Beware of Yeast (What is That?)

Mark 8:14-21

by Carol C.

I decided to write a devotional about these verses because I like to cook and figured I knew about yeast. I do not know what I was thinking. I am a terrible baker and yeast is a mystery to me, and I had to look it up: Yeast is a fungus. It's single-cell organisms that are used as a leavening agent in baking bread. You only need a little for it to work. The yeast eats sugar in the dough and excretes carbon dioxide and ethanol. Eew.

So why did Jesus say "Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” I think He's talking about how the Pharisees and others who distort God's commands take something that is sweet and good - God's word - and turn it into something smelly and formless. And they do it out of pride and arrogance, which puffs us up in the same way that yeast makes bread fluffy.

How do they do that? Well, the Pharisees took the laws that God made for His people, the Jews, and turned them into obligations that were necessary for holiness, and used them to control people who they thought were beneath them.

So how do we do that in our lives? Why would Jesus warn His disciples to be aware of this kind of yeast?

We do it the minute we think we know and apply the Scriptures better than the other people in our church. When we look at our brother Sheldon, who is smart but has trouble communicating with people, and we say he is terrible at sharing his faith and is therefore not following Jesus' command to make disciples. It's when we think about our sister Bernadette, who yells a lot when she gets angry, and we consider her to be living in the sin of unrighteous anger, and therefore not as close to God as we are.

When we get puffed up about ourselves, we get gassy and smelly and block ourselves from the humble helplessness that is necessary for true intimacy and reliance on God. We put walls between ourselves and our brothers and sisters and contribute to division instead of reconciliation and love in our congregation and our city. We miss the sweet grace that God gives us when we admit our weaknesses and ask for help and forgiveness.

I don't want to be the yeast the Jesus warned about, and neither do you. Let's avoid pride and arrogance when we can and repent when we fall into it. Then let’s go break bread together.

Prayer: God, show me where I am prideful. Reveal it to me so I can repent. Thank you for your grace.