The Mustard Seed
The Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. —Luke 17:6
The interpretation of this I have heard most often is basically that if one wallops up enough of a certain kind of attitude ("faith"), he'll be able to accomplish surprisingly great things, and that, to make the point, the Lord is using exaggeration, florid hyperbole typical of the Semite that he was, to tell us something about the believer's worldly endeavors, beginning with the critical importance of the walloping-up. Motivational speakers and certain kinds of popular preachers have found this idea useful in their trade, but for the rest of us, it's simply a reminder of how disappointing dealing with Jesus is, and how, because he exaggerates, much of what he says isn't just difficult, but can't be believed.
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S. M. Hutchens is a Touchstone senior editor.
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