An interesting little parable is the one discovered in Matthew chapter thirteen. In different versions it is called by different titles, but essentially it is about yeast being mixed with flour for making bread.
“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” (Matthew 13:33)
Bread making is one of the oldest skills known to humankind. Bread and wine are amongst the first foods ever recorded about civilised life.
Interestingly, they both require a settled existence – grapes are not the crop for nomadic herdsmen nor are grain and corn. Land has to be cultivated and the seed sown, the crop harvested and the grain winnowed and threshed before flour is obtained. After much hard work the flour is blended with yeast and water and kneaded into bread – a process of working with ones hands to ensure that the yeast is totally mixed. After allowing the bread to stand and the yeast to ‘work’, the process is repeated until the whole bread is completely in the power of the yeast.
A simple lesson is contained in the message of this parable – our lives must be totally filled with the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles.
This requires much hard work, it isn’t the product of sloth or idleness. The principles of godliness and the aims of the ‘Age to Come’ have to be inculcated into our thinking and lifestyle in order that we might become vessels ‘fit for the Master’s use’. The people of the Kingdom Age will be men and women who have willingly submitted to instruction and guidance here and now. Unfortunately, the majority of people are not prepared to be taught such things and therefore they die in ignorance.
The real problem of discipleship is conquering the selfish, sinful nature we all have within us.
The Apostle James lays down the fundamental principles about evil;
“Let no man say when he is tempted,
‘I am tempted by God;’
for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived it gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full- grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.”
There is no mention here of an external power or influence tempting us to sin. However, situations may well provide the stimulus for temptation, it might be other people, it might be circumstances in which we find ourselves but essentially it is within our own minds that the battle is fought between good and evil. The Apostle Paul described the problem for himself as follows;
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practise.” (Romans 7:18 & 19)
The way to overcome the sinful, selfish mind which each of us possesses is to seek for divine help by prayer and meditation of God’s word.
Paul guides us in the following comments, regarding the characters we should aim at achieving;
“But now you yourselves are to put off all these; anger wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie one to another … as the elect of God, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering, bearing one another, forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts ..” (Colossians 3:8 & 9, 12-15)
Our life in Christ is a demonstration of these characteristics. From our first hearing of the Gospel, from the moment of our new birth to our dying day, we are exercising the power of free choice. Our life as a disciple of Christ is determined by choice. The Christian life is not cluttered, nor should it be, with rules and regulations. It is easier to have rules to live by, but our road is one of free choice determined by ourselves in the light of the divine guidance.
In other words, in the inner man, we should not be preoccupied with a slavish obedience to rules and regulations, but rather with a constant examination of our motives, our thoughts and our actions. It’s the ability to make decisions on our own, in the inner confines of our own minds that will affect the outer actions. We are not ‘veneer disciples’ but real wood through to the core! Or to change the metaphor, it is the degree to which we allow the teaching of God, the ‘yeast’ of our parable, to change the life that we have, that the ‘whole loaf of our being might be of good quality, fit for the Master’s use.
It would seem that yeast (leaven) as used in the context of this parable does not mean ‘evil things’ as in almost all other quotations in the Bible. This should caution us against applying a simplistic interpretation whereby all references using the same metaphor mean the same thing! We should always pay due respect to the context of particular passages and interpret the Bible in the light of such circumstances.
- Matthew 13 – Parables on Kingdom mysteries
- Matthew 13:18-23 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Parable of the Seed and Soil
- Matthew 13:24-30 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Parable of the Field and the Harvest
- Matthew 13:33 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Parable of the Fermented Whole
- Matthew 13:36-43 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Parable of the Zizania in the Field Explained
- Matthew 16:5-12 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Watch Out for the Leaven of False Teaching