Updated: Mar 19
Most people have been misinformed regarding the topic of faith as a mustard seed. The focus in scripture is not the size, but the type of faith. We see from the parables Jesus taught and from various scriptures that the faith that works is the one that is of God, sown in good soil, and does not doubt in spite of circumstances.
MATTHEW 13: 11 [talking to the disciples] “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.
First, Jesus introduces the parable that precedes all parables. It is the parable of the soil, which explains the heart condition required for the sown word of God to bear fruit in a person's life:
MARK 4:13-20 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word.
And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.
And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.
And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
Second, Jesus speaks of parable in which the Kingdom of God is compared to a mustard seed and leaven. He mentions the size of the seed sown for the purpose of revealing the increase that results when sowing in the Kingdom of God. It is the type of faith that is mightier than what initially surrounds it and also produces for others:
MATTHEW 13:31-32 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least [tiniest, smallest, Greek: mikros] of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater [Greek: megas] than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
MARK 4:30-32 Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller [tinier, smaller, Greek: mikros] than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater [Greek: megas] than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.”
LUKE 13:18-21 Then He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.” And again He said, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”
NOTE: The New Living Translation (NLT), the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible, and many others contain errors in their translation. For example the NLT adds the word "tiny" in front of LUKE 13's mustard seed phrase though it is not in the original Greek text. Learn to research the original text and find translations that are better though not perfect, such as the New King James Version (NKJV), English Standard Version (ESV), and Wuest Translation.
Later, Jesus explains that the type of faith should be as the mustard seed, the same mustard seed referred to above:
LUKE 17:5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
NOTE: As noted above, there are errors in many bible translations, and in the case of LUKE 17, the NIV and the NLT add the word "tiny" in front of the mustard seed phrase though it is not in the original Greek text. Likewise, other translations add "the size of" in front of mustard seed phrase.
Jesus also rebuked the disciples for not having the type of faith likened to a mustard seed. Unlike the mustard seed, which is described as little in size, their faith is described as little in occurrences and counts:
MATTHEW 17:20 [Regarding the boy with epilepsy…] Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” So Jesus said to them, “Because of your little faith [both words represented as one word in the Greek: oligos + pistis, little in quantity/occurrences/count + faith]; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
NOTE: Once again, bible translations such as NIV, NLT, and others, erroneously add "tiny," "small as," and "size of" in front of the mustard seed phrase, but it is not in the original Greek text. Also, though the NKJV and KJV are usually more correct, there is an error in their translation as well, where the word "unbelief" is used instead of "little faith."
MATTHEW 14:28-32 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith [both words represented as one word in the Greek: oligos + pistis, little in quantity/occurrences/count + faith], why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
Although Jesus rebuked the disciples above, he marveled at the faith of the centurion. The centurion's faith is described, not as big in size, but as many in occurrences and counts. Look at all the many things for which the centurion had to have faith:
MATTHEW 8:5-10 Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it. ”When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great [many in quantity/occurrences/counting, Greek: tousoutos] faith, not even in Israel!
We see from above that the centurion had great faith characterized as many occurrences or counts of faith as follows:
He had faith Jesus would heal his servant
He had faith Jesus would do it with a word
He had faith even though he was not worthy
He had faith that Jesus had authority over the spiritual realm
He had faith that Jesus' servants would carry out the healing
As we see with the centurion, the emphasis is on the type of faith. Our faith must:
Be birthed from the Word of God
Operate with the Kingdom of God principles of the sown mustard seed and the leaven
Be sown in a heart condition that allows the Word to grow and bears much fruit
Be unwavering in spite of the circumstances
Be able to overcome many circumstances if it is to be called great faith
Jesus also recognized the Canaanite woman's great faith, characterized as great in size (per the parable of the parable of the Kingdom of God mentioned above):
MATTHEW 15:22-28 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great [Greek: megas] is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
Therefore, do not try to get more faith. Instead, have the right type of faith, the one that is in Christ Jesus' name, unwavering, constant, and applied over every circumstance of life.