Rather, the phrase "of little faith" is being translated from ὀλιγόπιστος (oligopistos), which means, according to the lexicon, "trusting too little."
While ecclesiastical sectarian institutions and their teachers like to refer to the Supreme Being as some vague impersonal force or burning bush, Jesus was teaching his students to trust in the Supreme Being - something that can only be extended to a person.
Trust is something that comes from a personal relationship. Consider these questions:
- can you trust a rock?
- how about a baseball bat?
- or the sky?
Trusting in these inanimate objects seems silly, yes? How can we trust an inanimate object?
We can't. Why? Because there is no ability to assess whether these objects are trustworthy. Why not? Because they are not alive. They cannot make decisions, and thus there is no one to trust.
Only a person can be trustworthy, or not. Only a living being who can distinguish itself from others can be extended trust or a lack thereof.
So Jesus is speaking of trust as it relates to the Supreme Being - translated here to "God" from the Holy Name θεός (Theos).
Jesus is stating that the Supreme Being can be trusted.
When most people think of trusting someone, they think of whether the person is being truthful or not. As if trust is simply knowing that someone isn't lying to us.
But this is not the kind of trust that Jesus is speaking of. He is speaking of reliance: Being able to rely upon the Supreme Being.
Who else can we rely upon? Just look around. Can we really rely upon those around us? Certainly we can trust our family members right? Can we trust one of our family members when they say to us, "don't worry, I will always be there for you"? Can we rely upon this promise?
But will they really always be there for us? What happens when their physical body gets old and diseased? Will they still be there for us? How about if they get Alzheimer's disease and forget who we are? Will they still be there for us? How about when their physical body dies? Will they be there for us then?
This doesn't even count the occasions when spouses or other loved ones split from a relationship with us - whether it is a so-called friendship or marriage. They made a promise they'd be there for us always. Were they? Nope.
Or how about a child or sibling who tells us they will always be there for us, only to find out later they naturally go off and live their own lives - and frankly, they are not there for us because they have other relationships and things going on in their lives. And they can't be in two places at once.
So while these types of promises may be made in earnest at the time, we find that in the end those promises cannot be trusted. We cannot rely upon them. Why not?
Because none of us are in control of the circumstances. We cannot control the weather. We cannot control pain, sickness, disease, death. We cannot control what others do. We might be able to influence outcomes, and defer things sometimes, but ultimately none of us are in control.
Therefore, none of us can really be relied upon.
Because none of us are God. None of us have the ability to control outcomes as God does.
But does this mean that God exerts His control? Does this mean the Supreme Being pushes His weight around and forces people to do things for Him?
Don't be ridiculous.
Simply by looking around at the various activities of those on this planet we can tell that the Supreme Being does not exert His control over us. He gives everyone the freedom to determine our direction in life. He gives everyone the freedom to care about Him or not.
This issue of God's control is the subject of great misunderstanding among many. Many in fact will reject God's existence because of the various suffering going on the world. The various diseases, starvation, violence and bloodshed going on - some even going on in His Name.
They ask: "If God exists, then why is there so much suffering in the world?"
But what they are failing to see is that the Supreme Being is not a dictator. He derives no pleasure from forcing people to adhere to His principles. Certainly if He wanted to force everyone to worship Him and be kind to each other then He could.
Certainly if the Supreme Being wanted to make everyone a Moslem - or a Christian - or any other sect - then He could force us. There would be no need for extremist fanatics to threaten people with beheadings then. Because God could easily force everyone to worship Him in whatever fashion He wanted.
That is, if He wanted to remove from us the freedom to love Him or not. And the freedom to love others or not. And the freedom to treat others as we would treat ourselves.
But what love would we have if these freedoms were taken away? If God took away our freedom to love Him or not then could we really love Him?
And if God took away our freedom to love others or not, could we really love others?
No. Love requires freedom. If we could not do the opposite - if we could not curse God and deny God's existence - if we could not hate those around us and commit violent acts for self-centered purposes - then how could we decide to love God? And how could we decide to love others?
Yes - in order to have this freedom of love, we have to be given the freedom to hate. In the same way, we cannot appreciate light without knowing what dark is.
The Supreme Being's enjoyment doesn't come from creating robots that will do whatever He wants them to. Rather, His enjoyment comes from receiving love from those who have been given the freedom of choice to love Him or not. It comes from exchanging a relationship of love with someone who is not forced or coerced.
Just consider a man who kidnaps a woman and ties her up in his basement. Will that man ever receive her love as long as she is tied up in his basement? Certainly not.
The only way a man could get a woman to love him is if there is no coercion involved between them. She could only love him if she has the complete freedom to come and go as she wishes, and do what she wants. And in this freedom, she might come to love him. Or she might not. That is the chance the man must take if he wants the woman to truly love him.
It is no different with the Supreme Being. If He coerced us, we could never truly love Him. It is only when we have the complete freedom to love Him or not that we would do this.
Such freedom requires a landscape of freedom. Not just a narrow band of freedom on the account of love. The freedom must be given across the board. There must be numerous options available.
This is why, for example, Jesus was persecuted. Many ask: "Why did God allow Jesus to be persecuted?" The answer is that the Supreme Being would be effectively taking away the freedoms of those demoniac people who persecuted God's beloved. By forcing His will upon them, He would be removing their freedom to not love Him: Which is required if He wanted them to voluntarily love Him.
This is the nature of existence in the physical world. The physical world was created for those who wanted to express their independence from the Supreme Being. It is like a teenager who decides they want to leave home. Will the parent force the teenager to stay at the house? Certainly not. They will honor the fact that the teenager wants to live their own independent life.
But certainly if the teenager wants their independence they won't want to be forced into living in a particular place. They want complete freedom to go where ever they want, right? It isn't that the parents could dictate where the teenager could live after the teenager leaves home.
This is why the physical world has so many different types of races, societies, nationalities, life forms and species: To allow us a landscape of freedom.
And the reason there is so much suffering in the world? Think about it. Since we wanted our independence from Him and He granted us that independence: We are the reason for the suffering in the world.
It is our decisions - individually and collectively - made through lifetimes of self-centeredness that has created the sufferings of the world.
Suffering is created by self-centeredness. It is a simple consequence.
While the Supreme Being programmed the physical world with freedom of choice, in order for the place to also provide a means of escape, He had to also program it with consequences. Every action has a consequence.
The law of consequence is the expression of love from the Supreme Being. Yes, the physical world has all of this freedom of choice for us - we get to choose our direction in life and what we do from minute to minute. But without consequence we would have no ability to learn. No ability to grow and improve ourselves. This means we also would have no means to outgrow our self-centeredness and escape from the physical world.
It is the same with children. Would a smart parent just let their young child run off in the park without any supervision? Certainly to do so would be seen as irresponsible.
And would a good parent not discipline their children with consequences (as suggested now by child psychologists)? To not do so could ruin the child's ability to learn and become a productive adult.
The Supreme Being's supervision comes in the form of consequences. Actions that help others have good consequences while actions that hurt others have bad consequences: If not in this lifetime then the next.
And this is precisely what Jesus taught his students:
"See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." (John 5:14)
Jesus understood the law of consequences. He also understood that consequences can carry over from lifetime to lifetime:
His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2)
The fact that the man was born blind, and the possibility that something he did prior may have caused his blindness reveals that Jesus' disciples, and thus Jesus, accepted that a person (the self within) can transmigrate from one physical body to another.
As we expand this notion to the extent of the sufferings of the world, we find that collectively and individually, the actions of our past have created the sufferings we see around us in the form of starvation, bloodshed and so on.
Just taking on a physical body subjects the living being with the basic consequences of pain, disease, old age and death. But these are relative consequences that relate to our self-centered desire to be independent.
In other words, independence comes hand in hand with these consequences. In our analogy of the teenager who leaves home, certainly by leaving home they are granted the freedom to go where they want. But by leaving, they will also now have to get a job and make money in order to pay rent and eat. So with their freedom comes responsibility.
It is no different with us: We wanted our independence from the Supreme Being so He gave it to us in the form of a physical body in the physical world - a temporary body in a virtual world (meaning its suffering is only inflicted upon our temporary vehicle - not us). But this body comes with responsibility in the form of needing to feed the body and take care of it - as well as take care of those given to us as part of our responsibility.
But all of this freedom and responsibility does not remove our ability to leave this world of suffering and return to our loving relationship with the Supreme Being. We still have that freedom of choice above all else. In His unconditional love the Supreme Being - knowing we will only be happy when we resume our natural position as His loving servant - keeps the door open for us.
But if we make that choice, if we want to truly return to our relationship with Him, we can't have it both ways. We have to either commit ourselves to Him or not.
But certainly we cannot go from zero to 100 all at once. From the point of our choice, there is a period of time where we grow and renew our relationship with Him. And this is the process that Jesus' disciples were undergoing, under his tutelage.
And the foundation by which one can return to our relationship with the Supreme Being was being clarified here by Jesus: We must rely upon the Supreme Being. We must trust Him.
This means trusting that He will take care of us. This means trusting that He will guide us back to Him if we desire it. It means trusting that we are safe in His loving hands.
This sort of reliance is neither forced, nor does it remove our freedoms. If the teenager returns home it doesn't mean the teenager can never leave again. But it has a deeper connection - something that is never lost: The fact that the teenager trusted her parents enough to return home. That is because that kind of trust comes with love.
This is the kind of trust Jesus was asking of his students. He wanted them to come to love and thus trust in the Supreme Being. This was also taught by Moses' student Joshua:
"But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to Him, to keep His commands, to hold fast to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Joshua 22:5)
Joshua is passing on the basic teaching of Moses, as was also taught by Jesus in his "first and foremost" commandment. This element of "hold fast to Him" is the element of reliance. To rely upon the Supreme Being means to hold fast to Him.
And even though He gives us complete freedom not to, even to the extent of tempting us with so many options, if we hold fast to Him through thick and thin, regardless of how fallen we are, and how self-centered we are, we can rely upon Him to keep us and guide us, as Jesus states above:
"... how much more will He clothe you..."
Certainly this is a metaphor. The concept of clothing is analogous to being taken care of - being secure and protected.
Yes - if we make that choice to rely upon the Supreme Being, He always will be there for us.