How often have you heard the expression, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”? I know I’ve heard it several times and that I have rarely, if ever taken the time to ponder the meaning, though I was vaguely aware that the principle was found in Scripture.
When studying the Parable of Leaven found in Matthew 13:33 and Luke 13:20-21, I became interested in how the concept of leaven should be applied to my life as a Christian.
Leaven is mentioned several times in the Bible and, usually, with a bad connotation. For example, in I Corinthians chapter 5 Paul is talking about a man in the church at Corinth that was living in adultery with “his father’s wife”. This may have been his birth mother, but more likely this was his stepmother. Paul warns the church not to glory in their liberality by tolerating this behavior in the church. Rather, they should discipline this backslidden Christian so that he will repent. Paul states an additional reason for doing this in verses 6 & 7, “…Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump…” The idea is that if this Christian, living in sin, is allowed to continue in his sin unchecked, his sin will spread to the other believers in the church, just as yeast spreads throughout dough in the bread-making process. The leaven of sin in the church would permeate the entire church and stunt the spiritual growth of believers. This obviously does not mean that the entire church would live in gross immorality, but that their consciences and abilities to discern right and wrong would be seared.
Similarily, when we let a “little” sin abide in our lives, that sin will “leaven” our entire life. Sin spreads. I know that I have struggled with little “pet” sins in my life before; sins that seemed to harm no one but myself and that no one else knew about. However, soon I found that these “little” sins had grown into “big” sins which crippled my spiritual life.
Search your heart. Do you have little sins in your heart that you are harboring and think are not causing any spiritual damage? Unconfessed sin blocks our communication with God. Psalm 66:18 says that, “If I regard iniquity (sin) in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Holding onto a seemingly “small” sin in your life is not worth giving up the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Claim I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”