Rev. Ross Helgeton
Faith and Reflection
A lady who was critically ill once asked me if I would read the passage of Scripture where Jesus spoke about sparrows. When I asked her why, she said that life had not been easy for her and she’d not had much in the way of material things, but whenever she thought of Jesus caring about sparrows she knew that He cared about her as well and that made her feel rich and happy. I looked up and read Matthew 10:29-31 and Luke 12:6, 7, which mention sparrows and also Matthew 6:26 which does not mention sparrows, but does make reference to birds.
There is a beautiful hymn entitled “His Eye is on the Sparrow” that was inspired by the same verses. The hymn was written in 1905 by Civilla Martin. Her husband, a Baptist pastor, had developed a strong friendship with the Doolittle’s, a devout Christian couple. The Doolittle’s had faced numerous challenges. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for 20 years and her husband was an incurable cripple who went to work in a wheelchair. In spite of these hardships they seemed happy and buoyant and tended to bring encouragement and comfort to everyone they encountered.
One day pastor and Mrs. Martin asked the Doolittle’s how they could be so optimistic and encouraged in the midst of their struggles. Mrs. Doolittle answered, “If His eye is on the sparrow, then I know He watches me.” It was after this touching conversation that Civilla wrote and published “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.”
Many artists have sung their own rendition of the hymn. However, Ethel Waters sang and popularized the hymn more than most. Ethel was an actress, singer and author. Her life had also been very difficult, if not tragic. Her birth occurred following the rape of her mother at the age of 13. Her father detached totally from her. Her stepfather paid her little attention and as a railway worker, moved his family frequently. The longest Ethel ever stayed in one place was 13 months. Later in life Ethel wrote her autobiography and she entitled it “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.”
I believe Jesus selected sparrows because though they are numerous, they are not particularly noteworthy. They do not draw attention to themselves by squawking like crows, stand tall like herons, or soar gracefully like the majestic eagle … they are unassuming and inconspicuous – perhaps the way we feel about ourselves at times – yet Jesus said that He takes notice of them and He takes notice of us as well! He said, “Don’t be afraid. You are worth much more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:7)
“I sing because I’m happy. I sing because I’m free! His eye is on the sparrow; and I know He watches me.”