The phrase “just have more faith” is a hallmark of the prosperity gospel. I have generally also perceived it to be detrimental. Here are people who already have so little and you are telling them that they also don’t have enough faith?! Adding insult to injury, you tell them that their problems are the fault of their own lack of faith!
I’ve written elsewhere about how my criticism of this phrase was tempered when I saw it used to talk about the object of faith rather than the quantity of it. This week’s podcast episode by Luphurise Mawere made me re-think it further, at least in her usage. The episode was a promo for an upcoming women’s empowerment summit she is running. It was based on 2 King 4:1-7 where a widow calls out to Elisha for help because she is impoverished and her sons about to be taken as slaves.
Elisha responds with two questions:
- What can I do for you?
- What do you have at home?
Luphurise notes that this is the servant of God asking this, as good as God offering Himself to her. She responds that she has nothing but a jar of oil and it is this that He uses to help her. She is to borrow jars from her neighbours, fill them from her jar and then sell the oil (presumably back to them) to save her sons.
Many of us, says Luphurise, are just like that woman in that we think we have nothing – what we have is too small and of little use. Yet, this is the thing that God has given which can save you. You do not have nothing. God has given you something. Even if you are uneducated or poor or have no children, look for what God has given you. She then gives a number of examples.
This is where the issue of having more faith comes in. She asks listeners to think about what their ‘bottle’ might be. She says you do not see it because you think it is small. But with God is it not small – He sees what is possible and makes it possible. Having more faith means noticing the gifts that God has given you, the abilities than you do have. It is not the things that you have that matter, as if God only does things for those who have plenty. It is the faith that you have to see small things and believe that God can use them too.
In this context “have more faith” becomes less about a deficiency on your part and more about recognising your God-given abilities and work. It is not guilt inducing; it’s aimed at raising up and empowering.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.