The Scriptorium

Bad Leaven

Watch out for this. Matthew 16.5-12

Pray Psalm 120.1, 2.
In my distress I cried to the LORD,
And He heard me.
Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips
And from a deceitful tongue.

Sing Psalm 120.1, 2.
(St. Anne: Our God, Our Help in Ages Past)
In my distress, O God, I cry: Lord Jesus, answer me!
From lying lips, deceitful tongues let me delivered be!

Read Matthew 16.1-12; meditate on verses 5-12.

1. Against what did Jesus warn His disciples?

2. Why did Jesus rebuke His disciples?

I take great delight in watching Susie make bread. We both get excited as the leavened loaf begins to rise. We know the yeast is doing its work, and the outcome is going to be some very good eating.

The work of leaven is to pervade the dough and transform it from something blah and unpalatable to something wholesome, delicious, and good. This is why Jesus likened the Kingdom of God to leaven: It pervades all of life and transforms it from sinfulness to righteousness (Matt. 13.33).

But if the leaven is rotten, it will ruin the loaf, and no one will want to eat it. Jesus likened the false teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees to bad leaven. He warned His disciples to “watch out” (v. 6) for that teaching, because it sounded religious, came from religious sources, and seemed to be what everybody believed. Jesus may have overheard one of the disciples saying that they had forgotten to take some bread along with them for this phase of their journey. He capitalized on their material focus to drive home a spiritual lesson about keeping a close watch over what you hear and believe.

The disciples were a little slow on the uptake (v. 7). They thought He was on their case because they’d forgotten to bring bread. But Jesus chided them for their “little faith” (v. 8). If they needed bread to eat, didn’t they think He could provide that? Had they already forgotten about His feeding the 5,000 and then the 4,000? Why would He scold them for forgetting to bring bread, when He could make as much bread as they could ever eat?

He wasn’t talking about bread, but about leaven – about the “doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Let that stuff enter your soul and it will ruin you. Feeding daily on the true Word of God is the best protection against false teaching.

To change the metaphor, we need to understand the false doctrines that swirl around us all day long. They may seem like gentle breezes, but they can become dangerous winds, and if we hoist our sails into them, they will blow us off course from Jesus (Eph. 4.14). Raise the sails of your soul into the winds of God’s Spirit, as He blows through the Word to feed you with the Bread of life.

1. What are some false doctrines that Christians need to watch out for today?

2. What’s the best way to prepare ourselves against succumbing to false teaching?

3. How can believers help one another to feed only on the true Bread of life?

Note how intense is his displeasure. Nowhere else does he appear to have rebuked them so much. How does he do this? He is challenging their prejudices about food laws. Already he had said, “Are you still without understanding?”
Now in this place, with a strong rebuke he says, “O men of little faith.” John Chrysostom (344-407), The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 53.4

Let no false teaching enter my soul or fill my sails today, Lord. Instead, help me to…

Pray Psalm 120.3-7.
Are you prepared for the “winds of doctrine” (Eph. 4.14) that will blow against you today? Seek the Lord for the protection of His Word and Spirit as you live and speak for Him today.

Sing Psalm 120.3-7; 1, 2.
Psalm 120.3-7; 1, 2 (St Anne: Our God, Our Help in Ages Past)
What shall be done, what shall be giv’n to the deceiving tongue?
Let sharpest arrows, glowing coals at all our foes be flung.

O woe, that where I make my home the foes of God increase.
Against the Lord’s shalom they war – Lord, let me work for peace!

In my distress, O God, I cry: Lord Jesus, answer me!
From lying lips, deceitful tongues let me delivered be!

T. M. Moore

Our book, Understanding the Times, outlines the various false doctrines that are blowing against us in our day. Order your copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore