See this post at GatheringTogether.com. Thanks to the editor, Kristine, who encourages writers from all different walks of life.
Mustard seeds make great jewelry. I saw one in a store, a bauble with a mustard seed inside. Around the outside was a gold tree, hanging delicately from a gold chain. How precious. The idea of a mustard seed inside a tree comes from Luke 17:6. “He replied, ‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it will obey you.’”
Well, isn’t that lovely. Jesus gave a word picture that makes for nice jewelry. And a great verse to strengthen our resolve. However, this lovely treasure of a promise hides inside a lesson we do not want to miss. More waits for you to discover.
Most assume the verse dictates you can do everything you want. We are like realtors. With realtors, it’s location, location, location. Let’s replace the word location, with the word context; Context, context, context. Forgetting to read the verses before and after can really mess up what Jesus is trying to get at. So let’s look at the context together.
Luke 17:1-10 says, “Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”
Strange—Jesus talks about forgiveness, throws in a nicety about faith and mustard seeds, and then continues to talk about humility and servant hood. So disjointed. If I was in the crowd that day, I could imagine hearing the first five verses, then swatting away a mosquito, and instantly getting lost. There were three different topics in five minutes of spoken speech. What is going on?
Jesus made sure every word counts. No word in the Bible is there by mistake, so some kind of link is going on. In Luke 17, the link is faith. Forgiveness is a set-up to understand faith, and the “humility” is more so on faith than humility. Do you see it? Read Luke 17:1-10 again.
In the first four verses, Jesus said to forgive those who ask for forgiveness. The apostles loudly admitted that you need a lot of faith in order to forgive sincerely. It is hard work! So Jesus replied. Meaning he didn’t start a new story. He didn’t change topics here. Jesus was still talking about forgiveness, but he saw that the apostles understood how important faith is. In fact, he didn’t only reply, he confirmed that what they said was true and expounds on the subject by using the famous mustard seed.
If I can paraphrase this segment of verses: “Yep, you need a lot of faith to forgive. You need to believe that forgiveness is granted. That’s a lot of faith, and that’s a lot of power!” (And then in verses 7-10) “But don’t abuse this power. You have to forgive with true intentions, and correct motivation. If you take this newfound faith away from forgiving, then you’ll be like the guy who takes all the credit. And that’s not faith at all. Give the credit where credit is due for the forgiveness—your heavenly Father. By forgiving, you were just doing what he asked you to do.”
So you see, the mustard seed is just a small point in a long list of the reasons why faith is so crucial in forgiveness. The next time you pass that jewelry in the store, remember the verses about forgiveness, not about getting so much faith that you can do the impossible. Although the verse about the mustard seed denotes that you can do the impossible with faith, you have to give the credit to the one who instills that power via your faith. Who cares what you do with your faith, as long as it is in the Father’s will, and not your own.
So have some faith, you can forgive. If you can forgive, you have faith and will naturally give credit to God. That’s the lesson of the mustard seed.