I was discussing a popular book with someone recently. The book is an allegory, which means that it is “an expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence; a symbolic representation” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
The book addressed spiritual ideas and issues symbolically. Because of this it did not attempt to present Biblical ideas in a strictly Biblical way. My friend cautioned me and others to be wary of the book saying, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump”, a quote from the Bible.
While I appreciate that person’s caution and have heard many others take the stance that we should completely reject something because it’s not, in the biblical sense, perfectly sound, two thoughts struck me about this:
Many in the Church habitually use fear to inspire people to do the right things, and
Many often use scriptures out of context to make their points, often just because they are parroting what has been modeled to them by Church leaders over the years.
When Paul said this: "A little leaven leavens the whole lump." (Galatians 5:9), of which leaven was he speaking?
I ask this because Jesus used the image of leaven in two ways:
"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.'" (Matthew 13:33)
Here Jesus is using the image of leaven to represent how the Kingdom of Heaven (or God in other Gospels) could spread. It is intended to be a positive thing.
"Then Jesus said to them, 'Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.'" (Matthew 16:6)
Here Jesus refers to the legalism of the Pharisees and Sadducees as leaven and it is a bad thing.
When Paul uses that image as recorded in Galatians 5:9 he is using it in the exact same way Jesus did in Matthew 16:6 - to refer to legalism which even in the first century was trying to quench the growth of the Kingdom of God by forcing Gentiles to be circumcised before they could pray to receive Jesus as Lord.
Jesus, in Matthew 16:6, told us how to handle this "leaven". He said to "beware" (or "be wary") of it.
THAT'S what I meant with my comment that we can view anything that tries to glorify the real God so long as we pay attention and spit out the bones (untruth).
Not all will agree with this stance. I am aware of that. I'm just trying to live in partnership with Jesus who never appealed to fear to spread His Kingdom. Perfect love casts out fear.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
I don't want to live in fear that I might do something wrong or view or read something that is in error.
In fact, FEAR can BE leaven, so I don't want to live in fear.
Instead, I want to be vigilant, trying to do well, trying to obey God, trying to discern good and evil but always more confident in God's ability to lead me, cleanse me, protect me than in my own puny human ability to do those things using my own fear as my guide.
I hope this makes sense.
I am NOT saying we should live presumptuously, doing whatever we want because we know God is loving and will forgive us because we are Christians.
I AM saying that because God is loving and forgives us, His children, we must show our gratitude to Him by doing our best and by NOT approaching Him legalistically…walking in fear.
Let’s be willing to be incorrect at times in our journey of learning Who He really is and HOW He really is.
Let’s exchange the leaven of fear for the leaven of God’s Kingdom and order.
Let’s ENJOY being the CHILDREN of the Most High God!