5 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.
6 And 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 17:5-6)
How does this teach us how to increase our faith? In what way does a mustard seed have faith? What principle is being taught with this parable of commanding a tree to plant itself in the sea?
Let’s think about the mustard seed. It’s very small, insignificant even. But it doesn’t think about how small it is, or the obstacles it faces, like the weight of the soil over it or the hardness of the ground under it. It simply does what it can, does what is told to do, which is grow upward and send roots downward.
From this, I think the lesson is that no matter how insignificant a person is or how small, if they just follow the Lord’s instructions, their faith will grow.
What about this telling a sycamine tree to plant itself in the ocean?
I think this one is about the faith that apostles have to have. Apostles (and other church leaders) have to give instructions to the church, call them to repentance, etc. according to what the Lord wants them to do.
Without faith, I imagine there would be church leaders who would wonder if talking to the church members does any good, like talking to a tree. Telling people to repent is like telling a tree to uproot itself and replant in the ocean because 1) there is a high chance of being ignored, 2) and if obeyed, the person has to do it themselves. If a leader gets too worried about being ignored, it would be easy to think there is no point giving instructions at all. But I think Jesus’s message is if they do and say what they are told (like the mustard seed), they will be obeyed.
I like these principles. They are pretty simple. Just do what you’re asked to do. Do the basics, the simple stuff—prayer, scripture study, church attendance, serve where you can, follow the Spirit--and you’ll grow.