Summary: The Bible uses leaven to symbolize how both good and bad things grow in our lives. Let's put in the good leaven and leave out the bad, because either one can fill our lives.


The Bible uses leaven to symbolize how both good and bad things grow in our lives. It’s important for us to know the difference, so that we make sure that the good things in our lives grow and not the bad. Purpose: Let’s learn about the meaning of leaven in the Bible. Plan: We’ll look at the parable of the leaven in Matthew 13:33 and the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod in Mark 8:13-21.


The leavening agent in Bible times was yeast. A mixture of flour and water left to rest, naturally ferments before baking. Yeast is everywhere, on our skin and in the air. This is known today as sourdough bread, which we are most familiar with while camping or in rye bread. The foam or barm from beer-making was also an ancient source of yeast. Israel probably learned that from ancient Egypt.

Good Leaven Matthew 13:33

In Matthew 13:33 Jesus spoke a parable of those under God’s rule, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.” Leaven pictures growth from within. A woman’s work is very important to the Church. Even behind the scenes, it produces growth. Let’s not be discouraged, God’s kingdom will grow despite problems within the Church.

Bad Leaven Mark 8:13-21

In Mark 8:15 Jesus said, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And in Matthew 16:5–12, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees… the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Political leaders, and both liberal and conservative religious leaders. So leaven pictures both political and religious teachings and In Luke 12:1 Jesus includes “hypocrisy.”

Political Leaven

Herod produced bad leaven (Mark 8:15) because he was a liar, abused his office, an adulterer, and used religion as a tool for personal influence, rather than genuine repentance. Herod enforced human law, not God’s law, as politicians do. Jesus tells us to beware of putting man’s law above God’s law. Knowledge of man’s law is like leaven (1 Corinthians 8:1). It puffs up with a counterfeit morality.

Conservative Pharisees & Liberal Sadducees

Liberal leaven can be disguised as inclusiveness and love. But we forget that holiness requires exclusiveness in some areas of life and that true love warns those on the road to hell to repent of sins, not pretend that God allows “malice and wickedness” instead of “sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:1-8). Conservative leaven can be man-made rules and promoting the letter of Old Testament law (Galatians 5:1-9).

Bad Religion & Bad Politicians

In Matthew 16:5-12 we learn that “the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” is “the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” This would include Herod because he was in collusion with Sadducees. Thus, three parties are included in this bad leaven, the conservative Pharisees, the liberal Sadducees and the corrupt king Herod. Herod had an over inflated opinion of himself, and set a bad example as leader.

Good Religion & Good Politicians

True Christianity sets the spiritual framework for a society that God can bless. The Sadducees convinced Rome to put their man, Herod into office? The Pharisees despised the man that the Sadducees has gotten into office. How much does this sound like any election cycle in a western democracy? The answer is not on either side of corrupt politics, but in genuine Christianity, in truly loving God and loving neighbor.

Good Thoughts

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” We need to get our minds of negative influences, politics, news, and negative people. A cure for negativity is to continually thank God for a long list of blessings.


So we have a choice. We can focus on conservative leaven of man-made rules and Old Testament legalism, centrist leaven of wishy-washy compromise with the devil, liberal leaven of inclusion of evil and a false love which sends people to hell, political leaven which is filled with worldly lies and false promises, OR we can hide the leaven of the kingdom of heaven in our hearts until it permeates every part of our lives with joy and blessings forever more.

New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

Matthew 13:33; Mark 8:13-21; Mark 8:15; Matthew 16:5–12; Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 5:1-8; Galatians 5:1-9; Philippians 4:8

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