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The good yeast

The power of small things in bringing about quiet influence and transformation

Written by Richard Serrano | 16 Feb 2023

A man preparing to bake bread in an outdoor clay over in rural Bolivia with dry fields and distant mountains in the background

Baking bread in rural Bolivia. Photo: Andrew Philip/Tearfund

The good and the bad

The bad and the good that we see in the world seem to share common features. They tend to grow:

  • From less to more – from an out-of-tune song at the window of a loved one to a Grammy award.
  • From small to large – from winning an inter-school tournament to an Olympic medal.
  • From something invisible to something that can no longer be concealed – from cheating in an exam to the corrupt management of a nation's resources.

Much of what we read or hear in the media talks more of the results and less of the processes brought about by something seemingly insignificant.

How do the principles of quiet influence operate? How do they serve the Kingdom of God and his justice in the midst of a world filled with so much injustice and corruption? To illustrate the power of small things, let’s take a look at some biblical images of influence and transformation.

‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.’
Matthew 13:33

Obsessed with size?

We tend to obsess over the big and the powerful. Jesus, on the other hand, prefers the small.

The greatness of the Kingdom of God is manifested in the smallness of the incarnation, in Jesus’ coming as a baby, his birth in a manger, his entrance on a donkey, his fellowship with those who have always been neglected.

One of his parables speaks of a small, seemingly insignificant seed. From this seed grew a leafy tree to which birds from all over the world came to take shelter.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like this. From small things it brings forth the greatness of life and justice for the good of humanity.

Jesus never forgets that the life of the church does not take place in a vacuum or disconnected from the world and its urgent needs. Its mission develops in contact with the distressing social, political, economic and cultural realities of people and the environments in which they live. But he opts for the small and, while this may carry risks, it does not mean that the small should be passed over.

Small and silent like the yeast:

  • The Master spoke positively of his kingdom by drawing on the image of yeast (Matthew 13:33), and he seasoned it with mustard (Matthew 13:31-32). He thus illustrated the transformative dynamics of his proposal.
  • In the smallness of a seed hides the greatness of life.
  • God's intention is for small things to fulfil their calling to grow.
  • The commission given to his new community is that the smallness of the gospel may be nurtured into being and grow to transform lives, relationships, communities, structures and realities.
‘You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”’
Galatians 5:7-9

... and small and silent but unlike the yeast:

  • Bad ideas and attitudes which, however small, can still be highly corrupting (Galatians 5:1-15).
  • There is an ‘old yeast’ – a life of malice and wickedness – that must give way to...
  • ... a ‘new bread in Christ’ – leavened with sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:8).

In all things, Jesus opts for the insignificant

Jesus, through the image of the yeast, reminds us of the potential within the small and insignificant.

Just as yeast leavens, silently, so the gospel seeks to influence and transform. We must not just sit passively by, waiting for God's great and direct intervention, avoiding playing our own small part in his mission.

Sometimes the silent but decisive action of Jesus’ followers, resolutely living out their faith in all places and at all times, is more powerful than the oppressive structures created by the corrupt.

Do we believe this?

As an organisation, Tearfund’s aim is to work towards influencing the models and processes by which we are governed. How can we have a positive influence in the midst of so much corruption

Corruption and injustice, with all their grasping tentacles, stand insolently before us. What good are our small contributions? What chance do we have against these evil giants? In the face of so much wrong, we may feel discouraged. We may even believe there is little we can do. We are mistaken! Remember the boy, the shepherd, who needed only a stone to bring down a fearsome giant

Transformation that is necessary and possible

The teachings of the Bible and the example of Jesus show us that transformation is both necessary and possible. Transformation can and must happen through small gestures, attitudes, actions and commitments.

Let us dream and work, then, to see faith communities engaged in an effective movement that fights corruption at the same time as promoting justice and integrity. Our world needs the good yeast of the gospel, and that is our Father's will. Do we see it that way?


Lord, as you prayed for us, do not take us out of the world but protect us from evil and use us as instruments of transformation. Corruption may be great but the goodness of your gospel is greater! In Jesus' name, Amen.

Written by

Written by  Richard Serrano

Richard Serrano is a Theology and Network Engagement Advisor with Tearfund in Latin America


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