In this verse Paul is giving a written tongue-lashing to the Corinthian church about their boasting while a man in their church has committed a great sin. He tells them in the previous verses that they should be mourning because of what has taken place. Their boasting shows that they don't worry that a little sin will affect them and he makes it clear with this verse that they are wrong.
Leaven is a type of foaming agent that causes gas bubbles to multiply within dough "raising" it and causing it to become softer and lighter.
I can remember making homemade sourdough rolls with my mother when I was young. We would clear the entire counter top in the kitchen, grab the index card with the recipe on it from the place it stayed in a magnetic clip clinging to the front of the refrigerator, and push back our sleeves. The making of the rolls was messy and took quite a bit of time but the time spent alone in the kitchen with my mother, flour on our arms and sometimes faces, and the sharp smell of yeast in the room has left a warm, smiley memory.
Although I helped with the rolls more than once, I still remember looking into the oven in awe each time. The oven, at this point, was not turned on. My mother would place a large bowl with the sphere of dough inside, a towel laying over the top of the bowl and the oven light on for just a bit of heat to help with raising of the dough. Every few minutes I could look in and see that the towel had raised a bit further and further, off of its place on the bowl, until it looked like it would touch the top of the oven and spill over.
It was only a tiny packet of dry yeast that we added to the dough but in the end the the dough had doubled in size.
Just today I have seen the effects of the negative leaven that Paul is talking about at work in my own life. It is only a small, dim reflection but I sit here and see clearly how true this statement is in so many aspects of my life.
I have been feeling the weight of stress in my life and without getting into the details of the stress inducing elements I will say that it seems like the more I allow myself to relinquish a bit of my mind to anxiety or worry the more of my mind it takes over.
Maybe I just started this morning with my eyes opening and maybe I allowed myself a few thoughts about what sort of things lay ahead of me today (writing, singing, laundry, mothering, wife-ing, cleaning, studying, etc. etc.). Then just as quickly as the blinking of my groggy morning eyes I allowed myself to spend a heartbeat worrying about how it would all get done and how well I would do at each one. Perhaps I then tried to tuck that worry/leaven into a quiet spot of my brain while I stumbled downstairs and grabbed a cup of coffee, spent some time with my beautiful laughing unworried daughter, and spoke with my husband.
Eventually I made my way upstiars to change from my pajamas into my running clothes but after brushing my teeth I stood in the bathroom and made the decision to dress in my regular clothes instead of my jogging shorts and shirt and shoes.
I knew the decision I was making was a poor one, one that I would later regret but I had let that stress/yeast sit quietly inside and it had doubled weighing on me to the point that I even gave up my daily run. That seems like such a stupid thing to be bummed about but if a tiny bit of worrying can keep me from running then what other decisions is it affecting, guiding, steering?
This is what it looks like:
Worry thoughts lead to not running lead to not relieving tension through the run lead to being disappointed lead to more stress thoughts lead to tight shouldered neck tension lead to headache lead to....
This is the formula that is outlining this day. This is the string of yuck that is leading up to me singing tonight at my church's night of prayer and fasting. How horrible of a job I will be doing if I let myself walk into the church with such a great leavened/infected/affected mind and heart.
Lord I confess that I have thought these bits of worry and stress and anxiety were inconsequential. Please relieve me of this doubled/massive/overflowing mess I have worked myself into and bring me back to being unleavened. Lord let me start afresh.
(This is my newest blog in a weekly series where I share my thoughts behind some of my favorite scriptures out of the bible. If you want to see why I've started this weekly undertaking you can go back and read my blog called "Pirates And Their Knots...")