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Yeast can be good or harmful

October 20, 2023

Daily Scripture

Matthew 16:5-12, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

Matthew 16
5 When the disciples arrived on the other side of the lake, they had forgotten to bring bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Watch out and be on your guard for the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “We didn’t bring any bread.”
8 Jesus knew what they were discussing and said, “You people of weak faith! Why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you don’t have any bread? 9 Don’t you understand yet? Don’t you remember the five loaves that fed the five thousand and how many baskets of leftovers you gathered? 10 And the seven loaves that fed the four thousand and how many large baskets of leftovers you gathered? 11 Don’t you know that I wasn’t talking about bread? But be on your guard for the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he wasn’t telling them to be on their guard for yeast used in making bread. No, he was telling them to watch out for the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

1 Corinthians 5
6 Your bragging isn’t good! Don’t you know that a tiny grain of yeast makes a whole batch of dough rise? 7 Clean out the old yeast so you can be a new batch of dough, given that you’re supposed to be unleavened bread. Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed, 8 so let’s celebrate the feast with the unleavened bread of honesty and truth, not with old yeast or with the yeast of evil and wickedness.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

At times, well-meaning people try to treat Biblical symbols as a kind of “magic decoder ring” system: “This always means that.” That doesn’t work with Jesus’ parable about yeast. “The physical phenomenon of infiltration, as the yeast fungus multiplies throughout its medium, provides the basis for a symbolic use of leaven or yeast. The effect can be either positive or negative.” * Hurtful teachings or qualities sometimes spread as readily as the good effects of Jesus’ kingdom.

  • The “yeast” of Jesus’ kingdom was a good thing. The “yeast” of the Pharisees and Sadducees, on the other hand, was not. “Borrowing from the parable in Matthew 13:33, the idea is that a little influence from the Pharisees and Sadducees (16:12) will soon take over one’s whole life.” ** Today we hear concern about how technology can spread “disinformation,” even in religious settings. How can you avoid the “yeast” qualities of bad information?
  • In 1 Corinthians 5, the apostle Paul urged the church to deal with “a type of immorality that isn’t even heard of among the Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 5:1). He used Passover images. Unleavened bread reminded the Hebrews of their hurried exit from Egypt (cf. Exodus 12:1-27; Deuteronomy 16:1-8). How can Christians resist the kind of moral indifference the Corinthians were showing without becoming judgmental as Jesus warned against in the “log and splinter” parable?

Heavenly Father, you love me just as I am, but you love me too much to leave me just as I am. Let the yeast of your kingdom guard my heart from the harmful yeasts of wrong ideas. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Leah Swank-Miller

Leah Swank-Miller

Leah Swank-Miller is Director of Student Ministries at Resurrection Overland Park. A Kansas native, she has been a professional actress for nearly two decades, and she loves to see the vastness of God’s creation through theatre and the arts. Leah is pursuing an M.Div. from Saint Paul School of Theology. Leah, Brian, and their two children love to play tennis, golf, soccer, and board games.

My professor at my seminary has a coffee mug that reads, “Don’t confuse your Google search with my theology degree.” It makes me chuckle every time I see it. I value the care my professors and classes at Saint Paul School of Theology give me to think deeply about why I believe what I believe. As a teacher and preacher, I feel the weight of accurately interpreting the Bible and the life-giving theology of God’s love with the world around me and, most importantly, the next generation of middle and high school students I am entrusted to lead at Resurrection. I do not take this role lightly.

What I say will affect a student’s faith journey in either a positive or negative way. Knowing this, I try to check everything I say through the lens of Jesus’ unconditional love. If the theology or message I’m giving is placing judgment on others and not introspection on myself, then it’s not through the lens of Jesus. If an idea or speech promotes prejudice and privilege of one set of people over another, it’s not from Jesus. Hate speech wrapped in church lingo is still hate speech. I can’t help but think Jesus felt this way when he gave the example of the yeast in the bread. Knowing where our “bread,” or theology, is coming from is essential. Jesus warned against the yeast of the religious zealots at the time because it wasn’t a life-giving, love-producing message. It was speech fueled by hate, greed, and fear, which are ingredients not suitable for our consumption.

When I think about my professor’s plea on his mug, I think about how easy it is to google any answer you want to give that suits your needs. Yet when it comes to faith and hope in God’s love for the world, so much of that message can get distorted with false messages (via technology, social media, society, or political propaganda) about who God is and how God works in the world. Knowing how to view and process all we are inundated with is essential.

I’m not a bread maker, but I have tried before, and I can attest that even missing one ingredient or using a bad batch of yeast will leave you with a pretty pathetic loaf of bread. Many times, you must throw out the bread altogether. The same can be said for our theology, how we view God’s nature and character. Sometimes, we might need to “throw out” or let go of harmful theology that places power and agendas over justice and peace.  This is why it is important to know why we believe what we believe when understanding how we share our view of God with the world. It’s important because our youth will teach the message we share with them to their children. Let’s give them some good, life-giving “bread” to share, the kind Jesus chose to multiply.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Article “Leaven” in Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit and Tremper Longman III, general editors, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998, p. 428.
** Eugene Eung-Chun Park and Joel B. Green, study note on Matthew13:33 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 36 NT.