Rethinking Mt. 10.30: "And The Very Hairs Of Your Head Are Numbered"

Recently, I was reading a book from the "Christian Inspiration" category and stumbled upon a comment that reminded me why I quit reading those types of books a long time ago. The book made a statement, one that I've heard many, many Christians make before, it said this: "According to Mt. 10.30, the Lord knows you so intimately He has the very hairs of your head numbered. Not only can God pick you out of a crowd, He's been paying so much attention to you He knows exactly which hairs are still on your head and which ones migrated to your hairbrush this morning!"

Comments like this one frustrate me quite a bit. In my view, it is not only a skewed interpretation of the text, it is missing the point of the passage altogether. The "hairs on your head" comment is not making a point about God's "all-knowingness" or even God's "intimate knowningness". I've always wondered: "What kind of God is it that sits up in the heavens and has nothing better to do than be concerned with how many hairs are on people's bodies?" That's not a God I'm really fascinated with but rather, one that deeply troubles me! Isn't there much more for God to be concerned about than, to use the above author's words "exactly which hairs are still on your head and which ones migrated to your hairbrush this morning"? Interpreting it in the above ways, raises, I think, many troubling theological, ethical and philosophical questions and points. Sadly, every commentary I've consulted on this verse takes a similar view!!! So, I offer here, a new one.

As I understand it, this passage is referring to something much more meaningful than any of the aforementioned interpretations have led persons to believe. Indeed, it is time to rethink Mt. 10.30 and how it is interpreted because for too long, too many renderings have made God out to be nothing but a joke. For sure, conclusions like those above, which seem like they make God incredibly powerful do exactly the opposite: they render Him weak and genuinely unconcerned with humanity and all it is wrestling with.

So, in its ancient context, the point I percieve the verse to be making is laid out as follows. First of all, we can't read this statement literally or even over-literally as is usally done! Secondly, we must consider that this is a similie or even parabolic language if you will. Thirdly, we must acknowledge the rest of the verse. Here is the verse in its entirety: “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Notice that Jesus concludes the verse by talking about sparrows! This is very important for making sense of the preceding clause. Fourthly, in the ancient world, sparrows were the least expensive birds in antiquity (research it!).

Putting all of this together, here's what we have: In the first part of the verse, Jesus is making a point not about God's "all knowingness" but rather, God's "watchfulness" over the world! There is a sort of metaphoric undertone to His statement. In part two of the verse, Jesus is saying that it is not only the most important people that God cares about, but that it's the “least of these”, those who appear to be least (like the sparrow), that do not escape God’s notice!!! Indeed, He longs to meet their needs, to feed the hungry and oppressed (despite the fact that sometimes humans get in the way). This is a totally opposite understanding than the bored God mentioned before. And you get the better truth about God from this passage when you read it this way: God watches over and cares about the least!

So, next time you hear the song “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” remember that the point is, the “least” are just as important as anyone else in God’s eyes, in fact, they don’t go unnoticed to Him. Now, that's what I call true Christian Inspiration!!!


  1. I would agree with you that much 'inspirational writing' or 'inspirational preaching' is really not that inspirational. In fact, I would go so far to say that some of what I've seen and heard is not only intellectually dissatisfying but also spiritually unhealthy for persons as well. What they are "inspiring" people towards is ultimately, in my opinion, not beneficial. But that is another matter.

    BTW was this post a first draft?

  2. Scott,
    Yes, the "inspiration" is often bent towards anti-intellectual, over-literalistic, bless me, happy-faced religion. I'm not sure why authors and leaders are insistent on putting out such stuff!?

    As for being a first-draft, ha, indeed, it's easy to tell huh? I just wonder if it's the root of all evil? Or might that be Chr. Inspiration works?

  3. Michael,
    Spot on bro! It's just the same when peope preach from Joshua or some other OT passage and, while totally dismissing the redemptive-historical interpretation (and even application) of Scripture, they say things like, "Do you ever feel like the walls (of Jericho) are falling down all around you?

    Blah blah blah.
    Maybe the OT is about Jesus and the victory he has accomplished and will accomplish in the world (N.T. Wright's "setting the world to rights") instead of our felt needs.

  4. Chris,
    Great hearing from you dude; thanks for sharing some of your thoughts. All I can really say is: "I concur!"

  5. Interesting stuff bro!