Signposts: Daily Devotions

Saturday, September 6

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
—Matthew 13:33

People who heard this parable were startled. In Jesus’ day, yeast was called leaven, and leaven had a very negative connotation. As a metaphor, it meant something corrupt or contaminating. Why would Jesus choose such a word to describe what the Kingdom of heaven was like?

For one thing, Jesus wanted people to pay attention to what he said, so he used vivid words that his listeners understood. Also, he  talked about everyday things, like mustard seeds or leaven, because he wanted them (and us) to understand that the Kingdom was not exotic or extraordinary. It is here, and it is now. The Kingdom of God was not life after death but life on earth, and Jesus explained it as vividly as he could.

The woman hid just a pinch of yeast in three measures of flour (almost a bushel of flour), and that small pinch leavened all the flour. It would have made enough bread for 150 people. Thus, a small, invisible amount worked wonders.

What does this say to us? It says that there is power in small acts; that words spoken with conviction and courage do, over time, matter; that votes count; that justice can win out even when things appear to be the opposite. It can also mean that a word of hope to a sick friend, a small prayer said every day, and doing the best job we can as parents, one day at a time, all have enormous impact eventually.

Take heart, Jesus tells us. Believe this parable and act as if you do. And then wait, and watch, and be thankful.

Grant us, O God, the vision to see your kingdom unfolding all around us. Give us the courage to add our own leaven to the world, and the patience to trust in the outcome. Amen.

The Signposts for September are written by Margaret Jones and originally appeared on explorefaith in 2005.