I love baking bread. There’s something about taking four very basic ingredients – flour, water, yeast, and salt and mixing them together to form dough. Give the dough some time, then bake it, and out comes a wonderfully smelling, freshly baked loaf of bread! It amazes me that those four ingredients can produce a vast variety of breads.
I got to thinking about one of the ingredients recently. In the New Testament yeast is sometimes associated with sin. Jesus warned the people to beware of the yeast, the false teaching, of the religious leaders (Matt.16.11). Paul implored his readers to get rid of the old yeast in their lives and associated it with evil and malice (1 Cor. 5.6-8).
On the flip side, Jesus used yeast as a positive symbol of growth when He compared the kingdom of heaven to yeast (Matt. 13.33). Just as yeast is hardly apparent when dough is initially made, its effects cannot be missed as the dough rises. The same applies to the kingdom of heaven. The small beginnings of the kingdom of heaven do not themselves reveal the magnificent scope of the kingdom’s final sovereignty and dominion.
Paul made a neutral statement about yeast affecting the whole batch of dough (Gal. 5.9). Just half of one percent of the flour’s weight in yeast is enough to make a loaf of bread. Taken in context, Paul warned his readers to be aware of what was influencing them because a small amount of negative influence could have tremendous effect.
Yeast of Life
Why would Jesus and Paul use yeast in metaphorical terms? They were warning us to be aware of the impact seemingly insignificant influences can have on our lives.
Unlike yeast that is added one time to dough, influences continually come at us. We must be on guard that a small amount of input doesn’t have larger than expected consequences on our lives. While we no longer have Pharisees and Sadducees, there is still a place to heed Jesus’ warning about false teachings. Religious leaders, political leaders, academic leaders, entertainment leaders, and many other leaders are still using words and actions as a means of influence. If we don’t put some thought into what kind of effect these influences have on our lives, we leave ourselves open and vulnerable to all kinds of whims that have the potential to drastically and negatively change the course of our lives.
Not all influences are bad. Some are worth cultivating. Strong prayer warriors have positively impacted me in my prayer life. I cultivated their influence by spending time with them, praying with them and incorporating what I learned into my own prayers.
Prayer can make us be aware of the influences. Prayer can help us see the truth or lies that undergird those influences. It can also allow us to know which influences need to be guarded against and which should be cultivated.
God is a loving Father who wants the best for us. He knows there are many, many competing influences coming at us. Most encouraging is that He wants to help us weed through the influences so that only the positive and uplifting influences have an effect on our lives.