Then Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” Matthew 16:6
To “take heed” means to listen up, be aware, be careful, or pay attention—it is a command to be alert and attentive to our surroundings. Mothers and fathers tell their children this every time they’re going to be apart, “be careful”. We want them to stay alert in order to avoid trouble to the best of their ability. Accidents happen, but if you stay alert and careful you can certainly avoid many trouble spots.
In this case, Jesus’ command is to pay attention to a particular trouble-spot, the teaching of the religious authorities. He calls it the “leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”
Leaven, translated “yeast” in the NLT, is a tiny living organism, or fungus, that, given the right environment, can quickly grow, feeding on available sugars and starches, and releasing byproducts that can actually help in certain food production, especially bread. There are around 1,500 strains of this little fungus and while some have benefits in food, beverage, and healthcare production, there are also types of yeast that can have ill-effects, causing infection in humans and spoilage in food. So yeast, in itself, may be neither good or bad, it matters more what kind of yeast you’re dealing with and it’s application. Jesus defines the “strain” of yeast the Pharisee’s were using in the book of Luke.
… Jesus turned first to his disciples and warned them, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees—their hypocrisy…” Luke 12:1 NLT
Hypocrisy is a strain of spiritual leaven that causes both infection and spoilage in the human soul, not physically, necessarily, but spiritually. A hypocrite, in covering their true intentions, is trafficking in deceit, duplicity, fraud, bigotry, false-piety, and more. Hypocrisy is the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit because instead of producing true goodness, sincerity, truthfulness, and honesty, it merely speaks of such things as a way of positioning or posturing. Lip-service.
The problem is, even if you are completely unaware of the Pharisees teaching regarding anything, you are still not safe from the same strain of yeast they peddled. Because the fungus of yeast is airborne, floating around, always looking for a soft target. That is, someone who is not guarding their heart, not walking humbly before God and man. The apostle Peter reiterates as much in his first letter.
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 NLT
There is it again, “stay alert”, “watch out”, for Satan’s devices are like an airborne fungus that will look for any opening in the human heart that he can exploit and gain a foothold, and when he does, he will begin to infect, spoil, literally devour that life. Hypocrisy is one of his favorite weapons in our culture because, for some reason, people want to be perceived as being different than they really are. Maybe it is the false persona of social media, maybe it is cultural pressure, or even persecution, whatever it is, if Satan can move you from being a humble, honest, servant of Jesus, to presenting yourself as different, better, more righteous and spiritual than you really are, the light in your heart will turn dark. You can fool others, you can fool yourself, but you can’t fool the Lord, your gracious and merciful Savior. He loves you too much. God loves you so much that He will expose your heart before it is too late, while there is time to repent, while there is time to humble yourself under His mighty hand.
The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear! Luke 12:2-3 NLT
Dear one, the essence of hypocrisy is cover-up. It is a mask. If the leaven of the Pharisee’s has begun to infect and spoil your heart and darken your relationship with Jesus, listen to the Holy Spirit calling you to repent. Risk repentance. God will protect you. Turn to Him before Satan’s claws are sunk in so deep that deliverance requires full exposure.
Finally, If the leaven of the Pharisee’s has not infected your heart, praise Him humbly, and, above all else, pay attention, stay alert, raise the banner of Christ high on the hill, show your family and the world that a person can walk in love, abide in Christ, do no harm, and live honestly, without hypocrisy.