Obviously, taking the time to concentrate and ponder the Scriptures is very important. One aspect of the Bible that requires some time for consideration is the use of pictures or illustrations. It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words; good writing utilizes comparisons such as similes and metaphors. Considering the pictures found in the Bible can yield profitable insights. For example -
"Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29&31 (NASB)
If Matthew 10 were the daily reading, these are just two of the forty-two verses. With such a long chapter, the reader might have to read quickly to finish in the allotted time. If asked what he had read, he might reply, "Jesus was talking to His disciples." He may not be able to give any specifics; the Bible reading for the day was checked off the list but didn't yield much profit.
Let's take those two verses and consider the picture they present. Jesus was making a comparison between His followers and birds. In particular, He was talking about His followers' value to Him. The simple statement is that God knows when every sparrow falls to the ground. He tells His disciples that they are more valuable than the sparrows. The implication is that God also knows about everything that happens to His followers. He watches over them and their lives because of their value to Him.
There is a bit of understatement going on here. It isn't that the value of God's children barely exceeds the value of a few sparrows; Jesus says that even if many sparrows were under consideration, His disciples would be more valuable. There is an underlying assumption that the disciples are much more valuable. Who would suggest that birds and people are on the same level? The point is clear, but why does Jesus specifically mention sparrows? What is the picture?
Jesus Himself realized that sparrows had little monetary value and could be bought very cheaply. They aren't big enough to provide a good source of food like chickens or turkeys; they don't lay eggs large enough to be used for human consumption. They aren't a comforting or entertaining pet like a parrot or cockatiel, and they aren't valued as a songbird like a canary.
Sparrows are small, most measuring only five to six inches from beak to tail. They are fragile and can be easily injured, crushed, or killed. In harsh weather, they can be blown about by the wind and must work hard to find enough food to stay alive. They are not like a powerful hawk or mighty eagle that preys upon its food.
Sparrows are plain. In general, they are nondescript brown birds with streaked feathers. Only a few species have any outstanding markings or eye-catching color. They are so plain that people who try to distinguish one species from another often have trouble. Sparrows can be easily overlooked in a field, yard, or brush pile. They are not bright and beautiful like a cardinal, goldfinch, bluebird, or peacock.
Sparrows are incredibly common. They are widespread across the globe. Twenty-three different species can be found in Pennsylvania, and rarely do people point them out as interesting. They are found in cities and towns, where other types of birds are scarce. Sparrows hop about on sidewalks, build nests in the large letters on storefronts, and even become trapped inside large stores.
Sparrows are plentiful, one of the world's most abundant species. Sparrows abound so much that they are often deemed unpopular, maybe even unwelcome or a nuisance. While many bird species have become endangered or threatened, the sparrows have no such problem. There is no need to protect them like other less common birds.
What's the point? Jesus did not choose an eagle or a peacock for His comparison. He did not choose a swan or a macaw. He didn't even choose a warbler or vireo. He chose the lowly sparrow - the almost valueless, small, fragile, plain, common, plentiful sparrow. People look over these birds without really seeing them and without giving them a second glance. Not God. God says He sees when every one of those tiny birds falls to the ground.
Returning to Jesus' statement, His children are much more valuable than an abundance of sparrows. If God gives such conscious oversight to these nondescript birds, there is no doubt that He looks with great care over His children. Spending time to examine the picture provides a reassuring comfort that God does indeed care deeply for His children. The few minutes spent in reflection of these two verses provide far more profit than using the same time frame to skim the entire chapter. Christians seeking profit from their time in the Word must slow down and consider the pictures.