole village in Africa for a year with what you spend on life insurance, house insurance, health insurance, car insurance, travel insurance, pet insurance, replacement insurance for your valuables, repair insurance on your appliances, loan insurance, and do not forget your “retirement insurance,” also known as, your 401k/403b and IRA plans.
Of course, if you are a policeman or stuntman living on a creek, in tornado alley, adjacent to a forest that trembles with fracking earthquakes, it will require additional: high risk life, flood, tornado, earthquake, and fire protection. Thinking about a motorcycle journey? Extra! To Nepal to climb Mt. Everest? Extra! Insurance agents want to decrease your risk of loss for a cost, but Jesus wants to increase your faith for free. Obviously, they are not always working together in these matters.
Birds do not buy insurance, but we have blessed assurance in knowing that nothing happens to them apart from God’s providential care, including death (Mt 10:29; Lk 12:6). If men do not understand Jesus’ teaching in these matters, they will never understand why their insurance agent drives a luxury car, lives in a luxury home, with a luxury boat, on a luxurious lakefront property.
Matthew and Luke both record similar sermons preached by Jesus regarding dead birds. Jesus employed the dead bird imagery as an encouragement to his disciples. When you see a dead bird, it should encourage you, if you know your Bible. What can we learn from a dead bird on the sidewalk, and Jesus’ dead bird theology in the Bible?
Matthew’s record is at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry (Mt 10:28–31), and Luke’s record is at the end of Jesus’ public ministry (Lk 12:6–7). Both sermons address the issue of fear experienced by disciples. The fear of men is a profound deterrent for Christian ministry; therefore, it is an important issue for Christians to learn, know, and understand. The fear of loss or of death is even worse. What are we so afraid of? Are we justified in living lives of fear?
Jesus’ invasion from heaven has plundered the strong man’s house. The nations rage against God and His anointed for this (Ps 2:2), and Jesus promised the trouble would trickle down to His disciples, who have defected from the kingdom of this world to the kingdom of God (Jn 16:33; Col 1:13). If the world hates you, it hated Jesus before you (Jn 15:18). The Bible calls it spiritual warfare (Eph 6:10–20), and death is clearly identified as an enemy (1 Cor 15:26).
Christians are losers (please read on and do not quote me out of context!). We have to lose our lives in this world in order to gain them (Mt 10:39). What must we lose in order to live as Christians? We must lose whatever comprises our life apart from Christ, which is mere life in the flesh. Like a creature that sheds its dead skin or shell, we must lose our spiritually dead, old self. We must go through a metamorphosis by being born again, spiritually (Jn 3:1–8; 1 Pet 1:3).
In this new life, Jesus Christ must become everything, our all in all (Col 3:11). Walking in this new way of life, is God calling Christians to be ascetic monks in the Egyptian desert? Hardly, He is calling us to abundant spiritual life over and against a fading material life in this world (Jn 10:10). Therefore, when we lose materially, by generously giving it away (Acts 20:35), we are in a better position to gain spiritually. Material is temporal, but spiritual is eternal.
The dead bird came into the world with nothing, bought no insurance, and left the world with nothing. You came into the world with nothing, bought lots of insurance, and left the world with nothing (1 Tim 6:7). Why not risk losing your material life, so there might be a gain in your spiritual life? Well, that would require faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). The Christian faith says you can lose, and gain, as a result. God the Father was pleased with His only begotten Son (Jn 3:16), who gave away His life in this world. To what extent have you given your life away?
God gives life to all things (Acts 17:25), but death has come into the world (Rom 5:12). Are you of more worth to God than a dead bird? Jesus answers, “So do not fear, you are worth more than many sparrows (Mt 10:31).” How should you live, knowing God values you, and encourages you not to fear? Will not all of the things the unbelievers seek after, not be added to you (Mt 6:33)? Will a man rob God (Mal 3:8)? Will an insurance man rob you? Where have you placed your faith? Where have you put your treasure? Where is your heart?
There is an intimate nature to God knowing us. A sparrow does not fall to the ground in death without God knowing about it (Mt 10:29). In the same way of intimate, all-knowing interest, Jesus claims, “the very hairs of your head are all numbered (Lk 12:7).” This is one of the most profound, if not most comforting statements in the whole Bible. God, in His omniscient providence, knows and cares for us. He knows the days appointed for each one of us, whether they are many or few, “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written. The days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them (Ps 139:16).”
God’s timing is precise. When Jonah needed a big fish to save him from drowning in the depth of the sea, one had already been appointed (Jon 1:17). When three Jewish boys were thrown into a fiery furnace at Babylon, they needed a friend who would stick closer than a brother. Even the king noticed the fourth man in the furnace, whose appearance was like a son of God (Dan 3:25).
God does not save His people from death in every situation, for it is appointed once for a man to die (Heb 9:27), but Jesus Christ has defeated death in two ways, for our benefit. First, by Him being raised from the dead (Acts 13:30), and our joining Him in death through baptism (Rom 6), our souls have already died, been buried, and raised from the dead to indestructible resurrection life (regeneration).
Second, having experienced new life in Christ, in our souls, we learn about and anticipate the imperishable resurrection bodies granted to us at Christ’s second coming (1 Cor 15:42; 1 Thess 4:17). Death has no hold on our souls, and it has no hold on our resurrection bodies. Simply put, we should be fearless in the face of death.
Our bodies and souls belong to the Lord (1 Cor 3:23), our Maker and our Redeemer, who bought us for a price (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23). We have seen the intimate nature of His care for His creation in life and in death, especially for His people. Life must be lived by faith in Christ and His perfect providence (Gal 2:20), or it is not even a life worth living. So, the next time you see a dead bird on the sidewalk, be encouraged, God knows about it, and it serves as a reminder for those who know God’s Word…He cares for you (1 Pet 5:7), so do not fear.
David E. Norczyk
Spokane Valley, Washington
March 7, 2021