“O ye of little faith?”

“O YE OF LITTLE FAITH?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

The expression appears four times in the King James Bible, but what does it mean for someone to be of “little faith?” If we examine these references, God’s Word will define it for us.

We start by taking a quick glance at the passages:

  • Matthew 6:30: “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
  • 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.”
  • Matthew 16:8: “Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?”
  • Luke 12:28: “If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?

To avoid any initial misunderstandings, we pause here to comment that one either has faith, or one does not have faith. A woman is either pregnant or she is not. She cannot be “a little pregnant.” It is likewise impossible for us to be “a little alive”—we are either living or we are dead!! There is no way to be “a little saved” or “a little unsaved:” someone is either saved/justified, or lost/damned. Similarly, faith (namely, belief or trust) cannot be measured in degrees. Either we trust or we do not trust. So, then, what of the expression, “O ye of little faith?”

INCIDENT #1: ISRAEL’S PHYSICAL BLESSINGS

Matthew 6:30: “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Luke 12:28: “If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?

The context (Matthew 6:24-34; Luke 12:13-30) is the Lord Jesus Christ speaking to His disciples who worry about their physical needs being met. Materialism is inappropriate for them. Rather than having partial knowledge of what God is doing with them, they should have more knowledge. He thus issues this doctrine to show them more of God’s plan for them. If they are willing to give up their earthly possessions to follow Him, He will take care of them financially (cf. Matthew 6:32-34; Luke 12:31-34; Acts 2:42-47; Acts 4:31-37; Acts 11:27-30; Revelation 12:6,14; Revelation 13:16-18; Micah 7:14-15; Matthew 6:11; cf. Exodus 16:1-36; Psalm 78:11-31). Dire circumstances, even destitution, should not distract or discourage them; they are to stick by His Word and He will see them through their hardships (especially during the end times, the reign of the Antichrist)!

INCIDENT #2: THE STORM AT SEA

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.”
Compare that to Mark 4:40, the parallel passage: “And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”
Finally, contrast that with Luke 8:25, the other parallel verse: “And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.”

“O ye of little faith?” “How is it that ye have no faith?” “Where is your faith?” These appear contradictory on the surface; however, when we think critically, they show themselves to be complimentary. The disciples’ faith or trust was in their circumstances (the storm) rather than God’s Word. Jesus had already told them that they would reach the other side—as in, not even a storm will stop them or kill them!!

Consider Luke 8:22: “Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth.” In verses 23-24, they panicked, behaving as though they would sink and drown in the tempest. How could they die? Earlier, the Lord had told them they would reach the opposite shore! They should have trusted Him, but they were sidetracked, and merited His scolding.

Where was their faith, their focus? Not in God’s Word but on their troubles! Hence, “no faith” (as in, no faith that God accepts). Their “little faith” was nothing but a limited or faulty understanding of what God was doing with them!

INCIDENT #3: BEWARE OF FALSE DOCTRINE

Start at the beginning of Matthew chapter 16: “[1] The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he [the Lord Jesus Christ] would shew them a sign from heaven. [2] He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. [3] And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? [4] A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.

“[5] And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. [6] Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. [7] And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. 

“[8] Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? [9] Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? [10] Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? [11] How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? [12] Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”

What is the matter? The disciples’ understanding is distorted. They are thinking in terms of physical things (tangible leaven in actual food) when, in fact, Jesus was speaking about spiritual issues (leaven in a figurative sense, false teaching spreading as yeast causes the entire lump of dough to rise). As the companion passage will prove, the disciples have little comprehension of what God is doing and saying yet again.

Turning to Mark chapter 8: “[17] And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? [18] Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? [19] When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. [20] And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. [21] And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?”

Had the disciples been receptive to God’s Word revealed earlier, they would have perceived the latter spiritual truths. Alas, since they were not walking in the light they had, they stayed in the dark! This is true in all three incidents.

CONCLUSION

“O ye of little faith” is not that they believed God a little bit. It is not that their trust was a “speck” when it should have been mountain. No, rather, they understood God’s Word a little bit. They had grasped such a small amount of, or had limited insight into, what Almighty God was saying to them and doing with them. Instead of holding fast His Word, they began to look at circumstances (distresses and distractions) through the eyes of human speculation. They had no adequate basis for faith—genuine faith. Disregarding God’s Word to them, doubting it, they trusted in their surroundings and the Lord Jesus Christ was displeased. Beloved, how easy it is to fall into that trap even today! Dear friend, let us walk by faith in God’s Word to us, Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon. Otherwise, we will be like the disciples of old, confused in and blind to the things of God. 🙂

Also see:
» Has God’s Word failed?
» How should we pray for people enduring natural catastrophes and other tragedies?
» What does it mean to “mind earthly things?”

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