After cooking a wonderful breakfast of bacon and eggs, my mom would throw the eggshells into a giant mason jar, fill it with water, and set it aside. Weeks—perhaps months—later, she would open the jar, fill a small watering can, and walk around the house watering her plants. Michael Jackson said it best, “the foulest stench was in the air…the funk of forty thousand years.” Within a nanosecond, my mom’s “fart water” would permeate our house. It consumed all that was holy, just, and pure. How it made the plants grow was beyond me…because everything else in the house was dying…including my very soul.
The night before their exodus—and death passed over the homes of the Israelites—they instituted a feast that is still commemorated today. On the tenth day of the month, each family was instructed to select a year-old lamb without defect. On the 14th day of that month, everyone in Israel had to slaughter their lambs at twilight, spread the blood of their lambs on the sides and tops of their doorframes, and then eat their lambs. God provided strict instructions as to how they should cook their lambs and what they should order as side dishes—no mashed potatoes with gravy and coleslaw. Instead, their sides consisted of bitter herbs and bread made without yeast (Exodus 12:1-10).
The bitter herbs were a reminder of their bitter lives as slaves and bread without yeast was called “the bread of affliction,” it was a reminder that they had to leave Egypt in haste—with no time for the bread to rise (Deuteronomy 16:3). This ban against yeast became a festival in and of itself—the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Anyone caught eating anything with yeast during this seven-day festival was cut off from Israel (Exodus 12:15).
Why was there this particular disdain for yeast?
I’m a Dutch kid from the Midwest. If there was food on the table, there was a stack of bread along side. Growing up, bread was a necessary side dish. I remember an early disagreement in my marriage over bread. My wife had prepared a wonderful meal—there was no argument over whether the food was appealing or not…it was good. However, when I grabbed a loaf of bread and threw it on the table, she was insulted.
“If I wanted to serve sandwiches, I would’ve served sandwiches.”
To me, bread was a necessary side. To her, bread was only necessary if we were eating sandwiches.
I LOVE bread…but have you ever had unleavened bread? Nasty! Yeast to me, is a necessary component to a good loaf of bread.
It’s not that yeast was always bad. The Jews would still make normal, good bread—with yeast. Jesus compared the kingdom of God to yeast in how it spreads through the dough and causes it to grow (Matthew 13:33). On the other hand, Jesus also compared destructive teaching, dogmatic leadership, and wickedness to yeast.
Right after Jesus fed the 4000, he and his disciples climbed into a boat and crossed the Sea of Galilee. Unfortunately, the disciples forgot to take some bread with them. What were they thinking?
In one of my favorite discourses in the Bible, Jesus says to his disciples, “Be careful! Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6). The disciples immediately start whispering to each other, “He’s ticked now. Dang it! He said that about the yeast because we forgot the bread. You know that’s why” (Matthew 16:7, The Shawn Vander Lugt Paraphrase).
Knowing what the disciples were whispering about, Jesus basically calls them idiots and then says, “How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:11).
You don’t need a lot of fart water to stink up an entire house, you don’t need a lot of yeast to make the dough rise, and you don’t need a lot of destructive, dogmatic teaching and wickedness to destroy a group of people or even one person. Churches, small groups, families, and individuals are frequently destroyed because of someone’s fart water. In many cases, those people appear to be growing and thriving…like my mom’s plants or a loaf of bread. Their growth, however, is like a tumor—unnatural, twisted, and diseased. The church in Corinth was allowing a man to sleep with his father’s wife—they weren’t just allowing it, they were bragging about it. This probably wasn’t the guy’s mom…but it’s still gross…Jerry Springer gross. In response to this despicable act, the Apostle Paul wrote:
Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
—1 Corinthians 5:6-8
I’m in no way propagating the removal of yeast or fart water from our lives—only what they represent. As Paul said, get rid of the old yeast—remove any destructive teaching and immorality from our lives. Remove that stuff that multiplies and spreads like wildfire consuming our sincerity, truthfulness, and morality. Remove the fart water from our lives—that stench that saturates all that is good, just, and pure and kills everything in sight—including our very souls.