Faith or Faithful? (the Mustard Seed)

We have an infamous and beloved scripture this morning.

The disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith (or trust) in him.
Jesus, seemingly frustrated, responds that if the disciples had faith even the size of a small mustard seed, they could order a tree uprooted and planted into the sea.

Although a number of persons, probably including a few sitting in these pews, find these words comforting and inspiring, I wish these words were never uttered especially recorded and attributed to Jesus. Why?

I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and High-Functioning Anxiety, which both offer the great gift of being a perfectionist…
Plus, this passage and similar have been used against me in spiritual abuse.

Therefore, when I hear or read these words I can sense my anxiety rising,
because if I read it literally…
well, I have not been able to order a tree uprooted and planted elsewhere.
How about you?

Thankfully, I do not read it literally BUT it still causes questions of self-doubt:

  • do I have enough faith (or trust)?
  • is my faith even the size of a small mustard seed?

I imagine that the mustard seed has become a distraction, such as those found in horror movies and haunted attractions.
(If you did not know, these and Halloween are among my favorite things).
The films and haunted attractions use lights and sound to distract your attention drawing it to a particular spot, while an actor is able to move among the shadows amplifying their chance to scare you.

Why? The mustard seed begins Jesus’ teaching, but the lesson continues.

Jesus asks:

  1. Would you tell your servant “well done, come in from the field”?
  2. Would you tell your servant “come, join me at my table”?
  3. Would you tell your servant “let me serve you”?
  4. Would you tell your servant “thank you” in the fields and home?

Jesus knew the answer to these questions was “Of Course Not”, because they are servants simply completing their tasks and responsibilities.

Jesus says, it should be the same with us as servants of God.
We are called to serve, not to be served.
We are called to do without receiving (or demanding) a word of thanks.

This is NOT easy.

We know that we have been commanded to complete the tasks and responsibilities of our baptismal promises/commitments:

  • to proclaim Christ in word and deed;
  • to seek justice;
  • to act with compassion and mercy; and
  • to love and serve all people, but especially the most vulnerable.

These are NOT easy tasks, which require us to adopt an attitude of servant-hood,
but did you notice any mention about the size of one’s faith (or trust)?

Thus, I think the mustard seed distracts us from the question Jesus desires us to ask.
I do not think Jesus wants us to ask for an increase in faith which is a slippy slope into a sense of spiritual superiority or elitism. This spiritual superiority/elitism echoes sentiments such as:
I have more faith than so and so; or
If so and so had more faith, x, y, and z would not be happening.

Instead, I think Jesus desires us to ask if we are completing commanded tasks and living into our baptismal promises/commitments…

  • am I proclaiming Christ not in word alone, no matter how ‘faith-filled’,
    but also in deed;
  • am I seeking justice;
  • am I acting with compassion and mercy; and
  • am I loving and serving?

I think Jesus is far more concerned with these questions than whether our faith is the size of a mustard seed or not.

I encourage us to not ponder the disciples’ request, but rather if you are being the servant God has, is, and will continue to call you to be?

I encourage us to not allow questions about the size of our faith distract us.

May we, be as the servant, who says ‘I simply did as I ought’.
May we hear “well done, good and faithful servant” at the end of our days.



Scripture was Luke 17: 5-10.
Originally Preached 6 Oct. 2019 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, Indiana).

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