This week’s Pastoral Passage: 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 – “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover has also been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (NASB)
Paris, France, 1792: It is alleged, most likely falsely, that when informed that the peasants were starving for lack of simple bread to eat, Queen Marie Antoinette of France, callously declared “Then let them eat cake!” thereby helping bring on the overthrow of the French monarchy. (It is doubtful that Marie would be ignorant enough to assume that people who had no bread would have access to cake, but the legend was helpful to the cause of the Revolution.) Cake, a form of leavened bread much loved by people for its luxurious taste and ‘mouth feel’, is bread with pretensions and attitude; decorated, decadent and ‘sinfully’ rich.
Paul, in his rebuke of the church at Corinth, accuses the worshipers there of tainting the bread of their witness with the leaven of immorality, malice and wickedness. Paul understands that even a little of these sins spoils the whole of the witness, as even a little leaven turns the bread of life into something less nutritious for the people of God. Any baker knows that there’s no such thing as leavening just a little of the bread. Leaven spreads to the whole loaf. For bread this is a good thing; for the people of God, when affected by ungodly behaviors, not so much.
Paul’s exhortation to Corinth is to “Clean up your act!” Remove the leaven of prideful, malicious behaviors, replacing them with the pure unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. It has a cleaner flavor and is less harmful to the Body.
Celebrate, not with the cake of immorality, malice and wickedness, but with the Bread of Life!