26 Then Jesus said, “This is what God’s kingdom is like. It’s as though someone scatters seed on the ground, 27 then sleeps and wakes night and day. The seed sprouts and grows, but the farmer doesn’t know how. 28 The earth produces crops all by itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full head of grain. 29 Whenever the crop is ready, the farmer goes out to cut the grain because it’s harvest time.”
30 He continued, “What’s a good image for God’s kingdom? What parable can I use to explain it? 31 Consider a mustard seed. When scattered on the ground, it’s the smallest of all the seeds on the earth; 32 but when it’s planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all vegetable plants. It produces such large branches that the birds in the sky are able to nest in its shade.”
33 With many such parables he continued to give them the word, as much as they were able to hear. 34 He spoke to them only in parables, then explained everything to his disciples when he was alone with them.
How many little pieces of cardboard with a tiny mustard seed glued to it was I given as a child? More than I could count on one hand. I would later purchase one of those necklaces with a grain of rice in it. I wanted to remind myself, "faith of a mustard seed." (Yeah, I get it, a grain of rice is way larger than a mustard seed. They couldn't write my name on a mustard seed, so rice it was.) I imagined literally moving mountains with my magnificent faith. Then I remembered I couldn't walk on water, or multiply fish and bread. I couldn't move mountains! I couldn't move a molehill!
The point being, I always saw the mustard seed as the purpose, when it wasn't. The mustard seed was the tool and the birds were the purpose.
First of all, why did it take 34 years of my life to understand there was something beyond faith of a mustard seed? I'm serious. This is how I read the parable:
Consider a mustard seed. When scattered on the ground, it’s the smallest of all the seeds on the earth;
but when it’s planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all vegetable plants...
Really. I didn't bother to read on. If I had taken time to read just one sentence further:
...It produces such large branches that the birds in the sky are able to nest in its shade.
Faith flourishes when it meets the needs of those in need. It's not good enough to pray, "Lord, If only you would greatly bless me and increase my territory. May your power go with me to keep me from trouble, so as not to cause me pain." (This is the prayer of Jabez for anyone who is interested.) In other words, if we are moving mountains with our faith, what are we moving those mountains for? In the parable, the end goal was to have a place where the birds could nest. The works of our faith should have end goals too.
I think it's why I see Christian bloggers burnout online. They get their blog going thinking they are just going to write when the spirit leads them. They hope maybe there will be a book deal at some point. They don't really have a point to what they are doing aside from getting admiration for sharing their point of view. Eventually they realize their mustard seed didn't really grow into anything significant at all. They write a sad blog post to everyone who believed in them, and close shop. (If we are lucky. So many just stop writing.)
The ones that flourish know what their faith is working towards. Mental illness awareness. Disheartened Evangelicals. If you are here, our mission is to explore how to worship God in our internet culture, and to connect with those who are uncomfortable (for the moment) in the physical church. Faith that is working towards the needs of those in need.
What is your faith working towards? Are you growing a mustard seed, or something else?