Time is no friend to the ones who wait
For daylight to come
Time looks the same at the ones who hate
And the ones that do nothing
- Derek Webb, Black Eye, from the 2009 album “Stockholm Syndrome”
Jesus is alone on the other side of the lake with the disciples after His latest encounter with the Pharisees and religious leaders, when Matthew records that the disciples were concerned they hadn’t brought any bread with them. Then Jesus makes a very strange statement: “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (v. 6). What the what?
Even the disciples are confused and Jesus patiently explains He is not talking about bread bread. He even uses the examples of feeding the 5,000 and feeding the 4,000 to underscore their physical needs in the form of bread can easily be met at any time. Somehow, they come to understand “that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching” (v. 12) of the religious elite.
Jesus uses yeast, the main ingredient in helping bread to rise, “as an example of how a small amount of evil can affect a large group of people. The wrong teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees were leading many people astray” (Study Bible, p. 1576). And the same thing is happening today across America.
Current religious leaders like Jerry Falwell Jr., Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Franklin Graham and others have sold their soul in support of our immoral President and his administration, while mega-church preachers like Joel Osteen proclaim a gospel of prosperity that somehow manages to only make them rich (as if being materially rich is our main spiritual goal in life). Both groups are seriously wrong and teaching incorrect doctrine. But as bad as these men are for the spiritual health and reputation of the church, the church itself refuses to call these people out on their bullshit. The church stands by and does nothing to rebuke them but instead continues to embrace their ideology which makes it fully complicit in the evil being spread. As a result, the message of the Christ suffers and is rendered ineffective in the world.
So what can be done? We can support leaders both in the church and in politics who LIVE the attributes of Jesus. People who support social justice. People who welcome refugees. People who strive to unify rather than divide. People who are concerned about lifting the poor up instead of stepping on them. People who seek to serve the least of these – the homeless, the food insecure, the forgotten – on a DAILY basis rather than a once a month cause at best. People who put their time and money into the cause of “others” rather than themselves. People who stand against immorality and call falsehood by its name. People who are truly “pro-life” for ALL people, not just the unborn. Get the idea? In other words, people who are Christian in their ideology AND the way they live, not in name only. Because that is what is happening now – and a lost world recognizes it and wants nothing to do with us.
Remember, Jesus said you can tell a tree by the kind of fruit it bears (Matthew 7:15-20). You can tell what kind of people they are by their actions. It’s not hard. This is a crisis that is completely solvable but it is up to us, the members of the church to stand up and speak out, since so many leaders are compromised. Right now, as Jesus warned, the yeast is ruining the bread. Like the song lyrics above state, time is not the friend of those of us who choose to wait out the problem in hopes that it will resolve itself. We must demand better of our leaders. We must hold them accountable. It’s not just the future of the church at stake. It’s also the eternity of millions of people who need to see truth and grace lived out, not just spoken about from ivory towers.
Beware the yeast of the religious leaders of our day. Don’t just listening to what they say, carefully examine the way they live their lives. They are more concerned today with power and wealth than with actually living out the attributes of Christ to a lost world. Remember, Jesus reached out to the marginalized. He lifted up the broken. He blessed those who welcomed the stranger. If America were truly a Christian nation – we wouldn’t have hungry children because we would honor life by making sure they were adequately fed instead of cutting government assistance for them. If America were truly a Christian nation – we wouldn’t be over-run by rape culture or domestic violence. We wouldn’t have an opioid epidemic on our hands. We wouldn’t need a Black Lives Matter movement or a March For Our Lives movement. We wouldn’t have Nazis marching in our streets.
But America is not a Christian nation because it is not led by Christians. Those men listed above? They are Christians in name only. It’s time to rid ourselves of the yeast before it completely ruins us.