In the incident quoted above, when Christ was told that the disciples could not cure the epileptic boy he at once exclaimed: ”O faithless and perverse generation!” It is of the greatest importance to understand these words, because they throw the first light on the meaning of faith. What does this word perverse mean and why does it follow immediately after the word faithless? At first sight there seems to be no connection between these two adjectives. This generation is called faithless and perverse. What is the connection? In the Greek the meaning of the word translated as ”perverse” signifies ”turning in many directions”. This means that to have no faith, to be entirely lacking in the quality of faith — hence to be ”faithless” — is linked with turning in many different directions and so to have no one direction to follow.
What Christ says is: ”O generation without faith and turning in all directions. ” A man without faith, a faithless man, is perverse in this sense. He turns in many different directions, not ever knowing where he is going. And in ordinary life people all the time are turning in different directions, at one moment believing in one thing or in one mood, and the next moment in another thing or in another mood. It is only necessary to observe oneself to see the truth of this.
Is it not true to say that one is turned in a different direction by nearly every book that one reads, every opinion that one hears, by every change of circumstance and fashion? And does not every mood paint life in different colours? But people imagine that they have permanent inner stability and it is true that as long as the general conditions of life remain the same they feel a kind of stability, but it is rarely due to anything in themselves. We have only to read history to see how aimless life is, in the deepest sense.