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Parables Part 11 - Leavened Lump


Matthew 13:33, “Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” (Luke 13:20-21).


Throughout Scripture leaven is always seen as a type of sin or something that is false. For example, in Exodus 12-13 when the Passover was instituted, all leaven had to be out of the house and the Israelites were to eat unleavened bread for seven days as a sign of all sin being removed from their homes. Additionally, Jesus warned His disciples of the leaven of the pharisees in Matthew 16 and Luke 12, comparing their leaven to hypocrisy and false or misleading doctrine. Paul speaks of leaven in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 in this way, “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” In this passage Paul compares leaven with malice and wickedness and we are encouraged in Christ to be cleansed of this type of leaven. Therefore, it is easy for us to see leaven as something that is wrong and unwholesome for us as followers of Christ in the church.


So why did Jesus say the Kingdom of heaven is a like a woman who hid leaven in dough until all was leavened? This is the question I want to answer and there are two ways to look at it. First, we can see leaven as the evil we are warned that it can be. From that perspective we are reminded that leaven is sin and if we let just a little sin into the church then it can easily infect the whole church leading to difficulty and even judgment. This is a warning for us to not allow anything that is false into the church and that we need to have a willingness to confront sin within our churches. Too many churches have compromised in this way, allowing little things, or even big things, to invade the church without any sort of confrontation, rebuke, or call for repentance. This cannot be, we as followers of Christ need to confront what is wrong before it impacts the whole church. Doing so does not mean that we don’t love people, or welcome messy people into our churches. What it means is that we love and welcome everyone, but we pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and our own boldness to confront things that are wrong before they are detrimental to the church.


The second point of view is that we can take leaven in its literal sense for what it is, something put in dough to make it rise. If we apply that, this parable could be to illustrate the powerful influence the church can have in the world as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit and we speak the truth of God’s Word into a dark and lost world. I will be the first to admit that the previous view is probably the correct one for this parable, however, we could make this application from it. We as the church are called to ambassadors for Christ in 2 Corinthians 5:20, as though Jesus was pleading through us for the world to be reconciled with God. Additionally, we are called to be salt and light in the world in Matthew 5:13-16. This calling is that we as salt are to be a preserving factor in the world that makes people thirst for the things of God. We are also called to light the way, reflecting the light of Christ in our own lives to those around us. Doing so means that God would use our influence in the world to bring people to Himself. This should be a great desire in our lives.


Weather we take this parable as a warning to not let sin into our lives or into the church, or we apply this parable as the possibility of the church’s influence in the world, we are called to take this parable, as with the rest of Scripture, seriously and apply it to our own lives. So how do you need to apply it today? Is there something you have let into your life that has the possibility of devastating effects? If so, purge that out of your life by the blood of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit working in you. Do you need to play a greater role in influencing the world around you as an ambassador for Christ? If so, pray, fast, spend time in the Word, and seek the Lord for how that can be a greater reality in your life.


Image Borrowed from – Kuyperian.com

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