Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Leaven of the Pharisees

Luke 12:1-3
In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trod one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. (2) For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. (3) Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.

I love to make homemade bread. My grandfather was the butler and my grandmother the cook for Eli Lily, the owner of Lily pharmaceutical company. One of my grandfather's daily tasks was to make fresh homemade bread for Mr. Lily. When I was a young man, my grandfather gave me the recipe that he used for his homemade bread that he brought to Mr. Lily's table and he also gave me little tips on how to make good homemade bread and how to make certain that it turned out. In the past, at different periods of time I made much, if not most of the bread that our family ate. There surely have been changes over the many decades since I received it as a young man, but my recipe is based upon the one that my grandfather gave me so many years ago.

I loved mixing up the dead ingredients, the flour, water, sugar, milk, and oil, mixing them together, adding the yeast and being part of a seemingly magical process of creation as the yeast did its wonder and by the actions of its growth turned the sticky pasty glop of things out of bags and bottles into a completely different entity, a living dough. You could tell if you did something wrong. The yeast is a living organism and if you did not have the conditions right for its growth or if your batch of yeast had for some reason expired, you could tell when you tried to work it that it was dead. No matter how long you would wait, without the transforming action of the living yeast the ingredients would forever remain just a glop of stuff with no purpose, there was no life within the ingredients to transform them into wondrous bread.

Jesus chose two symbols for Himself at the last supper, the symbols of the bread and of the wine. I do not believe it coincidence that both of these require the action of a leavening agent, yeast as we call it today, to transform them from the ordinary into the divine. Foods elevated above their brethren on the table by the action of leaven. Both are dependent upon the yeast, a living principle purposely placed within the mass of the dough, naturally falling from the air upon the juice of the grapes in their storage vats and thereby acting upon them both. . .changing them, the life force of the yeast adding. . . changing. . . transforming the humble ingredients into something far greater. . . by its life. . . by the products of its life and again necessarily ultimately by the death of the yeast transforming that upon which it acted. . . completing the metamorphosis from what would be without the yeast, hard tasteless crackers into wondrous life giving bread and by the same mechanism giving spirit, powerful properties to the juice of the humble grape through fermentation.

Again, starting His public life, starting the effect of His physical presence upon the world, that first recorded miracle that Jesus performed, significantly was one of, by His touch changing simple lifeless tasteless water into living water. . .water with spirit at the marriage ofCana . In an extraordinarily symbolic work, again Jesus was the leavening agent in turning pure well water into the best wine of the marriage feast, through His action, through His changing of it. He began His ministry at the wedding in Cana and continues now centuries later as the most powerful leavening agent acting upon the raw ingredients of the world. . . changing everything His Spirit comes in contact with.

Jesus Spirit is seen as effecting things for the good, but here in this passage of Luke, Jesus warns us of the power of the spirit of man to also effect us. For not only does God have a Spirit with power, but there are many spirits in the world. The spirit of the Pharisees has a name: hypocrisy. It too has the power to change inert, neutral ingredients into something different. Leavening is added. When well mixed, it is invisible. At first you cannot determine it's presence in a lump of dough or in a vat of juice, but it grows and multiplies until it's influence is seen. Verse 2:

(2) For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.

Leavening, whether good or bad cannot be added to anything without eventually having a pronounced impact. What is your leavening? What leavens your life? What is your Spirit? Is it for good or ill? It will bear fruit. Verse 3:

(3) Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.

The leaven of disunity, the leaven of bitterness, the leaven of unforgiveness, the leaven of deception. . . the leaven of sin will spread from quiet words and seemingly private thoughts. never remaining isolated, but eventually if allowed to work to its season of completion, its season of harvest, that seemingly tiny bit of yeast will eventually contaminate the entire lump:

1 Corinthians 5:6-9
Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? (7) Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: (8) Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (9) I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:

We have become lazy in our modern age. Our modern antibiotics have made us careless in our handling of people with disease. In the generation that preceded us, it was not uncommon for a person or an entire household to be quarantined, if there were a serious disease present in the house. We have gotten away from that in our modern antibiotic age, where we have now grown dependent upon drugs to provide a quick cure for infectious illnesses, but there is one way that remains very very effective in limiting the spread of serious infectious disease and that is to isolate the carrier of it as they become known.

We all know to protect the purity of our bodies in the physical sense. We know better than to allow tattoos to be placed upon our bodies. We abhor the thought, we do not allow cuttings or disfigurement to this temple of our body, our gift from God, but are we as vigilant in what we allow in our minds. I say we need to be every bit as vigilant with our minds as we are in protecting our physical bodies.

No one likes advertising. Ads in magazines, 30 second radio spots, TV ads are abhorrent to most of us, but that does not diminish their effectiveness. For as much as we dislike them, the same message for the same soft drink or fast food burger repeated endlessly over and again will boost the sales of the company that bought the time regardless of our attitude towards advertising.

In the same way we can decry the message of modern morality as God fearing people, but if we allow ourselves to be endlessly exposed to the message of the world on television or through movies or magazines or other media, we will tend over time to inexorably move toward the world's point of view without our even being aware of it.

Just recently I read of Department of Defense investigators who spend time investigating pornography. These case workers are men and women who are the good guys. They are striving to stamp out pornography within our armed forces, but even they, after long exposure in their investigative duties, end up having the same social problems that all chronic users of pornography experience. They become isolated, have trouble communicating, have relationship problems. In general terms they become anti-social, the fruit that pornography bears, is born through contact even by those combating it. Abhorrence of it, is not insurance against the effects of it.

The lesson from this is that it doesn't matter your attitude toward the leavening agent. Regardless of whether you approve or disapprove of it. Regardless whether you like it or dislike it, it is the mere exposure to it that tends to change you, therefore we need to be very very protective as to what we allow into our minds.

Modern music, worldly books, movies, other entertainment all have a subtle impact upon us that cannot bear good fruit and if we allow exposure we can neither predict, nor control, nor do very much lessen its influence upon us.

In another vein, the people around you likewise influence you, whether you like it or not. The Bible is very clear:

Proverbs 22:24-25
Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: (25) Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.

You learn and pick up things from the people around you. If you can in anyway help it, do not associate with negative, bitter, angry people. As this proverb states, there is a definite danger that you will become like them. Do not underestimate that their leaven, their spirit has power. Their spirit has the power to influence and change you. The leavening agent of their spirit, their fruit will if given no hindrance, if not quarantined, spread widely beyond their bitter tree. . .

We need to jealously guard our purity. . . the purity of our bodies, the purity of our thoughts, the innocence of our minds is precious beyond measure. We must guard them and not casually put them at risk. We must strive to protect the purity of our mind in proportion with its value. The safeguards we take must be in relation to the risk. The risk of the world is great. Jesus said that we are to be as children. I take this to mean that we are to be innocent in thought and deed. Put a guardian at the gate of your mind. . . guard your innocence. . .do not allow just anything in. . .

Beware of the leavening of the world. . .


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