What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough. (Luke 13:20-21, NIV)
The Kingdom of God needs to be a corrupting force in the world. That just sounds bad, doesn’t it? The cognitive dissonance strikes the brain and the ears like fingernails on a chalkboard or the stridency of the bow across the strings by a novice violinist. After all, Kingdom of God = good; corruption = bad.
What Jesus is saying here and in its parallel passage in Matthew is that the Kingdom is like yeast that a woman is mixing into a LOT of flour. Yeast is a fungus, and fungi were considered unclean in Jewish culture and religion. Worse, there is a woman – a second-class citizen – working with this yeast. What in the world was Jesus trying to say here? That the sacred Kingdom of God is like fungus and involves women?!?!
Have you ever made bread from scratch? To illustrate this idea, I talked the girls into making some yeast bread with me (not a terribly hard stretch). We made a batch that made a short loaf and a scrumptious 9″x9″ fake focaccia (we called it “fauxcaccia”). It took just one packet, about 2 teaspoons, of yeast to make these, so definitely not much compared to the 4+ cups of flour. I’ll show off our pictures and share the recipe link, then swing it back to the teaching of Jesus.
Interestingly enough, this recipe is called Peasant Bread. It’s a 5-ingredient, no-knead, ridiculously fast and easy yeast bread that came out absolutely delicious! You can find the recipe for it here.
Going back to the verse I cited at the beginning of this… What is Jesus saying here? Just as it doesn’t take a lot of yeast to impact cups (or, in the passage from Luke, pounds) of flour, it likewise doesn’t take a great deal of our corrupting our culture with Jesus to make a difference.
It makes no difference who we are, be it a CEO or a “lesser” citizen whose duties are isolated to menial tasks. We have a responsibility to be that corrupting influence in the world.
What would that look like? It looks like having integrity, which I define as “doing what’s right, even when no one is looking.” I wish I could remember the original source, but at a preaching lecture led by Thomas Long, professor emeritus from Chandler School of Theology at Emory University, he recounted the story of a man in a group therapy session. It was near Christmas, and that man had some warrants out on him. He was planning on turning himself in to the police after that meeting. That man was corrupting his corner of society by doing what was right.
I’ve spoken before about being counter-cultural and even counter-church cultural. Is there something you can do to get ahead of someone else, either in prestige, position, or power? Don’t do that. Jesus didn’t do that, so we shouldn’t do that. How, in fact, can we make ourselves low? Are we willing to inconvenience ourselves in order to raise someone else up? Are we willing to lift others up – with absolutely NO benefit for ourselves? Can we do this quietly, secretly, like the way yeast impacts flour when we make bread? When that becomes our way of doing life, then through us will the Kingdom of God corrupt our society and our culture.