The apostles said to the Lord, “Show us how to increase our faith.”
The Lord answered, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and thrown into the sea,’ and it would obey you!
“When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’” (Luke 17:5-10)
The disciples’ request was genuine; they wanted the faith necessary for such radical forgiveness. But Jesus didn’t directly answer their question because the amount of faith is not as important as its genuineness. What is faith? It is total dependence on God and a willingness to do his will. Faith is not something we use to put on a show for others. It is complete and humble obedience to God’s will, readiness to do whatever he calls us to do. The amount of faith isn’t as important as the right kind of faith—faith in our all-powerful God.
A mustard seed is small, but it is alive and growing. Like a tiny seed, a small amount of genuine faith in God will take root and grow. Almost invisible at first, it will begin to spread, first under the ground and then visibly. Although each change will be gradual and imperceptible, soon this faith will have produced major results that will uproot and destroy competing loyalties. We don’t need more faith; a tiny seed of faith is enough, if it is alive and growing.
Do you sometimes feel that you deserve extra credit for serving God? Obedience is not something extra a believer does; it is the duty of every believer. Jesus is not rendering your service as meaningless or useless, nor is he doing away with rewards. Instead, this passage is a reminder that obedience is part and parcel of the Christian life. The Holy Spirit helps you remain faithful and obedient. How has he helped you recently?