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Parable of the Mustard Seed Meaning for Goal Setting

The Parable of the Mustard Seed, told by Jesus Christ, is a short yet profound story encapsulated in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. This parable uses the metaphor of a small mustard seed growing into a large tree as an analogy for the growth of the kingdom of heaven.

Its simplicity belies a deeper message about potential and the transformative power of faith and the humble beginnings of impactful things.

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20 (NIV).

Understanding this parable offers a window into the teachings of Jesus, providing insight into the nature of spiritual development and the workings of the divine realm.

It’s a story that transcends time, continuing to resonate with people as a source of inspiration and reflection on how small and seemingly insignificant beginnings can lead to expansive and far-reaching effects.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed encourages believers to contemplate the starting points of their faith and the vast possibilities that can unfold from them.

Key Takeaways

  • The parable illustrates the kingdom of heaven’s growth from small beginnings.
  • Jesus Christ uses the mustard seed to symbolize faith’s potential to expand.
  • This teaching continues to inspire and offer insight into spiritual development and help setting our personal goals.
image of one mustard seed on a fingertip with title text overlay - Lessons from the Mustard Seed on Setting Goals

Contextual Background

In exploring the Parable of the Mustard Seed, you’ll uncover its rich symbolism embedded within the Biblical Setting and the Key Symbols and Themes. This parable, found in the synoptic gospels of the New Testament, reflects the cultural and religious milieu of Jesus’ time.

Biblical Setting

The Parable of the Mustard Seed appears within the Christian New Testament, specifically in the synoptic gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke. These texts chronicle the life and teachings of Jesus, placing the parable in the broader narrative of Jesus’ parables that were often used to convey deeper theological truths.

During the time of Jesus, parables were a common pedagogical tool, and Jesus employed them frequently to teach about the kingdom of heaven in ways that were accessible and relatable to his audience.

Key Symbols and Themes

The mustard seed itself is a central symbol in the parable. Despite being one of the smaller seeds during the time of Jesus, it grows into one of the largest garden plants.

This growth from a tiny seed to a large tree encapsulates the theme of the kingdom of heaven’s seemingly inconspicuous beginning and its ultimate expansive reach.

Also, another key theme is faith; as Jesus often posits that faith, even if it’s as small as a mustard seed, can lead to great outcomes.

Interpretation of the Parable

In exploring the Parable of the Mustard Seed, you’ll uncover how a small seed grows into something far greater, mirroring the reign of God: from the most humble beginnings to great things.

The Kingdom of God as a Mustard Tree

The mustard seed’s growth into a large tree is symbolic of the Kingdom of God. Though it starts as a tiny seed, the smallest in the garden, it eventually expands into a tree where birds can nest.

From Humble Beginnings to Great Things

You can interpret the parable as a message of encouragement. It implies that even small, seemingly inconsequential acts or starts can lead to great things.

This idea serves to inspire you that no matter how insignificant your humble beginnings may appear, they hold the potential for significant impact in the world, much like the small seed that grows into an impressive tree.

Discover the significance of such beginnings and the potential for expansion in the The Parable of the Mustard Seed – Ligonier Ministries.

Applications and Modern Relevance

The Parable of the Mustard Seed highlights the notion that small beginnings, when rooted in faith and hard work, can lead to significant outcomes in your personal development and within your community. Let’s explore how this concept applies to our lives today.

Personal Growth and Faith

When you have only a little bit of faith (the faith of a mustard seed), it’s important to recognize that this can be the foundation for exponential growth in your personal journey. 

Mustard seed faith is about nurturing the very small into something grand. It’s about believing that your actions, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, matter and can lead to positive transformations in your life.

  • Taking Action on Faith: A single step taken with faith, similar to planting a seed, can grow into a larger commitment to personal convictions and ideals.

Community and the Church

In the context of community and the church, the mustard seed represents not just personal faith, but collective effort. The growth from a mustard seed to a tree symbolizes the development of a community that provides a safe haven to those in need.

  • Cultivating Good Work: The collective good work of individuals within a community or congregation can have a profound impact on people’s lives, often becoming a shelter and a support system for many.

How the Point of the Parable Helps Us Set Goals

We have talked before about the importance of setting goals in the post How to Let Faith Drive You When Setting Goals

Let’s take a closer look at Matthew 17:20 and discover what the humble little seed can teach us about goals.

It is believed that the type of plant Jesus is referring to is black mustard [1].  (We will look at some details about this particular plant. [2])

1. The mustard seed is tiny – but the plant can grow up to 9 feet tall

I love the first part of Zechariah 4:10 (NLT): “Do not despise these small beginnings…”  Mustard seeds are only 1 mm, black or dark brown, and hard [3] – it is easy to look at something this size and overlook it. 

But remember that the greatest things begin in the smallest, most humble way.  The black mustard plant makes a definite impression! 

It can grow up to nine feet tall with branches that spread outward, broad leaves, and bright yellow flowers. 

What dream has God placed in your heart?  What keeps coming to mind when you think about your calling?  Pay attention to those things because it is the Holy Spirit whispering in your heart.

2. Mustard can grow in a number of climates & thrive in unexpected places

The Black Mustard is native to Eurasia but it grows globally from North Africa, to central Asia and the Middle East, Europe, and North America. 

The mustard plant doesn’t necessarily grow in neat rows in carefully cultivated soil.  It grows allow roadways or other “waste places” – places that are otherwise overlooked. 

The mustard plant is hearty, meaning it can survive a wide range of circumstances: heat and cold, different levels of moisture, and sun exposure. 

When God’s dream takes root in our heart, it gives us confidence to face difficult times and thrive! 

When you are praying about goals and seeing them come to fruition, remember that God is always at work.  The answers to prayers can come in unexpected places.

3. The roots are strong

The mustard plant has a taproot system [4].  (The main root is shaped like a spike and smaller, fibrous roots spread out from the main root.) 

This root system is particular tenacious, and one of the reasons the plants thrive in unexpected areas.  The roots run deep, and are not easily removed, and spread wide to find nutrients. 

A goal that is established in God’s will is deeply rooted and not easily shaken.  Difficult times send roots (faith) deeper into the soil.  With firm roots we are not easily shaken.

The mustard seed represents how something small and insignificant can grow into something great.  

Goals can begin small and seem insignificant, but goals established by God will thrive in unexpected places.

Concluding Thoughts

In exploring the meaning of the Parable of the Mustard Seed, you’ve encountered a powerful metaphor within Jesus’ teaching. Reflect on the notion that what starts as small things—much like the mustard seed—has the potential to grow into something substantial, akin to a great mountain.

This parallels the growth of good news of God’s Kingdom as it spreads from a single, tiny spark into a blaze of faith and community. God’s Word encourages us to apply these teachings in our daily lives which we can do with the story of the smallest known seed when we set goals for our lives. 

Good soil represents a willing and open heart, where even the smallest act of faith or kindness can flourish exponentially.

Your takeaways from this parable should affirm the significant impact of small beginnings.

Whether through personal growth or the expansion of goodwill in your community, the message is clear: don’t underestimate the potential of the smallest seeds you plant in your life.

Digesting this parable from the entire Bible, let it serve as a gentle reminder that the Kingdom of Heaven grows and reaches out far and wide from the smallest seed, providing shelter and hope, just as the birds find refuge in the branches of a fully mature mustard tree. It’s a message that carries through time, from the gospel into your daily actions and interactions.

Remember, your faith need not be as large as the finished tree to make a difference; it simply needs to start, be nurtured, and be allowed to grow, no matter how insignificant it may seem at the onset.

Frequently Asked Questions

The parables of Jesus often carry deep spiritual lessons, and the Parable of the Mustard Seed is no exception. It highlights themes of growth and faith. Below are some common questions to help you further understand its meaning and significance.

What is the spiritual lesson of the grain of mustard seed?

The spiritual lesson of the mustard seed is that small beginnings can lead to large outcomes. Just like the tiny mustard seed grows into a large plant, a small amount of faith can develop and produce great work in the Kingdom of Heaven.

How is the mustard seed parable interpreted in Catholic teachings?

In Catholic teachings, the mustard seed parable represents the Kingdom of God starting small with Jesus and the apostles and then growing into a worldwide community of believers. It reflects the transformative power of faith and God’s work in the world.

What does it mean to have faith the size of a mustard seed?

Having faith the size of a mustard seed implies that even a small amount of genuine faith, just like a small but potent mustard seed, is enough to spark significant change and overcome obstacles.

Can you explain the parable of the mustard seed as it appears in the Book of Matthew?

In the Book of Matthew, the parable of the mustard seed conveys that the kingdom of heaven starts from the smallest beginnings yet grows into something immense and all-encompassing, providing shelter and rest, much like the mustard seed becomes a large tree.

What is the significance of the mustard seed in biblical teachings?

In biblical teachings, the mustard seed symbolizes the potential for growth despite initial insignificance. It teaches that great things start from small, seemingly inconsequential beginnings.

How can the parable of the mustard seed be explained to children?

To explain the parable of the mustard seed to children, you might say that it’s like planting a tiny seed in a garden. With care, it grows into a big plant, just as doing small, kind acts can grow into a life filled with good deeds and love for others.


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6 Comments

  1. Oh, I love this! I pinned one of your pics to my Pinterest board, Equipping Godly Women. May God bless you even more abundantly in 2020 than ever before!!

  2. I always love digging deeper into the science behind God’s creation. This insight about the mustard seed, for example… it’s awe-inspiring how He has created so many things for us to learn about and enjoy that show us a living example of His Truth. Amazing!

  3. Beautiful, and so true. The Lord has continually been reminding me to return to Him alone for guidance in navigating the plans He has placed on my heart, because the world is full of “ideas” but very few actually lead back to Him. If I really desire to see the dreams of my heart fulfilled, it makes most sense to seek Him for the path to fulfillment, rather than going it alone and seeking everyone else’s paths for their own purpose fulfillment. He has surely had me thinking a lot lately…

    1. Yes!! How thankful I am for His direction. Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your thoughts! ~Julie

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