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.
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.Matthew 13:33 & Luke 13:20-21
As I mentioned in my previous article, leaven is clearly a symbol of sin or bad doctrine in several places in scripture. Having said that, I believe that interpretation of this parable forces way too dark of a view of the progress and future of the kingdom of God here on earth. While I agree that the world will wax worse and worse, I also believe the scriptures that tell us Jesus’ kingdom will be without end!
At this time, I would like to offer another plausible explanation of this parable. I will begin by saying that I do not believe leaven has to be evil or good. Therefore, my alternate explanation does not present an opposing view to leaven being a symbol of sin in the Bible.
Sometimes, leaven is just leaven.
Remember, parables are not allegories. Every element in the story does not have to have a corresponding explanation. In fact, I believe this parable really has no elements that translate into something else. I think Jesus uses the example of a little leaven in a large amount of meal to teach about the permeating power of the kingdom of God.
What the world sees as insignificant is actually mighty and powerful. The kingdom of God has no earthly appeal to the carnal nature of man. And yet it has a clear influence on the history of mankind. This is because it is spiritual; not physical. It does not conquer with death; it permeates by giving life!
I believe this parable partners well with the parable of the mustard seed. They both show that the kingdom seems tiny but has a powerful effect where it appears. Societies where the kingdom of Christ has come, show lasting effects on the local and national level long after churches have been moved to the background. The United States of America is the perfect example of this. Even though attendance in Bible-based churches has reduced to a small minority, the effects of Christianity still appear in our culture and laws of the land.
This permeating characteristic can also be seen in the influence of the word of God on personal discipleship. Notice what David says:
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.Psalm 119:11
When we read, study, meditate, and memorize the word of God, it has a permeating effect on our behavior. David says he does this so that he would not sin against God. Perhaps we should follow David’s lead!
I believe this interpretation fits better with the positive character of the other parables about the kingdom of God that Jesus uses. But again, I admit that there are possible holes in my interpretation so I hold onto it with a loose grip. We must all bow to the wisdom of God in not providing an explanation for us and attempt to rightly divide the word of truth by interpreting with the help of known scripture. I trust that I have done that here.