The question, "How do I get more faith?" has been posted here. When I read it, my mind went to the time the disciples and Jesus had a similar dialogue:

Luke 17:5-6

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

He replied, “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.

It sounds like the disciples are asking Jesus "How do I get more faith?" (or perhaps they are demanding?) but Jesus' answer sounds to me like He is saying, "Yes, it would be great if you had more faith." But His answer doesn't help people with little faith.

So, how should I interpret His answer?

  • Well, even though my posted answer on the other question christianity.stackexchange.com/a/5070/1075 received a down-vote, I think it applies to this question as well, especially since the symbolism of faith and a seed is similar.
    – HTG
    Commented Dec 23, 2011 at 23:18
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    @Caleb, indeed, that is in the question! :) Commented Dec 24, 2011 at 15:04
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    Jesus was saying to the apostles that they didn't need more faith. Commented Dec 27, 2011 at 22:30
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    @RobertHarvey: that is a super, mind-blowingly, succinct yet profound statement. Please, elaborate this into an answer that I can accept! Commented Dec 27, 2011 at 22:34
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    @RobertHarvey - I agree that this should be posted as an answer. Short, sweet, to the point. I think that it seems like Jesus is turning their notion of "faith" on its ear. It is not a quantifiable object like knowledge, or widgets.
    – swasheck
    Commented Jan 13, 2012 at 15:59

7 Answers 7


Jesus was saying to the apostles that they didn't need more faith.

Faith is not an act, although it can be demonstrated by the way you act. Rather, faith is an attitude, an understanding that things will work out as they should, under God's plan.

There are many places in the Bible that basically say not to try and do things all by yourself. "Rely not on your own understanding," but on God's. Faith doesn't require effort; it requires surrender. Surrender is hard, not because it is something we must "do," but because it is something we do not always allow.

Faith is not something you can "measure." In a very real sense, there is no such thing as "more faith." You can not surrender "more," you can only surrender completely.

  • Thanks, but please expand on this, rather than just copy / paste the comment. Commented Jan 13, 2012 at 16:17
  • I knew you were going to say that. :) My original comment is neither authoritative, nor absolute; it is simply the way I read the Biblical passage. I see faith, not as an act, but as an attitude, an understanding and acceptance that things will work out as they should. Commented Jan 13, 2012 at 16:27
  • OK, with that additional comment I will accept your answer. Even though it is one sentence, it is profound! But I'd still like you to add some more thoughts... :) Thanks! Commented Jan 13, 2012 at 16:32
  • Brilliant update! Again (third time!), my thanks. Commented Jan 13, 2012 at 16:41
  • Jesus is saying that their faith is not what moves the tree; it's trusting in the One who uproots the tree and plants it in the sea. Faith doesn't move mountains; God does it when we trust His promise to.
    – Steve
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 3:53

Think back to the other time he mentions a mustard seed. What he focuses on in the example is the way it grows from a very small seed to a very large plant.

So if a disciple's faith is as this seed, vital and active, and capable of great growth even though it may be small at the moment, then it can enable them to do great things when the need arises.

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    To go along with that a seed needs nutrients and water to grow. Reading the bible and prayer are vital to nurturing that seed.
    – Andrew
    Commented Dec 23, 2011 at 15:56
  • With all due respect, I don't think we can conclude that intent. That is adding more than is actually there. In the context, is seems purely used to denote "something small". Commented Dec 23, 2011 at 17:03
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    Even if we assume (quite unrealistically) a word perfect recording of events (after the fact, mostly not first hand) - there is still no reason to assume that there is hidden symbolism in every word. Sometime a word just means what it says. Commented Dec 23, 2011 at 18:32
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    @Marc: The words "as small as" appear to be an interpolation of the NIV's translators. Most other translations simply say "faith like" or "faith as" a mustard seed.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Commented Dec 23, 2011 at 18:59

Jesus intentionally does not tell how one can "get more faith," for the purpose of reminding people that God can do amazing things with even an incredibly small amount of faith. There are many of us of faith who ask pious, but nonetheless, the wrong question. Often we ask, "how can I increase my faith?" Instead of simply trusting that God can make miracles happen with even the smallest materials. It is almost as if Jesus is saying, "Don't focus on getting more faith, focus on what God can do with your small faith."

I hope this helps all who read this in their faith walk.


I think Robert Harvey's answer (above, in the comments) was the best:

"Jesus was saying to the apostles that they didn't need more faith."

I found this very profound as it totally changed my attitude to what Jesus was saying. Like I wrote above, I thought He was saying something similar to, "Shame you don't have more faith" but what He is actually saying, according to Robert, is that they already have all the faith they need!

This makes complete sense to me. Rather than thinking, "I don't have enough faith" I should just assume I do and keep persistently praying.

  • @RobertHarvey - if you choose to answer this question yourself, in the manner of the comments you wrote above, then I will happily accept it. Commented Jan 13, 2012 at 15:52

Faith is something one can have in a very small amount (mustard seed) it's how one chooses to express that faith that matters. Expressing faith through actions, not just words is, I think, paramount. I agree that faith is something that you can not measure, just like air, gotta have that air, so in some ways, gotta have faith, no matter how small it is.


but Jesus' answer sounds to me like He is saying, "Yes, it would be great if you had more faith." But His answer doesn't help people with little faith.

Luke 17:7-10 But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

The parable that Jesus gives seems to compound the problem of what seems to be an insufficient answer.

At such a point it can be helpful to back up a little and take a closer look at the basics.

Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. John 6:44a No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him Hebrews 12:2a Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; Luke 7:9 When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. Matthew 8:26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.

The Father creates in us something which leads us to Jesus (possibly a desire for truth). When we hear of Jesus (who is truth) we find faith (that in which we can trust). Faith can be measured as great or little. Jesus originates our faith and completes it.

The verse in Luke seems to be saying that we have some responsibility for our faith as well. It is at this point that it can be helpful to consider another encounter that illustrates a barrier to faith.

Matthew 19:21-22 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

Jesus didn't say, "Isn't it too bad God didn't give him more faith".

Matthew 19:24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

We know that riches can be a barrier to faith (since we live in the most prosperous time in history, this should also be a warning for us).

Jesus really can't give universal instruction for more faith because we all have different things to which we cling and in which we trust, (riches, retirement account, health, family, schooling, employment, social position, or plans for the future).

We do have an example of faith similar to a poker player who goes "all in".

Matthew 19:27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?

Jesus is the example of perfect faith

John 5:19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

John 12:49 For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.

One might conclude that an increase in faith is our responsibility and is a result not of that which we aquire, but of that we relinquish.


I found that the christian that desires to further their faith for a closer relationship with him is to except the whole teaching of the holy spirit. As he commanded us to go out and heal the sick and lay hands and make disciples. Literally go do it 1 Timothy 4 : 14 tells us to practice the gifts and grow in them. What I'm getting at is though talk of this sort can become a stumbling block to a cultural christian. This is one of the things that makes us really reflect his image. This is something that is gifted to you through your faith and as you do good works and fill yourself with the word, your faith becomes self efficient.

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    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 16:40

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