Being yeast

Being yeast

In Matthew 13, Jesus compares his followers to yeast (with ‘leaven’ simply being an older word for ‘yeast’):

33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” (Matt. 13:33 ESV)

As far as parables go, this one is short and simple. Three measures of flour is a lot of flour, maybe the maximum a person could bake at one time. But even if you are planning to bake a large amount of bread, you only need a small amount of yeast. The yeast grows and influences far more than we would expect.

The message here to the fledgeling church is one of encouragement. Yes, there were not many of them. Yes, the world is mainly full of those who don’t believe and may even be hostile to our faith. But even the small number of believers can influence a large population.

This parable is supposed to jar us. Yeast is often used in a negative sense in the Bible, but here Jesus uses it positively. The yeast makes the bread better. The whole thing is better if the yeast does what it is supposed to do.

There are some major take away applications from this for Christians in the modern world:

  • Even ordinary Christians can have a major influence in the world they live in. When we think of Christians influencing the world, maybe we think of someone like Wilberforce who helped bring an end to slavery, or Martin Luther King who fought for civil rights. But it’s not only the great leaders of movements that influence the world. Don’t underestimate the influence of a quiet, godly, helpful worker in an office who works how she does because she is serving Jesus instead of her boss. Don’t underestimate the influence of a Christian who looks to help the neighbour or friend in their street or apartment building. Yeast is designed to have an influence. You don’t need to force it or be some special kind of yeast. Just live out your faith consistently wherever God has put you and it will make the world a better place.
  • Christians must not isolate themselves from the world. Yeast won’t work if it remains in the jar. To influence the bread, it needs to mix with the flour. It has always been a temptation for Christians to withdraw from a hostile world for their own protection. In the end, that is denying the world the positive influence Christians should be. Don’t be afraid of the world. It is a mission field God has placed you into.

The church in many countries today seems small and insignificant. Take the parable of the yeast as an encouragement. Jesus anticipated a small group of people having an influence on a larger group of people. Keep on going. You don’t know what influence you might have on a watching world.