In Matthew 13, Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is like yeast, that a woman hid in dough until it was all through it. I think this is a picture of how Christians can have an effect on our society. I was reading something about those who change cultures, that seemed to say that your ideas had to be accepted by those in power, in order to really have any significant influence. But I think Jesus is here saying quite the opposite. He is saying small things can have big effects.
I think this was clearer years ago when most people made their own bread. Most people do not now, but I do. So let’s look at the process and see if we can find some way to apply it to our lives as Christians. When I make bread, I take a fairly small amount of yeast and dissolve it in water. Then I add honey, to feed the yeast and make it grow, flour of course, and salt to control the reaction. Yes, it turns out, bread is made through a chemical reaction. The yeast reacts with the gluten in the flour and makes carbon dioxide, making the bread rise. Or at least that is what I was told.
Think how different yeast bread tastes from something like pancakes or tortillas. The yeast is just being yeast. When it finds sugar and gluten, it grabs onto them and consumes them, in the process changing everything. I’m no chemist, but apparently it changes the molecules of gluten and strings them together. This is helped by the process of kneading. When baked we have something quite delicious, containing all the ingredients we started with, but light in texture, and flavored all through by the yeast.
What on earth does this have to do with changing the world? Well, I think it has a lot to do with how we go about it. When Christians try to become part of the power structure of society, some good things happen at first. But inevitably it seems that soon our message about God, who He really is, and how He works gets lost in the midst of power struggles. He did say to be great, you need to be the least. All these turned around messages Jesus gave us can be quite confusing. But what I am seeing here is that we are not supposed to become the biggest and best organization around. We don’t even need to worry if we seem small and puny. We just need to be the people of God. As individuals, we each have our niches, places where our gifts are needed. Some may be called to preach, others to pray, some may feed the poor, some heal the sick, some may loose the chains of oppression from the outside, others by ministering deliverance. Whatever small thing you are called to do has an outsize effect on society, like yeast on flour. Bread has many times the flour, compared to the yeast. Yeast is measured in teaspoons, bread in cups. But it is enough to change the flour into bread.
So when someone tells you one person can’t have much effect on the world, just smile and go about your business. God made you yeast and just by being yourself, trying to live like Jesus, you can have an outsize effect on the world. Anyone plus God is a majority.