Religious Leaven

It’s religious leaven. Allow in even the tiniest amount and it’s gonna spread. While just a little bit might seem quite innocuous at first, once it’s allowed in the mix there’s a good chance it’ll take over. Can’t really see it at first, but eventually it manifests itself. So Jesus says, “Beware!”

In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, [Jesus] began to say to His disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”

(Luke 12:1 ESV)

“In the meantime” . . .

Jesus had just been going head to head with Pharisees, religious lawyers, and scribes as they tried to “press Him hard” and “provoke Him to speak about many things, lying in wait for Him, to catch Him in something He might say” (Lk. 11:53). On the pretense of open, honest debate they were actually secretly hoping to trip Jesus up.

And who doesn’t like to watch a good fight? The verbal sparring between Jesus and the religious elite attracted a crowd, a really big crowd. And Jesus knowing that the hearts of the multitudes weren’t a lot unlike the hearts of the Pharisees (Lk. 12:56), sees it as a teachable moment for His followers. And so He says to them first . . .

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”

There it is. The leaven of the religious. A righteous man’s, or perhaps better said, a self-righteous man’s Achilles heel. Hypocrisy.

And once it becomes part of the sacred landscape, watch it spread. The original “selfie” that goes viral.

What begins as carefully chosen, seemingly harmless play-acting takes over, becoming a full-on, fake facade. What starts as a little bit of slight-of-hand, eventually becomes unavoidable gymnastics which choke out a pure heart.

Beware of it, says Jesus, stay away from hypocrisy.

So how do we recognize the almost imperceptible, but eventually domineering, active agency of faking it? Jesus gives His disciples a clue.

“Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.”

(Luke 12:2 ESV)

Secrecy. That’s the tell-tale sign of hypocrisy.

Covering up what we really think. Saying something other than what we want to say. Not wanting to reveal who we really are. Void of transparent relationships with anyone. Always trying to put on a good face in front of everyone. That’s how we wear the mask in order to fool others.

But the little leaven of fooling others in one or two small areas of life, if not checked, can permeate every area of our lives. And, to such an extent that, eventually, we end up fooling even ourselves.

Hypocrisy. Beware of it, Jesus says. And, He says it to His disciples first.

Why wouldn’t I think that I need to hear it, too? Why wouldn’t I pause and reflect and do my own “secrecy inventory?” Why wouldn’t I check my own degree of transparency with others? Take stock of how many relationships I have where “what you see is what you get?” And take stock of how many relationships are maintained by putting on a mask?

Religious leaven. Beware of it.

Yes, Lord!

By Your grace. For Your glory.

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