We often hear this expression used in everyday conversations – even on TV quiz shows when a contestant had hesitated and taken a ‘safer’ guess than the best answer.
Jesus was the first to be reported as actually saying it – though never quoted by Mark or John, and only once by Luke (Luke 12:28). Matthew picked it up and reported it in the same context as Luke’s (Matthew 6:30), and then reprised it in several more situations. Evidently he wanted to din it into the thinking of those who would be listening to his Gospel being read aloud. Its life applications are still needed in our own lives nowadays.
Here are the common life situations in which Matthew would want us to hear Jesus applying the saying in the corrective tone of voice of a team coach – as an antidote to:
- Worry – that underlying anxiety about life. See Matthew 6:25-34 where Jesus tells his disciples to look at the carefree lives of birds and flowers, concluding:
‘God will clothe you, O you of little faith… Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” … or “What shall we wear?”… Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God … and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow…’ (Matthew 6:30-34).
2, Fear – crisis panic in emergencies. See Matthew 8:23-27 where Jesus, aroused from sleep by his disciples’ terror at the great storm swamping their boat, rebuked them as he calmed the storm with the words:
‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith’ (Matthew 8:26).
- Doubt – dithering about obstacles to our continuing obeying the Lord’s will. In Matthew 14:28-33 Peter at Jesus’ invitation walked on the sea with him, until he saw the wind (!), got scared and began to sink. In answer to his cry ‘Lord, save me’ Jesus said:
‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’
reaching out his hand to escort him safely back on board the boat.
- Double-mindedness – being too analytical in matters of ‘the faith’. See Matthew 16: 5-12 where the disciples misunderstand Jesus’ figure of speech about the false beliefs of the Pharisees and Sadducees; they had taken a crassly literal approach – how much bread had they got between them? When he reminded them of both occasions of his feeding thousands from a lad’s lunch, then at last
‘they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees’ (Matthew 16:12).
- Hesitancy – lack of conviction when confronting the demonic (Matthew 17:14-20). Returning from his glorious transfiguration experience with Peter, James and John Jesus found the other nine disciples helpless in their attempt to heal a demonised boy. Jesus exorcised the demon and ‘the boy was healed instantly’ .When asked ‘Why could we not cast him out?’ he replied, ‘Because of your little faith’ – yet telling them that all the faith they needed to move mountainous obstructions was as tiny as a grain of mustard seed!
* Let’s pray, ‘Lord, increase our faith’ then tackle all those issues where we’ve missed it.