My apologies for the slow down in blogging. Expect this trend to continue, I have been busy with a new project at work and am spending many hours on the road and working overtime. Spare time has focused on my family and less on the blog. Until things change there will be less frequent blogging but I have not abandoned it. If you follow me on facebook as well then you may see me there more often as I can do that from my cell-phone.
Back to the matter at hand….
This is a very popular verse and with all the bad press on it I think that the plainest meaning is lost on most people today. The idea that is generally taught is that one should read “mountains” as figurative.
Specifically, your seeker sensitive charismatic preacher will teach that the mountain in this verse is a stand in for your mean boss, illness, lack of money in your bank account, or other obstacle in your life. If you have enough faith and pray right then God will “move” this mountain of yours. The implication either stated or left unstated is that if it doesn’t come to pass as you wanted then that just means you didn’t have enough faith. And since we are saved by faith then that means you’re probably going to hell to. It is this very bad twisting of the passage that I wish to rebuke with this blog post.
Before getting started let’s get the rest of the context…
Essentially what we see above is that the Apostles had been unable to cast out a demon in the manner they had been taught. It was giving them problems and Jesus points out that their issue was a lack of faith. I don’t think that this means they had suddenly lost faith or something, it seems from the context that this particular demon was simply stronger than most of the ones they had been dealing with based on Jesus comment in verse 21.
An interesting verse to cross reference this with would be another where Jesus commands a fig tree to die.
Above we see the same analogy again, and notice that faith is needed for such things. If you read my post on faith you will see that Biblically, it is taught as a substance given to you by God. You can’t muster it up or build it on your own, it’s something that God gives to you.
So let’s spin this right around, if you cannot command mountains to fall into the sea then that means you have not been given the faith to do so. If you want to put this to the test step outside your house and give this a shot, let me know how it goes in the comments.
I think a more literal approach is the best way of reading this text. Jesus is placing a premium on the power and necessity of faith. It is something to be sought after, and it has the power to literally move mountains, cast out demons, kill fig trees, and save souls from hell.
The plainest reading of these texts is to be in awe of what faith in Christ is and how important it is. If you were a Pharisee who thought yourself pious and surely in Gods Grace with more faith than anyone then why are literal mountains not moving for you? Why can you not command a fig tree to die or walk on water? Why do the dead not raise when you ask?
The clear answer is because you don’t have enough faith. God has given faith sufficient to save your soul. I would guess that this is even less than a mustard seed. I like the idea of that because it turns us to Christ, he is our sufficiency and not anything of ourselves. When you take this passage and try to make it about the doldrums of your job, finances, or personal victories then you strip the law and gospel right out of it.
And isn’t that really what this all gets down to anyways? The narrative of scripture is the Cross, it is the body and blood of Christ shed for you. Sincerely ask someone duped by the health and wealth false gospel where they think monetary riches factors in to the Cross. Can one honestly say that Jesus died to make us rich with a straight face? No, they can’t. It doesn’t even sound right and that’s because it isn’t.
What you have in Matt 17 is a hyperbole, Jesus is giving an example of something that is simple for him to do but impossible for us in the same manner as saving our souls from hell is simple for him to do to us but impossible for us to do to ourselves. Read it any other way and you strip mine the gospel right out of it and end up obfuscating the entire narrative of scripture.