Don’t some of Jesus’ responses to the disciples seem at times a bit obtuse?
Take this passage from Luke 17: 5-10 for example:
The apostles said to the Lord, “Show us how to increase our faith.” The Lord answered, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and thrown into the sea,’ and it would obey you! “When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’”
Luke 17:5-10 NLT
The disciples ask Jesus how to increase their faith. His first response is like a faith baraometer and indicates to them how weak their faith really is.
But then he goes on to talk about the very ordinary life of this very ordinary servant who plows the fields, tends the sheep, prepares meals, and serves his master. A very ordinary life filled with very ordinary tasks that would seem to occupy most, if not all of this guy’s day and time.
Now I don’t know about you, but sometimes Jesus’ responses, like this one, leave me scratching my head and saying, “Huh? Is this even part of the same conversation.”
But as I ponder encounters like this I have to consider that, at least with his disciples, Jesus was not deliberately obtuse. Rather, he was masterfully insightful. He knew the thoughts and intentions of their hearts. With Him there is no back door, or exit stage left, or exit stage right. Jesus was and is masterful at cutting to the chase. If the true nature of the question was cloaked or disguised because they were afraid to ask it head on, he could see through it. If their approach was tangential because they wanted to test the waters before they got full into what they really wanted to know, they were wasting their time.
And aren’t we the same? How often do we approach Jesus like we are on a tightrope or broken glass? More often than not, isn’t it we who are obtuse in our approach to Jesus?
If we are ready to receive it, Jesus will give us a direct answer, even if we are being obtuse in our approach.
Perhaps that’s what was happening in this encouner. Perhaps the disciples were wondering when they would get to do some of the cool stuff like Jesus did. When will people crowd around us to hear us teach? When will we get to perform miracles? With all the miles they travelled, and all the time the spent attending to Jesus and the crowds, maybe they thought their lives seemed pretty ordinary (at least compared to that of Jesus).
Then it occurred to me, maybe this was a direct answer to the real issue, which was approached in an obtuse fashion. Maybe this is a direct answer to a question that masked the real issue, which was a woe is me, what about me attitude, but also answers the question as it was phrased. Masterful!
Maybe that’s exactly how we increase our faith. We press through the very ordinary stuff of the very ordinary days of our very ordinary lives, not expecting thanks, but just doing what’s expected of us. When we do this with the right attitude of heart, not expecting thanks, but knowing that we are serving our master, and we push through with thankful hearts, greatful to be alive, greatful to be united with our Maker, and greatful to serve Him with our very lives, we are increasing our faith, whether we feel like it or not.
So how do we increase our faith? We live our lives, we enjoy life, and we give thanks and praise to our Maker at every turn.
Take courage and serve him with your life, and know that your faith is being increased as you do.