TO CHEW ON: "Then He charged them, saying, 'Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.' " Mark 8:15
In a conversation that makes us smile because of its misunderstandings, Jesus warns the disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod. The disciples think He's talking about real bread—seen by their discussion amongst themselves (Mark 8:16).
But that isn't it at all. What Jesus is really referring to is leaven as a metaphor. "Often the term has an evil connotation, that is, what is small may corrupt the whole," says J. Lyle Story in his notes on Mark (New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1364).
The leaven, or evil Jesus tells them to avoid here is that of the Pharisees and Herod. My Bible's notes suggest the leaven of the Pharisees is lack of faith so that ever more signs are needed, and the leaven of Herod is the worldly outlook of godlessness.
The meaning of leaven as a small thing that disseminates through the whole batch is borne out in other references to leaven. In 1 Corinthians Paul says, "Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?" Then he tells the Corinthians to purge out the leaven of "malice and wickedness" - 1 Corinthians 5:6-8.
In Galatians Paul repeats the leaven proverb (Galatians 2:9) and warns readers about the leaven of returning to the bondage of the law (practicing and insisting on circumcision) as a way to earn salvation - Galatians 2:2-12.
These references to leaven as a small, seemingly insignificant thing that can corrupt the whole has me asking, might there be leaven in my life?
It could be some secret and unconfessed sin that saps my spiritual energy by its whispers: "You sinner! You have no right to spiritual power and success." Or it could be an attitude like the fear of man, or a lack of faith that the Bible is really truth, or pride that says, "I would never do that" and then sits in judgment on others. It could be any number of things—bits of leaven that eventually affect every part of life and ministry.
PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to discern the leaven in my life and, with the help of Your spirit, rid myself of it. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.