Mustard Seed Faith: Meaning and Life Lessons

by Jack Wellman on May 10, 2013 · Print Print · Email Email

What did Jesus mean when He said if you have faith as a mustard seed?  Does this mean that we only need a small amount of faith?  Can tiny amounts of faith really move mountains?  What is the meaning of this saying of Jesus and the applications for our life?

The Mustard Seed

Mustard trees have been found in various locations throughout the world.  Even though it’s one of the smallest seeds, the trees can grow up to 20 feet tall and 20 feet wide.   The tree can grow in arid, dry climates and thrive even in clay or sandy soil.  It can grow in hot, dry weather or cool, wet climates. I see the mustard seed as being symbolic of faith in that our faith can be tested in the “dry times”, the most difficult of circumstances (drought, poor soil, and in clay or sandy ground).  Also, even if the tree is cut down to the trunk, it can grow back again, so the analogy is that even during times of pruning, the believer can overcome and come back stronger than ever, just like the mustard tree that’s been severely pruned and even if only a tiny bit of faith remains.  The mustard tree is drought tolerant and if we have faith even the size of a tiny mustard seed, we too can tolerate the dry times in our lives, the difficult growing seasons of a Christian, and even when we are “planted” in poor soil we can still grow, even if we only have a small amount of faith. Incidentally, the mustard tree has many uses.  The leaves can be made into, you guessed it, mustard.  The tree can produce edible salts, some have used the small branches as toothbrushes, the leaves have been shown to prevent tooth decay and alleviate tooth aches.  The implications of this tree are not lost in a dead and decaying world.

The Seed of Faith

There are many Scriptures that Jesus used about the mustard seed. In Matthew 17:20, Jesus said, Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” 

A mustard seed is only 1 to 2 millimeters which is about 1/64th of an inch!

A mustard seed is only 1 to 2 millimeters which is about 1/64th of an inch!

Many non-believers have criticized Jesus by saying that the mustard seed is not the smallest of seeds, but the fact is Jesus never said the mustard seed was the smallest, but was one of the smallest.  The fact is that it is almost the smallest seed there is for a tree and it is so amazing that the tiny mustard seed produces a tree, not a tiny plant like many believe.  A mustard seed is only 1 to 2 millimeters which is about 1/64th of an inch!   I believe that Jesus’ point is that it only takes a tiny amount of faith to “move mountains” because Jesus said, According to your faith let it be done to you (Matthew 9:29).

Jesus compared the mustard seed to the Kingdom, sayingThe kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field (Matthew 13:31) and 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 (Luke 17:6).  Jesus seems to be saying that the Kingdom of God, at the time of Jesus‘ earthly ministry, was small in the beginning and from this tiny seed, it would grow and grow.  Would this growth ever stop?  No, as Isaiah wrote, Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this (Isaiah 9:7).  This tiny “seed” would never stop growing and when the King of this Kingdom comes to rule in power on earth, it will apparently continue to grow for ever and ever.  It appears that this Kingdom will expand for all eternity and perhaps into the entire universe…all from one of the tiniest (most humble) of beginnings.

Conclusion

If you have had problems with your faith, you’re not alone.  Even the disciples who spent three years with Jesus had difficulty in believing.  Many times Jesus told them:

You of little faith, why are you so afraid” (Matt 8:26)?  “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you–you of little faith (Matthew 6:30)?

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt (Matthew 14:31)?

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread (Matthew 16:8)?

Jesus rebuked the disciples so often about their having “little faith” because they doubted His divinity.  I too have been guilty of having little faith and I am not proud to admit that. Is He not God and being God, is He not all powerful?  Yes, but my humanity is too often pushing this knowledge out because I tend to only believe what I see.  I must believe with the eyes of faith.  My eyes that may not see Him must succumb to my head knowledge and heart knowledge that He is there nonetheless.  In fact, when I show a lack of faith I miss out on a blessing.  Even though I have never seen Jesus, I know that He exists and He is there for us.  We will see Him someday.

Jesus said to doubting Thomas,Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29).  I admit it is hard to believe when we can’t see something but I must believe in Him…even though my eyes don’t see Him.  That is what faith is all about.  It only takes a tiny amount of faith to “move mountains.”  My faith is only as strong as the Object of my faith.  The Object is Jesus Christ Who is God:

  • Omnipotent (all powerful),
  • Omnipresent (present everywhere), and
  • Omniscient (all knowing).

That’s why only a tiny bit of faith can go a long, long way. Even if it’s 1/64th of an inch.

Take a look at this article to see what else the Bible has to say about faith:

Hebrews 11: Bible Study on Faith

Resources – New International Version Bible (NIV) THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. YouTube video “What Faith Can Do” by Kutless



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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert May 10, 2013 at 11:56 am

Jack,
I love this article. The analogy you presented between the mustard said and our faith (grows in drought, in wet…etc.) was great. It made be think that it’s not how much faith we have, but in Whom our faith is placed, that makes the difference. Powerful article brother.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Jack Wellman May 10, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Thank you so much Robert. As I told Josh, all glory to God in Jesus Christ for the power is in His word and not mine. I appreciate your encouragment nonetheless my good friend.

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Steve Hopkins May 10, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Very helpful article. Thank you…..

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Jack Wellman May 10, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Thank you Mr. Hopkins for your kind words sir…you are an encouragement to me.

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Patricia Schneider May 10, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Hello, Pastor Jack!
Like Robert wrote above, I too appreciated the analogy between the mustard see and our faith.
And believe this or not, Pastor, this is the FIRST TIME I ever truly understood this Parable of Jesus! (Never too late to learn, are we? LOL!)
I remember as a child & early teens, because of my low self-esteem, my Dad used this Passage (Matthew 17:20.) It went completely over my head ’cause I didn’t understand what it had to do with our conversation at the time. (Sadly, there were a zillion conversations that left Dad & me at odds, and sometimes extremely angry w/each other. I KNOW Jesus has forgiven us both, Pastor, and also that Daddy is resting in Jesus’ loving Arms now. Amen.)
Thanks sooo much for another enlightening article with Scriptures, Pastor Jack!
Love, in Christ, Jesus….Patty

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Jack Wellman May 10, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Thank you Patty. You are ever the encourager my good friend. I can only reflect any worth of this to the Lord and God to Whom I serve and to Him be all the glory.

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Josh May 10, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Jack,

I really got a lot from your writing this article. I loved the information you provided on the Mustard seed as it helped so much to understand better what Jesus said.

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Jack Wellman May 10, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Thank you Josh. I can only boast on God and His glory, may He alone be glorified but I do appreciate your kind words my friend.

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RANJAN PATI May 18, 2013 at 9:46 am

Brother…. I praise the Lord. Now at the age of 61 + years, I could know the meaning of the “Mustard seed” example. God enabled me to understand from your simple elaboration. May God bless you more & more to make people understand His words in simple way. To God be the glory & thanks to you.

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Fadzi May 20, 2013 at 8:20 am

An article like this is a great display of Spiritual discernment of the Word on your part Jack. Something everyone who is a believer should ask God for (myself included). Like Ranjan i have finally really really understood the meaning of this parable, thanks to your simple yet deep analysis of this great parable.

As i read this article i thought i need to just get a reminder of what Faith is and wow right there towards the end Hebrews 11: Bible Study on Faith!!!!

Praise God.

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Rajulas June 21, 2013 at 7:42 am

Hi Jack. The Lord bless you. It is exiting to note how symbolic the mustard is. It is enlighenning and informative to realize what ones faith in Christ can achieve if well nourished and nurtured. God bless.

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Jack Wellman June 21, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Thank you Rajulas. You are such an encourager my friend. May God richly bless you for your words of edification.

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Joe Sewell June 23, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Wow! I never looked at it that way before. Thanks, my brother & friend, for further restoring my hope.

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Jack Wellman June 23, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Joe, you are more kind to me than I deserve. Thanks brother.

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Rebecca July 28, 2013 at 5:07 pm

O what a Mighty God. The God who is present everywhere absent nowhere. Man of God,since i got yr site i am so blessed bcos every day i grow spiritually. The mustard seed, i never knew the meaning now my ears are opened spiritually & physically let the good God shower u with more days to win more souls like mine in Jesus name.

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Jack Wellman July 28, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Thank you so much Rebecca. You are more than too kind. What can I boast about? Nothing, for what do I have that I did not receive (1 Cor 4) and to truly, all glory goes to God our Lord. To Him be praise…Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords.

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Megan August 13, 2013 at 9:29 am

My pastor came up to me this past Sunday and said here I brought you something back because he had to leave on a trip a week prior to that.. I put my hand out and it was a little square paper with a mustered seed tapped all around it. He said just a little bit a faith can help move mountains. Remind you I never told him i was having trouble finding faith or the lord and my husband works with him off and on through the church and not even my husband knows I am having difficulties . I had asked my pastor how did you know and he said “I was led!” I was shocked!!! That made me think so hard on how no one knew and he only brought me something back, and of all things it was a mustered seed! That brought some faith in knowing God is trying to reach out to me and tell me having just a little bit of faith as small as a mustered seed can bring you a long way! =-)

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Jack Wellman August 13, 2013 at 9:35 am

Pretty amazing Megan. God’s ways are past finding out and the way that He uses other people to help us is just one of those amazing ways. Thank you for your comment.

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KUTS August 28, 2013 at 9:20 am

Well done Pr. Wellman am from UGANDA 16 yrs and hoping that someday i will be able to elaborate Gods message to people like this. My faith has been enlightened because i know i have let it grow in the good soil (JESUS). GOD BLESS YOU

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Jack Wellman August 28, 2013 at 9:46 am

Thank you so much my friend. Greetings to you there in Uganda from America. I am so glad you liked this but all glory is to Christ and to Him alone.

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