Recently I was listening to a respected preacher on Matthew chapter 6. He was speaking on worry and anxiety and what the difference was. It was good and quite stimulating until he hit vs 30. Then he began to chide his audience because of the anxiety his folks were experiencing due to the looming economic crisis in their country. What little faith and joy this people walked into that church with was now squashed and left for dead on the hard wooden chapel floor.
In Mat 6.30 Jesus uses a much misunderstood and mistranslated word in his discourse with the anxious disciples, the word is “Little”. His disciples are worried about where there their next provision will be coming from as they follow their Master by faith day and night. This exhortation by Jesus here is portrayed improperly today by some zealous preachers that skim the surface of the original Greek grammar and pound their people for their “little faith”. The consequence of this deficit textual understanding is blatant erroneous teaching and a misrepresentation of the original text and the mood of the greek. When we take the time to read the original and listen to the Sprit of Christ, we find that it really portrays a loving gentle challenge to his disciples.
Jesus uses a word here “oligópistos” - from oligos - a feminine form of an adjective; a word that, yes, may be translated “small” but is better translated as “short”. When we reread the text in Mat 6.30 translating the meaning “little” as “short” we get clarity to what Jesus had in mind when he exhorted his fearful disciples.
The disconnect that so often happens with us is that we look at faith as a metric, a measurement, like a scale or the rising and falling of the mercury in a thermometer if you will. This confusion easily happens with us because we are frail forgetful creatures bound to sight, to feeling and a natural rationalization of the threat levels in our environment.
Let’s be clear, Faith has never been, nor ever will be something that can be measured by how much or how small. Faith is digital, it is binary. It is a I or a 0. It is either on or off. It is either there or it is not there. Biblical faith is either “yea” or “nay” - never maybe.
Faith is not something a believer can have “a little of” or “a lot of” - God lives in Eternity and our beloved metric measurements or imperial weight system does not exist in God’s timeless state. He dwells in existential absolute.
A good way to see the true state of faith is the light switch in your home; flip the switch on and the light brightens the room, scattering the lingering ugly darkness instantaneously. Flip the switch off and immediately the darkness reigns. Yet there are Christians today that have “dimmer switches” installed in their souls, where they claim they control the amount of faith they have shining inside their soul - they mistakenly believe that their soulish dimmer switch is connected to their emotional state of the day and not based on the Biblical Truth of their immovable position in Christ.
Let’s go back to what Jesus said to His disciples, & to us. “O ye of LITTLE FAITH”. Jesus in no way was questioning their faith. Why? Because Jesus defines that faith is in Mat 17.20. Faith is not a matter of substance that Peter can ask more of; “Lord increase our faith!”. Jesus radically defines mountain moving faith is as a “LITTLE MUSTARD SEED of Faith” - Faith is faith no matter what size. Light is light, whether it’s the blazing sun, or a candle in the middle of a field in the dead of night; light dispels all darkness - no matter how much there is.
So when Jesus uses this phrase 6 times in the NT, He is not measuring the faith of the disciples with the yard stick of the Law but rather the distance of it in the circumstances they were in. He is in effect saying to those worried brothers; “your faith was spot on, victorious, overcoming and righteousness revealing! You were trusting the Father’s Plan and His provision. But then at a certain point in time you stopped trusting God and His Word of Promise!” Case and point: Peter walking on the water. One moment he is defying all laws of physics and he is walking on the water with his gaze fixed towards Jesus. Then the next moment he is sinking, drowning. Peter didn’t sink into the raging see due to a lessening of his own mighty faith but rather he sank because his faith was “SHORT SIGHTED” - it was switched to the ON position when he was gazing at Jesus walking on the water. But when Peter became short sighted his faith became short and he sank. The issue was never how much faith Peter had but how far it could see through the storm to His Hero walking on the water.
Now that we understand that Biblical victorious faith is spiritually binary and not quantitatively analogue, we must ask the next obvious question “where does it come from?” What turns that switch on so that the light of the Grace and Love of the Word of God can shine deep into our anxious souls?
The answer is simply here in Romans 10.17 - “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ”