Removing Our Leaven

Removing Our Leaven

Guest Post by Justin Kron

Most people have heard of the tradition of Spring Cleaning.  Its origin is most likely associated with Jewish people who would thoroughly clean out their homes and their diet of leaven (anything made with yeast) prior to the festival of Passover; a holiday that commemorates the exodus of the Israelite slaves from slavery in Egypt some 3500 years ago.

In many Jewish homes, this practice of removing and refraining from eating leaven during Passover is still followed today, and like most Jewish traditions the physical picture can be a pathway to understanding a spiritual one.

In the Torah we learn that leaven (aka, yeast) was associated with sin.

[The grain offering] must not be baked with yeast…Like the sin offering and the guilt offering, it is most holy. Leviticus 6:17

The absence of leaven, therefore, was associated with holiness, or that which is without sin.

While there are instances in the biblical narrative when leaven is used to paint a positive picture of a spiritual reality (e.g., the expanding nature of the kingdom of God), it was particularly associated with behavior that was destructive.  In the New Testament we see both Jesus and the Apostle Paul use leaven in this way:

Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1).

Your boasting is not good.  Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?  Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast – as you really are.  (1 Corinthians 5:6-7a).

And herein lies the deeper spiritual reality that we are beckoned to consider.  We have leaven that needs to be cleaned from the homes of our hearts and the crevices of our own souls.  We know this about ourselves.

But let’s be honest about our leaven.

Removing our leaven is not our natural inclination. 

If given the choice, we would rather point out someone else’s leaven that needs to be removed rather than dealing with our own.

In fact, it’s quite likely that we’re in denial about how stale and moldy our leaven has become.  Therefore, it is necessary to identify and acknowledge that your leaven really is that bad.

Your jealousy, your greed, your insecurity, your irresponsibility, your dogmatism, your priorities, your vanity, your racism, your insensitivity, your busyness, your rage, your addiction, your pessimism, your stubbornness, your apathy, your laziness, your self-absorption really is that bad. In fact, it’s so bad that you’re probably thinking right now about all of the other people who struggle with the aforementioned issues rather than focusing on your own.

This leads to another reality about removing our hearts of leaven.

Removing our leaven is not a job we can manage on our own. 

Getting rid of my leaven requires help.  But many of us don’t want help because it means confessing that we have it to begin with.  This brings us back to the original sin in the Garden of Eden.  Pride.  Pride is the desire to be autonomous; the desire to go it alone.

If you’re familiar with the story of the Exodus, then you know that the Israelites backs were up against the Red Sea as the Egyptians were closing in to recapture them.  There was no way out.  So once again, they cried out to God for help.  It was a call of surrender, for there was no hope apart from divine intervention.

So it is with our leaven.

Cleaning the home of our hearts requires outsourcing. You need help. I need help.

This is one of the core reasons why people turn to Jesus.  He promises help.  If Moses is the divine instrument in the Exodus story that God uses to free the Israelites from physical slavery in Egypt, Jesus is the divine instrument in our story that God uses to free our hearts from the bondage of sin.

Jesus, speaking of himself as the Son, said—

Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:34-36).

Jesus promises freedom from our leaven.

This is what John was speaking of when he said—

Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

Jesus came to help us get rid of leaven, every last crumb of it.

Justin Kron Guest Blogger

Photo Credit: Ohad, Creative Commons

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