Have you noticed that certain things grow in our lives? Many times we will become significantly influenced by something small that comes across our path.
As a simple example, have you noticed you can yawn after seeing someone else yawn? At times you will hear a bit of music and then have the song or tune in your head for the rest of the day.
These little things can invade our life, quite unexpectedly and often in the smallest amount, yet they seem to swell in size and take more of our attention.
There are evil and insidious things with that effect, like a sudden feeling of greed or lust. We can end up distracted by the fleeting glimpse of something that aroused our selfish interests. A momentary encounter with an angry or aggressive person can cause us to feel unsettled for the rest of the day, and we may become short tempered and intolerant as a result.
Good things can also have similar effect. An act of kindness or thoughtfulness can be like a seed of happiness within us that produces pleasant feelings.
Jesus referred to leaven, or yeast, as a metaphor for this kind of influence in our lives. Yeast is mixed with flour and has the effect of making the dough swell. It is not just the yeast that swells, but it makes the flour react as well. A small amount of yeast can work on a large batch of dough.
Wise parents know to protect their children from influences that will stir evil within the child. Selfish, sensual, angry, rebellious, aggressive and prideful things can be like yeast in the heart and mind of those exposed to them. Christians know to avoid stirring evil thoughts and awakening evil desires within them.
The world suggests we should try everything and see what we like. But if that exposes us to bad ‘leaven’ that will infest our lives then it is an offence to God and a terrible danger to us. So Christians keep away from evil.
“Abstain from every form of evil.” 1Thessalonians 5:22
“Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” Proverbs 4:27
“Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness” 2Timothy 2:22
Over the years I have had to help people who let evil things into their life. We are overcome by the things we give in to, so many people need to be set free from things they have allowed to enslave them.
“Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to anyone as their slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Romans 6:16
“Jesus replied, Truly, truly, I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” John 8:34
Many of those I have had to help were still putting evil yeast into their lives. For example, a woman who was tormented by nightmares was also addicted to watching horror movies. She was still putting terrifying things into her life, while wanting to be free from the torment.
We are told to get rid of the yeast we previously put into our lives, and stop putting any more bad yeast into us.
“Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump” 1Corinthians 5:7
The Bible reveals several dangerous forms of leaven that can invade our lives. The Apostle Paul identified wrong teaching as a kind of leaven. When people twisted the Bible’s teachings to serve human interests those teachings had the effect of distorting the whole congregation.
We find that in churches today. There are churches that are very intellectual and the members carry a pride in the academic nature of the preaching and what they think makes them superior to other churches. So there is a leaven of intellectualism and pride in the church spoiling the faith of the people.
Remember the Bible warning that thinking we have special knowledge makes us proud.
“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” 1Corinthians 8:1
There are churches where wealth is regarded as of high value and those without material goods are looked down on. There are churches where seeking self-fulfilment has replaced any idea of serving Christ and building God’s Kingdom.
Paul was concerned for churches which had become sidetracked from loving God and serving Christ, to chasing some sideline value instead.
“You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” Galatians 5:5
“A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough.” Galatians 5:9
There are churches deeply embroiled in political wrangling and power struggles, as if being the top dog is the thing to achieve. Some churches revere academic standing, while others uphold certain cultural values, and others hold to certain forms of government, while yet others pride themselves in some other distinctive.
In these cases and in so many other examples, something small crept in at some time and infected the whole congregation over time. The congregation usually feels proud of the very thing that is spoiling them.
“Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” 1Corinthians 5:6
Jesus warned His disciples about another kind of leaven, that of the Pharisees, which Jesus identified as ‘hypocrisy’.
“Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” Matthew 16:6
“Jesus began to speak first to His disciples: Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, and nothing hidden that will not be made known.” Luke 12:1,2
Hypocrisy is living a double life, where what we pretend to be does not match the hidden reality of our lives. Secret sins, false image and keeping up appearances is a sad part of Christian life. Many families sit neatly in church, hiding the mess of their private lives and the pain that may be rife in the family.
This is a terrible form of yeast that spoils lives and destroys families.
At the same time Jesus also taught that the Kingdom of God is itself a wonderful leaven that invades our lives and transforms our homes.
“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into three measures of flour, until all of it was leavened.” Matthew 13:33
Amazingly and wonderfully, as you are touched by God’s Kingdom it has the effect of touching other parts of you and drawing you to desire to go deeper into what God has for you.
Many a life and home has been gloriously transformed by someone bringing to them just a small dose of the Kingdom of God, which worked in them and stirred in them until they were drawn into wonderful relationship with God.
Friends, it’s time to get the old leaven out from your life, and stop putting wrong things into your life and home. And it’s time to open to more of God’s Kingdom, connecting with those who evidence the transforming work of Christ in their lives, so God’s Kingdom can take full influence over all that you are and ever will be.
Let God’s Kingdom be the Leaven in Your Life.