“A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” Galatians 5:9
Have you ever been to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco? If you go there, you’ll see a giant Boudin bakery, store, and restaurant. I’ve been by there many times, though I’ve only stopped in a few. It isn’t even the main Boudin bakery in the city; that’s elsewhere. This one is for the tourists. You can stand at the window and watch bakers craft sourdough bread into amazing shapes and styles. Loaves, alligators, crabs, buildings, you name it: they can do it.
Or wine (or any alcohol, for that matter). I like wine and I make wine. I love the process, and I love turning grape juice into fine wine. I’ve been making wine for years now, and beer before that. My wife and I recently got together with some friends to bottle our fifth batch of wine as a group. We make the wine at a party, then get together weeks later to have another dinner and bottle the wine. We all split the cost, and walk away with bottles of something good we did together.
Good wine and bread are, in part, because of yeast. Yeast is natural, living in the wild. We grow and culture it commercially as well, to purify it. In baking, you mix in yeast, and it grows over minutes or hours, multiplying and spreading, imparting taste and volume into the bread (mainly through the release of carbon dioxide). In making alcohol, you pitch yeast into your juice (or fermented grain, sugar, or juice combinations, if you’re making beer or distilled spirits), and the yeast consumes the sugars, converting them into alcohol while giving off that carbon dioxide.
For these purposes, now as in ancient times, that’s a beneficial and good thing. In Matthew 13 (and Luke 13), Jesus even refers to the kingdom of heaven being like yeast, spreading throughout, making things rise, improve, and become pleasing.
Sin can work just like yeast. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus also refers to yeast in terms of it representing evil that spreads, permeates through the fertile dough of believer groups. He uses it (like Paul) to refer to the self-focused idolatry of the Pharisees and others who misrepresent God’s word. He calls out the hypocrisy of these unbelievers to warn His people that hypocrisy leads nowhere good. That even a small idea, like a virus or a cancer or yeast, can take root, fester, grow, and spread. It can destroy.
Jesus’ advice: “watch out.” Be vigilant. Stay close to Him and His word. Be ready to turn away when you need to. Be cautious with yeast because even good things can go bad, especially in San Francisco.
For further reading: Matthew 13:33, Matthew 16:5-12, Mark 8:15, Luke 12:1-3, Luke 13:20-21, 1 Corinthians 5:6, Galatians 5:10
Lord, abide with me to keep watch for things that can harm
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