Every hunter should memorize Matthew 10:29, which reads (in the ESV) as follows: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” Another translation renders it this way: “Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s permission” (emphasis mine).
What’s the context in which Jesus said this? Jesus had sent out his disciples to proclaim the gospel (Matt. 10:6-7), and he knew that as they did so, they would be persecuted, even to the point of death: “you will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (v. 22). In order to encourage them to stay faithful to his call, even in the midst of suffering, Jesus assured them that nothing would happen to them without their heavenly Father’s permission.
To paraphrase, Jesus was telling them, “Look at those birds. Not one of them can die without God allowing it to die. Of course, you are far more valuable than those birds. So, don’t be afraid, for you can’t die without God knowing about it and allowing it to happen” (see Matt. 10:31).
The words of Jesus have practical implications for all of us—and that includes hunters! So, if you are a Christian who hunts, here is what you should learn from this verse:
- Hunting can be dangerous, but remember that you cannot die and an animal cannot kill you without your heavenly Father’s permission.
- As you shoot an animal, remember that you cannot kill that animal without God’s permission. After all, every animal ultimately belongs to him. “For every beast of the forest is mine….I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine” (Ps. 50:10-11).
- When you realize that God owns every animal in the forest, it should motivate you to pray before you go hunting, and perhaps even to ask God for permission to kill one of his creatures. You might pray something like this: “Heavenly Father, thank you for creating animals as a blessing to us, and for allowing us to enjoy some of them as food. Will you please keep us safe as we hunt today, and permit us to shoot a deer or two with which we can feed our families?” Have you ever done this before? Since everything that moves in the field is his, don’t you think you should pray to him first before you hunt?
- Recognizing that God is sovereign even over the lives of animals should make you a humble hunter. The chief reason that you kill animals when you hunt is not because of what a skilled hunter you are, but rather because God permits you to do so. So, before you start boasting in your own competence or showing off photos of you and your kill on Facebook, take the time first to thank God for allowing you to kill one of his animals. Interestingly, we claim to be Calvinists who acknowledge God’s sovereignty over all things, but when we shoot a dear we forget to attribute our achievement to God. In short, we act like Arminian hunters, slighting God’s sovereignty and giving too much emphasis on our ability. Are you a humble hunter who gives the credit to God for your success?
- The realization that no animal can fall to the ground without God’s permission should also give comfort to hunters when they return home without a kill. After hunting for many hours, or perhaps even days, it can be very discouraging to go home with nothing to show to your family, and no fresh meat to share as food. However, when this happens, a wise family member can comfort the hunter by saying, “It’s okay. You worked hard and you did your best, but it was clearly not God’s will for you to kill an animal on this trip.”
So, dear hunters, the next time that you go out hunting, please remember to meditate on Matthew 10:29 and to give God all the praise for the blessings that you experience!
Note: This post is part of my sermon entitled “God’s Providential Care”(Matt. 10:26-30), preached on November 20, 2016.