Growing up I heard several people say, “If you only have faith the size of a mustard seed.” They often used this phrase in response to some situation that a person found themselves in, where they were struggling with what to do or how they were going to make it through. These folks had undoubtedly heard this from other people and, upon internalizing it, regurgitated it onto others. Now, I used the term “regurgitate” intentionally. They probably believed that they were imparting some biblical wisdom onto someone else, but what they were actually doing is repeating a biblical fallacy. Therefore, since, regurgitation involves spitting out the bad stuff, in this scenario, they were not imparting the good stuff (wisdom) onto others. They were indeed imparting the bad stuff onto others.
The turn of phrase is taken from Mark 4:30-32. The NRSV reads, “He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.””
This parable of Jesus is one we should pay especially close attention to. The reality is that Jesus came into this world and completely revolutionized the order of things. He taught us that we should love God with all of our being, AND love our others as we love ourselves. He talked about the least being the greatest. And, whatever any of us did for the least of these (those who are hungry, thirsty, without clothing, imprisoned, etc.) in our world, it’s as if we did it for him. He hung out with outcast and those considered sinners. He reframed the relationship of men and women. And, this isn’t even mentioning the miracles he performed so compassionately for those who needed a breakthrough, a hand up, and new life! He did and taught so much that was counter to the way that we even think and act now. It started with him. And, ultimately, he was crucified on hill called Calvary for these very things. He didn’t just die and stay dead, however, because early one Sunday morning God raised him from the dead with all power in his hands. He secured salvation for us and the opportunity to live life more abundantly. He planted the seeds on his disciples and anyone who wanted to experience the glory of God. His disciples went on to become Apostles and start the movement that we know as the church. Those who made up the early church were small in number, but their faithfulness allowed them to balloon in number. Fast forward 2,000 years and we have over 2 billion Christians in the world, which is almost a third of the world.
While coming from a good place, the advice to have faith the size of a mustard seed just doesn’t cut it. While inaccurate, they were on to something. We shouldn’t have faith the size of a mustard seed. Now, of course, our faith can start off the size of a mustard seed, after all, we start off small as babies. We however, can’t remain as babies. We begin to mature and blossom into young children, pre-teens, teenagers, and adults. There are stages.
If we use Mark 4:30-32 as our guide, then we come to the inevitable conclusion that we should have faith LIKE a mustard seed. Jesus tells us that a mustard seed starts of a few millimeters, but when planted and nurtured, it grows into an overwhelming plant or tree!
I want an overwhelming kind of faith. I want a faith that is so overwhelming that the forces of anxiety, sickness, and all their cousins are powerless against it. I believe that as we go deeper into the coronavirus pandemic, it is even more important for us as people of faith to develop the type of faith that is overwhelming. This doesn’t mean that you act recklessly, carelessly or straight up foolish, but it does mean that your faith gives you all the confidence in the world that you will not be consumed. It gives you the confidence that indeed, as the songwriter said, “The storm is passing over. Hallelujah!”