Yeast, Unleavened Bread and Pride

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Yeast, Unleavened Bread and Pride

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How much do you think about yourself? Are you always on your mind? Do you ever find yourself getting a little “puffed up”? Or do you think more about the needs of other people?

We’re of course talking about pride and self-centeredness. But in delving further, let’s talk about something that might seem unrelated—yeast! Yeast is used in the Bible in a spiritual analogy—particularly during the seven-day Festival of Unleavened Bread (also called the Days or Feast of Unleavened Bread) following Passover in early spring in the northern hemisphere. These biblical days, kept by the apostles and early Church, continue to be observed by the Church of God today.

Commonly associated with making bread, yeast consists of single-celled microorganisms classified as members of the fungus kingdom. Around 1,500 species are currently identified.

Through fermentation, the yeast species Saccharomyces cerevisiae converts carbohydrates to carbon dioxide and alcohols. The heat of baking causes the resultant carbon dioxide bubbles to expand in bread dough and the alcohol to evaporate. So in bread baking, the yeast acts as a leavening or rising agent.

Yeast microbes are probably one of the earliest domesticated organisms. Archaeologists digging in Egyptian ruins found grinding stones and baking chambers for yeast-leavened bread, as well as illustrations of 4,000-year-old bakeries and breweries.

Yeasts have recently been used to generate electricity in microbial fuel cells and to produce ethanol for the biofuel industry.

But other species of yeasts, such as Candida albicans, are opportunistic pathogens and can cause infections in people.

What, then, are we to understand about the symbolism of yeast in the Bible and how this relates to pride? And what lessons can we learn from the Days of Unleavened Bread?

“A little leaven leavens the whole lump”

During the Feast of Unleavened Bread, as laid out in Exodus 12 and Leviticus 23, leavening is to be removed and avoided for one week, as it is used at this time to picture sin and its effects. (The symbolism also existed year-round in Israel’s grain offerings—see Leviticus 2:11 Leviticus 2:11No meat offering, which you shall bring to the LORD, shall be made with leaven: for you shall burn no leaven, nor any honey, in any offering of the LORD made by fire.
American King James Version×
.)

Pride puffs us up, like yeast. We talk about people having a big head, thinking they are big stuff. Vanity and arrogance truly are dangerous to our spiritual health. They can lead us to cutting ourselves off from God, suffering spiritual decay and disease!

But the puffed-up stage of leavening is not immediate. It takes time for tiny yeast microorganisms to multiply and spread—for the carbon dioxide to bubble up. And then, by the time swelling comes, the process is well along—as a spreading infection.

Consider that while the yeast species Saccharomyces cerevisiae is helpful and good in baking, it works by spreading through dough like harmful yeasts such as Candida do in an infected body. In that light we can think of leavening picturing sin as a parallel with disease cells that must be killed or removed. Getting to the infection quickly can prevent further damage. But unchecked, it grows out of control and can lead to spiritual sickness.

Notice what the apostle Paul wrote during the Days of Unleavened Bread to the Christians in Corinth who were tolerating a terrible sin in their midst:

“You are puffed up … Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened [indicating that they were literally observing the Feast of Unleavened Bread]. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:2 1 Corinthians 5:2And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that has done this deed might be taken away from among you.
American King James Version×
, 6-8, emphasis added throughout).

The Corinthians had been exposed to infection, to spreading sin, and were not dealing with it properly. Rather, they were prideful over their wrong kind of tolerance, sin giving rise to further sin.

So Paul admonished them to behave spiritually in accordance with what the festival they were observing represented. He said Christians are to be unleavened, not embracing sin and being puffed up with pride.

Biological and chemical warfare

Again, leavening is in itself beneficial, and leavened bread is a blessing from God. Jesus even used the imagery of leaven to picture the expansion of God’s righteous reign (Luke 13:20-21 Luke 13:20-21 [20] And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? [21] It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
American King James Version×
).

But for one week each year during the Days of Unleavened Bread, we are to focus on the analogy of leavening as a weapon of Satan. The leavening we avoid comes in two types—biological (yeast) and chemical (baking powder and baking soda). Biological and chemical weapons are among the most feared types of warfare today. And so their spiritual counterparts should be to the Christian—to us.

Some of the gases that have been used in chemical warfare can incapacitate a man in concentrations of as little as one part in 10 million. In parallel, how much sin can we embrace and say, “That won’t hurt me”? The only true protection is to get away from the cause.

Chemical warfare involves using the toxic properties of chemical substances as weapons. Along with nuclear bombs, both chemical and biological agents of war are considered weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). And so, by analogy, Satan the devil has immense stockpiles of WMDs, including biological and chemical leavening agents ready to be unleashed upon us!

Yet God gives us the power, through His Holy Spirit, to address the cause of the infection, the sin, the leaven, the pride.

Here is how the apostle Paul described it, once again to the congregation at Corinth: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself [in pride] against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 [4] (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) [5] Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
American King James Version×
).

The old leaven (our prideful and selfish ways) must be put out and replaced—displaced—by the Holy Spirit. You can’t get rid of poisoned air in your lungs without good air replacing it. Even so, to get rid of the spiritual toxin of sin, you have to take in of God’s Holy Spirit. If a new person is not formed when “the old man,” one’s former self, is figuratively buried at baptism (see Romans 6:1-4 Romans 6:1-4 [1] What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? [2] God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? [3] Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? [4] Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
American King James Version×
; Ephesians 4:22-24 Ephesians 4:22-24 [22] That you put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; [23] And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; [24] And that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
American King James Version×
), the old self will be the one who rises to live again.

Sin is a dangerous infection to be avoided at all costs. In setting aside the leavened bread—the rolls, the croutons, the crackers, etc.—during the Days of Unleavened Bread this year, the people of God are to be thinking about putting out the infection of sin—the biological and chemical weapons of Satan in this analogy. And as unleavened bread is eaten instead, we can be reminded that we are not just putting sin out, but God is putting His nature in us as we submit to Him with His help.

“Pride goes before destruction”

We must continually battle against the overarching sin of pride. In the sense we’re talking about here, pride is an inwardly directed, foolish and irrational sense of one’s personal value, status or accomplishments—a vice also known as vanity or vainglory.

Recall Paul’s description of those in Corinth as “puffed up,” having no contrition over their misplaced tolerance of evil (1 Corinthians 5:2 1 Corinthians 5:2And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that has done this deed might be taken away from among you.
American King James Version×
). “Puffed up” is a vivid description of people who are proud and vain—who want to make themselves seem bigger, better or more important than they are or who are, as we say today, full of themselves.

This is what led Satan himself astray, God telling him in Ezekiel 28:17 Ezekiel 28:17Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty, you have corrupted your wisdom by reason of your brightness: I will cast you to the ground, I will lay you before kings, that they may behold you.
American King James Version×
, “Your heart was lifted up [or proud] because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.” As famed author C.S. Lewis correctly observed in “The Great Sin,” chapter 8 of his book Mere Christianity, “It was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

There are many other biblical examples of pride and its consequences. One of the more notable from the Old Testament is that of Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26. It’s worth opening your Bible to read it. It’s a cautionary tale against arrogance and pride.

When he became king of Judah at age 16, Uzziah set his heart to seek God and put himself under the spiritual mentorship of a godly advisor named Zechariah. And as long as he continued to follow God, he was blessed. As a result, he and his kingdom acquired great wealth and became politically and militarily powerful (2 Chronicles 26:1-15 2 Chronicles 26:1-15 [1] Then all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in the room of his father Amaziah. [2] He built Eloth, and restored it to Judah, after that the king slept with his fathers. [3] Sixteen years old was Uzziah when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Jecoliah of Jerusalem. [4] And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah did. [5] And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper. [6] And he went forth and warred against the Philistines, and broke down the wall of Gath, and the wall of Jabneh, and the wall of Ashdod, and built cities about Ashdod, and among the Philistines. [7] And God helped him against the Philistines, and against the Arabians that dwelled in Gurbaal, and the Mehunims. [8] And the Ammonites gave gifts to Uzziah: and his name spread abroad even to the entering in of Egypt; for he strengthened himself exceedingly. [9] Moreover Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the corner gate, and at the valley gate, and at the turning of the wall, and fortified them. [10] Also he built towers in the desert, and dig many wells: for he had much cattle, both in the low country, and in the plains: farmers also, and vine dressers in the mountains, and in Carmel: for he loved husbandry. [11] Moreover Uzziah had an host of fighting men, that went out to war by bands, according to the number of their account by the hand of Jeiel the scribe and Maaseiah the ruler, under the hand of Hananiah, one of the king’s captains. [12] The whole number of the chief of the fathers of the mighty men of valor were two thousand and six hundred. [13] And under their hand was an army, three hundred thousand and seven thousand and five hundred, that made war with mighty power, to help the king against the enemy. [14] And Uzziah prepared for them throughout all the host shields, and spears, and helmets, and habergeons, and bows, and slings to cast stones. [15] And he made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and on the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones with. And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong.
American King James Version×
).

But then things changed. What happened? There are hints in the text that at some point he stopped seeking God and the spiritual mentoring of Zechariah. This suggests a lessening dependence on God and a growing reliance on himself and his own strength and wisdom (2 Chronicles 26:16-22 2 Chronicles 26:16-22 [16] But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. [17] And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men: [18] And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said to him, It appertains not to you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for you have trespassed; neither shall it be for your honor from the LORD God. [19] Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar. [20] And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked on him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from there; yes, himself hurried also to go out, because the LORD had smitten him. [21] And Uzziah the king was a leper to the day of his death, and dwelled in a several house, being a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the LORD: and Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land. [22] Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first and last, did Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, write.
American King James Version×
).

It’s easy for pride to increase as we become stronger, more successful, more prosperous and more recognized in our endeavors. In fact, anything, real or imagined, that elevates us above others can be a platform for pride. Ironically, this is true even when these things come as a result of God’s blessings.

So it was with Uzziah. Rather than humbling himself in thanksgiving to God, he began to think more highly of himself than he should have and developed an exaggerated sense of his own importance and privileges.

In the end Uzziah gravely overstepped, entering the temple of God to carry out a ceremony only priests were to perform. God then struck him with leprosy, and he was banished from society—all because of his pride. Remember, “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 Proverbs 16:18Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
American King James Version×
). And: “When pride comes, then comes shame [disgrace]; but with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2 Proverbs 11:2When pride comes, then comes shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.
American King James Version×
).

Self-absorption and corruption

Pride turns everything into a means to an end, to get respect and approval. We want people to respect us. We are always adding things up, comparing. We’re always asking: Am I getting the thanks I deserve? Am I getting appreciated here? How am I being regarded? Pride concentrates on self.

This comes in overt and subtle variants. On the one hand is the superiority form of pride, which is easily recognized as pride by most people because people with a superior air are constantly comparing themselves. They’re always thinking: How do I look? Am I being appreciated?

But another form of pride fixates on one’s inferiority. This is when you’re down on yourself and you don’t like yourself. You don’t like how you look. You’re very self-conscious and always beating yourself up.

This is certainly not true humility and selflessly esteeming others well. For you’re just as self-absorbed, perhaps even fishing for affirmation. Everything still revolves around you. You’re doing all the same comparisons as in the superiority form. And you’re effectively putting yourself in the place of God as the one who determines your worth. This all amounts to self-exaltation—pride.

We must not entertain such thoughts. They will expand and permeate a person’s mind—and can also spread to other people.

Returning to the imagery of baking bread, think again of how a batch of dough gets puffed up when a small amount of leaven is added. Before long the leaven (such as yeast) spreads everywhere, fermenting and leaving hundreds of little bubbles of carbon dioxide in the dough, causing it to be “puffed up.”

In the same way, pride, vanity and other evils grow and spread when even a small amount is initially present. Pride is an evil attitude that often leads to other more specific sins. A proud person is full of spiritual bubbles—lots of visible surface area, yet with nothing inside but gas!

It’s a great word picture that would have been immediately understandable to most people as recently as the last century. Today most of us get our bread from the supermarket and don’t have as much experience with the leavening process. That’s probably why modern translations tend to translate “puffed up” in 1 Corinthians 5:2 1 Corinthians 5:2And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that has done this deed might be taken away from among you.
American King James Version×
as simply “proud.” While that’s a reasonable translation of the underlying Greek expression here for the people’s attitude, it doesn’t capture the imagination in the same way “puffed up” does.

It’s harder for people today to catch the contrast Paul is making between the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (verse 8) and people who are puffed up with pride like a loaf of leavened bread.

Also, many today sadly reject or don’t even know about the yearly observance of the Festival of Unleavened Bread. Yet Paul was here teaching the non-Jewish converts of Corinth to, with the right mindset, “keep the feast.” It remains relevant for everyone who follows the way of God!

Leaving Egypt and flattening your pride

God introduced this festival season to the Israelites when He led them out of Egypt (Exodus 12:14-20 Exodus 12:14-20 [14] And this day shall be to you for a memorial; and you shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever. [15] Seven days shall you eat unleavened bread; even the first day you shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel. [16] And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you. [17] And you shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall you observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever. [18] In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even. [19] Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whoever eats that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land. [20] You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall you eat unleavened bread.
American King James Version×
). Here’s another interesting analogy, with Egypt being used to represent sin, as leavening here does. We, in parallel to the ancient Israelites, are to come out of the Egypt of this world and its sinful ways and ideologies.

In Matthew 16:5-12 Matthew 16:5-12 [5] And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. [6] Then Jesus said to them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. [7] And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. [8] Which when Jesus perceived, he said to them, O you of little faith, why reason you among yourselves, because you have brought no bread? [9] Do you not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you took up? [10] Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets you took up? [11] How is it that you do not understand that I spoke it not to you concerning bread, that you should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? [12] Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
American King James Version×
Jesus talked about the “leaven” of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the leading Jewish religious sects of the time, referring to their false doctrine with its corrupting effects. Their teachings caused them to become puffed up with pride, with vanity, and to veer from the intent of Scripture.

For the seven days of the spring festival we are to eat unleavened bread, symbolizing a stark break from this world. A flat piece of bread—not puffed up with yeast or any other leavening agent that causes it to rise—is the type of bread God uses to teach us to remove sin from our life while taking on His ways. He wants us to flatten ourselves in relation to Him and learn humility and service. Partaking of unleavened bread represents our receiving Jesus Christ and Him living through us.

Think about flattening your pride before God and others.

Ask yourself: Do I look down on those who are less educated, less affluent, less refined or less successful than me? Do I think of myself as more spiritual than people in my church or at work? Am I driven to receive approval from others? Am I guilty of trying to leave a better impression of myself than is honestly true? Do I overly worry about what others think of me—about my reputation?

Or maybe you’re thinking: I’m not proud. I don’t have anything to be proud about! I don’t have any special gifts. I’m not beautiful. I don’t have any achievements to be proud of. Well that, as mentioned, can be a subtle form of pride.

Are you now thinking how many of these questions apply to someone else you know—with you feeling pretty good that most of these things don’t really apply to you? Careful—that could be evidence of pride!

Parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector

In Luke 18:9-14 Luke 18:9-14 [9] And he spoke this parable to certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: [10] Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. [11] The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank you, that I am not as other men are, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. [12] I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. [13] And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote on his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. [14] I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.
American King James Version×
we read the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee was thankful to be distinguished above others such as the tax collector for his righteous acts—while the tax collector beat on his breast and pleaded with God to have mercy on him as a sinner. There’s clearly a lesson here—along with a warning. Be very careful about exalting yourself like the Pharisee. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (verse 14).

We learn a lot from this parable about our heart toward God. By acknowledging our sinfulness and crying out for God’s help, just as the tax collector did, we can be exalted before God. Humility involves assessing ourselves honestly before Him.

During the Days of Unleavened Bread when the people of God are to have no leaven in their diet or in their homes, we must realize our utter sinfulness in comparison to Jesus Christ, and accept the help He has provided through His sacrifice.

Avoid a dangerous infection

Sin is a dangerous infection to be avoided at all costs. As God’s people set aside leavening and leavened bread products, we must think about removing the infection of sin. But remember that we are not just putting sin out, but God is putting His nature in. That’s what unleavened bread at this time is all about. Leavening is a symbol of sin—for this one week a year—that helps us to understand something very important in God’s plan.

If you are interested in following Jesus’ example and keeping the Feast of Unleavened Bread, request our free booklet below to learn more or get in touch with one of our ministers who can explain it in more detail.

 


 

 

Take a Pride Test

Have you ever taken a quiz to gauge how much pride you have? You can find a number of such quizzes with an online search. One is titled “Am I Prideful?” at beliefnet.com. Following are the 12 questions it asks. (Online, there are three multiple-choice answers to choose from for each question.)

1. When talking to others, how often do you talk about yourself?

2. Why do you do good things?

3. How often do you think about yourself?

4. Do you do your work to further your own situation or to help others?

5. When you go to the store, the first thing you look for is …

6. How often do you find yourself discussing others’ faults?

7. When bad things happen your first response is to …

8. When someone criticizes you your first reaction is to …

9. How often do you talk about what you are doing on social media?

10. How often are you wrong?

11. Do you hold grudges?

12. How do you react when someone disagrees with you?

So, I took the test and received my results. Maybe you should ask yourself these same questions. Pride—being full of ourselves, “puffed up” with hot air like a yeast-filled loaf of bread—can ruin us.

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