Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.Matthew 13:33
And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.Luke 13:20-21
In this parable, there are three major characters at play – the leaven, the woman, and three measures of meal.
There are many opinions that I think overspirtualize this parable and treat it as an allegory. There are attempts to define why a woman is used and the significance of three measures of meal going all the way back to Abraham and Sarah. I do not think this is necessary. Remember, a parable is not the same as an allegory. Jesus is simply teaching that a small amount of leaven can and will permeate a much larger amount of meal (over 2 gallons). The fact that a woman is in the story is a realistic detail because that was the role of women in the time the story was told.
Over the next few devotionals, I would like to discuss a few of the opinions concerning this parable. All of the opinions that I will address have this idea of permeating in them. I think any other interpretation ignores the clear principle of leaven in meal in the story.
Since Jesus does not explain this little parable to us, we should allow some liberty to the various opinions held about this parable. However, we need to remember a few general principles when looking at this parable. First of all, we are not to build a doctrine based on a story example. If the principle is taught elsewhere in scripture, then the parable can serve as a help in understanding. Secondly, and along those same lines, our interpretation of the parable cannot contradict clear scriptural teaching found elsewhere in the Bible.
I think the simplest sense of the parable should prevail in any understanding we are to draw from it. You may have already formed your opinion on this parable, and that may differ from mine. To be honest, I have argued with myself on the interpretation of this little parable! All I ask is that we grant one another liberty. This may mean that we come away with an explanation that has holes in it or unexplained parts. However, as long as we do not define contrary to the rest of the Bible we are on safe ground.