The Kingdom of God as a Mustard Seed

By Mark D. Roberts

September 15, 2016

“[The Kingdom of God] is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

Mark 4:31-32


Mustard seedsIn one of the parables of the kingdom of God in Mark 4, Jesus compares the kingdom to a mustard seed. Like this seed, the kingdom of God is quite small. But, even as the mustard plant grows to a prodigious size, so it is with the kingdom of God.

We must remember that the phrase “kingdom of God” did not refer to a place, but rather to the reign of God. God’s reign was truly present in the ministry of Jesus. But its impact was relatively insignificant at the time. Yes, Jesus stirred up the crowds and distressed many Jewish leaders. Yes, he was popular among common people, especially those who needed healing or deliverance. But, for the most part, Jesus didn’t even show up as a blip on the radar screen. As ancient Roman historians recounted the key events and people of the first-century A.D., Jesus received only the tiniest mention. Though God’s reign was truly present in the ministry of Jesus, it was small and apparently inconsequential. In time, however, it would make its full impact known.

Sometimes we Christians forget the image of the mustard seed and the encouragement it brings. We look at huge, successful ministries and discount the importance of our local churches. Or we see a few Christians who impact millions of people and figure that our contribution doesn’t count. We try to live our faith in our workplace, but we don’t see any major change in our jobs or our colleagues.

In fact, however, God has chosen to use that which appears to be inconsequential in the work of the kingdom. Our calling is not to make a big splash for God, but rather to be faithful in our part of the world. The mustard seed of God’s reign will grow through us in our workplace, family, school, community, church, and society. We may not see it. We may not think we’re making a major impact. But God is at work in and through us, extending the Lord’s rule in our world.


Do you ever discount your contribution to the work of God because it doesn’t seem big enough?

How is God using you these days in his kingdom work?

How might you be more faithful in your part of God’s world, especially in your workplace?


Dear Lord, thank you for this encouraging image of the mustard seed. You know how easy it is for us to get caught up in the idea that bigness is what really matters in your work. Then we look at our efforts and they appear hopelessly puny and insignificant. They look, well, like some tiny mustard seed.

Indeed, it may well be that our efforts on behalf of your kingdom won’t ever win prizes or sell thousands of books or make headlines. But the mustard seed of your kingdom is nevertheless present in our lives, as you extend your reign through us.

So help us, Lord, to be faithful in small things. Use us for your purposes. Glorify yourself in us and all that we do in every arena of life. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: When Hope Isn’t Foolish

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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