From James Gensberg, former Thurrock resident now living in Gidea Park
I’ve been reading through Luke, and got a bit stuck on chapter 12. This whole conversation/teaching of Jesus seems to hop around. There seems to be a few topics one after another but I think there might actually be a common thread to them. I’m planning to look at each one and then look at the whole thing together, so here’s number one:
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. (Luke 12 6-7 – emphasis mine.)
According to what I’ve dug up on the internet, the ‘penny’ quoted here is an assarion, which was like the Roman penny. Four quadrants made an assarion, and ten assarion made a denarious. It’s very difficult to make a direct comparison, but the point is that it was the second least valuable coin.
So, what stands out to me in the above is the numbers (which is why I have emphasised them).
There are two ways of reading the above, in my opinion. One would be: Sparrows are cheap. You can own FIVE for TWO assarion. That’s only 1.6 quadrants per bird! Your human life is valued a little higher. You’re worth at least five assarion.
This sounds pretty ridiculous when written that way, but the sad fact is this kind of valuing still exists.
According to http://freetheslaves.net the average price of a human slave TODAY is $90, and http://stopthetraffic.org estimate the global number of people in forced labour as 20.9 million. That’s 20,900,000 people, and it isn’t just the sex industry. It’s chocolate and coffee and clothing and smartphones too. Not directly, otherwise there would be uproar!
Many of the things that we buy have some forced labour at some point in their supply and manufacture. Try http://slaveryfootprint.org to get a better idea of what I mean.
The other way is to see that Jesus is pointing out that God values each ONE life individually. There is no ‘five for two assarion’ in God’s economy. He does not forget a single ONE. He values every life. Every sparrow is valued. Every ONE sparrow, and YOU are valued even more than many sparrows.
Each of us is one individual, treasured by God.
Do you see how pluralising something subtly de-values it? It’s similar when people are defined by their category. The Elderly. The Young. Immigrants. Homosexuals. Religious people. It implies they are all the same. They’re problematic. They’re a nuisance. They’re not like us.
Categories can forget that each ONE is an individual. God does not forget a single individual ONE.
How do YOU value each human life? How about animals? How about yourself?
You are worth more than many sparrows.