As the old question goes, which came first, the chicken or the egg? This is a paradox, of course. It can't be solved. It binds us in an infinite regress.
But lets switch the terms, and ask another question which Jesus implies in today's Gospel passage (Luke 17:5-10): which came first, faith or service? Theologians have argued over the centuries as to which one ought to be most important, to be sure, but we need to consider the possibility that one flows from the other.
Faith is an elusive concept. For some, it means belief in a being in the sky. For others, it means trust. For still others, it means hope. Regardless, the disciples demand of Jesus that he increase their faith.
This is a rather silly request, for one particular reason: how could Jesus possibly increase or decrease in another person that which it is their sole responsibility to cultivate?
Think about it: how can you increase your partners' love for you? How can you increase your employers' trust in you? How can you increase your friends' hope in you? Sure, you can me more loving, more trustworthy, more hopeful, but in the end, the love, trust and hope of others is not within your power to affect.
People must risk love, risk trust, risk hope, and that is how these things grow.
How do you make these things grow? I think Jesus makes it fairly clear in today's Gospel passage that we grow these things by serving others. Try it. Do something that serves somebody other than yourself and tell me how it made you feel. I guarantee you that it felt good.
The rather cliched and ironic truth is that if you want it, you have to give it away.
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