What makes your bread rise? Who stretches your dough? Somebody, something does.
Each of us is being influenced. While it’s true that we each make a difference in the world, it’s also true that the world is making a difference in us. If I put hand in bucket of water, the water level rises. I even change the temperature of the water slightly. I actually make a difference. But the influence is bi-directional. If the water is cold enough, I’ll suffer frostbite. Hot enough and I’ll be burned. At the least, it begins to shrivel my skin.
Sometimes influences in our lives are subtle and we don’t notice how they change us. A young man just out of boot camp was enjoying dinner with his family when his mother asked, “Do you think this experience has changed you?”
Sitting ramrod straight, eyes fixed straight ahead, the kid barked to his mom, “No Sir, I have not changed at all, Sir!”
In similar ways, we may be unaware of how we are being influenced It may be subtle and it usually happens slowly. But it happens. Without vigilance, being influenced is unavoidable.
Jesus told a parable (Matthew 13:33) illustrating the subtle, but powerful nature of
unseen influence. A woman “hides” yeast in dough. Invisibly, tiny microbes about 1/30 the diameter of human hair begin to reproduce exponentially, feeding on the sugars in the flour. As they do, they produce carbon dioxide which expands, causing the dough to rise.
Jesus compared his kingdom to that process, suggesting there are invisible but powerful influencers invading our lives. Yeast can be good. It makes bread rise. But Jesus often used the analogy to warn of dangerous influences.
He cautioned his followers to guard against the “yeast” of the leading religious groups of his day. He disciples understood the warning to avoid being influenced by the “teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6, 12). He also warned, “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod” (Mark 8:15).
Notice that Jesus was warning people to avoid the influence of the most popular and powerful religious and political leaders of the time. Do you suppose he might suggest to us that we be careful not to follow uncritically the preachers and politicians of our own time? And perhaps the professors and performers, too?
We should always ask ourselves, “What makes my bread rise?”