Two Sparrows

theologist Osman Hamdi

This week, some profound theological musings…

We take as our text for today’s lesson the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 10, verse 29:

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.

Sometimes it so happens that you will go to a sparrow-seller to make purchase of a pair of sparrows, only for him to state an asking price of more than a farthing. Or he might charge a farthing for a single sparrow, but throw in a second sparrow with a “Buy One, Get One Free” offer, in which case you will pay a farthing for two sparrows even if the one sparrow costs a farthing in itself. Thereagain, you might find yourself being offered a free sparrow by a seller of, say, partridges or linnets, who has an unwanted stock of sparrows and cannot wait to be rid of them, for they are greedily eating up his grain and millet that he would rather feed to his partridges or linnets.

So when we ask the question, as we must, are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?, the answer is no, not always, not in all circumstances, come what may, for there may be times and places where we will be asked to pay more, or less, for a pair of sparrows. And from this we can learn much about the ways of God and Man. Yes, the honest sparrow-seller will hand us two sparrows upon receipt of a farthing, but not all sparrow-sellers are honest, while some sparrow-sellers are too honest for their own good. And, as with sparrow-sellers, so too those from whom we buy other birds, not just partridges and linnets, but starlings, and kittiwakes, and seagulls.

But what of the second part of the verse from Matthew 10, that one of them – that is, the sparrows – that one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father? The first part of the verse is a question. The second part is not. It states, quite vehemently and unchallengeably, that, without your Father, one of the sparrows will not fall on the ground. But which of the sparrows is it that shall not fall? One of them will, and one of them will remain in the air, in flight and birdy swooping, until your Father appears, at which point, we must assume, it will plunge towards the earth, just because your Father has arrived.

The more one studies this passage, and I have studied it for years and years, the more problems it raises. Why does one sparrow fall on the ground without your Father? Why does the other sparrow fall on the ground when your Father appears? Is your Father armed with a shotgun, or a catapult? Does His mere presence induce in the tiny frail sparrow a heart attack? And if He can have that effect on a sparrow, what of other birds, partridges, say, or linnets, or starlings or kittiwakes or seagulls or robins or wrens, or even hummingbirds?

These are profound questions, and we must dig deep to answer them, deeper, certainly, than a sparrow may need to dig to light upon a fat juicy earthworm for its morning snack. My own experience has taught me that all that digging will be as naught unless one has first found a sparrow-seller to sell one a pair of sparrows for a farthing. Alas, in this day and age, more leaden than golden, such sparrow-sellers are rare indeed, rarer even than the proverbial hen’s teeth. But the hen is quite another class of bird from a sparrow, as you will know if you have ever kept poultry. Here endeth the lesson.

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About Author Profile: Frank Key

Frank Key is a London-based writer, blogger and broadcaster best known for his Hooting Yard blog, short-story collections and his long-running radio series Hooting Yard on the Air, which has been broadcast weekly on Resonance FM since April 2004. By Aerostat to Hooting Yard - A Frank Key Reader, an ideal introduction to his fiction, is published for Kindle by Dabbler Editions. Mr Key's Shorter Potted Brief, Brief Lives was published in October 2015 by Constable and is available to buy online and in all good bookshops.

5 thoughts on “Two Sparrows

    February 1, 2013 at 14:07


    R. Dawkins
    February 1, 2013 at 15:28

    You are clearly either stupid or a liar. What evidence do you have that sparrows are the slightest bit influenced by your father? Why not your cousin or the hot babe next door? And if sparrows, why not robins? Not to mention this shows just how cruel and murderous your father must be if he thinks sparrows falling to the ground is a good thing. Is this the same dude who told you to murder lambs to prove you loved him? Now he says a sky raining sparrows shows he is well pleased? Scientists much smarter than you will tell you that if sparrows don’t fall to the ground it’s because of air pressure and wind dynamics, so forget all this nonsense and just enjoy your sex life.

    • Frank Key
      February 1, 2013 at 15:48

      Mr Dawkins : I suspect you’ve got yourself into a tizz because you were overcharged and paid more than a farthing for your pair of sparrows.

        R. Dawkins
        February 1, 2013 at 16:23

        Well, no, actually. I only paid a farthing, but the infuriating thing is that, when I released them to soar across the sky, they both promptly fell to the ground.

    February 1, 2013 at 17:31

    Barbara Windsor thinks sparrows can’t sing, hence bargain offers, Chiesmans of Lewisham used to sell kids for two farthings, if you spent fifty quid on a GPlan teak dining table. Then Harold Wilson nationalised the sprog allocation trade whilst economy mangling, this caused the rapid demise of the farthing, from four for a penny to oblivion in the puff of a pipe.

    And the rustle of a Gannex mac where resided that famous pound, the one that was worth something, he reckoned, not nine hundred and sixty farthings worth, that’s for sure.

    Can you imagine trying to shove nine hundred and sixty farthings into a Tesco’s trolley and how would the Big Issue seller help retrieve and then claim them, ugly scenes in the car park, I’ll be bound.

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