“Increase our faith.” That’s what the apostles asked Jesus Christ. It was a simple request, reasonable. Everyone knows Christ’s response: “If you have faith as a mustard seed…” That is only half the answer, though, the part about the mustard seed. Every mature Christian can quote the mustard seed passage. Few, though, have ever pondered the second half of Christ’s answer.
It reads like this (Luke 17:7-10):
And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, “Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, “Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ ”
The answer seems like a slap in the face to apostles seeking a deeper faith. It is not. Not really.
Without pause, without hesitation, Jesus transitioned from the parable of the mustard seed to the parable of the unprofitable servant. As difficult as it is to accept His words, they cannot be separated from the passage about the mustard seed, nor can they be separated from the apostles plea to increase their faith.
So, what is it Christ is saying here? Were the apostles wrong to ask for more faith? Certainly not. Was he trying to tell the apostles that unless they went the extra mile, over and above their duties, that they could have no faith? No, for that contradicts the parable of the mustard seed.
In order to have faith in God, true faith – even the smallest portion – we must have a proper perspective of God. We must be humble. We can do nothing for God. His power is limitless. We are powerless. We don’t come to God with a resume and tell Him what we can do for His Kingdom. We come to Him helpless and broken and begging for mercy.
Just as Christ gave up everything to be a servant so that you and I could be saved from eternal damnation. So must we give up all to serve God, expecting nothing in return. He loves us not because of anything we do, for we can do nothing without His power. He loves us because we are His. Without true humility, we cannot have even the smallest portion of faith.