Faith or Faithfulness?   Leave a comment

The Gospel lesson for this past Sunday contains one of two passages where our Lord says something about faith as big as a mustard seed.  Is he speaking about the faith we should have?  Or is He, rather, addressing the faith that we do not have?  Jesus’ near-identical statement about mustard seeds and faith in Matthew 17 sheds light on Luke’s account in the 17th chapter of his gospel.

In the Matthew 17 passage, Jesus is clearly frustrated and irritated with His disciples’ lack of faith.  His words about a mustard seed are a barbed indictment that His disciples don’t even have that much faith, as evidenced by the fact that they’ve not moved any mountains by simply telling them to move.  It’s a standard Rabbinic way of making a point through extravagant, over-the-top exaggeration.

So, also, in Luke 17.  I don’t think this passage would ever have been so misinterpreted as it has been, if the lectionaries didn’t commence this gospel lesson with verse 5, instead of including verses 1-4.  The only way to make sense out of the passage is to read Jesus’ words here as essentially the same as they are in Matthew 17 — a retort to the Disciples’ unbelief, which happens to be expressed in Luke 17:5 as an ironic request for Him to increase their faith.

See the sermon audio for details.  For here, though, Jesus goes on to show his disciples that their lack of faith is linked to their lack of faithfulness.  The implication is easy to see:  increase your faith by increasing your faithfulness.


Posted October 4, 2010 by Fr. Bill in Homily Q & A, Proper piety

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